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Accio Energy preps for demo alternative energy project, fundraising

Accio Energy has gone about as far as it can go in the lab, prompting the alternative energy startup to begin making plans to build out a demonstration project and raise a multi-million-dollar seed round to make it happen.

Accio Energy's name was inspired by a spell in the Harry Potter books. The 6-year-old firm's aerovoltaic technology harnesses the electrokinetic energy of the wind. No turbine blades. No moving parts. Think of it as harvesting static electricity from the atmosphere.

"We've taken the concept and proven it in a lab," says Jen Baird, CEO of Accio Energy. "We're now at a level where the lab results show we have a very cost-effective product."

She says Accio Energy's technology is cost-competitive with off-shore wind turbines. The competitive advantage is that its technology can be floated out beyond the sight of people on the shore. Because it can be used like a buoy it doesn't need to be built into the ocean floor and can generate electricity without disturbing people.

Accio Energy is making plans to build a demonstration project for its technology early next year, possibly on the Gulf of Mexico. In the meantime it's getting ready to raise a $5 million seed round to fund that work. That can be a bit of a challenge for a startup that is both pre-revenue and pushing disruptive technology.

"We're wind energy with no turbines," Baird says. "That is hard for people to wrap their heads around."

Accio Energy is in the midst of hiring two people (a modeler and engineer) right now. The company currently has nine employees and the occasional intern. Baird expects that number to spike after Accio Energy closes on its latest seed round later this year.

"That will cause us to expand the team substantially," Baird says.

Accio Energy has raised $6 million since its launch. Baird points out that it has developed a new technology that has been issued six patents. She adds bringing new alternative energy technology to market can often cost nine figures.

"When you think how much we have done on $10 million to $11 million, it's amazing," Baird says.

Source: Jen Baird, CEO of Accio Energy
Writer: Jon Zemke

Branch aims to reinvent social media with new app

When the team developing startup Branch decided it wanted to work in software, it didn't just try to create the next best thing in social media. The six young people from Ann Arbor are trying to reinvent the entire sector.

"We started from the ground up," says Ryan Wolande, co-founder & CEO of Branch. "We scrapped what we had been conditioned to from other social media outlets."

Branch is a mobile app that is meant to turn people's digital presence into a real-world interaction. The software finds individuals who share the same interests and are in close proximity to each other and connects them.

"It's about fostering real-world relationships," Wolande says. "It's about social media in the physical world."

The Ann Arbor-based startup and its team of six people is in the homestretch of developing the software platform. Branch plans to start Beta testing soon and make the technology public later this fall.

Source: Ryan Wolande, co-founder & CEO of Branch
Writer: Jon Zemke

iVantage moves into bigger office to accommodate revenue growth

The iVantage Group is in the midst of some big changes and the Brighton-based staffing firm has a lot of growth to show for it.

The 10-year-old company specializes in staffing services for the IT, insurance and banking sectors. It helps its clients find IT, engineering, finance and executive talent in the tech world. The iVantage Group is in the midst of moving to a new home in Brighton, which is triple the size of its former space. The 4,500-square-foot office has room for better training and space for its current staff to stretch out.

"It's an amazing space in so many ways," says Juliet Shrader, president & CEO of iVantage Group. "We are growing so fast we were bursting at the seams."

The iVantage Group employs 12 people at its headquarters and another 100 in the field. It has hired four recruiters over the last year and is in the process of adding two more. That employee growth comes after several years of double-digit revenue gains, the smallest of which was 18 percent.

The firm also recently reorganized its leadership structure, adding more management positions. The idea is to help bring more leaders in to help grow the company, which has paid off handsomely so far.

"We now have a recruiter lead," Shrader says. "We never had that before. Creating that position has made our team not only bigger but stronger."

Source: Juliet Shrader, president & CEO of iVantage Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Shinola bikes for rent in downtown Birmingham



Shinola and The Townsend Hotel, two brands cementing reputations of luxury, are pairing up to offer Shinola bikes to hotel guests and to Birmingham residents.

The Shinola bike rental program at The Townsend launched about a month ago as a new amenity that offers an easy and stylish way to see downtown Birmingham.

The bikes are for rent by the half hour for $15, an hour for $25 and for a day for $125. Bike helmets and locks are also available.

Operators at The Townsend, a Euro-styled hotel in Birmingham, and Shinola, which promotes American- and Detroit-made products and operates a factory and retail store in Detroit, say Shinola's Runwell and Bixby models are a great way to see how walkable -- or rideable -- Birmingham can be.

"We've only had a few rentals so far, but we have a sign at the concierge desk in the main lobby announcing the offering, and we've had many inquiries," says Lynette Zebrowski, The Townsend's chief concierge. "So we are expecting to see this pick up."

Source: Hope Brown, principal PublicCity PR
, and Lynette Zebrowski, chief concierge, The Townsend Hotel
Writer: Kim North Shine

 

Detroit Bikes expands staff as bike sales gain traction

People started to have their doubts about Detroit Bikes last year when the bicycle startup issued temporary layoffs at its production facility only a few months after starting to sell its first bikes.

Those doubts are gone this summer. The two-year-old company called back most of those workers this spring and is hiring new people this summer after debuting its second version of a classic, American-style bicycle.

"Sales are really strong," says Zak Pashak, founder & president of Detroit Bikes. "It's not exactly what I predicted, but we’re back-ordered right now. It's a good position to be in."

Pashak moved to Detroit from Calgary with the idea of building a simple, streamlined bicycle for riding in urban environments in the heart of America's manufacturing mecca. The result was the A-Type, a bicycle with thinner/smoother tires on larger wheels, a frame made of chromoly steel, and only three speeds. The idea: keep it simple.

So far that idea is working. Detroit Bikes has sold nearly 1,000 of the A-Type model, prompting it to release the B-Type last week. The B-Type features a step-through frame that's easier to mount and dismount. It also has a glossy white finish (the A-Type only came in black, a la Henry Ford's Model T). "We use a powdered coat, which is more environmentally friendly," Pashak says.

It's all part of Pashak's plan to start with a good product and harness some word of mouth buzz to drive sales. That materialized slower than Pashak expected, but Detroit Bikes has come out with a better marketing plan and expanded its distribution network across the continent.

"I think we have a shop in every state now," Pashak says.

And they are accepting product from Detroit Bikes’ 50,000-square-foot facility on Elmira Street near Schaefer Highway on the city's far west side. The company now employs 10 people at the facility and is looking to hire four more. Pashak expects to sell between 3,000 and 4,000 bikes by year’s end and 10,000 by the end of next year. He is also looking to add some international sales to the mix later this year.

"I want to sell bikes to anybody who will buy them," Pashak says. "I also like the idea of exporting them. Anything we can do to bring more money into the local economy."

Source: Zak Pashak, founder & president of Detroit Bikes
Writer: Jon Zemke

TrynEx expands staff with 12 hires in Madison Heights

TrynEx has some humble beginnings. The Madison Heights-based firm got its start in 1977 as a lawn care and snow removal company. It evolved into making lawn care and snow removal equipment in the mid 1990s before it was acquired by Douglas Dynamics last year.

That acquisition doesn’t mean the company stopped investing in Michigan. Since becoming a division of Douglas Dynamics the company has hired staff and improved its facility in Madison Heights.

"The strength of a bigger company helps," says Barry Traun, vice president of marketing & development for TrynEx. "We have more bench strength and ability."

TrynEx has a number of brands in the snow removal (SnowEx), landscaping (TrufEx), and janitorial (SweepEx) equipment areas. It has hired a dozen people over the last year for engineering and production positions, expanding its staff to just more than 50 employees and a couple of interns. It is also looking to hire a salesperson.

TrynEx has also invested in improving its facility in Madison Heights. It turned one of its spare spaces into more work space for its growing staff and a new training center.

"That's where we’re hosting the Salt Summit event next week," Traun says.

The company’s revenue has been propelled by the release of new products and the harsh winter the country just went through. This year is also looking up.

"2013 to 2014 has seen pretty substantial growth as well," Traun says.

Source: Barry Traun, vice president of marketing & development for TrynEx
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M research pushes envelope of wearable technologies

Could monitoring chronic ailments be as simple as breathing? That seems like a distinct possibility thanks to new technology coming from the University of Michigan.

University researchers, working in conjunction with the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps program, are developing a wearable sensor that could provide continuous disease monitoring of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia or lung disease. The sensor, which is about the size of a finger nail, detects airborne chemicals either exhaled or released through the skin. It can be worn as a wired device.

Nitric oxide and oxygen are among the chemicals it can detect. Abnormal levels of either can serve as indicators for high blood pressure, anemia or lung disease. The sensor could also be used to detect hazardous chemical leaks, or provide data about air quality.

"This device has a broad range of applications," says Sherman Fan, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Michigan.

The sensor is currently still a test subject in a U-M lab, but the team of researchers hope to commercialize the technology in the not-too-distant future. Fan is developing the sensor with Zhaohui Zhong, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Girish Kulkarni, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering.

"I would say (commercialization of the chip is) probably 3-5 years down the road," Fan says.

Source: Sherman Fan, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M in top 10% of Forbes Top Colleges ranking

In this twist on typical college ranking methodologies, Forbes looks at what students take away from college vs. what it takes to get in.

Excerpt:

"The FORBES 7th annual Top Colleges ranking reveals higher education in flux, ongoing debate between the value of liberal arts vs. STEM degrees and a winning formula of high student satisfaction and graduation rates, alumni career success and low student debt...

What sets our calculation of 650 colleges and universities apart from other rankings is our firm belief in "output" over "input." We’re not all that interested in what gets a student  into  college. Our sights are set directly on ROI: What are students getting  out  of college."

More here

 

Rubicon Genomics hires 6, moves to bigger Ann Arbor space

Rubicon Genomics was hiring people left and right until it literally ran out of space to put the new employees earlier this year. That’s changing now that the life sciences firm moved last June.

"At that point we were in a hiring freeze because we didn't have the room," says Christine Haakenson, COO of Rubicon Genomics. "Now that we have a new facility we can hire again."

Rubicon Genomics moved to a 19,000-square-foot space on Venture Dr, which is nearly double the size of its previous home. That is more than enough space for its 26 employees and two interns. The company has hired six people over the last year and is in the process of hiring two more right now. Two more job openings are set to come up within the next few weeks. Haakenson expects the company to make 15 more hires by the end of the next year.

The 14-year-old company makes genomic library preparation kits for research and clinical applications. Its patented technology specializes in sample-specific nucleic acid library preparation products used in research and clinical testing. The firm got its start when a pair of University of Michigan professors found a way to bring human genetics laboratory knowledge to everyday medical applications. These molecular biology tools help facilitate gene-based research, drug development and diagnostics.

Sales of Rubicon Genomics's products are up 40 percent over the last year. The firm's sales have spiked in China and Europe, prompting it to make plans to expand into India, Mexico and Brazil.

"The whole market is growing and sales of our technology are growing," Haakenson says. "We are launching new products in the field."

Source: Christine Haakenson, COO of Rubicon Genomics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Everist Health manufactures in Michigan, organizing clinical trial

Everist Health, formerly Everist Genomics, is starting to hit its stride in sales of its cardiac-testing technology.

The Ann Arbor-based firm makes AngioDefender, which helps doctors measure the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. To put it simply, AngioDefender gives people medical information about their heart in an easy-to-understand way without the technical jargon. It will tell the user how old the heart is compared to its actual age. Check out a video on it here.

"You may be 45 but your heart age might be 55," says Randal Charlton, director of Everist Health.

Everist Health has hired six people around the world over the last year, bringing its staff to 12 full-time employees, 20 consultants, and the occasional intern. It is selling AngioDefender in India and is getting ready to penetrate the markets in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Canada.

"We are now in go-to market mode," Charlton says.

Everist Health is also working to get the green light in the U.S. from the FDA. It is in the midst of organizing a clinical trial and hopes to get approval from the FDA by next year.

"We expect to start it very soon," Charlton says. "Certainly before the end of the year."

Everist Health's original plan was to use contract manufacturers in India to produce AngioDefender. It has since changed its course and is now using a Michigan-based manufacturer it found with the help of MichBio.

"As we ramp up we will be creating more work for not only us but other Michigan companies," Charlton says.

Source: Randal Charlton, director of Everist Health
Writer: Jon Zemke

Capture Caddie develops technology to analyze golf swing

Lots of people play golf and nearly as many struggle to improve their swing. A new startup based in Canton believes it has come up with technology to help them.

Capture Caddie is developing technology that creates a simple way to record a player's golf swing. The four-person team behind the 1-year-old startup notes the only way to currently capture a player's golf swing and analyze it is to hire a pro, have a friend record it on a mobile device, or set up a tripod and hit record. All of these options tend to be either clumsy or not cost-effective.

"There is just no easy way to do it," says Edward Thai, co-founder & manager of Capture Caddie. "So we made an easy-to-use kiosk."

Capture Caddie provides a kiosk at golf courses that records a players swing and sends that video to the player's computer or mobile device. The kiosk also tracts data, such as carry distance and ball flight. Check out a video on it here.

"It's data most people can't get unless they go through a pro," Thai says.

Capture Caddie is nearly done with the development of this technology and is working to demo it at some local golf courses. It is also working to gamify the technology to add a competitive element between users.

"It makes you hit shots under pressure," Thai says. "That's golf."

Source: Edward Thai, co-founder & manager of Capture Caddie
Writer: Jon Zemke

Qstride continues to hire, grow in downtown Detroit

Qstride at an interesting point on its growth curve. The tech company is successful, landing large customers and spiking its revenue; however, the company doesn’t have the resources it needs to scale itself.

Qstride, which has offices in Troy and downtown Detroit, has grown its revenue by 130 percent over the last year. It now clocks sales in excess of $2 million -- something it has achieved entirely through bootstrapping.

"We have a model that is proven," says Shane Gianino, founder & CEO of Qstride. "Of course, it's a marathon, not a sprint."

The 2.5-year-old firm specializes in business intelligence and analytics services that integrate with its customer's IT systems. It also provided staffing services for the technology sector. It currently employs 20-odd people, half of whom work in downtown Detroit.

"We're looking at potentially expanding our presence downtown," Gianino says. "We're trying to figure that out."

Qstride has hired three people three people in downtown Detroit and Gianino is optimistic that the number can grow quickly over the next year as he begins to entertain offers for venture capital investment in the company to help scale it.

"We have an opportunity to add a lot of jobs in Detroit," Gianino says.

Source: Shane Gianino, founder & CEO of Qstride
Writer: Jon Zemke

LevelEleven scores $2 million more in venture capital

LevelEleven is adding a couple more million dollars to its pile of venture capital cash in downtown Detroit.

The nearly 2-year-old tech startup has landed an extra $2 million from its original investors, bringing the total amount of seed capital it's raised to $5.6 million. The $2 million is part of a convertible note that will be part of its Series A round, which the company expects to close later this year. The money will be put toward research & development of the firm’s app, sales and marketing efforts, and growing the staff.

"We're going to be investing it in all fronts," says Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven. "It's really for everything."

LevelEleven spun out of HelloWorld (formerly Ferndale-based ePrize) in 2012. LevelEleven sells an enterprise gamification app (native to the salesforce platform) that helps motivate sales professionals and tracks their progress.

It currently has 175 customers, which is up from just under 100 a year ago. Some of those customers include Comcast, eBay, Tiffany & Co, Forrester, Cardinal Health, the Detroit Pistons, Shutterstock, and Microstrategy.

"It ranges from large enterprises like Comcast and eBay to small businesses," Marsh says.

LevelEleven has also hired 18 people over the last year. It currently has a staff of 26 employees and two interns. It is currently looking to hire two more people and plans to bring one of its interns (a University of Michigan student) on as a full-time employees after that person graduates next semester.

"We are literally always hiring for sales and engineering positions," Marsh says. "Anytime we can find good people we hire them."

Source: Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven
Writer: Jon Zemke

Creative Breakthroughs hires 23, looks for new office

Creative Breakthroughs is in the process of helping to fill a number of jobs lately. The Troy-based IT risk management company has hired a couple of dozen people over the last year and is looking to fill another few dozen at a job fair early next month.

"We built a foundation for rapid growth," says Patrick Boyd, executive vice president of marketing for Creative Breakthroughs. "We are investing in systems and business relationships with our partners and expanding our base of partners."

The 23-year-old company has hired 23 people for IT positions in consulting, engineering and sales. it currently has a staff of 75 employees and a couple of summer interns. That growth has prompted the company to add temporary space and begin looking for a bigger home in Metro Detroit.

"We need more space," Boyd says.

Creative Breakthroughs will also host a career fair at its Troy headquarters (2075 W Big Beaver Road, Suite 700) on Sept. 3 between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. The company is looking to fill about 20 positions. It expects to eliminate the process of submitting a resume and hoping for an interview by meeting with each potential candidate and giving them an objective assessment on where their career can go.

"We plan to spend some time with everybody," Boyd says.

Source: Patrick Boyd, executive vice president of marketing for Creative Breakthroughs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Brazilian immigrants launch pastry biz, Doce Brigadeiro

A couple of Brazilian immigrants are making a go of it in entrepreneurship, launching their own pastry business with the help of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College.

Doce Brigadeiro specializes in Brazilian handmade gourmet sweets. The main pastry is the popular treat called a brigadeiro. The main ingredients consist of condensed milk, cream and chocolate. Twenty-one flavors are on offer, including mint, toffee, lemon zest and sea salt caramel, as well as milk, dark and white chocolate.

"I love to do Brazilian desserts," says Danielle Cecconi, co-founder of Doce Brigadeiro. "It's something I would do every month."

Cecconi recently received her MBA from Walsh College where she leveraged the services of the Blackstone LaunchPad program, which teaches the basics of business to aspiring entrepreneurs. Cecconi and her friend, Marina Kapordelis, started selling brigadeiros to friends and family under the Doce Brigadeiro brand this spring.

The Royal Oak-based business is now looking for its own kitchen space to make its sweets, and eventually wants to open up a storefront in a local downtown like Ann Arbor or Birmingham in the not-too-distant future.

"We're hoping to get a lot of Christmas orders this year," Cecconi says.

Source: Danielle Cecconi, co-founder of Doce Brigadeiro
Writer: Jon Zemke
2729 Articles | Page: | Show All
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