Nearly 30 entrepreneurs gathered at the Ann Arbor SPARK headquarters on South Division Street to discuss emerging initiatives in the entrepreneurship community in Michigan Tuesday afternoon.

In addition to hosting CEOs from a variety of industries — from healthcare technology to gaming — the event also featured Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.), who represents Michigan’s 12th District.

Among the companies represented was Collective Scientific LLC, an accelerating drug discovery startup that works closely with drug developers to optimize research processes in the earlier stages of medicine discovery.

Bret Self, co-founder and CEO of Collective Scientific, highlighted his company’s role in reducing the amount of time research institutions spend on early development stages.

“At Collective Scientific, we speed up the process of developing early pharmaceutical research by using our softwares, algorithms and simulation to help our clients discover marketable drugs,” he said. “And we do this by modeling, through our molecule research services, a protein target and decomposing its properties on the molecular level, so we can understand how to speed up research.”

The event also featured a roundtable discussion in which entrepreneurs had the opportunity to talk in greater depth about their companies.

Jonathan Goldstein, one of the event organizers and director of operations for SPARK, emphasized the role of SPARK in helping Ann Arbor entrepreneurs succeed in their ventures.

“So one of the things that fuels our work is just the reputation of Ann Arbor as a startup ecosystem,” he said. “And fortunately SPARK has a really strong name as an organization. And within this ecosystem we are lucky that we have so many startups here right now with SPARK’s incubators themselves.”

Goldstein also explained the steps that an aspiring entrepreneur can take to launch a successful business in Ann Arbor.

“We have an online form where people can submit their business ideas,” he said. “From there, we are able to reach out to the entrepreneur, to help him or her find direction. And then we walk them through how they could scale their company, how we could work with them, how we could use our resources to work with them.”

Following the roundtable discussion, entrepreneurs and Dingell toured successful startups in Ann Arbor, including Workit Health, a provider of personalized addiction care programs, and SkySpecs, an aerospace engineering company that inspects failures in autonomous drones.

At Workit Health headquarters on South 5th Avenue, Dingell disclosed her personal connection with the topic of addiction.

“My father actually had problems with addiction, so the work that Workit Health and the whole team do is very personal to me,” Dingell said.

Dingell pointed to Lisa McLaughlin, the co-founder and co-CEO, expressing her interest in the subject.   

“I am sorry that I have so many questions for you,” she said. “I am simply fascinated by the topic and I care deeply about it.”

She also emphasized the role that government can play in helping the entrepreneurial community in Ann Arbor and in Michigan succeed.

“The reason why I am here today is to understand the needs of entrepreneurs and the impact that they can have in the Michigan community, whether that be in healthcare, technology or transportation,” she said. “I believe that by partnering with entrepreneurs, government and private investors can promote welfare in Michigan communities and help accelerate the growth of new technologies that have a positive effect on people’s lives.”

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