Engineers are hands-on and visual thinkers. When they see the visual tools of So what? who cares? why you?, it really registers with them. The tools help them to explain what’s in their heads and what they are trying to do. It also gives our staff a structured approach to engage these innovators."

— Marilyn Clark,
CEO 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

To help innovators take ownership of the process of finding the commercial value of their ideas, MTEC has certified a team of coaches in the So what? who cares? why you? methodology and runs the WKI pre-incubation program on a regular schedule. Delivered as a standard program offering at MTEC, So what? who cares? why you? brings together a wide variety of innovators – including researchers from the university and local entrepreneurs – to turn their ideas into opportunities.


The Results

In just over two years, 32 start-up companies have emerged from the MTEC SmartStart pre-incubation program, the foundation of which is WKI’s So what? who cares? why you? methodology. The success of the MTEC SmartStart pre-incubation program is expanding to other SmartZones in Michigan, including Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie.  MTEC is taking a leadership role in building a vibrant entrepreneurial community across the Upper Peninsula, with the support of the So what? who cares? why you? methodology.

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