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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. June 23, 2016 – Start Garden, the entity organizing West Michigan’s regional startup ecosystem, today announced the return of 5X5 Night, the renowned pitch competition, with a monthly series of events in cities and neighborhoods in the area that haven’t been previously reached. The first revived 5X5 Night will take place at the City Flats Hotel in Holland, Mich on Thursday, July 21. Anyone can submit an idea starting today at

The return of 5X5 Night comes after a brief hiatus following the merger of eMerge West Michigan and Start Garden. With the two organizations now operating as a single unit, 5X5 Night will seek to uncover new creative, ideas for businesses with a series of regional events, including: 

    July 21 | Holland at City Flats Hotel

    August 24 | Grand Rapids at LINC Gallery

    September 27 | Muskegon at Innovation Hub

    October 25 | Grand Rapids at GVSU Pew Campus

    November 29 | Grand Rapids (En Español) at The ROC         

    January 24, 2017 | Muskegon at Innovation Hub

The 5X5 Night program will follow the successful format originated in 2011: up to five people, selected online by a popular vote, will serve as finalists in the one-night competition. Finalists will have up to five minutes to present a summary of their ideas with five slides. Five judges will then decide which idea wins, and distribute a $5,000 grant.

“5X5 Night is an inherently open competition, with no restrictions on the type of idea that a presenter can submit. It is all about moving an idea and our region forward,” said Paul Moore, chief operating officer of Start Garden. “We want West Michigan to be the easiest place to start running with an idea, which is why we're asking the broader region to get more involved with bringing back 5x5 Night.”

Holland and Grand Rapids both topped WalletHub’s list of cities, both small and large, respectively, as the best cities in the United States to start and grow a business. 5X5 Night was originally created to motivate a critical mass of new ideas in Grand Rapids, and help creators make that first step with their idea. The finalist selected by the 5X5 Night judges will take home a grant of up to $5,000 to get their idea started. Judges will be announced in July.

Funding for 5X5 Night will come from the Start Garden Foundation, a newly organized 501c3 that is funded with private dollars, and series sponsors including Huntington Bank, Spectrum Health and Varnum Law. Regional 5X5 Nights are supported by local stakeholders.

Submission dates for each event open roughly 30 days prior to each event:    

    June 23 | Holland

    July 22 | Grand Rapids

    August 25 | Muskegon

    September 26 | Grand Rapids

    October 27 | Grand Rapids        

    November 30 | Muskegon

Presenting the ideas is only part of the night. Part two includes a reception to discuss the ideas as a community, network with West Michigan’s creative community and award the winner.


About Start Garden

Start Garden is the epicenter of West Michigan’s startup ecosystem, and administrator of the Grand Rapids SmartZone. The organization brings together financial, intellectual and social capital to entrepreneurs by connecting them to resources critical to their growth-stage. Start Garden advances the economy of Grand Rapids by establishing the area as a desired place for new businesses to begin. More at


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Brian Burch