Gain valuable insights into available business resources and tools. Work with a dedicated mentor or mentee to refine and actualize your business concepts. Identify new capital funding opportunities. Network with a diverse group of industry insiders.

Innovate Marquette offers a variety of services and programs to support tech startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses in our region and fuel our community’s economic growth. These programs are designed to help you and your business scale and succeed over time.

Our Programs

We understand that no two entrepreneurial journeys are alike and what sets us apart from other business incubators and accelerators is our approach through a Customized Service Plan. No cohorts and no restrictive timelines, just a personalized approach for each of our clients to assure their needs are met and a gentle hand along the way. Learn more about the elements of our process and programs below.

SmartZones are gatekeepers to early stage funding programs through the Michigan Economic Development corporation for qualifying start-ups and businesses. 

  1. The First Capital Fund 
    • The First Capital Fund provides “genesis” funds (up to $150,000) to new technology companies at the earliest stages of commercialization in the State of Michigan. The program provides funding up to $150K through quick, flexible financial instruments. The fund is milestone driven and focused on helping companies achieve follow-on funding from angel or venture investors within 12 months. For additional details and to apply, visit the First Capital Fund website.
  2. Early Stage Funding
    • Early Stage Funding  is critical to the success of startup companies and entrepreneurs. Through a number of programs, MEDC’s Entrepreneurial & Innovation initiative is here to help you find the early stage funding needed.
  3. Pre-Seed Fund III
    • Invest Michigan manages the Michigan Pre-Seed Fund II which invests capital in early stage high tech Michigan businesses. The firm is actively completing over 80 investments in 45 companies and supports these companies with “follow-on” investments through multiple rounds of financing with targeted investments of between $500,000 to $1,000,000 per company.
  4. Business Accelerator Fund (BAF)
    • The Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) is available to participating business accelerators in Michigan’s statewide SmartZone network. These funds are used toward the delivery of highly specialized services to their clients that are not otherwise available from these business accelerators. Participating business accelerators engage third party specialists to help advance the client’s path to commercialization, company success, and economic impact for the state of Michigan.
  5. Emerging Technologies Fund (ETF)
    • The Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund (ETF) is designed to expand funding opportunities for Michigan technology-based companies in the federal innovation research and development arena by providing match dollars (of up to $25,000 for Phase I and up to $125,000 for Phase II) to eligible Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) proposals. Approved ETF applications receive a letter of support to include with their SBIR/STTR proposal. The ETF is administered by the SBDC. For more information and to apply visit the SBDC website.

We also partner with Varnum LLP to bring MiSpringboard to our local innovators. MiSpringboard is Varnum’s statewide initiative designed to remove some of the barriers associated with starting a business by providing free legal services to Michigan startups. To learn more contact us and visit Varnum’s website.

Because no two entrepreneurs are alike we believe their journey through our process should reflect that. Our Customized Service Plan allows us to create a tailored strategy to help each of our clients meet their goals around their own timelines. From Incubation to Acceleration no two paths will be the same, we operate on your terms and offer a helping hand and mentorship along the way.

Our business incubator provides new businesses with shared operation space as well as access to early stage resources to entities formation, customer discovery services, prototyping & design, as well as business planning and strategy. Entrepreneurs can also access advice and guidance from professionals such as accountants, marketing consultants and business advisers as well as mentors and early state funding.

We offer companies who are further in their entrepreneurial journey a wide range of supportive services such as networking, office space, mentorship, and strategy along with opportunities to acquire funding. Through acceleration we aim to provide value to both star-ups and those investors and ventures looking to invest in new, local start-ups. 

An Entrepreneur in Residence program is very typical of business accelerators around the globe. This person is a seasoned veteran in their area of expertise and acts as a mentor and specialist to our organization and clients. 

Innovate Marquette partners with Northern Michigan University to manage and oversee the day-to-day operations of Invent@NMU, the idea incubator® at Northern Michigan University. Through the support and guidance of the Innovate Marquette management team, this unique program offers a variety of entrepreneurial support services for product development and business ideation in addition to mentorship to NMU student employees. From business plans to prototyping to branding, Invent@NMU forages mutually beneficial partnerships between NMU students and the local business community.

“Invent@NMU cultivates the talent of next-generation professionals while adding value to the Marquette community through the resources and guidance of business leaders at Innovate Marquette SmartZone.” – Joe Thiel, CEO of Innovate Marquette.

Learn more about the program

Our Services

Outdoor Recreation Mobility & Accessibility

It’s no secret that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a leader in the Midwest outdoor recreation industry. So, it only makes sense that products and services catered to mobility and accessibility within the industry are fostered, tested, and manufactured here. Innovate Marquette and our partners are dedicated to aiding technology-focused start-ups that fall within this business sector.

Sustainable Technologies

Sustainable technology is an umbrella term that describes innovation that considers natural resources and fosters economic and social development. The goal of these technologies is to drastically reduce environmental and ecological risks and to create a sustainable product. The minimization of waste and emissions and reductions in material and energy inputs are the most important environmental aims. Sustainable technological development and innovations do not automatically lead to total reduction of environmental burden of industrial production.

​Fueling Creative Technologies

Creative technology is a broadly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary field combining computing, design, art and the humanities. The field of creative technology encompasses art, digital product design, digital media or an advertising and media made with a software-based, electronic and/or data-driven engine. We believe creativity is the backbone of entrepreneurship, technology and innovation and are dedicated to supporting creative thinking and business to fuel our economy. From intricate coding and cyber security to mobile app development, art and design shape the way humans think and move through all aspects of entrepreneurship.

Marquette Local Links

This collaborative effort between our Make it Marquette initiative and Connect Marquette connects local volunteer ambassadors with newcomers to the area, sharing insight into Marquette’s real estate and rental markets, community events, year-round recreational activities, and schools and childcare options. Local Links are core members of Marquette’s community, a diverse group of locals who bring different interests, experiences, backgrounds, and shared love for the Queen City. 

This statewide program, through our SmartZone network partners Ann Arbor Spark, matches students attending Michigan-based colleges and universities with STEM-focused internship opportunities at some of the state’s most innovative organizations. This provides both meaningful career opportunities for students and financial support to the companies that host these internships.