GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — ThinkWise CEO Roger Jansen understands the travails of entrepreneurship firsthand.
In 2006, he was looking for funding for his organizational consulting and technology company during its startup phase. "We had a number of hits throughout the U.S., but there were a lot of requests that came along with that funding that didn't make sense to us," Jansen said — including some investors who wanted the company to leave West Michigan.
Eventually, ThinkWise found investors in the region and developed into a firm with clients as diverse as Disney, Duke University, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Southwest Airlines, the Federal Reserve, Prudential and P.F. Chang.
Now, Jansen is offering his expertise to students and community members as he takes on the role of entrepreneur-in-residence at Grand Valley State University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. While he continues his role at ThinkWise, Jansen will spend few days a week using his experience as an entrepreneur to help others.
"I have been a vocal proponent of creating a more vibrant entrepreneurship base in West Michigan," Jansen said. "As entrepreneur-in-residence, I will work to increase West Michigan's mindshare as an entrepreneurship hub of the Midwest."
The Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation is part of Grand Valley's Seidman College of Business. If focuses on supporting West Michigan's high-growth entrepreneurs through a range of new resources and support services. Jansen will assist the center as it reviews business plans and coaches entrepreneurs. He will also encourage the creation of infrastructure to support those who are starting their own businesses.
"What's really encouraging is that we have a lot of resources to help entrepreneurs in the community, including people who have done it before," Jansen said. "That's what continues to motivate me."
Linda Chamberlain, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said Jansen is the first participant in what she hopes will be a robust program to accelerate entrepreneurship in the region. She noted that it is critical to have high-level talent leading the center's programmatic efforts on entrepreneurship, providing a pool of mentoring talent who can draw on experience and the connections gained in creating their own ventures.
"Roger will help us develop a common language so people can have meaningful, substantive conversations about entrepreneurship that have an impact," Chamberlain said. "With Roger's help we can turn the center into a central location where entrepreneurs can find answers and receive direction and guidance. He will help us build momentum toward creating a focal point where businesses can thrive and grow."
Chamberlain added that Jansen — and future participants in the program — will work on components of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation's strategic plan. Part of that plan involves coaching and support of entrepreneurs.
Jansen earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and master's and doctoral degrees from University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2008, he was named a Regional Thought Leader by Grand Rapids Business Journal.