Detroit wasn't on the map for Nathan Labenz and Jay Gierak in 2010 when they started
, a website that uses Facebook to bring the business referral process online. Nearly two years later, the Harvard graduates, classmates and housemates of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook's other co-founders, are moving their fledgling startup from Silicon Valley to downtown.
"The Detroit tech community has come a long way," Labenz says. "So much has happened here."
The firm has begun the process of moving to the M@dison Building tech hub in downtown Detroit. The move brings six employees with it and the company plans to double its staff within the next year. Gierak and Labenz are both native Metro Detroiters and the recently married Labenz is in the process of moving into the almost-finished Broderick Tower.
Stik.com helps small companies that heavily rely on word-of-mouth referrals to acquire business and build a reputation through testimonials. The site also helps consumers find professional help they can trust when making important purchases such as a mortgage or insurance, directly through Facebook.
Labenz sees the potential to grow a web startup in downtown Detroit and also the path to building it up to a second-stage firm. "There is so much engineering talent, design talent here that isn't being competed for by web companies," Labenz says.
Source: Nathan Labenz, co-founder of Stik
Writer: Jon Zemke
Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.