What do Kelly Lapierre, Thomas Zurbuchen, Jeffrey Sorensen, David Merrit, and Michael Finney have in common? Not only are they passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation, but they joined us last week via Twitter to discuss their personal contributions to the field, as well as the state of Michigan’s future, in the latest #UMichChat.


#UMichChat Panelists

Each month, our team works on assembling a diverse panel that will bring different viewpoints to the table. We were so thankful to have each of our guests take time to provide valuable insights and perspective for the @umich community. Lapierre is the Managing Director for the Desai Family Accelerator, a venture through the Ross School of Business and College of Engineering.

Zurbuchen currently serves as the Associate Dean for Entrepreneurial Programs and is a professor at UMich. A recent graduate, Sorensen is the co-founder of optiMize, a student-driven social innovation movement on campus. You may have witnessed Merrit’s entrepreneurial contribution on South University: Merit Goodness, a local business that supports education for underprivileged youth. Finney formerly led MEDC and currently acts as Senior Advisor to Governor Snyder.

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Getting ready to start the chat!

When thinking about start-up culture and new business, the West Coast may initially come to mind. Our panelists spoke about how Michigan is becoming a leader in this space, with Detroit serving as a hub for student ventures and Ann Arbor having more venture capital per capita than Silicon Valley. Our original roster was set to include the state’s very own Governor Snyder, however due to an illness he was unable to participate as scheduled. In his absence, we were lucky to hear from Sr. Advisor Finney about the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state of Michigan, and Detroit especially.

Like most chats, the topic was broad enough to facilitate an engaging conversation, while using real-time audience feedback and question submissions to steer the discussion. Questions were either directed to the group as a whole or tailored to ask for specific insights from an individual guest:

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It was great to see fans not only engage with the panelists through Q&A, but also share their own stories about entrepreneurial success and learnings, as well as encouraging others to join in the conversation. This was our largest panel yet, and so things moved rather quickly during the entirety of the chat with a total of over 25 questions vetted by @umich alone. When asked how Michigan students can get involved in entrepreneurial work, our panelists all emphasized the many resources available at UMich to make creative ideas become a reality. We even saw advice coming from non-panelists as different departments and groups joined the discussion:

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Moving forward, our panelists offered advice on joining the “start-up life” and defended Michigan as a thriving location for young businesses and entrepreneurial pursuits:

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For the full recap, visit: http://storify.com/umichigan/february-umichchat-recap

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In terms of engagement, we received 719 uses of #UMichChat in the week leading up to Feb. 6 and the day-of. Total reach is estimated at 605K, harnessing over 9.4M impressions. It’s always interesting to look back after the event and see social impact, but it’s even more fun to follow along live to gauge real-time feedback and interaction with our content.

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We are social people, I swear. Our team stays focused during #UMichChat(s)

Thanks for following along and participating in our latest #UMichChat. We are continually excited to see engagement with our panelists and fruitful conversation as a result. Have any future speakers or topics in mind? You know where to find us: @umich.

This post was written by Katie Szymanski, Communication and Digital Studies senior; #UMSocial editorial intern