Southeast Michigan’s dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem is anchored by Ann Arbor and Detroit, the state’s top performing SmartZones. The two cities are also home to an immense talent pool, with many of the region’s employees making the 45-minute commute. Anton Buri is one such commuter — currently telecommuting due to the pandemic. An Iowa native, Anton moved to Detroit after accepting a job with Ann Arbor-based telemedicine startup Workit Health.
Originally from Iowa City, Anton connected with Workit Health through a Venture for America fellowship. “Venture for America’s focus is on entrepreneurship. It creates a path for recent grads who want to start their own businesses or want to work in startups and be a part of that culture. The goal is to bring recent graduates to partner cities that traditionally have a difficult time attracting young talent.”
Workit Health is a digital clinic for substance use disorder, offering evidence-based online therapy and medically assisted treatment. The company is a graduate of the Ann Arbor SPARK East Innovation Center and the 2021 Ann Arbor SPARK Entrepreneurial Services Company of the Year. Workit Health recently received a $1 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant to support its expansion, adding 179 high-wage jobs with the potential of up to 530 jobs over five years.
Anton has visited Ann Arbor a few times since starting his position in November 2020. “One of the things I really enjoy is how strong the company’s connection is to Ann Arbor. I really appreciate being in a university environment which feels like a core part of the company’s identity. I look forward to coming to Ann Arbor more frequently after the pandemic and I believe a lot of the other team members throughout southeast Michigan would agree.”
While Anton accepted the fellowship with Venture for America his senior year at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, it was during his gap year before college that really shaped the road ahead for Anton.
“My story tracks back to that year in many ways. I just wanted to take a break from formal education and was looking for a little adventure, so I traveled to Havana, Cuba. I took some Spanish language courses while there and then, before long, I was working as a youth soccer coach for an area nonprofit founded by a local entrepreneur. It was all about rejuvenating and creating economic opportunities in his hometown. The entire experience had a significant impact on who I am.”
Inspired by his time in Cuba, Anton launched his own nonprofit, La Liga en Cuba. “While the love of the game is expanding in Cuba, there remains a lack of resources. I wanted to give back and extend my experience there by providing donations and resources. In addition to my year-round efforts, wearing many hats and gaining a lot of experience as an entrepreneur, I continued to travel to Cuba every summer while I was in school and coordinate tournaments.”
Among all the Venture for America partner cities, Anton really hoped he’d end up in Detroit. “Growing up in the Midwest, I felt a real connection with Michigan. Additionally, I really enjoyed the vast amounts of outdoor recreation available in Vancouver. In many ways, Michigan is similar in that way.”
Workit Health has also provided Anton with the professional experience he wanted. “It’s been a great opportunity to be involved in number of aspects of the team. Being part of a startup allows me to think strategically about procedures I believe will improve the management of knowledge and flow of tasks as the company grows.”