Tech executive Dug Song nurtures Ann Arbor's 'entrepreneurial ecosystem'
Dug Song’s considerable efforts to mobilize a community of self-proclaimed tech geeks are positioning the serial entrepreneur as one of Ann Arbor’s top business community activists, his colleagues agree.
His Ann Arbor New Tech Meetup group, for example, is attracting a steady 100 attendees every month - and the crowd is composed mostly of student entrepreneurs and tech executives who have few ties to traditional business networking events.
"There is a very well-established business community here - but it's an older business community," Song said. "This is an issue, a challenge, because there are a lot of other people just like me here who don't know where to find people and don't know other venues or opportunities to talk about this stuff."
That’s what led Song to launch a range of networking events targeted at a new crowd of entrepreneurs and "geeks." He hopes to expose techies to the region’s entrepreneurial opportunities and revolutionize the region's culture.
“There’s a hunger for it,” he said. “People need to be able to connect.”Song is a former executive at Web video firm Zattoo. He left in June to join Barracuda Networks' Ann Arbor office as the network security firm's chief architect.
Wesley Huffstutter, a new business specialist for the University of Michigan’s technology transfer office, said Song’s efforts could help convince talented young people to stay in Michigan.
“He’s done a great job of fostering the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Huffstutter said. “From the technology commercialization perspective, one of our difficult things is retaining and finding new talent and that’s something that he’s trying to home-grow here.”
Among Song’s initiatives:
- Founding the A2Geeks group, an online community that generates in-person networking opportunities and events for entrepreneurs and techies.
- Starting Ann Arbor New Tech Meetup, a monthly meeting where entrepreneurs get the chance to deliver short pitches about their companies to their contemporaries.
- Creating the Tech Brewery, a cheap business incubator for tech startups hosted at the offices of Web video firm Zattoo, where Song was a vice president until June.
At networking events, Song is regularly swarmed by attendees and asked for entrepreneurial advice and connections. He gives freely.
“Dug is this great connector,” said David Bloom, a consultant for economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK and co-organizer of Ann Arbor New Tech Meetup.
“He comes up through a couple of startups, a couple of exits, with folk wisdom of entrepreneurial development, of entrepreneurial success and a lot of potholes along the way. And he’s stepped in every one of them, so he wants to share that - he wants everybody to have the benefit of that wisdom.”
Nathan Bomey is the associate editor of the Ann Arbor Business Review. You can follow him on Twitter.