Endeavor Detroit (Endeavor) today announced Altruist Founder and CEO, Jason Wenk, and Wisely Co-Founder Mike Vichich have joined its board of directors to advance support for entrepreneurs across Michigan and the broader the Great Lakes region. Endeavor provides customized support services, an unrivaled global network and peer-to-peer community to high-growth entrepreneurs. Since 2015, Endeavor‘s Great Lakes region portfolio companies have created 2,500+ jobs, received $730 million+ in investment and earned $350 million+ in annual revenue.
“What Jason and Mike have achieved with their companies is extraordinary, and we are excited to have their entrepreneurial experience guiding our future efforts,” said Endeavor Detroit Managing Director Diana Callaghan. “Their insights and connections will help transform the experiences of those entrepreneurs who will shape the future of Michigan’s economy.”community since 2017, when he was selected to be an Endeavor Entrepreneur as the Founder and CEO of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based FormulaFolios, an asset management platform. Over time, FormulaFolios would go on to rank as an Inc. Magazine fastest-growing private company four years in a row, reaching as high as No. 10 in 2017, achieving a three-year growth rate of 13,927 percent and managing more than $3.2 billion in assets. In 2019, Jason founded his most recent venture, Altruist, a fast-growing fintech startup that raised a $50 million Series B from Vanguard Group in 2021.
Raised in West Michigan, Wenk is now based in Los Angeles, but feels strongly about the potential of Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Michigan is my home state and a place I care deeply about. My wife and I own multiple businesses in the state (and other Great Lakes states) and hope to assist other entrepreneurs to dream big, succeed, and give back,” said Wenk.
“I’ve been an Endeavor Entrepreneur since 2017 and it’s been one of the most impactful organizations and groups of people in my professional career,” Wenk added. “It’s easy to have some self-doubt when scaling your first significant startup, but Endeavor connected me with great mentors, fellow founders and an incredible investor network. My confidence and business both grew exponentially due to this network.”
Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Mike Vichich was selected to be an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2019 on the heels of his success growing Wisely, which was acquired by Olo in November 2021 for $187 million. Wisely is a leading customer intelligence platform that enables restaurant brands to personalize the guest experience. In 2021 Wisely was ranked #300 on the Inc. Magazine 5000 fastest growing companies in America list. Vichich is now Vice President and General Manager of Customer Engagement products at Olo.
“I deeply believe in the power of entrepreneurship to solve some of the biggest problems of our time. To that end, Endeavor has been the leader in inspiring, assisting and investing in global entrepreneurship for more than 20 years,” said Vichich. “On a personal note, Endeavor was instrumental in helping my company, Wisely, grow through its eventual acquisition in fall 2021. I am honored to join forces with the next generation of entrepreneurs who are working hard to change the world.”
Endeavor works in markets with developing economies and a critical mass of entrepreneurs building fast-growing companies that are past the startup phase, referred to as “scaleups.” Decades of research on thriving cities around the world has found that scaleups have an outsized impact on growing economies, and that mentorship and connections made by successful entrepreneurs are critical to the success of up-and-coming scaleup founders.
Though Michigan was among the fastest growing states for venture capital investment in 2021, according to Crunchbase (886 percent growth between 2016 and 2020), there is a gap in support for founders of high-growth companies. A study spanning 2019-2021 by Endeavor Insight (Endeavor’s research arm) with support from the William Davidson Foundation, found that although Southeast Michigan in particular has a variety of sectors poised for success, its entrepreneurial ecosystem lacks a strong structure where experienced founders can share knowledge, social connections and financial capital with promising entrepreneurs in the region.
“Now is a critical inflection point for the startup ecosystem in Michigan. While relocation incentives and support for legacy industries and small businesses are important economic development strategies, it is time for Michigan to double down on founders of scaleup companies so we can significantly grow and diversify our economy,” said Callaghan. “Endeavor has studied this concept of entrepreneur-led economic development for years and documented its ability to transform local economies around the world. Jason and Mike joining the board is an ideal example of the virtuous cycle created when founders give back by driving wealth to their communities and building the infrastructure for aspiring entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps.”
Since its launch in 2015, Endeavor Detroit has worked with founders who have secured some of the largest deals in Michigan including Workit Health ($118 million Series C, 2021), Benzinga (acquired for $300 million, 2021) and SkySpecs ($80 million Series D).
With the appointment of Vichich and Wenk, Endeavor Detroit’s board now consists of seven members, including: Board Chair Nate Lowery, Co-Founder and CEO, LexTM3 LLC; Lynda Applegate, Baker Foundation Professor Harvard Business School; Chuck Conlen, Vice President Renewable Energy, DTE Energy; Steve Jbara, President, Grand Rapids Gold; and Stephen Shaya, M.D., Managing Director, Akkad Holdings.
Founded in 1997, Endeavor selects, mentors and provides customized support services to entrepreneurs leading companies with the most potential to create economic impact. Headquartered in New York City, Endeavor currently has 500+ staff members that operate in nearly 40 growth markets and 64 cities throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Endeavor has selected more than 2,300 founders including the first $1 billion valued companies to come out of 12 countries.
Established in 2015, Endeavor’s Detroit affiliate selects and supports high-growth entrepreneurs in the Great Lakes Region. Endeavor’s Great Lakes portfolio includes entrepreneurs leading some of the region’s highest performing companies including Cameo, Altruist, The Lip Bar, Workit Health, Floyd, SkySpecs and more.