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Struggling Cities, From Detroit to New Orleans, See Startups as Saviors

A test table at one of Ford's product development sync labs in Dearborn,
Michigan. 
A test table at one of Ford's product development sync labs in Dearborn, Michigan. Photograph by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg

After graduating from the University of Michigan, Greg Schwartz worked in New York at Warner Music Group as director of digital business. Then the entrepreneurial bug bit him, and he tried to turn a calendar app he had created into a business. But instead of staying put or moving to a tech mecca like Silicon Valley, he returned in 2011 to his hometown of Detroit to found UpTo, inspired by Dan Gilbert, founder of Detroit-based Quicken Loans and majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Like so many others, I left Detroit during a massive brain drain. But I’d been hearing a lot about what was happening here, and when I thought about this being where my family was and looked at the cost of living and doing business, I came back,” says Schwartz, whose company has attracted $2.3 million from hometown backers Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures. “I didn’t believe it at first, but there is access to capital here and incredible talent resources from the Michigan universities.”