Reflections on 2021

As we reflect on 2021, TCNewTech has experienced both exciting advancements and a few minor challenges (mostly due to the pandemic). In spite of a complicated year, we have experienced transformational growth. Guided by the Board of Director’s purposeful direction, we have spent the year creating initiatives designed to champion our purpose, vision, and mission.

With guidance from Leadership Strategist, Jonathon Pool, the TCNewTech Board of Directors met during a day-long virtual retreat at the start of 2021 to create a clear and focused strategic plan that would lead to purposeful movement. In late 2020 Kelly Ignace was elected to the position of Board President to lead TCNewTech along with Executive Director Jennifer Szunko, Sponsorship Recruiter Sarah Hunt, and six board members: Ben Marshall, Camille Hoisington, Dan Mastromonaco, Jamie Kemler, Keith Kelly, and Tim Heger. The team shares a vision for TCNewTech to become a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs and tech startups, yielding high-paying jobs and high-value commerce in the area.

The purpose and mission of TCNewTech are to energize a community of entrepreneurs by showcasing new tech ideas and facilitating connections to expedite the launch of startups in Northern Michigan. 

Strategic Plan for 2021

Together the TCNewTech Board and staff created their Strategic Plan for 2021 and identified their top 5 core values: 

  1. Create and support opportunities that grow tech-focused businesses. Included in that, we foster opportunities for funding/financial connections.
  1. Empower individuals and companies by providing a positive environment to take risks and present ideas and concepts. We value integrity and transparency in supporting the community of entrepreneurs who pitch at our meetings.
  1. We seek to establish a culture that energizes creativity and innovation. We value youth and experience, along with inclusion and diversity. We embrace the entrepreneurial struggle, and the willingness to pivot and persevere.
  1. We value networking as an important tool in fostering opportunity and aiding in growth — for individuals, startups, and as a community.
  1. We’re available to provide advice regarding idea formation and refinement, direction, and we relate experiences on what to do and what not to do. We help with access to resources needed.

Objectives Accomplished in 2021

A little background on TCNewTech

TCNewTech’s journey started in 2015 by longtime Traverse City resident Russell Schindler. Russell was a geologist by trade, but also a sailing enthusiast and a serial entrepreneur. He started the NautiCat, as well as Compliance, Inc., American Remediation, and H2O Investigation in Traverse City.

In 2015 Russ was building his company Sample Serve and couldn’t find local independent programmers to help him write a software program for his environmental sampling app. He knew the talent was out there but mostly working from their homes without a platform to connect them with the non-tech entrepreneurs that needed their skills.  

As Sample Serve grew, Russ was also looking for a community of investors. He had been attending a group in Ann Arbor called Ann Arbor New Tech and realized creating a similar group in Traverse City could facilitate an ecosystem of like-minded people to eventually lead the area to become the tech hub of the Midwest. In May of 2015, a 501c3 nonprofit status was approved and TCNewTech was officially launched.

Today TCNewTech is a community of tech enthusiasts, investors, entrepreneurs, and Michigan policymakers building a culture of innovation, economic growth, and opportunity for local talent in our region. Over the past 6+ years, TCNewTech has hosted over 300 startups during their monthly pitch event where brave entrepreneurs get five minutes to pitch their ideas followed by five minutes of Q&A from the audience. After each pitch, the audience votes to determine the winner of a $500 cash prize.

The Audience

The TCNewTech audience is made up of technology-minded people and consists of programmers, IT staff, people looking for opportunities for their tech company, tech companies looking for staff, individuals looking for an investment opportunity, start-up founders looking for investors, and tech geeks that just like learning about new things. TCNewTech is a community of tech enthusiasts, businesses, entrepreneurs, and Michigan policymakers building a culture of innovations, economic growth, and opportunity for local talent in the Traverse City Region.

The Future

This past year has been unlike any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes, and yet through the challenges, we are full of hope for the future of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Grand Traverse Region. We continue to see startups successfully fund and launch their startups. The insights we gained and the relationships we formed in 2021 will help us meet whatever lies ahead. We value our 2021 sponsors and members and will continue to steward our resources and invest in partnerships that will contribute to a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Grand Traverse Region.

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