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U-M Desai Accelerator Welcomes Program Manager + New Location

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Steve Janssens joins new Desai offices within Ann Arbor SPARK.

Since its launch in 2013, as a partnership with the Ross School of Business and the Zell Lurie Institute, the Desai Accelerator has made many pivots and innovative leaps in response to the needs of technology driven entrepreneurs. Today, the University of Michigan alumni accelerator welcomes a program manager and new office space in downtown Ann Arbor.

“I am pleased to introduce Steve Janssens, Desai Accelerator’s new program manager,” said Angela Kujava, managing director of Desai. “Steve is a Michigan native returning to the local startup ecosystem, and comes to us as the chief operating officer of LastBasic, a global marketplace for product development based in Madrid, Spain.”

Janssens has 15 years of experience bringing new products to market for early-stage startups and established consumer brands in the Bay Area, and global exposure to the hardware industry. His areas of expertise include new product development, eCommerce marketplaces, team development, early career mentorship, and innovation.

“Bringing my international experience back home to Michigan is an exciting opportunity,” says Steve Janssens. “I look forward to recruiting the 2022 cohort and advancing entrepreneurial ventures in my home state.”

With this new leadership comes a new location within the Ann Arbor SPARK Central Innovation Center startup incubator on Liberty Street. The economic development agency has served the greater Ann Arbor region for over 15 years as a catalyst for innovation and business growth.

“This is more than a new location, it is a partnership investing in the greater ecosystem,” says Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute at the University of Michigan. “Our students and alumni engage and thrive within the Ann Arbor entrepreneurial community. Leadership and entrepreneurs from SPARK judge for our competitions or support our programs. This is a natural evolution of our accelerator program — creating deeper roots within Ann Arbor.”

“We are thrilled to have Desai join us at the heart of Ann Arbor’s tech ecosystem,” said Bill Mayer, Ann Arbor SPARK’s senior vice president of entrepreneurial services. “Ann Arbor SPARK and Desai have long collaborated to support the growth and development of startups in our community; it’s exciting to think of the potential for even more impactful work together that will result from the two organizations being co-located.”

The Desai Accelerator is currently seeking University of Michigan alumni for its 2022 cohort. New ventures with at least one founder who is or will be a recent U-M (Ann Arbor) graduate are encouraged to apply. Through participating in the seven-month program, startups receive funding, tailored mentorship, national visibility, and other resources that allow them to thrive and grow.

About the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies

The Institute brings together an impactful combination of deep-seated knowledge, enriching experiences and strategic opportunities from the front lines of entrepreneurship and alternative investment. Students’ learning experiences are further enhanced through internships, entrepreneurial clubs, business competitions and campus-wide events that foster valuable networking and engage the business community. The Institute’s five student-led investment funds, with over $9M under management, immerse students in the entrepreneurial business sourcing, assessment and investment process. Founding Zell Lurie advisory board members include Samuel Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, and Eugene Applebaum, founder of Arbor Drugs Inc. For more information, visit

About Ann Arbor SPARK

Ann Arbor SPARK, a non-profit organization, is advancing the region by encouraging and supporting business acceleration, attraction and retention. The organization identifies and meets the needs of business at every stage, from startups to large organizations. Ann Arbor SPARK collaborates with business, academic, government, and community investor partners. For more information, please call (734) 761-9317 or visit