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Reach Influence scores $5M in VC, aims to add staff

Reach Influence has scored $5 million in seed capital to start off the new year, scoring investments from Detroit Venture Partners and Vineyard Capital Group to lead the round.

The downtown Royal Oak-based startup specializes in helping retailers maximize their sales through analytics gathered from its software. It had previously received an investment from Vineyard Capital Group in 2012, and plans to spend much of 2015 using its newfound seed capital to build on that initial investment's foundation.

"We are leveraging that mainly in people and technology," says Susan Dettloff, marketing director of Reach Influence. "We plan to grow our team this year."

The 5-year-old startup has hired four people over the last year, including analysts and program managers. It currently has a staff of 22 employees and the occasional intern.

Reach Influence provides technical and design services, such as data capture and analysis, to retailers and wholesalers. The startup’s software platform helps its clients measure marketing efficacy, engage shoppers, and provide an outlet to deliver digital offers by collecting daily transaction data.

After Vineyard Capital Group made its initial investment in 2012, Reach Influence’s team spend its time improving its software platform and installing better processes in the business. It rebranded to Reach Influence in 2013 and has been growing the company ever since.

"We have grown our sales quite a bit," Dettloff says. "Every year has been a building year in one way or another."

Source: Susan Dettloff, marketing director of Reach Influence
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan eLab investments find different ways to impact Ann Arbor

Michigan eLab is an investment firm launched a little more than two years ago with the idea of  bridging the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Michigan and Silicon Valley. It’s well on its way to do that with its first two investments.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based venture capital firm, founded by Silicon Valley investment veterans with Michigan roots, has invested in MobileForce (a Silicon Valley-based mobile app startup) and Akadeum Life Sciences (an Ann Arbor-based life sciences startup). Both investments are bringing jobs to Ann Arbor.

The $150,000 investment in Akadeum Life Sciences is helping the University of Michigan spinout develop its tissue testing preparation platform. The startup and its team of three people (it plans to add more later this year) has leveraged a number of local entrepreneurial initiative, such as U-M's I-Corps program and seed capital from Invest Detroit.

"Akadeum Life Sciences is a great example of a startup that has came out of the entrepreneurial ecosystem," says Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab.

MobileForce developing enterprise cloud and mobile software. It is working with VisionIT to build out it products and is looking to hire up to four people in Ann Arbor now.

"The goal is to get to 20 people in Ann Arbor," Neal says.

Michigan eLab currently employs five people. It has made two investments so far but plans to ramp up that pace in 2015 with three or four investments before the end of the year.

"We are hopeful we will make another one in the next couple months," Neal says.

Source: Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

Seat Side Service lands big client in Toledo Mud Hens

Last year was Seat Side Service's first appearance at the plate with its mobile concession software. While it didn’t hit a home run on its first swing, it didn't whiff at the pitch either.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup landed the Toledo Mud Hens (the Detroit Tigers AAA minor league affiliate) as a customer last year. Seat Side Services technology enabled the baseball club to increase its concession sales by double digits, specifically its per-capita-crowd-expenditures by 44 percent.

"It's an astronomical number," says Steve Ventura, senior vice president of Seat Side Service. "They (Mud Hens management) was more than pleased."

The 2-year-old startup created a mobile software platform that enabled spectators at athletic events to order food and beverages through their smartphone. They can pay online and the orders are delivered from a centralized kitchen, enabling vendors to only have to carry the food ordered. Seat Side Service’s first season with the Mud Hens allowed the company to show what it can do.

"It allowed us to open a lot of doors in other sports, not just baseball," Ventura says. The company is now speaking to teams in Major League Baseball, NCAA, NHL, and the NFL. Ventura expects to have a dozen teams signed up for Seat Side Service’s platform by the end of the year.

"I would think the number is going to be triple that by the end of 2016," Ventura says.

That success has allowed Seat Side Service to do some hiring. It has added two employees (Venture and a technical lead) over the last year, expanding its staff to six employees and 4-6 interns. It is also looking to hire another five people in software development, sales, and marketing.

Source: Barak Leibovitz, founder & CEO of Seat Side Service, and Steve Ventura, senior vice president of Seat Side Service
Writer: Jon Zemke

Systems in Motion doubles Ann Arbor office with 130 hires

On-shoring IT work is turning into a good thing for Ann Arbor. Systems in Motion, a California-based firm specializing in bringing IT work back to the U.S., has hired dozens of people for its Ann Arbor office over the last year.

"It's actually far and away our biggest office," says Colin Chapman, vice president & general manager for Systems in Motion.

Today the company employs 230 people in Ann Arbor after hiring 130 in the last year. Those new hires include software engineers, quality testers, and developers. The company is also looking to hire more people now.

"We're always looking for the best athlete," Chapman says. "We're constantly trying to build out our bench with strong people."

Systems in Motion specializes in application development, information management and testing services. It uses an Agile software development methodology, which makes the creation of software viable through a system of incremental improvements. That system enables it to be cost-competitive with overseas companies.

Systems in Motion plans to hire 150 people in Ann Arbor this year. It's a move the company expects will prompt it to looking for a bigger office space in the coming months.

"We're close to full occupancy at the building now," Chapman says.

Source: Colin Chapman, vice president & general manager for Systems in Motion
Writer: Jon Zemke

Check out these techs. Google Demo investors will.

Three Detroit-area tech startups have won a chance to pitch their companies to investors lined up by Google and looking for business ideas to put their money behind.
 
After competing last week in the Grand Circus Detroit Google Demo Day competition, the founders of AdAdapted, GENOMENON and LevelEleven, are hoping to be picked to visit Google’s California HQ in April and spill to investors what’s promising about their companies. One or two will make the cut to make the trip to Mountainview, Calif.
 
Excerpt:

“We’re very impressed by the talented entrepreneurs and innovative companies in the Detroit area. Google for Entrepreneurs partners with organizations like Grand Circus to help these local communities of entrepreneurs grow and thrive,” said John Lyman, head of partnerships and marketing for Google for Entrepreneurs.

 
Read more about these little companies that could here.

AdAdapted doubles staff as its mobile technology gains traction

AdAdapted has doubled its staff over the last year thanks to its principal mobile advertising platform gaining traction in the market place. The Ann Arbor-based startup has hired four people over the last year, including software developers, account managers, and sales professionals. It now has a staff of nine employees and one intern.

"We anticipate hiring 2-4 more people in the next six months," says Michael Pedersen, CEO of AdAdapted.

AdAdapted got its start developing a native advertising platform for mobile apps. The idea is to better connect advertisers with developers to create customized advertisements for target audiences. It has since expanded its reach to include content tracking of brands and purchases for its customers.

The company has watched its revenue spike over the last year. Pedersen describes the gains as "substantial" and anticipates the company to grow its revenue by at least 100 percent over the next year.

"We are inking deals now that are worth well into the six figures," Pedersen says.

Source: Michael Pedersen, CEO of AdAdapted
Writer: Jon Zemke

Guitar pedal maker Red Panda expands product line, staff, and office space in Midtown's Green Garage


Red Panda is a music tech startup that has a little bit more of everything this year. The Midtown-based company has added seed capital, new products, more employees, and a bigger space in the Green Garage.

"It's a space that is three times larger," says Curt Malouin, owner of Red Panda. "It's a little more than 600 square feet."

The 3-year-old startup makes digital guitar pedals for musicians. Guitar pedals have traditionally been analog pieces of technology. Malouin is an electrical engineer with experience working with analog circuitry in the automotive industry. He leveraged that experience to create new guitar pedals that focus on digital signal processing.

Red Panda has a new product in development and recently released another. Bitmap is a bitcrusher with fractional bit reduction and sample rate modulation. It digitized a guitar signal and reduces its sampling rate and fidelity.

"So it sounds like an 8-bit computer or an Atari video game sound," explains Malouin in layman terms.

Increased sales of Red Panda’s products has allowed it to move to a bigger space and double its staff to four people over the last year. The startup also landed a $10,000 NEIdeas grant last fall that is allowing it to purchase new manufacturing equipment that will allow it print graphics on its products and prompt it to hire more staff.

"Bringing graphic printing in house is much more environmentally friendly and faster than screen printing," Malouin says. "It will allow us to bring more products to the market quicker."

Source: Curt Malouin, owner of Red Panda
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter-based kSpace Associates creates 5 new jobs

Last year turned out to be quite the year for kSpace Associates. The Dexter-based tech firm tied for its best year ever (2011) in terms of revenue generated.

"A good chunk of that was solar panel metrology tools," says Darryl Barlett, CEO of kSpace Associates. "We anticipate we will have similar sales level in 2015."

The 23-year-old firm develops and manufacturers diagnostic tools for the semi-conductor industry. In addition to solar metrology sales, several sales of its MOS Ultrascan system, which measures the curvature and bow of semiconductor wafers, were made to Chinese firms.

Those spiking sales allowed kSpace Associates to hire four people over the last year, expanding its staff to 26 employees and the occasional summer intern. The new hires include an optics engineer, a sales engineer, a field service technician, and an office assistant. It is currently looking to hire a software developer.

The company is also looking to pump up its sales of LED-based metrology products in 2015. The firm also landed a Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop new products. The first phase of the grant is worth $150,000.

"Phase 1 is a six-month project," Barlett says. "We hope to apply for Phase 2 by the end of the year."

Source: Darryl Barlett, CEO of kSpace Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sidewalk Ventures aims to connect Detroitís entrepreneurs with investors

Jeff Aronoff worked for three years as the executive director of D:hive, the downtown Detroit-based nonprofit that, among other things, helped aspiring entrepreneurs realize their dreams and small businesses grow. That experience led him to his new venture, Sidewalk Ventures.

"I really discovered that there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are successful and have great products and revenues but still have difficulty finding access to money," Aronoff says.

Sidewalk Ventures aims to bridge that gap by helping local businesses leverage community-based investment. The 3-week-old company essentially pairs Detroit-based entrepreneurs and small businesses with local investors so the companies can grow and provide a smart profit to their backers.

The Midtown-based company will focus primarily on helping local retail businesses, but it is also looking to work with food companies and small-scale manufacturers. It will aim to help entrepreneurs raise anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million.

"Our sweet spot is $100,000 to $500,000," Aronoff says.

Sidewalk Ventures is already working with a handful of Detroit-based companies, and Aronoff expects that number to grow significantly as the year goes on and his firm establishes itself.

"Our goal is to start fundraising and close a deal by the end of the first quarter," Aronoff says.

Source: Jeff Aronoff, founder & principal of Sidewalk Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

App firm jacapps adds voice-recognition technology to arsenal

Bingham Farm-based jacapps recently signed a deal to partner XAPPmedia to bring new voice recognition technology to its line of mobile apps.

Radio stations have been leveraging jacapps mobile apps for years, giving the company enough credibility to expand its client base into other industries, such as automotive. XAPPmedia provides an interactive audio advertising service, utilizing voice recognition technology. That way people listening to an ad on the radio can respond to a cue on the advertisement to make an order with just their voice. No buttons needed.

"We think this is a huge leap forward," says Bob Kernen, COO of jacapps. "You can see how it can be a big driver with ads."

The 6-year-old company also recently launched a new product platform that allows it to streamline the creation of its apps.

"It allows us to work in a much more efficient way," Kernen says. "We don't need to build each app from scratch. We can configure them to our clients needs."

Which has allowed the company to grow its revenue by 20 percent over the last year. That in turn has prompted jacapps to hire two people (software developers), rounding its staff out to 10 employees and an intern.

"We have had really strong revenue growth over the last few years," Kernen says.

Source: Bob Kernen, COO of jacapps
Writer: Jon Zemke

IPS Technology Services adds 5 new staffers, looks to hire 3 more

Revenue increases have become par for the course for IPS Technology Services since its launch in 2009.

Back then the Troy-based tech firm had revenues in the five figures. Those have risen sharply each year since. Revenues crossed into six figures within three years and into seven figures within four years.
 
"Now the challenge is to maintain it," says Pradip Sengupta, president of IPS Technology Services.

IPS Technology Services works primarily in technology spaces, such as software, IT and staffing. It has made significant gains in sending new employees to other companies in the IT and engineering fields. That has allowed the company to hire five people over the last year in IT, business analysts, and software development. It currently has a staff of 30 employees and is looking to hire three more in software development right now.

"We try to hire the best," Sengupta says.

Sengupta credits the company's rise to its ability to deliver on its services and please its customers. He expects that philosophy to carry the company's growth trajection this year.

"We would love to cross the $2 million mark," Sengupta says. "Our goal is $2.5 million. We want to hit $20 million in 2020."

Source: Pradip Sengupta, president of IPS Technology Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

Youngsoft adds new hires, clients, shoots for 20 percent growth

Youngsoft is a software firm but it has found itself in the addition business as of late. The Wixom-based company is adding new clients, new hires, and new revenue.

Youngsoft specializes in IT, software and consulting services, such as staffing, application development, and niche software practices. It services a number of different industries and has 400 employees in offices in North America and India.

"We have been in a hiring mode," says Amy Courter, senior vice president of sales & marketing for Youngsoft.

Courter is one of those new hires. She has served in executive positions at Valassis and most recently at VisionIT as its CIO. The 20-year-old company has hired a dozen people over the last year. It currently employs 200 in the U.S., including 73 in Michigan.

Courter expects that sort of growth to continue in 2015. Youngsoft grew its revenue by 20 percent in 2014 and expects to hit that number again in 2015. It achieved that by adding a dozen new customers over the last year. Today eight of the company's 20 largest customers are newly acquired.

"We're always adding more customers," Courter says.

Source: Amy Courter, senior vice president of sales & marketing for Youngsoft
Writer: Jon Zemke

Portal Architects hires 15 people on strength of strategic partnerships

Portal Architects really started to hit its sweet spot in 2014. The Ann Arbor-based cloud IT firm has grown by triple digits over the last year, enabling it to hire more than a dozen people.

"We have more than doubled in size," says Mark Brazeau, CEO of Portal Architects.

The 2-year-old company’s software, SkySync, helps companies connect their IT to the cloud through a Windows app. That technology enables organizations to synchronize and move files across storage systems including most cloud storage services. Bottom line is it takes a lot of the pain out of moving files that has long plagued businesses looking for digital information mobility.

"This problem has been around for 30 years," Brazeau says. "We're the first company to address that problem."

Which has resulted in 380 percent revenue growth over the last year. That in turn led to15 new hires in IT, software, sales, and marketing positions. It is also looking to hire a couple of software developers right now. That growth has come thanks to some big strategic partnerships the firm has landed in the last year, including the likes of Google, IBM, Oracle, and Internet2.

"They promote our product," Brazeau says. "It's a fantastic relationship. It’s a one-plus-one-equals-three relationship."

Source: Mark Brazeau, CEO of Portal Architects
Writer: Jon Zemke

Free ride for lucky LTU engineering students

A $5 million gift to Lawrence Technological University will cover the cost of education for future engineering students and go to applicants based on academic merit primarily and also financial need and other qualifications. The Minks’ scholarship fund is one of the largest in LTU’s College of Engineering.

The donation from the trust of the late George and Dorothea G. Mink will pay for college tuition starting in the fall of 2016. Mink attended LTU and held several patents for material handling apparatus.

Excerpt:

The scholarships will help Lawrence Tech attract and retain more top students, according to LTU President Virinder Moudgil.
“This generous bequest will have a profound impact on the lives of our students,” Moudgil said. “We are so grateful that Mr. and Mrs. Mink chose to share the priceless gift of a great education with so many other students today and for generations to come.”


Read the whole story here
 

U-M Solar Car team race in Abu-Dhabi this week

Can U-M solar car designers and racers make it six for six? With a quintet of first place wins, Abu Dahbi offers them their latest chance to impress.

Excerpt:

"The Michigan-Abu Dhabi team will drive the Quantum, the Ann Arbor university's vehicle that won its fifth national title in a row last year at the American Solar Challenge competition.

Read more here.
3043 Articles | Page: | Show All
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