Matt Burns, senior editor at TechCrunch, interviews Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, at the Techweek Detroit Summit 2014. The focus is on the development of “Motor City” Detroit. The city is well connected and encourages growth in its diverse tech scene. To transform the city, there needs to be a total transformation for communities and neighborhoods to improve the quality of lives at large.

Some of our key takeaways from the conversation:

  1. Removal of All Residential Blight in Detroit:
    “Blight is cancer, soul-sucking type of a situation which takes hopes and optimism away,” says Dan. Removal of blight is one of Detroit’s problems apart from education, jobs, and crime. The city’s restructuring plan is on-going; it is a significant step towards eliminating residential blight.
  2. Businesses that Can Flourish in Detroit:
    According to Dan, there are certain businesses that can eventually develop in Detroit—retail, housing or real estate, and construction. Moreover, Detroit has the capability of becoming one of the premier cities in the USA, if it’s more open to tech-based startups and evolves more in its auto business sector.
  3. Why is Detroit Different from Ann Arbor?
    Detroit is progressive and has “pioneer-ish” qualities. The city has a can-do attitude and is curious enough to be in the urban core. These qualities of Detroit influenced Dan to start local accelerators and a venture capital firm, and invest in local talent and local ideas.
  4. Dan Wants to be Remembered As …
    Apart from being a good father and a husband, Dan considers Detroit as his next priority. Detroit can be a success story if all citizens join hands in fixing loopholes in the education system, stopping crimes, and developing new construction sites in downtown and neighborhoods.
  5. Data Center in Detroit:
    There is a need to create a centralized web-based service within the city. Hence, the need to circulate data and work on its expansion eventually led to the creation of data center.

Below are some of the key points and moments from the conversation:

  • 0:04 – Dan Gilbert introduced the topic to the audience
  • 0:37 – Dan highlighted two major areas wherein he is investing: blight removal and growing the UpTo calendar app
  • 2:01 – Detroit is developing and becoming crime-free, proof being the availability of constant security reports
  • 3:45 – Businesses like retail, real estate, and construction can develop in Detroit
  • 4:48 – Dan stated ‘blight’ as a cancer condition and wants to work harder for this cause
  • 8:52 – Tech startups are emerging in Detroit, be it in the fields of finance, sports, or entertainment; auto industry is also evolving
  • 12:39 – Detroit holds a progressive attitude which has allowed it to move ahead of Ann Arbor
  • 14:23 – Dan can make Detroit a success story, as it’s his priority after family
  • 17:41 – Q&A – Benjamin Morris, an ad professional, moved from Colorado to Detroit. Where do such talents fit in Detroit’s future demographics?
  • 21:02 – Q&A – How technology is expanding on the eastern side of the city?
  • 21:57 – Q&A – Any other tech movement taking place in Detroit, apart from Techweek?
  • 25:13 – Q&A – What is the biggest determinant for a company to succeed?
  • 26:08 – Q&A – What is the most important trait of a leader to succeed?


Founder and Chairman of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans