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ANN ARBOR SPARK 2019 Annual Report

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David Parsigianfrom the chair

Reflecting on the past provides an opportunity to appreciate how the economy in Ann Arbor has evolved and adapted to be one of the most enviable in the state, if not the country.

As recent as 30 years ago, this wasn’t the case. Like most of the Midwest, our economy was heavily based in manufacturing; the businesses and jobs in the Ann Arbor region weren’t diverse. The model wasn’t sustainable, as we’d soon learn.

When the global economy began to lean more heavily toward tech, Ann Arbor was better positioned than most regions to respond. We are home to one of the world’s largest research universities and innovation was already beating at the heart of our community. When manufacturing began to lose prominence, we were able to shift and — in what was becoming a shrinking pond of opportunity — begin to make waves that would extend beyond the city center into our broader region.

Ann Arbor SPARK keeps the tides rising, to the benefit of our economy, our quality of life, and our reputation as a place where businesses and individuals thrive. Without SPARK, that outward momentum wouldn’t have extended as quickly as it has. Ann Arbor SPARK’s work is specific, strategic, and focused on attracting and growing the high tech companies that are the future of economic growth.

The rising tides of opportunity have expanded beyond the city and into our surrounding communities. We see growth and prosperity throughout the broader region. We should all be proud of this growth and confident in the foundation it has created. It’s on this foundation that Ann Arbor SPARK and its partners will continue its work to attract and nurture innovation-based businesses and the jobs those companies create.

Parsigian Signature
David N. Parsigian

Paul Krutkofrom the president and CEO

I have the privilege of experiencing first-hand, every day, Ann Arbor’s vibrant tech ecosystem. Every day, I work at the SPARK Central Innovation Center and get to experience the next-generation entrepreneur growing their business. This experience is invigorating and inspiring, and it’s one that’s easy to take for granted.

Since coming to Ann Arbor seven years ago, I’ve seen the downtown tech corridor mature. Where there were once empty storefronts and offices now are companies like Barracuda and LLamasoft. Every year, startups like Spellbound and Heal Pay graduate our incubator for their own office spaces — those companies are located above a popular local brewpub and BBQ restaurant, respectively.

I’ve seen this growth and maturity expand from the city center out to our neighboring communities. Nostrum Energy graduated from the incubator this year and is now located in Pittsfield Township. Groundspeed continues to grow and has new offices in Ann Arbor Township. Autonomous shuttle company Navya built a production facility in Saline. In the last three years, Pop Daddy has grown from a regional food startup to selling across the U.S. and Canada — growth made possible by an expansion of its facilities in Livingston County.

Our downtown, the heart of our region, is a vibrant, desirable place to both work and play. This economic prosperity radiates out, benefiting the quality of life in our region and the quality of opportunities for job seekers, investors, and business owners. It’s exciting that we are well positioned now and into the future for continued success, and have a team at Ann Arbor SPARK committed to furthering this success for years to come.

Krutko Signature
Paul Krutko


a2TECH260 grew exponentially in 2019 — both in terms of events and attendance. New to our week-long series showing the innovation happening in our region was a biotech showcase at MI-HQ in Scio Township, the hackathon, Hack A2, at NETSCOUT located along the State Street corridor, and a design jam hosted at SPARK East. These new partner events, and new locations epitomize the expansion and success of businesses throughout Washtenaw County.




  • Michigan Theater
  • 6,000+Total Registrations
  • 15Total Events
  • 6a2TECH360 Events
  • 36KWebsite Views
  • 42KVideo Views
  • 92KCampaign Emails
  • 1M+Social Media Views
  • 31States Represented
  • 15Countries Represented
  • a2TECH360 programs


in participating companies

  • FastTrack Awards



  • 553Registered
  • 200+Resumes Collected
  • 17Companies Participated
  •  Tech Homecoming


FastTrack Award Recipients

"Tech Trek has been a phenomenal way to get connected with the tech community in our region and recruit talented folks that we can’t find elsewhere."

Deepak Bhaskaran
Director of QA, DUO Security

Supporting Companies at Every Stage


Startup to Success — from breakthrough idea to breaking ground on a headquarters, Ann Arbor SPARK is an expert partner that can help a business thrive through every twist, turn, challenge, and opportunity. After that first great idea, we help startups hit the ground running, accelerate their growth, and secure the resources necessary for long-term, sustainable success.

Startup Timelines - Nostrum and IndustryStar


#9 most innovative metro area in the U.S.Since we opened the doors of the SPARK Central Innovation Center 12 years ago, 61 companies have been nurtured to the point of graduation — expanding outside of our walls to an office space that accommodates long-term future growth. This year, Billy, ClariLegal, Dynamo Metrics, IndustryStar Solutions, Nostrum High Performance, and Parrable all graduated from Ann Arbor SPARK’s incubator program. Upon graduation, our entrepreneurial services clients benefit from our business development team’s services including finding a new office and securing incentives to support growth.


We focus on the driving industries that grow our economy and what those businesses need to grow deep roots in our region. This past year, we saw significant activity in the mobility and life science sectors — and our tech ecosystem. Ann Arbor SPARK is uniquely poised to help companies and individuals find what they need here to achieve.


One of the region’s most prolific industries, mobility innovations are brought to life and bolstered by support from SmartZone / LDFA funding. SPARK’s activity in this industry last year speaks for itself: Ford chose to pilot its City Insights Platform in Ann Arbor, Honda opened its Mobility Garage here, and May Mobility opened its new headquarters in Pittsfield Township’s Avis Farms. Smart Eye from Sweden, Autaza from Brazil, and !ImportantSafety from Montreal opened offices in Ann Arbor. Founded through our Entrepreneur Boot Camp, Intvo is expanding at the SPARK Central Innovation Center. Early stage mobility companies in the region attracted more than $150 million in investment last year.


In 2019, our Entrepreneurs in Residence assisted 31 startup companies, providing the expert mentoring and real-world advice that help accelerate the growth of new businesses. These industry vets are a vital resource in our tech ecosystem and prove that this region not only has assets to nurture startups but also retains the people who know what it takes to grow a business from scratch.


A sign of a healthy tech ecosystem is the range of participants helping startups unlock their potential. Ann Arbor SPARK works closely with MI-HQ to provide wet lab space, affordable office space, and other assets that help biotech, med tech, and life science companies start and grow here.

Boosting Innovation - company logos and stats


Entrepreneurial Services

  • Affordable office space for startups
  • Entrepreneur Boot Camp
  • Expert counsel to entrepreneurs
  • Access to funding opportunities
  • Educational & networking events

Business Development

  • Local business expansion
  • Business attraction
  • Business introductions & referrals
  • Site search and selection
  • Incentive support
  • Talent services


  • Promoting company successes
  • Amplifying visibility of the best & brightest
  • Supporting the needs of startups
  • Publicizing the region to a global audience

SPARK TEAM (left to right)

FRONT: Margarita Hernandez, Angela Flood, Laura Berarducci, Lindsay Thomas, Komal Doshi, Kirsten Lyman, Charlotte Dillard
MIDDLE: Bill Mayer, Tiyashia Poole, Lisa Bies, Liz Perpich, Vicki Joling, Daniella Cho, Anne Partington, Iqra Javed, Kristine Nash-Wong, Alex West
BACK: Erin Wiley, Mike Flanagan, Nick Joblonski, Phil Santer, Skip Simms, Jenn Queen, Joshua Thompson, Marcia Gebarowski, Jennifer Olmstead, Todd Girdis


SPARK 2019 Successes

SPARK 2019 Successes



$25,000+ Private Sector Donor Logos

PRIVATE SECTOR (under $25,000)

Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors

Ann Arbor State Bank

Arboretum Ventures

Barracuda Networks, Inc.

Bodman PLC


Butzel Long Attorneys and Counselors

Chemical Bank

Citizens Bank

Consumer’s Energy Foundation


Domino’s Farms Corporation

Fifth Third Bank

Ford Motor Company

GDI Infotech, Inc.

Honigman LLP

Huntington Technology Finance

IBM Watson Health

IMRA America, Inc.

ITC Michigan


Mannik & Smith Group

Menlo Innovations LLC

Michigan Office Interiors

Miller Canfield

MLive Media Group

NSF International

Old National Bank

Oxford Companies

Plante Moran, PLLC


Reinhart Realtors

Rudolph Libbe Group

SI Company

TD Ameritrade

The Collaborative

Thomson Reuters

University of Michigan Credit Union


Eastern Michigan University

University of Michigan

Washtenaw Community College


Ann Arbor Charter Township

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority

Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Local Development Finance Authority

City of Ann Arbor

City of Chelsea

City of Dexter

City of Saline

City of Ypsilanti

EDC of Livingston County

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Michigan SBDC

Michigan Works Southeast

Pittsfield Township

Scio Township

Washtenaw County

Ypsilanti Township

Budget Totals