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Dug Song on Achieving Economic Success: Build Better Ecosystems and Support for Startups

December 9, 2022

Dug Song, Co-founder and President at The Song Foundation and former Co-founder of Duo Security, believes the economic well-being of Michigan’s residents and startups is critical for the state’s economic success. But to ensure that, a few entrepreneurial “ingredients” needs to be applied.

Coined “Iron Chef Michigan, A Recipe for Economic Competition,” Song’s keynote at the 2022 MICHauto Summit wasn’t a literal cooking demonstration. Instead, Song shared the recipe to make Michigan a more supportive ecosystem for startups in the “growth and support” stage.

In With the New

Song said in 1980, half of the 10 top metro areas by average earnings were in Michigan. Today, there aren’t any even in the top 20. He explained that good job creation is a start, especially from growth and support-stage startups, saying that “the old companies aren’t creating the new jobs. The new companies are.”

“At the current churn rate, about half of today’s S&P 500 Firms will be replaced over the next 10 years, and 75% of the Fortune 500 will be new in the next 10 years,” Song said. “The war for talent is actually a competition for entrepreneurial talent and skilled labor and knowledge workers driving these market disruptions.”

It Takes a Village and More Significant Investments

Song explained that getting to these inspiring new unicorn companies is not “complicated.” Instead, it takes a supportive “village” from other companies, investors, and the government working together to provide things like capital, tax incentives, and investments in infrastructure, education, and more – all additional ingredients needed to entice quality talent and keep them.

“The private sector, left to its own devices alone, will not close the income and opportunity gaps in America,” he warned.

Using the United Kingdom, Israel, and Singapore as examples of those taking Song’s ingredients and creating these support “villages,” Song also suggested the need for more significant and more frequent investments in startups.

“Only 17% of entrepreneurs backed startups over five years in Michigan,” Song said. “We’re not creating them, funding them, nor keeping them, despite our current efforts.”

Keep in Mind Connection and Culture in the Community

Wrapping up his presentation, Song emphasized the importance of connection and culture to drive community.

“Connection is how people, need, and opportunity find each other. Culture drives behavior. Behavior drives results,” he said. “And we can create real community wealth together – financial, social, cultural, and environmental, when we all go out of our way to help each other be successful.”


This session was sponsored by Michigan State University.