Since 2012, our incubator has completely relied on the WKI program as our 'new client funnel' for all prospective clients. This program does a great job of answering the big questions any aspiring entrepreneur needs to answer. In addition, it helps our incubator guage whether the client is prepared, willing to go the distance, and most importantly: is coachable."

— Jason Mack,
VP Business Development, MTEC SmartZone


The Challenge

The MTEC Houghton-Hancock SmartZone is one of 15 SmartZones in Michigan, each providing services and support to entrepreneurs and researchers in a distinct geographic location. Created in 2001 by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), this network connects universities, research organizations, and corporations to stimulate the growth of technology-based businesses and jobs. As the home of Michigan Technical University, the region is characterized by an “engineering culture” of inventors and engineers with little or no business experience. To take advantage of this rich technical capability and improve the local economy through the creation of new companies, MTEC wanted to offer a program that would cultivate an entrepreneurial culture in the community and jump-start its pipeline.


The Solution

MTEC’s SmartStart pre-incubation program is based on the So what? who cares? why you? methodology and ideation program.  Delivered as a standard program offering at MTEC, it brings together a wide variety of innovators – including researchers from the university and local entrepreneurs – to explore the business potential of their ideas.  Entrepreneurs love the dynamic interaction with other founders and the practical, hands-on style of the program.  Founders are on they feet interacting with the So what? who cares? why you? frameworks and in the process, pitching and presenting the development of their ideas into businesses.  It’s become a popular program throughout the region with entrepreneurs looking to test out their ideas.



The Results

Since starting the WKI program,  MTEC has had over 110 new business concepts come through its doors, with many moving forward to the formal incubator program —  70% of these resulted in the creation of a company.  Equally important, it gives the MTEC team a standard process to assess the readiness of the founder and the idea to move forward to incubation.

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