Start-Up Nation Great Lakes Begins: Here's Our Itinerary

We're aboard the plane heading for Chicago and Start-Up Nation 2012. That means we already feel pressed for time as our too-packed schedule gets even tighter. Covering so many places in a week, we can only hope to introduce you to these cities and maybe provide some comparative insight into the competitive and collaborative conditions across the Great Lakes region.

We have a detailed plan now. For the next 36 hours, we'll be in Chicago, checking on the post-Groupon-IPO scene. We'll be visiting several local startup spaces and meeting with fascinating startups like ODLCO and FoodGenius, which picked up a round of funding last week.

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Then, we're off to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a tour through the former furniture manufacturing capital of the country. Now, there's a $15 million fund called StartGarden that's giving away seed funding to two new ideas each week, one chosen by the investment team and the other chosen by the crowd.

Next up will be the college towns of Lansing (Go Spartans!) and Ann Arbor (Go Big Blue!). We've been shocked by the depth of support both towns are providing to local entrepreneurs trying to keep them in town. In Ann Arbor, we'll visit a now-closed Pfizer plant that's been converted in a biotech startup hub, among other things.

By Thursday, we'll have hit Detroit, where all kinds of startups are trying to take advantage of the cheap real estate, creative class influx, and hip grit of the city. We're lucky enough to be in town for the Detroit Design Festival, so we'll be checking that out.

Friday, we head to Cleveland, home to Case Western Reserve University, historically one of the country's most important engineering colleges. Like Detroit, there's a long history of manufacturing in the area and the sense that perhaps this city can lead a new wave of making stuff. 

We'll finish the trip in Pittsburgh, home to Carnegie mellon and a big Google office, as well as a fascinating art scene underpinned by The Mattress Factory.

We learned last year that there is an art to this kind of trip. You've got to be OK with the condition of controlled chaos. You've got to bring your spirit of adventure and follow your nose. And you've got to know you won't get to see everything you want to. 

Ok, stay tuned, we'll be posting from Chicago in, oh... two hours or so.

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