Charlie Moret is chairman and CEO of Invest Michigan, an organization that invests in early-stage companies in the advanced manufacturing materials, life sciences, and information technology industries. DBusiness Daily News interviewed Moret about the importance of investing in innovation and the role of capital investors in Michigan’s economy.
1. DDN: What does Invest Michigan do?
CM: Invest Michigan is a non-profit that was funded by the Michigan Strategic Fund through the the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Our mission is to invest capital, support early-stage companies, helping them to build their business into sustainable and viable businesses in Michigan that ultimately will employ people in new and innovative companies.
2. DDN: What does your role as chairman and CEO consist of?
CM: I’m responsible for overall fund management, including responsible for setting the funds strategy direction, and assuring that we are living up to our mission as agreed to with our main funder, the Michigan Strategic Fund.
3. DDN: What is Invest Michigan looking for as far as these early stage companies?
CM: The first thing we look for is technology that is innovative and that works. We’re looking for management teams that have domain expertise to advance this technology into the commercial marketplace. And then we’re looking for innovative technologies that not only does the commercial market need the technology, but they also want it, and are willing to pay for it.
We invest in a broad array of technologies. These include medical devices, life science, information technology, advanced manufacturing, materials, and engineering. Then we also will look at other innovative technologies, such as homeland security, agricultural technology.
4. DDN: Does Invest Michigan have any future plans or developments in the works?
CM: We’re continuing to be a very active investor in pre-seed companies, which are best defined as pre-revenue companies, so the majority of our investments occur in that. We just came off our busiest quarter ever in the company’s three-year history. We completed nine investments in the first quarter, and since then we’ve done an additional three more investments and we have five. So our future plan is continue to be a very active investor in the pre-seed stage of companies, which is very early, and help these companies into commercial markets.
5. DDN: How are the organization’s investments planned out?
CM: In total, we’ve completed 59 investments, so that’s on average 20 per year. I think we can continue to sustain that. In fact, this year, we’re hoping to exceed that. Our internal goal is to see if we can even do more investments. We’re seeking companies that have real potential to become viable and sustainable in the state, and therefore create new jobs and new industries that will diversify the economy. Our pipeline and back-log continues very strong, there seems to be a lot of generation of start-up activity. A lot because the state invested in this area over the last ten years, and the private sectors investing in it, philanthropy has also invested in the sector. There’s been so much of us, that we’re seeing good opportunities to assist these companies, and it’s all made possible really by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.