Q&A: Mark Brucki on LTU’s entrepreneurship survey

A quick-yet-comprehensive survey of Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is kicking off at Lawrence Technological University.

The Southfield-based university’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Needs Assessment Survey will assess the strengths and weaknesses in resources required by entrepreneurs, small business owners, venture capitalists, corporate R&D departments, displaced workers, and business support organizations to spur innovation, entrepreneurship, and new business creation in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region. You can take the survey here.

The survey is aiming to reach 25,000 people online. Some of those who participate in the Internet survey will be used for live interviews.

“We’ll do some in-depth one-on-one interviews to discuss where people see the greatest needs for the region and themselves,” says Mark Brucki, executive director of economic development and government relations for Lawrence Tech.

Preliminary findings are expected to be posted in late July and full findings will follow by the end of August. Brucki, who is quarterbacking the effort, agreed to answer a few questions over email about the survey and state of Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

What do you expect this survey to find as far as what the greatest needs are for Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?

We really need the ‘voice of the customer’ to be heard. We want the survey results to tell us what the greatest needs are, and not prejudge what’s needed. We spent a significant amount of time interviewing people and testing questions to be “fact finding” without bias.

This is the first survey that we know of that is going out to thousands of people across Michigan who live, breathe, and are challenged and motivated by innovation and entrepreneurship everyday so that we may be able to understand what resources they know about, what they are using, and what they potentially need. 

Our economic environment is not what it used to be. We encourage people from around the state to take the survey. 

Seed capital and financing is often cited by local entrepreneurs and start-ups as lacking in Michigan. How big of a need do you think this is today?

Access to seed capital and financing always seems to be a topic that initially surfaces, especially with the financial issues that have developed over the past year and a half. It is one topic that most people can understand and agree with. 

The survey is designed not only to identify if there are financial needs, but the attitudes towards innovation and entrepreneurship in Michigan, and what internal and external barriers there may be that limit growth or that are needed to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in Michigan.

Michigan has been aggressive in creating support systems to help grow its entrepreneurial ecosystem in recent years. Do you think this gives us an advantage over other major metro areas or states when it comes to encouraging economic development?

Yes. Our economic development and business support organizations, foundations, universities, and the business community have helped cultivate and sustain the current ecosystem. The survey is designed to identify what may be needed to take our entrepreneurial ecosystem to the next level and continue having a competitive advantage.

Critics of such government-funded support systems have said the money would be put to better use lowering the overall tax rate and cutting back the bureaucracy. How do you respond to that?

The key is to find the correct balance of — and access to — public-private partnerships that provide transitional pathways for new industry segments to emerge, allow existing ones to adapt to market changes, and that foster ongoing collaboration and innovation without being an administrative, policy, or legal burden. 

If you could import one policy, idea, or mindset from another area to Michigan, what would it be?

It would be one of having a dynamic system of open innovation, a sustained culture of entrepreneurship, a collaborative network of corporate, serial entrepreneur, and innovation mentors, and a renewed mindset for “tinkering” and applied research that results in Michigan being the global leader for ongoing new product development, manufacturing innovation, job growth, and talent attraction across multiple and varied industry segments.

Source: Mark Brucki, executive director of economic development and government relations at Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Jon Zemke