Past. Present. Future.
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David RuudDear Partners, Funders, and Colleagues

As we reflect on the journey of Ann Arbor SPARK over the last two decades, it is with a deep sense of pride and accomplishment that we present to you our 2023 Annual Report. Under the leadership and vision of our board of directors, Ann Arbor SPARK has been a pivotal force in cultivating an ecosystem where innovation thrives, businesses flourish, and our community grows stronger together.

For 20 years, Ann Arbor SPARK has been at the forefront of driving economic development, fostering entrepreneurial opportunities, and enhancing community engagement. Our mission to ignite and propel the economy of the Ann Arbor region has never been more relevant or impactful than it is today. Through strategic partnerships, targeted investments, and a commitment to innovation, we have catalyzed significant growth and prosperity across our region.

The backbone of our success lies in the incredible companies that have chosen Ann Arbor as their home, contributing to the health and vibrancy of our region. Hyundai, KLA, Google, May Mobility, Sartorius, Wacker Chemical, Zoller, and Thai Summit are just a few of the industry leaders that have made substantial investments in our community, creating thousands of jobs, and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to our collective future. Their contributions not only highlight the strength and resilience of our local economy but also underscore the magnetic appeal of Ann Arbor as a premier destination for business growth and innovation, as well as research and development.

Our achievements are further illuminated by the global and national rankings that recognize Ann Arbor’s competitive edge. Ann Arbor consistently ranks among the best places to live, work, and play, thanks to its exceptional quality of life, world-class educational institutions, and a thriving innovation ecosystem. These accolades are a testament to the collaborative efforts of our partners, funders, and the broader community in creating an environment where businesses can start, scale, and succeed.

Why Ann Arbor, you might ask? The answer is clear. Our region offers a unique blend of cultural richness, entrepreneurial spirit, and a supportive community that is unmatched. From access to top talent emerging from the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College, to the collaborative spirit that defines our local business landscape, Ann Arbor is the ideal destination for individuals and companies to succeed.

The foundation we have built in the last two decades creates the opportunity for even more success in the future. Our commitment to driving economic development, supporting entrepreneurial endeavors, and enhancing community engagement remains unwavering. Together, with your continued support and partnership, we are confident that Ann Arbor SPARK will continue to be a beacon of innovation and prosperity for many years to come.

On behalf of the Ann Arbor SPARK Board of Directors, I extend my deepest gratitude for your ongoing support, collaboration, and belief in our mission. Here’s to another 20 years of sparking growth, innovation, and opportunity in the Ann Arbor region.

Warmest regards,
Ruud Signature
David Ruud

Paul KrutkoDear Valued Partners, Entrepreneurs, and Community Members

This year’s Annual Meeting is a celebration of Ann Arbor SPARK’s 20 years of service. We are sharing the strides we made in 2023 and reflecting on the enduring impact our collective efforts have made since our inception. SPARK has played a key role in shaping a vibrant ecosystem where innovation, economic vitality, and community well-being intertwine.

In 2023, our dedication to nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit was exemplified through targeted initiatives and meaningful support. At SPARK East, we allocated more than $112K in grants, coupled with invaluable coaching and educational resources, directly benefiting 31 emerging startups. Through our efforts at SPARK East, we have been working hard to ensure all in our community can share in regional prosperity.

A pivotal moment this year was securing a $3.4M grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to expand our offerings to non-tech small businesses with a particular emphasis on the inclusion of owners from diverse backgrounds. These resources will ensure help more than 850 small enterprises, significantly amplifying our capacity to bolster local business growth and sustainability.

At the other end of the spectrum, Toyota’s $48M investment in a new battery laboratory further anchors our status as a nexus for cutting-edge research and development. This represents the fourth project that SPARK has facilitated for Toyota’s North America R&D center. Such investments underscore the robustness of our local economy and the fertile ground our community offers for technological advancements.

Addressing community needs, the Child Care Coalition initiative is an example of our holistic approach to economic development, tackling barriers that affect workforce participation and overall quality of life. Initiatives like these emphasize our commitment to a thriving, inclusive community.

The expansion of a2Tech360 and the resurgence of in-person events have been critical in reigniting connections within the tech and innovation sectors, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose among stakeholders.

This year also saw significant progress for several companies in our investment portfolio, including Culturewell, Ulendo, Sniffer Robotics, Bedestrian, and Arbor Batteries. Their success, buoyed by strategic grants and fundraising, are examples of what our robust ecosystem can achieve.

Looking forward, the unveiling of MI-HQ in the former EMU College of Business space and the ambitious South State District redevelopment project are poised to further enrich our community’s infrastructure and entrepreneurial landscape.

As we look to the future and SPARK’s third decade, my gratitude extends to the entire network of founders, business leaders, innovators, academic allies, and public sector partners. Your passion, expertise, and commitment have been the bedrock of SPARK’s success and the catalyst for our region’s ongoing transformation. Together, we’ve created an unparalleled legacy of fostering economic growth and innovation. As we embark on the next chapter, we can only anticipate the new heights we will reach, driven by our shared vision and collective efforts.

Krutko Signature
Paul Krutko

2023 SPARK success statistics

SPARK Boot Camp participants holding checks

  • LDFA Fiscal Year 2023:
  • 231companies served
  • 101new jobs created
  • 102incubator clients
  • $1.56million in grants to startups
  • $128million private equity raised

SPARK Services are funded in part by The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone LDFA. It provides capital to commercialize technologies developed locally and is funded by the State of Michigan.

  • Michigan Angel Fund (MAF):
  • $739thousand invested into 4 companies

Managed by Ann Arbor SPARK, MAF is the largest angel organization that invests in early-stage tech companies across Michigan.

  • SPARK Capital:
  • $1.0million invested into 13 companies

SPARK Capital is a statewide co-investment fund managed by Ann Arbor SPARK, designed to support and invest in innovative businesses across the state.

U-M’s Tech Transfer National Advisory Board recommends to President Mary Sue Coleman that a private-public-academic partnership is needed to transform the area into a national hub for innovation, business, and talent, and SPARK is born


Hyundai and Toyota make significant investments in Ann Arbor

Google opens Ann Arbor office


Pfizer announces plan to close Ann Arbor facilities, impacting more than 2,000 jobs, leading to the creation of SPARK’s Job Board

MI Pre-Seed Capital Fund established

Technology business incubator launched at SPARK Central


SPARK East opens in downtown Ypsilanti

Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center (MLSIC) launched


Faurecia Interior Systems LLC invests $130M in new Saline operations


Economic development alliance with Livingston County formed

SPARK Internship Match program introduced

CEO Podcast launched


IEDC designates SPARK as an Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO)

SPARK publishes “Ahead by a Century: The Future of Automotive Technology” about redevelopment at Willow Run

Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program introduced Michigan Angel Fund established

Greater Ann Arbor Region (GAAR) formed, a six-county regional collaborative


Toyota invests $126M in expansion

SPARK, in partnership with Walbridge, awarded $247K grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to redevelop Willow Run


A2 Tech Trek launched

Tech Homecoming launched

Millendo raises $62M Series B – largest venture capital round in MI history to date

Michigan Angel Fund II established

SkySpecs, Inc. raises $3M Series A

Lake Trust builds $30M headquarters in Brighton


Founded and led by SPARK, the American Center for Mobility broke ground at Willow Run with $60M in support from the State of Michigan and $25M from private sector partners

Menlo Innovations — a 2002 Boot Camp graduate — named one of Inc. Magazine’s Fastest Growing Companies, opened the Startup Garage for early-stage entrepreneurs in downtown Ann Arbor


May Mobility Ann Arbor establishes headquarters, raises $3.5M

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone renewed for 15 years

Tech Talk launches

Duo Security raises $70M, valued at $1.17B, Ann Arbor’s first “unicorn”

MI-HQ established in Scio Township housing 13 distinct life science companies


Duo Security acquired by tech giant Cisco for $2.5B

KLA establishes second U.S. headquarters in Ann Arbor

a2TECH360 launched — Mobility Row, Ann Arbor Mobility Summit, What the Future Holds, and HackA2 join the lineup to create a week-long program, highlighting the region’s tech ecosystem


At the onset of COVID-19, SPARK quickly deploys over $16M in critical funding to support 2,600 area businesses

Wacker Chemical invests $51M in new R&D center in Pittsfield Township


Initiated the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Corridor Fiber Optic Backbone project with a $2.4M U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to expand fiber from Ann Arbor to Ypsi

Inclusive Workplace Series DEI Awareness launched

Updated SPARK’s Strategic Plan

City of Brighton, Brighton DDA, SPARK partner to develop Main Street Showcase app and focus on attraction, growth, and retention for the downtown area


Luxwall an Innovate Ypsi grant recipient, invests $2.9 million and creates 45 new jobs in Ypsilanti Township

Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc. (HATCI) announces $51M expansion of R&D automotive campus in Superior Township

Sartorius chooses Ann Arbor to serve as the hub of their North American R&D operations


20 Year SPARK Success statistics20 Year SPARK Success statistics

Entrepreneurial Services 2023 Successes
2023 Success statistics

Entrepreneurial Companies and funding raised

SPARK’s Entrepreneurial Services team provides access to the critical resources entrepreneurs need to launch and establish.

Culturewell founder holding checkCulturewell logo
CULTUREWELL, a trailblazer in lab services innovation, saw remarkable growth and expansion, thanks in part to the foundational experience gained from participating in SPARK’s Boot Camp and Biomedical Commercialization programs. With SPARK’s backing, Culturewell not only raised funds to upgrade their laboratory services and facilities but also benefited from a wealth of resources including legal services, product development support, and access to experienced entrepreneurs-in-residence, notably Jen Baird. This comprehensive assistance enhanced the company’s operational strengths and solidified its status as an industry leader.

Sniffer Robotics logo
SNIFFER ROBOTICS, successfully secured a $2 million seed funding round, led by the Michigan Angel Fund, to further develop its innovative drone-based methane leak detection technology, the SnifferDRONE™. This funding round also saw participation from other investors, highlighting the significant potential of Sniffer Robotics in environmental technology services. The company’s cutting-edge solution is recognized for its ability to automate methane emission monitoring, significantly improving efficiency and safety over traditional methods.

Ulendo employee and 2023 Ann Arbor rankingUlendo logo
ULENDO a dynamic company specializing in innovative manufacturing solutions, has seen remarkable progress with the support of SPARK. SPARK played a pivotal role in Ulendo’s fundraising efforts, enabling the company to secure the capital investment necessary for its growth and expansion. In addition to financial assistance, SPARK facilitated access to valuable resources, including legal support and the provision of interns, enriching Ulendo’s operational and developmental capacities. A crucial moment in the company’s journey was when Brenda Jones, initially joining as an entrepreneur-in-residence, stepped into the role of CEO. Her leadership has been instrumental in guiding Ulendo towards achieving its ambitious goals.

SPARK’s Business Development team specializes in assisting companies with growth strategies, providing tailored support in areas such as talent attraction, access to capital, and connecting to essential business resources.

MI-HQ building rennovationMI-HQ logo
In 2023 MI-HQ, started renovating the Eastern Michigan University College of Business building, indicating confidence in downtown Ypsilanti as part of the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti innovation ecosystem. The project, anchored by Michigan Medicine, seeks to enhance health services while providing a space for incubation, laboratories, and work activities, bolstering the SPARK East Innovation Center and Back Office Studio. This effort is the result of collaboration between Ann Arbor SPARK, Eastern Michigan University, the City of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Toyota logo
Toyota Motor North America, will expand its R&D campus in York Township with the construction of a new $48 million battery lab. This strategic development will aid the development of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States. This investment highlights the company’s dedication to innovation and its proactive approach to meeting the growing demand for EVs. Ann Arbor SPARK helped Toyota manage the support opportunities with York Township and the State of Michigan.

MI-Fame program participantsMI-Fame logo
Ann Arbor SPARK celebrated the launch of the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) training program with a “Signing Day” event for 10 advanced manufacturing students from the inaugural cohort, pairing them with sponsoring employer partners. This work-and-learn program, offered in partnership with Washtenaw Community College and local employers like Toyota, is an opportunity for students to graduate debt-free. This initiative is a significant step in bridging the skills gap in the manufacturing sector and contributing to the development of a highly skilled workforce.

The SPARK EAST Innovation Center
plays a vital role in Ypsilanti’s economic growth and community upliftment. It has enhanced its services to better support local small businesses and historically underserved groups, serving a higher percentage of these communities compared to the national average. The center boosts entrepreneurial success through specialized mentorship programs, funding access, and collaborations with local organizations for training and development, empowering small business owners to prosper in a competitive environment.
SPARK East incubator and Ann Arbor ranking

Business Development 2023 statistics

Ann Arbor area national rankingsAnn Arbor SPARK’s Marketing team provides direct support to startups, thanks to the LDFA.

These services (which would normally be cost-prohibitive to early-stage companies) include consulting on marketing strategy, product positioning and targeting, website development, social media strategy, public relations, collateral development, and more. In 2023, the dedicated entrepreneurial marketing team delivered 272 engagements for 64 of the startup companies working with SPARK.
2023 marketing statistics2023 marketing statistics


Entrepreneurial Services

  • Affordable office space for startups
  • Entrepreneur Boot Camp
  • Expert counsel to entrepreneurs
  • Access to funding opportunities
  • Educational & networking events

Business Development

  • Local business expansion
  • Business attraction
  • Business introductions & referrals
  • Site search and selection
  • Incentive support
  • Talent services


  • Promoting company successes
  • Amplifying visibility of the best & brightest
  • Supporting the needs of startups
  • Publicizing the region to a global audience

SPARK team members

Paul Krutko, Ben Ernst, Carly Toaz, Bill Mayer, Charlotte Dillard, Denise Murray, Erin Wiley, Didem Karaboga, Jenn Hayman, Sara Cicotte, Jennifer Olmstead, Hayden Braun, Joshua Thompson, Kailee Moretto, Jose Figueroa, Kristine Nash-Wong, Lauren de Vries, Laura Berarducci, Phil Santer, Janis Seabolt, Marcia Gebarowski, Lindsay Thomas, Mike Flanagan, Margarita Hernandez, Nicholas Joblonski, Lisa Bies, Vicki Joling, Tami Salisbury, Melissa Sheldon, Rielle Jones, Thomas Crawford

a2TECH360 event icons

a2TECH360 logoa2TECH360 logo
promotes the Ann Arbor region as an area of innovation. Offering more than a week of tech-related events, it creates connections between entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits, job seekers, and the general public to generate discussion, ideas, and new opportunities.

a2TECH360 2023 statistics

TechHomecoming logoOur Tech Homecoming event connects talented professionals with Ann Arbor and its vibrant tech ecosystem, which has produced hundreds of startups and billions in enterprise value in the past five years.

TechHomecoming Stats

Livingston imageAdvancing innovation and building business in Livingston County

Motorsports Gateway logo
MOTORSPORTS GATEWAY HOWELL initiated an exciting venture in the City of Howell, breaking ground on a state-of-the-art, 1.2-mile European-style driving circuit alongside a unique performance car community, complete with a clubhouse and garage condos. This ambitious project, spread over 196 acres, promises to become a premier destination for automotive enthusiasts. Ann Arbor SPARK played a pivotal role in this development, leveraging its extensive network to facilitate introductions between Motorsports Gateway Howell and key state and local representatives, strategic connections that have been crucial in ensuring the project’s alignment with regional economic goals and securing the necessary support for its successful implementation.

Livingston Business Hub logo
The Howell Chamber of Commerce, through a collaboration with SPARK, was awarded an entrepreneurial hub grant, leading to the launch of the "LIVINGSTON BUSINESS HUB." This innovative space is designed to foster the growth and development of entrepreneurs and small businesses within Livingston County, and offers a variety of support services and flexible workspace options, catering specifically to the needs of small business leaders and entrepreneurs. The Innovation HUB features resources and state-of-the-art amenities to significantly boost business growth, positioning itself as a pivotal resource for the local business community.

LOC Credit Union logo
A broker tour hosted by SPARK culminated in a significant development for LOC CREDIT UNION, paving the way for the establishment of a new branch in Livingston. LOC Credit Union, known for its commitment to “Loving Our Community,” offers a comprehensive range of financial services including auto loans, home equity loans, mortgages, free checking accounts, and wealth management. This Michigan-based credit union has a storied history of backing local communities, and its decision to expand into Livingston underscores its ongoing dedication to providing valuable financial solutions and support to more residents. The new location represents a strategic move to enhance accessibility to its services, furthering LOC Credit Union’s mission to foster financial well-being within the communities it serves.

2023 Livingston County statistics

LOC Credit Union groundbreaking


2023 Budget breakdown

2023 top funders: DTE Foundation, Google, Bank of Ann Arbor, LakeTrust, First Martin, KLA, Toyota, Wacker2023 top funders: DTE Foundation, Google, Bank of Ann Arbor, LakeTrust, First Martin, KLA, Toyota, Wacker


Ann Arbor Board of Realtors

Arboretum Ventures

Bodman PLC

Butzel Long

Consumers Energy

Domino’s Farms Corporation

Hagerty Insurance Agency

Honigman LLP

ITC Michigan

Old National Bank

Oxford Companies


Rudolph Libbe Group


SI Company

Trinity Health

University of Michigan Credit Union


A.R. Brouwer Company

Chelsea State Bank

Comerica Bank

Common Sail Investment Group


Fifth Third Bank

Granger Construction Company

J.S. Vig

Menlo Innovations

Portage Capital

Reinhart Realtors

Roxbury Group

The Surnow Company


Eastern Michigan University

University of Michigan

Washtenaw Community College


Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA)

Ann Arbor Charter Township

Ann Arbor DDA

City of Ann Arbor

City of Brighton

City of Chelsea

City of Dexter

City of Saline

City of Ypsilanti

EDC of Livingston County

Michigan SBDC


Pittsfield Township

Scio DDA

Michigan Works! Southeast

Ypsilanti DDA

Ypsilanti Township