Where Entrepreneurs Need Nerves of Steel

October 13, 2010  |  

FORTUNE — For Glenn Oliver , it took a certain amount of faith in the unseen to launch a business in Detroit, the poorest major city in America. Oliver is a lawyer, not a businessman, whose experience included clerking for a Michigan Supreme Court justice and approving utility contracts. But an entrepreneurial streak that runs in his family emerged when Oliver began to ponder the potential of a resource the Great Lake State has in abundance: water. Rising demand has spurred a global boom in water-supply projects. So why not create a marketplace for all the new business, where contractors and suppliers can bid on projects around the world? The result of Oliver’s inspiration is a website he spent nine months building, H2bid.com, which charges $450 a year for a membership and bills itself as the “largest clearinghouse” for water contracts. Oliver’s venture isn’t profitable yet, but he’s confident that his startup will help the battered city. “Entrepreneurship,” he notes, “is the largest creator of wealth.”

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