1. Wolverine Caucus: Leveraging University Innovation to Propel Michigan’s Startup Ecosystem

    Mark Rivett posted February 3, 2022

    Friday, February 18, 2022

    10:00am – 11:30am

    Watch recording here

    The Wolverine Caucus is a free virtual event open to the public

    Innovation Partnerships at the University of Michigan serves the U-M research community by supporting the commercialization of new research discoveries and technologies. Innovation Partnerships further partners with public universities across Michigan to bolster a statewide university technology commercialization ecosystem. This collaborative network is made possible by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative through a series of programs that provides resources to streamline critical innovation and technology commercialization support.

    The resulting innovations directly support Michigan’s economic growth while improving the lives of our citizens. Nevertheless, the state of Michigan remains an extremely challenging entrepreneurial ecosystem due to a lack of investment risk capital. A December 2021 Crain’s opinion piece by Reilly Brennan, the Founder and General Partner at Trucks Ventures in California, focuses on this issue(Michigan must stop letting other states profit from its innovators).

    Why should Michigan’s decision makers care? The panel will discuss Michigan programs such as ADVANCE, MTRAC, and T3N and the role each plays in moving innovation. And while these funds have been critical addressing early startup investment challenges in Michigan, start-ups have typically shifted focus to more mature companies and a conservative investment thesis. This creates a retention disadvantage for a state like Michigan. Acquiring the resources to ensure these critical innovators continue to contribute to our state’s economy and innovation ecosystem is crucial. The panel will review why it’s not the right time to back down. Michigan’s economy cannot afford to lose our edge if we don’t invest in critical economic development programs.


    Dr. Kelly B SextonDr. Kelly B Sexton
    Associate Vice President, UM Research and Innovation Partnerships

    As associate vice president for research and innovation partnerships, Kelly works closely with the vice president for research as well as other leaders across the university to provide visionary and strategic leadership of U-M’s innovation, corporate research and technology commercialization activities, including overseeing Innovation Partnerships. In this role, she supports and encourages university-wide programs for intellectual property development, innovation, and engagement with business and venture communities in the region, across the nation, and around the globe.

    Michael PsarouthakisMichael Psarouthakis
    Director of Ventures, Managing Director, Accelerate Blue Fund

    Mike leads the Innovation Partnerships Ventures team supporting U-M faculty, staff and students on new company formation based on intellectual property discovered and developed at the University of Michigan’s 19 schools and three campuses. He also manages the Accelerate Blue Fund, a venture fund focused on U-M licensed startups. Mike has over 30 years of entrepreneurial, senior management and venture fund experience in both the public and private sectors.

    Denise GravesDenise Graves
    University Relations Director, Michigan Economic Development Corporation

    Denise is the University Relations Director for the Entrepreneurship & Innovation team at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). In this role, she interacts with Michigan’s public universities, key entrepreneurial stakeholders and investors, managing programs that support statewide collaboration and the commercialization of early stage technology. Before joining MEDC in October 2011, Denise held sales and business development positions in a number of small and second stage high-tech companies in Ann Arbor. Her experience includes new business development, channel partner relations, client relations, sales, strategic planning, public speaking and contract negotiation and management. Denise holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Ferris State University.

    DBraden RobisonBraden Robison
    Chief Operations Officer, Seraph Biosciences, INC

    Braden serves as Chief Operations Officer of Seraph Biosciences bringing over 19 years of experience in medical devices. He has launched more than one hundred products through the FDA regulated process. As Senior Director of Business Development and Strategy for Stryker Corp., he successfully led $235M worth of transactions and started 2 different divisions for the company. Prior to joining Seraph Biosciences, Braden served as a Mentor-in-Residence at the University of Michigan’s Tech Transfer program and principal of 1021 Partners aimed at helping early stage companies build and grow their businesses.

    Wolverine Caucus members are University of Michigan alumni including legislators, lobbyists, staff, and advisors working in and around the State of Michigan government. They meet with U-M experts on timely, relevant public policy subjects during the legislative session. Our mission is to provide diverse forums at which U-M friends can meet one another, enjoy fellowship, exchange views and learn from the world-class talents of U-M faculty and administrators.

    Please RSVP to the Zoom Webinar HERE

    The Wolverine Caucus is a partnership between the University of Michigan Office of Government Relations and the Alumni Association.