Fund Facts: Jeff Wesley, Michigan Rise

Courtney Overbey

Monday, April 5, 2021

On this episode of Fund Facts—a video series focused on venture capitalists, angel investors and other funders critical to Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem—we connect with Jeff Wesley, executive director of Michigan Rise.

In June 2020, Michigan State University Foundation announced it had been named administrator of the MEDC’s Michigan Rise Pre-Seed Fund III, assisting entrepreneurs and startups in capturing critical early gap funding. Going beyond merely funding, Michigan Rise also works collaboratively with companies, coaching their teams and connecting them with key networks and players in Michigan.

In this video, Jeff sits down with the MEDC to discuss how Pre-Seed Fund III chooses startups to invest in and how to capture the attention of investors, among other key takeaways. Some of these include:

  • To get attention from investors, startups should first get involved with one of the 21 SmartZones located throughout the state. From there, startups can receive the resources and support they need to enter a pitch competition or accelerator and eventually can capture interest from potential funders.
  • Michigan Rise Pre-Seed Fund III has invested in eight companies that have also received support from MEDC-funded resources. Three examples of these companies include:
    • Genomenon, a genomic health IT company that progresses with advances made in genomics and connects research to patient DNA to diagnose and treat patients with rare genetic diseases and cancer.
    • AaDya, creator of Judy, an interactive and intelligent virtual cybersecurity assistant that works to secure sensitive company and customer information.
    • Zakuro, a materials company with applications for safer solid-state batteries with double the energy density of Li-ion batteries.
  • The size of the market is important to investors—the bigger the market, the bigger the opportunity. When looking for startups to fund, investors are interested in those that demonstrate the potential for high growth and venture funding.

If you have a high-tech startup idea you’d like to explore further and don’t know where to start, contact the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Initiative at 888-522-0103 or visit

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