spring 2010 | issue 1

Because Nothing Succeeds Like Success

It was 20 years ago exactly that Dave Hartmann was bitten by the “entrepreneurial bug.” At the time, his employer, Nortel, was consolidating its operations to Texas and North Carolina, leaving Dave with a hard choice: relocate or take his chances in his home state of Michigan.

He stayed and that same year co-founded Network Express “with the idea that we needed to create larger pipes in the access portion of the network.” In the process, he and his fellow entrepreneurs helped birth what is now known as the broadband Internet.

After seeing the start-up through a successful IPO and acquisition, he left in 1999 to form Avail Networks, which ultimately developed “a next-generation, multi-service gateway to address the needs of broadband wireline and wireless networks.” What followed was a double acquisition, first by Eastern Research and then by Sycamore Networks.

Mentors-in-Residence at the Michigan Venture Center:
Nick Cucinelli, Jim Bertolina, Dave Hartmann, Bill Wood, Thomas Collet, and Mahendra Ramsinghani

By 2007, Dave was ready for something different. “So a group of us formed Arbor Blue with a focus on high-tech consulting services, while also keeping our eyes open for new business opportunities,” he says. “I’ve used this time to become active in the Ann Arbor entrepreneur community, seeking opportunities to mentor, letting others leverage my start-up experience, and helping reenergize the Michigan economy. After all,” he adds, “almost seventy percent of new jobs come from start-up businesses.”

Since 2008, Dave has been one of half a dozen Mentors-in-Residence in the Office of Technology Transfer’s Michigan Venture Center. These battle-tested entrepreneurs help kickstart new ventures by guiding them through every facet of business formation and helping forge connections with the venture capital community.

“Joining the OTT Business Formation team as a mentor has been a perfect fit for me at this point in my career,” he observes. “Right now I’m working with research faculty on five new high-tech start-ups and many more new invention ideas.”

From his double vantage point of business practitioner and consultant, Dave points out the significant shifts that have occurred in key infrastructures over the past decade. That includes powerful momentum in the local venture community, the catalytic effects of U-M technology and talent, and a stronger regional support system anchored by the University, SPARK and MEDC.

“While there’s always room for improvement,” he says, “these infrastructure changes have made a significant difference. As a result, there has never been a better time to launch a start-up in southeastern Michigan.”

To find out more information on the Mentors-in-Residence Program contact Jim O'Connell.