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Unfiltered: Jeff Sloan on The Next American Dream

You may remember Jeff Sloan, co-founder of StartupNation, and part of the brains behind NextWave, a new business incubator for Michigan's up-and-coming businesses.

Last week, Sloan and other members of NextWave met with potential new entrepreneurs to decide which ideas the incubator should fund. This rapid-fire pitch sessions put NextWave and its participants to the test...stamina, strength and their mental bandwidth was all put to the test...all things they'll need to succeed in this mean city. (More on See pictures of Detroit's beautiful, horrible decline)

Here's Mr. Sloan's take on the morning, what he learned about Michigan and what he sees for our future.

By Jeff Sloan

Director of Early Portfolio Development/NextWave, Inc.

President/Aria Equities, LLC


As a serial entrepreneur, I'm hard-wired to see the world through business-colored glasses. Approach life with my business cap on. You get the idea.

Here's an example of how my constantly churning business mind works.

If the United States of America changed its status from a country to a business, it would benefit immediately by having several established, readily recognizable taglines describing its well-known brand. (More on See pictures of Barack Obama's nation of hope)

The land of opportunity.

The model of capitalism.

The land of the free.

The greatest nation on earth.

The marketing copy in the U.S. corporate brochure might read “Our company stands for the ideals of freedom and individual rights. We are proud to lead the world in innovation and creative thinking. Our employees know that if they work hard and work smart, they WILL get ahead in life.”

Of course, everyone knows that any long term business will inevitably experience ebbs and flows in their market share, revenues, and employee morale. And recently, it seems to me that our company…our country…has lost its way a bit. Complacency has caused us to slip from the very ideals and principles that made us great as a nation. (More on Read “Fixing Detroit: A Laboratory for Saving America's Cities?”)

Today, our economy faces challenges unparalleled since the Great Depression.

Job security is gone.

Unemployment is at record levels.

Retirement accounts have dried up.

Our commercial banking system is on ice.

But just when I began to think we had fallen too far to pick ourselves back up, a wave of hope has come crashing into my life…and I'm riding it for all it is worth as are other fortunate, forward-thinking individuals who have dreams of creating a business of their own.

The wave is NextWave, a business incubator/accelerator like no other I know.

For starters, it's a for-profit incubator focusing on the creation and growth of exciting startup companies. It's a place where people with innovative ideas for a business inspired by a need in the local, national or global marketplace can come and get the support, mentoring and resources required to transform their business dreams into reality. NextWave is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to accommodate each entrepreneur's lifestyle and work style. There is a culture and environment of collaboration and facilitation like no other place I've ever known. You can literally reach out and touch the energy here. It's inspiring and contagious. (More on See a video on battery innovation in Detroit)

The goal is to create 30 to 50 new startups each year. The first NextWave location is in Southeast Michigan with plans for a national rollout of NextWave incubators in place. Offices in London and Kuala Lumpor are opening soon.

I lead the early stage portfolio of companies being developed at NextWave. In that role, I'm exposed to creative thinkers and doers second to none. They are passionate, capable, focused and determined beyond anything I've ever seen in my long entrepreneurial career. And while most new businesses fail, I can say with confidence that a vast majority of businesses being developed at NextWave are on their way to great success. As a byproduct of all of this, jobs will be created, the economy will recover, confidence will be restored, and our core values as Americans will once again be heralded as supreme the world over.

Owning a business goes far, far beyond the trivial pursuit of riches. Owning a business provides freedom, a sense of pride, security and belief that anything is possible if we set our minds to it and work hard at achieving it. ( More on See TIME's special report “The Committee To Save Detroit")

We are a country where 51 percent of our gross domestic product is driven by small business, 75 percent of all new jobs are created by small business and 99 percent of all employers are small business owners.

While NextWave alone likely won't fix everything that's hampering the American economy, it is the start of something powerful.  And I'm happy to report that the American dream is alive and well in Southeast Michigan.


NextWave accepts applications for admission to the incubator on an ongoing basis.  To apply, download the application from the NextWave website.

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