BOOM! The New Economy at TechTown (BOOM!) commits to use the tried and tested business plan competition platform in a unique way to achieve innovative, scalable solutions to the challenges of an aging population; foster economic development; and retain, engage, and transfer the knowledge and expertise of the boomer cohort. Through its partners and programs, TechTown connects small businesses to the customers, talent, capital, and space with a prime business address necessary to build a thriving enterprise in Southeast Michigan. TechTown's experience with business plan competitions, together with its colleagues in economic development, has demonstrated its bility to organize, promote, and execute a competition generating huge interest.
Traditional business plan competitions promote entrepreneurial spirit by providing a platform for viable businesses to pitch to the investment community. Successful competitors may be awarded prize money from a few thousand dollars to introduction to major investment opportunities to take their business to the next level. Business plans are typically judged by a group of industry professionals, venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs.
The BOOM! innovation competition, structured as a repeatable event over three years, will generate public discussion about the largely overlooked global issue of the aging population and its effect on economic development. BOOM! will conduct quarterly competitions, each framed around a different issue of the aging population - in other words, a stated problem to be solved. Boomers will be encouraged to come up with innovative ideas that reflect the changing needs of a population that is aging differently from previous generations. Therefore, the competition will embrace ideas such as leisure, travel, the arts and food, entrepreneurship, and entertainment as well as transportation, mobility, physical health, mental health, personal enrichment and growth, housing, infrastructure and environment, and employment and financial security.
Entrants must enter as a multi-generational team, with the lead entrant over 50 years of age. The team should also have one member over 65 and one member under 30. The objective is to underscore the value of intergeneration problem-solving, two-way knowledge transfer, and recognition that issues facing the aging population have significance for all. Competition winners will receive a monetary award and business incubation from TechTown.
The competitions will be run on a continuous basis, with a new competition every three months. Potential entrants will be invited to provide a business answer to a different, defined challenge facing the aging population at each competition. Entrants will be from teams that must be lead by an individual who is over 50 and include at least one team member who is over 65 and an individual who is under 30. The objective is to foster intergenerational collaboration, and thus understanding; encourage tech-savvy young people to address aging issues which have been largely overlooked at the expense of developing social networking; and harness the knowledge and expertise of the baby boomer cohort, unwilling or unable to retire, seeking purpose and following their passion in their encore careers. Winners will receive support at TechTown, Detroit's business incubator, as well as advice and support from organizations in Detroit, both traditional and non-traditional, which deal with various issues on aging.
On May 16, 2012 the five BOOM! The New Economy partners committed to the creation of and support for a BOOM!Detroit Business Plan Competition with a view to launch November 1st. This follows two years of foundational work spearheaded by the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan's financial support to forge new connections between non-traditional senior service providers and community partners to develop and provide a collaborative program to serve older adults. The BOOM! partners coalesced around the issue of older adults in the region seeking new opportunities for economic participation and productivity - specifically the BOOMER generation to BOOM the region's economy. TechTown, a Detroit-based business incubator and accelerator, is the lead partner, experienced in organizing and running business plan competitions.
The budget will be based on prior years' experience; partners will be requested to confirm financial support on or before July 31st. Experienced staff will be retained following confirmation of funding. The competition will be promoted through existing collaborators as well as independent media. Competition rules, partners and judges, as well as commercial sponsors, will be confirmed by September 30. The first competition event will be organized for February 2013 with subsequent events occurring every three months.
Specific deliverables will include a number of business plans that address issues for the aging. These plans will be offered support from TechTown, which includes the delivery of support services designed to help the companies become successful and create new jobs. These services include flexible space; access to university technology and research; various training programs; mentors to provide experienced advice,; interns to help companies scale operations.; and networking and promotional support. Importantly, TechTown will provide access to capital for early stage and potential high-growth companies, through seed capital from TechTown and its partner organizations such as First Step Fund, Detroit Microenterprise Fund, Hebrew Free Loans, and Michigan Pre-seed Capital Fund. TechTown will also connect entrepreneurs with venture capital firms and angel investors depending on the business stage, industry sector and funding needs. Various corporations involved in providing products or services to an aging population will be asked to become involved in testing new ideas.
The U. S. and much of the rest of the world is experiencing a rapidly aging population. Some have called this an 'aging tsunami' to characterize the magnitude and urgency of the challenges an aging population presents. Globally, 524 million people were over 65 in 2010; by 2050 this figure is expected to triple to 1.5 billion, from 8 percent of the world population to 16 percent. In a few years, for the first time in recorded history, children under the age of five will be outnumbered by those over 65. In the U.S. there are 78 million baby boomers (born 1946-1964); 10,000 a day turn 65. In Southeast Michigan, by 2015, one of every four persons will be over 65. In 2010 in the city of Detroit, the population over 55 numbered 23 percent. All this means that a smaller workforce under 65 may be required to bear the burden of economic growth. The aging population will place additional costs on healthcare systems, which are already spiraling out of control.
The baby boomer cohort could be part of the solution. The Kauffman Foundation reports that in America over the past decade, the 55-64 age group had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity; one-third larger than its youngest counterparts, the 20-34 age group. Entrepreneurs seek market-driven solutions; they are inventors, creators, and problem-solvers. Kauffman also states that, 'the United States might be on the cusp of an entrepreneurial boom - not in spite of an aging population but because of it. To the extent that entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic growth, this could bode well for America's growth potential.'
BOOM! Detroit believes this bodes well for a city long in economic decline, with an experienced, skilled boomer population seeking purpose in the encore stage of their lives.