Inside Ann Arbor SPARK's first-ever Student Tech Trek

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Smart door lock startup PassiveBolt's table at the speed dating rounds in SPARK Central (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR - On Friday afternoon, students from local universities convened at SPARK Central downtown for a speed dating session with both in-house and external companies as part of the organization's inaugural Student Tech Trek.

Roughly 130 students registered for the event that was created to give them a closer look into Ann Arbor's vibrant startup scene.

Similar to A2 Tech Trek, the group went on a downtown walking tour to Barracuda Networks, Cahoots and Pillar Technology, where they heard presentations and, in some cases, participated in group exercises.

Students work in teams in a brainstorming exercise at Barracuda Networks' downtown office on March 22, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

 

"We sort of piloted this last year with the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan, where we’re basically taking students that are already here and try to showcase what’s going on in the Ann Arbor area and hopefully planting the seeds for future career opportunities with them in this region," said SPARK's Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff Phil Santer. 

"There’s some people who are clearly in the job market right now and are looking for either their first job or they’re in grad school and they’re looking for what’s out there," he said.

Managing Director at Cahoots, Alison Todak, gives students a tour of the building on March 22, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

Second-year electrical engineering student at the University of Michigan, Jacob Quinn, said he was there to get a better idea of what companies are in Ann Arbor.

"I’m coming here to get a better lay of the land of SPARK’s entrepreneurship scene, see what kind of companies are here and what they have to offer," he said.

Students listen to a presentation by Clinc, an AI startup housed in Cahoots on March 22, 2019 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

When asked how the companies reacted to the idea of a student tour, Santer said they were interested.

"I think the companies have been exceedingly receptive," he said. "One of the biggest needs that we have right now is making sure that there is an availability of talent in Ann Arbor. Giving companies the chance to be able to connect with students and people who are actively interested in the job market, it’s a win-win."

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