Thursday, May 25, 2017, marked the inaugural year of Quicken Loans Detroit Demo Day, an event dedicated to the exposure and funding of local entrepreneurs looking to build their businesses in the busy Motor City.
Essentially, Demo Day was composed of a pitch and demonstration competition, showcasing the final 20 businesses pulled from a pool of over 600 applicants, all of which were either located in Detroit or willing to move to the city. Retailers, restaurants, online businesses and other companies were all represented at the event.
The top four companies had the chance to compete for prizes ranging from $50,000 and $200,000. The money was contributed by Quicken Loans and WeWork, an innovative company that provides coworking spaces in a variety of top urban hubs, including two in Downtown Detroit.
At the event – one of the most exciting entrepreneurial events the city has seen – a variety of Detroit-based businesses and personalities took to Twitter to live-tweet the occasion.
Even Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan got in on the tweeting:
Priya Mann of Local 4 WDIV Detroit and entrepreneur James Chapman hosted the 2017 Demo Day competition. “This is going to be epic,” tweeted Mann at the event.
The best part of the night, other than announcing the winner of the $200,000 grand prize, was probably the Oscar-esque selfie featuring hosts Mann and Chapman, Quicken Loans founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert, and WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann.
I mean, come on.
Your move, Ellen DeGeneres.
Speaking of Gilbert and Neumann, the competition was preceded by an inspiring Q&A, mediated by Andrew Fried, founder and CEO of Chef’s Table. The session touched on topics like technology, creativity and, of course, the resiliency of Detroit.
Opportunity Detroit also found one of Gilbert’s quotes, on Detroit’s comeback, worthy of a tweet: “Sometimes the best opportunities come out of negative circumstances.”
Later during the pitch competition, the top 10 pitches took to the Demo Day stage to give a one-minute speech on why they need funding and how it would benefit their business.
The audience was able to hear from businesses like The Ten Nail Bar, Detroit’s first modern nail bar, as well as The Farmer’s Hand, a locally sourced pantry. The other finalists included:
- RecoveryPark Farms
- The Social Club Grooming Company
- Detroit Training Center
- Flash Delivery
- Hunt & Noyer
- Life Magnetics
The finalists were narrowed down by a group of entrepreneurial volunteer judges from businesses throughout Detroit, including Phil Cooley, owner of Slows BBQ and founder of Ponyride; Veronika Scott, founder and CEO of the Empowerment Plan; and many more.
In addition to winning the grand-prize of $200,000 for their pitches, entrepreneurs could also compete for a chance to win Detroit Demo Day’s People’s Choice Award of $25,000.
This year’s winner, chosen by a crowd vote, was the Social Club Grooming Company, a barbershop and meeting place for millennial men located in Detroit’s Midtown area.
In addition to winning the Detroit Demo Day People’s Choice Award, the Social Club Grooming Company also took home the $200,000 grand prize!
Additional pitch competition winners included RecoveryPark Farms, Farmer’s Hand and Detroit Training Center, taking home $50,000, $100,000 and $150,000, respectively.
The competition also included live demonstrations, performed in the city center’s Cadillac Square and featuring businesses like Détroit is The New Black, a Woodward Avenue retail co-op shop, and Good Cakes and Bakes, an Avenue of Fashion organic bakery, as well as these businesses:
- Eli Tea Bar
- GoPoint Technology
- Nitro’s Dessert Lab
- Ash & Anvil
- Social Sushi
- Onyx Enterprise, Inc.
- Phoenix Haus
WeWork handed out its Creator Awards at Detroit Demo Day, giving an additional $1.5 million to entrepreneurs, artists and nonprofits, bringing the total awarded that day to $2.5 million.
Josh McManus, chief operation officer of Rock Ventures, hosted the Cadillac Square demos.
“It’s amazing to watch $2.5 million given away in two hours,” exclaimed McManus at the live demonstrations.
Much like the pitch competition, businesses could also compete for a chance to win the Demonstration People’s Choice Award of $25,000.
Détroit is The New Black was this year’s winner of the Demonstration People’s Choice Award.
Winners of the Detroit Demo Day live demonstrations included Ash & Anvil, Eli Tea Bar, Social Sushi and Good Cakes and Bakes, winning $50,000, $100,000, $150,000 and $200,000, respectively.
The Demo Day finished in the Gem Theatre with Creator Awards presented by WeWork for various categories.
WeWork also contributed Creator Awards directly awarded to businesses from Southeast Michigan, including Empowerment Plan, which won the top prize of $180,000; Assemble Sound, which was awarded $130,000; Warmilu, which came in at $72,000; and Detroit Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in Prison program, which received $36,000.
After the competition concluded, participants and voters alike were invited to experience a live performance by Grammy Award-winning artist Wyclef Jean.
All in all, it was a successful debut of the Quicken Loans Detroit Demo Day, honoring Detroit startups and small business working to create more jobs for Detroiters and bring about a better city for all.
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