The Detroit Economic Club is sponsoring a one-day conference they are billing as “convergence of the brightest minds gathered to reignite U.S. competiveness and urban revitalization in a technologized age.” All that in one day. Maybe in a second day they could solve world hunger or build a bridge to Canada.
The Economic Club has lined up some heavyweights including Grady Burnett of Facebook, Jack Storey, CEO of Square and chairman of Twitter; Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and Dan Gilbert, the homegrown boy who is chairman of Quicken Loans. Another 20 lesser-knowns will round out the program including Josh Linkner, CEO of Detroit Venture Partners and founder of e-Prize, which he recently sold to enter the venture capital business in Detroit with Dan Gilbert.
Sponsors include Quicken, Pure Michigan and the Detroit Media Partnership along with the Detroit Economic Club. I’m sure there are lot of entrepreneurs out there who would love to go to this event, which is set for September 12 at Wayne State University. Here’s the rub. How many entrepreneurs have $300 to lay out for a conference; $500 if you are not a member of DEC, which I would guess not many start-ups are since it has a tightly controlled invitation only membership.
Most entrepreneurs if they had $500 lying around and had a choice between a conference or fixing their website, the latter would win everytime.
Some 10 years ago, I was responsible for the Information Technology Roundtable in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The concept was to help create an environment in Michigan where high tech firms could flourish. Among other things we held numerous entrepreneur conferences and an annual Technology Summit where we attracted 1,500 attendees. The cost was under $50, and none of the major speakers charged a penny for travel or lodging.
I’m not begrudging the DEC from making a little on the side, but from my point of view this is gouging at its finest. Certainly, I am the first to admit that the roundtable was subsidized by state funding, but the technology roundtable was one of 10 that I administered.
This is one of those times I shake my head and think that there are times that the public sector can do it better and cheaper. One of the things I also learned was that young entrepreneurs typically didn’t identify with organizations like DEC or Chambers of Commerce. It was just how they rolled.
One other major gripe: there are no headliners among this group who are women or minorities. Not good, especially when Detroit is doing so good at creating an environment where everyone can flourish. Dan Gilbert, for example, has funded a seed capital program called bizdom, which is dedicated to creating new businesses in Detroit. Read an article on the entrepreneurial scene in Detroit at DeadlineDetroit.com here.
If you have $500 you need to expense, here’s the link to the conference site.