Street Talk: Start Garden’s fresh start


Start Garden has spun itself off.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem has spun off its venture capital fund into Wakestream Ventures, a private entity that will continue to make early stage investments in the $100,000 to $500,000 range. Wakestream will operate with Start Garden founder Rick DeVos as CEO and Kim Pasquiano and Mike DeVries serving as chief investment officers.

Wakestream's introduction completes the separation of public and private funding of Start Garden and allows the independent for-profit venture capital fund to focus solely on high-growth, high-risk investment opportunities. That process began in April, when Start Garden announced it would manage the administration of the Grand Rapids SmartZone and merge with eMerge West Michigan, creating two separate entities. Start Garden Ecosystem manages the SmartZone and Seamless Accelerator, while Start Garden Foundation continues its work serving regional startups and first-time entrepreneurs.

Wakestream will make early stage, series A and pre-series A investments with a focus on high growth technology, hardware-software convergence and e-commerce enablement.

In a statement, DeVos said the separation “ensures there will be no confusion between the investment activity of the fund with the social investments being made through Start Garden.”

Wholly funded by private investments, Wakestream will not operate using public money or dollars designated to the Start Garden Foundation, DeVos said.

Price of progress

It just became more expensive to park downtown.

In its effort to become a “park once” district, the city of Grand Rapids and Mobile GR and Parking Services implemented new parking rates for several city-owned parking garages, surface lots and metered on-street spaces.

The city noted parking rates have not increased beyond the rate of inflation since 2000, and the small price increases have not kept up with the demand of parking.

“We are attracting record numbers of residents and visitors to our vibrant downtown,” the city said in a statement. “As Grand Rapids has experienced this growth and development, the number of visitors and residents traveling to and from the central business district has increased accordingly, straining the existing parking supply and creating congestion within the downtown core. The rate changes are aimed at helping to resolve these issues and address future parking needs.”

The new rates started Sept. 1.

Hourly meter rates for all on-street parking were increased based on location. Those who previously paid 50 cents to park at a meter will pay $1; those who previously paid 75 cents will pay $1; and those who previously paid $1.25 will pay $1.50.

Rates within city-operated parking garages and surface lots also will change for most drivers who pay monthly, short-term and daily fees.

The garage and surface lot changes were increased based on demand, so drivers parking in lots that are full or nearly full should expect to see increases to their monthly fee.

While some of the lot rates have more than doubled, the city said the average increase is “just over $8 per space.”

Short-term rates per half-hour also have increased, from $1 to $1.25 for every 30 minutes of parking in an off-street facility up to the daily maximum.

Daily maximum rates begin at 4 a.m. and go to 3:59 a.m. the following day.

Special event parking rates also are going up and will apply after 5 p.m. in most lots.

To appease disgruntled motorists who might be forced to park in lots further from their destinations due to the price increases, the city is pushing its DASH service as a solution.

DASH service has been consolidated from four to two routes and operating times increased on the first of the month to accommodate parking customers.

Elements of previous DASH Hill and DASH South were consolidated into the DASH West route, while DASH North experienced minor changes.

The city said it also is making more parking spaces available through access to DASH North. 

The free service now will operate from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week, with frequency of seven- to eight-minute service all day.

A fleet of seven DASH buses will operate at all times, connecting current city parking facilities to downtown destinations.

The service also will provide a link to all major destinations through a simple pair of routes connectingdowntown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Downtown travelers can ride The Rapid’s Silver Line service at no cost all day from north of Wealthy Street and McConnell throughout downtown.

Apple siders

We’ll all probably be eating more apples this year, as there’s supposed to be a bountiful harvest in Michigan.

But we’ll also probably be drinking more apple products, too.

Hard cider is rising in popularity, and it’s creating a small niche of farmers bringing back apple varieties from the past.

It’s not a big piece of the overall harvest, but it’s one of the more interesting pieces, said Amy Irish-Brown, a fruit tree educator with the Michigan State University Extension.

“We have growers that have planted Old World varieties because they have higher tannins, and that’s going on all over the country,” Irish-Brown said.

It seems some of those heirloom varieties are helping Grand Rapids-area hard cider makers differentiate themselves. Common heirlooms widely available include Winesap, Northern Spy and Jonathon.

At Vander Mill, which opened a large production facility and restaurant in Grand Rapids this year, owner Paul Vander Heide said he has worked with Dietrich Orchards to plant one of the largest new cider variety orchards in the country.

Among the varieties at Dietrich are Yarlington Mill, Dabinett, Golden Russet and Baldwin apples.

Andy Sietsema, of Sietsema Orchards, said his more common heirlooms are Spitzenburgs — famous as Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple — Ashmead’s Kernel and Golden Russet.

In Hudsonville, John Behrens said Rhode Island Greening and Kingston Black are some of Farmhaus Cider Co.’s favorite heirlooms and gave a little insight into their cider-making process.

“We use a blend of apples to give our cider complexity that varies based on the particular cider we are making, but we find McIntosh adds a nice tart taste, while a more Jonathan-heavy blend helps achieve a slightly sweet finish,” Behrens said.

International fare

The featured speaker at the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan’s 67th Anniversary Event Luncheon won’t have to travel far to get here, but the road to procuring him was a long one.

“We’re so pleased to announce that we are one of the first venues in the States to host the new Canadian Ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton,” said Dixie Anderson, executive director of the World Affairs Council.

Anderson said MacNaughton will speak at a luncheon Oct. 12 at a site yet to be determined.

“We’ve worked on this … for two years or better,” she said. MacNaughton’s ambassadorial appointment in March only boosted his appeal.

Anderson said as a seasoned entrepreneur and political strategist, MacNaughton brings a unique set of skills and experiences to his new role as U.S. Ambassador.

In the 1980s, he built an organization that included government relations, public opinion research and public relations. After selling his business in 1989, MacNaughton became president of Canada’s largest government and public relations firm and, subsequently, North American president of the world’s largest public relations firm. From 1995 until 2003, he was president of Strathshore Financial and was an advisor to one of Canada’s leading investment banks.

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