of the Greektown Casino-Hotel and owns two casinos in Ohio.
That sentiment was echoed by Mr. Linkner, who formed a group called Detroit Venture Partners with Mr. Gilbert and businessman Brian Hermelin, with an assist from retired NBA star and Michigan native Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Incubator for start-ups
Located in a building on Broadway called The M@dison, near Comerica Park and Ford Field, Detroit Venture Partners provides an incubator setting for start-up tech businesses. Since 2010, the partnership has invested in 17 start-ups. It plans to take on eight to 10 more a year, Mr. Linkner said.
Detroit Venture Partners operates out of a building that had been vacant since the 1980s. It reopened in early 2012 after a $12 million renovation. It is fully occupied. It sits on the site of the historic Madison Theatre, which opened in 1917. The theater eventually came down to create more parking for a building that had been attached to it.
"To me, it's such a privilege to help rebuild such a great American city," Mr. Linkner, 42, said. "It's the kind of things you want to tell your kids about."
Mr. Linkner, Detroit Venture Partners chief operating officer, is author of a best-selling book Disciplined Dreaming, a call to action for companies to rethink their traditional business models. It urges more creativity and risk-taking. He is the creator of five tech companies, including the wildly successful ePrize, the world's largest interactive promotion agency. Now owned by Connecticut-based Catterton Partners, ePrize provides digital marketing services for 74 of the top 100 brands.
"We are in the midst of the greatest turnaround in American history," Mr. Linkner proclaimed. "We Detroiters have a grit and determination. We're like the Rocky Balboa of cities."
From its Ping Pong table to its smoothie-and-gourmet coffee bar, Detroit Venture Partners is anything but a conventional workplace.
Like Mr. High, Mr. Linkner gets his inspiration from music. In addition to being a tech visionary, Mr. Linkner is a jazz guitarist. He was trained at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston.
He said he is drawn to jazz because it is a truly American art form built on improvisation. Elements of it have helped him succeed in the business world, he said.
"In the past, business was run like a symphony, with the conductor giving out all of the instructions," Mr. Linkner said.
"To me, [business] is all about what a jazz musician does -- improvise and work in smaller teams. The culture of a jazz combo supports creativity, whereas a large group doesn't."
Staying on task
Ignore the Noise.
Those three words have become Mr. Gilbert's watchwords. The oft-cited phrase at Detroit Venture Partners is part battle cry and part encouragement to stay focused and forge ahead, in spite of the city's well-publicized problems, Mr. Linkner said.
"If you fail at something in Silicon Valley, it's a badge of honor," Mr. Linkner said. "Here, it's a Scarlet Letter. We have to change that way of thinking."
Mr. Gilbert was not available for an interview. But according to Mr. Linkner, he preaches opportunity, to act while property's cheap, and to not look back.
That sense of fearlessness is felt in new neighborhood businesses too,
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