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Shinola watch company to add retail outlet in Washington, D.C.

Shinola, a manufacturer and retailer of watches and other high-end goods, is putting the shine on with its latest retail store.

Excerpt:

"Detroit-based Shinola continues to expand its retail presence beyond the Motor City, with a permanent, brick-and-mortar outlet reportedly in the works for the nation's capital.

The company, which makes watches in Detroit, in addition to crafting bikes, journals and leather goods at a variety of mostly-American locations, last month said it was opening shops in London, Los Angeles and Chicago...

Shinola had previously said it will have six brick-and-mortar stores once the Chicago one comes online in the Wicker Park-Bucktown neighborhood. Shinola’s flagship Detroit location is at 441 W. Canfield in Midtown, and the company also has stores in Manhattan and Minneapolis.

It also has a presence in Paris' ultra-trendy Colette shop and in the Abu Dhabi airport."

More here.

Xoran Technologies records best sales year since 2006

Xoran Technologies recorded its best year in nearly a decade in 2014. The Ann Arbor-based company installed more of its Mini CAT CT scanners this year than any year since 2006.

"2014 was actually a really good year for us," says Rachel Gajda, director of marketing for Xoran Technologies. "We hope to kick it up even more in 2015."

The 13-year-old bio-tech company manufacturers and sells point-of-care CT scanners. Its principal technology is MiniCat, a compact machine that can produce high-resolution bone window imaging of the sinuses, temporal bones and the skull. It controls about 75 percent of the market it serves.

Xoran Technologies has been developing a second product called xCAT, a mobile, inter-operative CT scanner. The company plans to start selling these in earnest within the next 12 to 18 months.

"2015 will bring Xoran Technologies to a new level of innovation and advancement," Gajda says.

In the meantime the firm is expanding its staff to accommodate that. It has hired seven people over the last year and is looking to bring on another six right now.

Source: Rachel Gajda, director of marketing for Xoran Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M student creates mini-insoles to keep heels in high heels

High heels are one of those accessories that are usually high fashion with low functionality. A new startup based in Ann Arbor thinks it can improve the functionality.

High heels are notorious for being unstable pieces of footwear that can be tough to walk in. Heel Secret is making a small insole that helps keep the users foot securely in the shoe.

"That insole has a clear elastic strap that goes over your heel and forces your foot into the shoe," says Kiri Chapman, founder of HeelSecret.

Chapman is a student at the University of Michigan going for a bachelors in dance and a certificate in entrepreneurship. She is also a dancer who worked in a professional ballet troupe before coming to Ann Arbor. College came with more opportunity to wear high heels for Chapman, which presented both a problem and an opportunity.

"That's when I started to play with my shows to make them fit better," Chapman says.

She launched HeelSecret a year ago and then took second place the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition earlier this month. That showing comes with $5,000 in seed capital that will help Chapman create more prototypes of her insole, which she plans to perfect before selling them to the public.

"We really want a product that will speak for itself," Chapman says.

Source: Kiri Chapman, founder of HeelSecret
Writer: Jon Zemke

Jet-setting firm Broadsword cultivates consulting work in backyard

When the economy went south, Broadsword branched out.

The tech consulting company had once relied on the local automotive and manufacturing industries, but added work with the federal government, specifically the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Today the Livonia-based firm company is looking to flesh out its local work.

Broadsword has watched its revenue jump 30 percent over the last year, mostly by expanding its customer base outside of Metro Detroit.

"It was mostly new customers," says Jeff Dalton, president of Broadsword. "We're starting to expand our work with our existing customers."

Broadsword specializes in leveraging Agile and Lean methods to drive up performance engineering using its AgileCMMI methodology and collaborative consulting and coaching solutions. Some of its clients include Rockwell Collins, NASA, Boeing, Chrysler, Compuware and L-3 Communications.

The company currently employs 10 people. It has hired two over the last year, including senior- and junior-level consultants. It it currently looking to hire two more consultants.

Source: Jeff Dalton, president of Broadsword
Writer: Jon Zemke

ArborWind set to begin installing wind turbine tech in spring

ArborWind successfully finished testing its wind turbine technology this year, and now the Ann Arbor-based firm is aiming to install about a dozen units in Michigan in 2015.

That increase has prompted the 4-year-old company to hire two people over the last year in sales and marketing. It currently has a staff of five employees and an intern, and expects to do some more hiring next year as it starts building wind turbines.

"We're looking at expanding pretty rapidly," says Dilip Nigam, president & CEO of ArborWind. "We'll probably need more sales and marketing people."

ArborWind is taking the traditional wind turbine design (think pinwheels) and turning it on its ear. ArborWind’s turbine employs a vertical-axis design so it looks like the beater ends of a hand mixer when harnessing the wind. This design enables the turbine to turn regardless of which direction the wind is blowing. Check a video explaining the technology here.

"This turbine will last 50 years," Nigam says. "We designed it for that."

Each of ArborWind’s turbines generates 200,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually. ArborWind plans to install 11 of them across the state in early 2015 and use that to set the stage for an even bigger growth spurt.

"We want to expand rapidly and do 50 turbines," Nigam says. "Each of those turbines costs more than half a million dollars so it will be a large order."

Source: Dilip Nigam, president & CEO of ArborWind
Writer: Jon Zemke

Minority Business Access Fund aims to lend $100M to Detroit small biz

Minority business owners in Detroit are getting a new pool of money to dip into, and it's a big one.

The Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council is launching the Minority Business Access Fund, a $100 million loan vehicle offering liquidity assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses. That could mean everything from multi-million dollar automotive suppliers to family owned businesses.

"We hope this will be a great value to the businesses in the neighborhoods of Detroit," says Louis Green, president of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council.

The Minority Business Access Fund will offer up to $100 million annually to local minority-owned firms. That could be ten $10 million loans or 1,000 $100,000 loans. Green expects to make 75 to 100 loans in the first year.

The Minority Business Access Fund is meant to address the cash-flow needs of minority-owned businesses. Small businesses often find themselves in a cash crunch to meet things like payroll because of hiccups in payments from customers. Minority-owned firms have traditionally been underserved by traditional lending institutions, and this fund is meant to help bridge that gap. Although the fund is sponsored by a council focused on helping minority-owned automotive suppliers, the fund will be open to all comers of color.

"It's open to folks in lots of industries," Green says. "We're talking to folks in healthcare and folks who are working on the M-1 Rail. We're talking to a lot of folks."

Source: Louis Green, president of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council
Writer: Jon Zemke

TurtleCell hires 5, preps to launch retractable earbud iPhone case

People want TurtleCell's iPhone case with retractable earbuds so badly they are willing to give the Ann Arbor-based startup $10,000 to get the job done. Twice.

The smartphone accessory startup won the People's Choice award at last year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, which came with a check for $10,000 in seed capital. The company did it again earlier this month, taking the People’s Choice award at Accelerate Michigan and another $10,000.

"We do feel like we're a fan favorite," says Jeremy Lindlbauer, co-founder and director of branding & marketing for TurtleCell. "We weren't surprised. We were holding our breath for a bigger check."

The 2-year-old startup didn't win one of the main prizes (top prize came with $500,000) but its team did leave knowing it would be able to deliver on its promise to sell iPhone case with retractable earbuds. The company is working with Digital Treasures in Auburn Hills and expects to sell between 300,000 and 500,000 units next year.

"We're expecting to be in mass production and delivery by next March," Lindlbauer says.

TurtleCell got its start when a couple of University of Michigan students got frustrated with constantly untangling the earbuds for their iPhones while walking to class. The group of three went through a few prototypes and started to really gain traction with their latest version.

TurtleCell's main product allows full access to the smartphone’s buttons and has a four-foot-long headphone that easily retracts back into the case. The earbuds are higher-quality. TurtleCell has hired five people over the last seven months to get the product ready for sales in 2015.

"We have a lot going on over the next few months," Lindlbauer says.

Source: Jeremy Lindlbauer, co-founder and director of branding & marketing for TurtleCell
Writer: Jon Zemke

New Midtown co-working space to offer painting classes on weekends

In the two years since Mack and Linda Hendricks first had their idea to open a co-working space, the city's co-working scene has blown wide open. After a few setbacks with their intended facilities, the husband-and-wife team has followed through on its vision, opening Common Division in Midtown earlier this month.

Even though the number of Detroit co-working spaces has grown considerably since they first thought of opening their own, Mack and Linda believe their location, building, and programming will make it all worth the wait. Common Division is located in Suite B of 4160 Cass Ave.

It's a storefront location, something that sets them apart from other co-working spaces, says Mack. Another advantage is the parking, which he says is considerably cheaper than downtown. The couple also believes that their neighbors will play a role in their success. Common Division shares a building with the coffee and gelato shop, Melt. The popular tapas restaurant La Feria is also on that block.

"We're where people live," says Mack Hendricks. "And there's not a lot of space in some of these apartments in the neighborhood. People want to get out and be somewhere creative."

Being creative is a big component of the Common Division business plan. On Dec. 6 during Midtown's Noel Night celebration, Common Division will debut their Paint the Town event. Following Noel Night, Paint the Town events will occur every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The co-working space will be transformed into a painting class, with easels and stools replacing tables and office chairs. An instructor will walk groups through the process of painting. Mack says it's a simple and fun way to discover something you didn't know you had in you. The painting classes are two hours long and BYOB -- bring your own bottle of wine.

Access to the co-working space is from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for holders of day- and week-long passes and and 24-hours-a-day for those holding monthly passes. Day passes are $15, week passes are $50, and month passes are $160. Wi-fi, refreshments, printing and fax facilities, and lockers are some of the amenities offered with each membership.

Source: Mack Hendricks, co-owner of Common Division
Writer: MJ Galbraith

SurClean scores $25,000 win at Accelerate Michigan

SurClean added another $25,000 to its ledger when it walked away from the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition earlier this month.

The Wixom-based startup won the Product and Services category, which comes with a check for $25,000 in seed capital. SurClean plans to add that money to the Series A round of investment it is currently raising, and use it to help secure its intellectual property.

"We're in the process of filing numerous patents," says Susan Sprentall, CEO of SurClean.

The company is developing a laser-based technology that replaces the harmful chemicals, media blasting, and other abrasives typically used in the removal of paint and other coatings from aircraft, vessels, and bridges undergoing maintenance. Its system uses a laser beam to disintegrate and remove paint and other coatings like rust from substrate in a cost-effective, safe, energy-efficient and earth-friendly way.

The company launched the first generation of the product this year. It's in the process of developing the second generation of the product and should be ready to bring it to market by next spring.

"We should have established sales in the aviation sector (by then)," Sprentall says. "We should also be moving forward in the bridge and U.S. Dept. of Transportation sector by then."

SurClean currently has a staff of five employees and two interns. It is also looking to hire another three people right now, and 10-15 additional by the end of next year.

Source: Susan Sprentall, CEO of SurClean
Writer: Jon Zemke

Inventev scores win at Accelerate Michigan hybrid truck technology

Inventev scored a win at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition earlier this month, adding $25,000 in seed capital to its current fundraising efforts.

"It will really help us with analytics so we can continue to match our product to customer needs," says Dave Stenson, founder & CEO of Inventev. "It will also help us with raising financing."

The TechTown-based startup is aiming to raise $5 million to bring its automotive hybrid technology to market. The company is looking to raise two tranches of money, and Stenson expects to close on the first $1.5 million in the first quarter of next year.
Inventev is developing a hybrid-electric system for commercial trucks. The technology is a new transmission architecture that allows electric machines to operate other aspects of the trucks, such as the hydraulic lift. That way the trucks' diesel engines don't need to idle while they dump their loads. The truck would also generate its own electricity so workers could use it as a generator.

"This isn't just a work truck," Stenson says. "This is a truck that is a job-site tool."

That technology won the Advanced Transportation category of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, which comes with $25,000 in seed capital. Inventev’s team of five people used the event to sharpen the startup’s business plan and help move the company toward its fundraising goal.

"It's a top-shelf event that is becoming even more well-known and respected in and outside of the state," Stenson says.

Source: Dave Stenson, founder & CEO of Inventev
Writer: Jon Zemke

MedHub adds 6 positions as it grows its software platform

MedHub is one of those business that reliably hires. It doesn't go through a huge growth spurt hiring dozens at a time, nor does it go years without adding staff. Each year the healthcare software firm creates a few jobs as it moves forward. Those numbers are starting to accelerate.

The 13-year-old firm now stands at 13 people after hiring six over the last year. Those new hires include software developers and support staff.

"We'll probably hire another six this year. Minimum," says Peter Orr, president of MedHub.

MedHub's software platform helps teaching hospitals better manage their medical residents by improving communication, collaboration and tracking of the about to be newly minted doctors. It also helps ensure the hospitals maximize Medicare reimbursements.

It is currently being used by a number of brand name teaching hospitals, such as Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, along with the health systems at Stanford and Duke universities. MedHub recently on boarded UCLA and George Washington’s hospitals, and is planning to bring on more soon.

"Our pipeline is full all the way through next year," Orr says.

MedHub moved from Ann Arbor to downtown Dexter last year. It took over the circa-1899 Old Grain Mill at 3515 Broad Street, redeveloping it into a space for technologists. The company is now filling out that space nicely with its new hires.

MedHub is also working to add more healthcare education institutions to its client list, such as nursing schools.

"We're starting to get into that more aggressively," Orr says.

Source: Peter Orr, president of MedHub
Writer: Jon Zemke

Emagine Entertainment to open luxury movie theater in Macomb Co.

Troy-based Emagine Entertainment is opening its first movie theater in Macomb County in December, bringing movie-goers a new upscale and luxurious experience that comes with amenities galore.

The opening of a theater on 23 Mile Road near Hayes in Macomb Township will bring to eight the company's number of metro Detroit theaters. A theater is also in the works for downtown Birmingham.

The new Emagine Macomb is being built inside a closed Kroger grocery store that will be transformed into nine theaters, a restaurant and bar with onyx countertop and seating areas with sofas, high-top tables, chairs and stone fireplaces for a living-room feel.

When it opens Dec. 19, visitors will find full-service and comfort amenities not found in older theaters.

There will be 100-percent reserved seating in power recliners and service by a chef from the Ironwood Grill in Plymouth. A full-service bar, a self-serve soda fountain and dessert bar, and gourmet popcorn healthy snacks for kids will be part of the theater. It will have nine auditoriums with floor-to-ceiling screens and seating that provides a good view from any spot.

Source: Dawn Kelly, spokesperson, Emagine Entertainment
Writer: Kim North Shine

U-M moves to #6 for most students studying abroad

The University of Michigan moved from 10th to 6th in the rank of higher education institutions with the most students studying abroad between 2012 ans 2013. This represented a 15-percent increase, with 2, 365 students studying overseas (for academic credit)

On the flipside, U-M dropped three ranks for schools that host international students.

You can check out all the stats here. Kind of like baseball, ain't it?

 

Synergy System Solutions brings alternative energy to Michigan

Jerry Eden has worded in the energy industry for 20-plus years, including more than a dozen in an electricians union. In that time he has noticed Michigan seems to be lacking when it comes to keeping up with technological improvements.

"We seem to lag behind a little bit as far as technology advancement in Michigan," Eden says. "Sometimes a lot."

So he started to do something about it six months ago by starting Synergy System Solutions. The Royal Oak-based startup specializes in integrating new technology into everyday uses. More times than not that has to do with adding alternative energy to the mix.

That could mean adding solar arrays to light poles to help keep streetlights on more cost-effectively. Or adding alternative energy generators to machines that work in remote places, such as the blinking arrows that steer construction traffic in the right direction far away from the nearest electrical plug.

Eden has been working with a number of different alternative energy players in Metro Detroit, including the Green Team Coalition at the NextEnergy campus in Detroit's New Center neighborhood. He hopes these projects help create more jobs in Michigan. It has already led to the creation of a three-person staff at Synergy System Solutions.

"I want us to be at the forefront of Michigan’s disruptive technology," Eden says. "Doing things differently, but innovative."

Source: Jerry Eden, president of Synergy System Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Wisely brings personal touch to customer loyalty programs, jobs to Ann Arbor

Loyalty to businesses isn't always about the money. Often its about the personal attachment or special connection to that company. An Ann Arbor startup is trying to capitalize on the latter with a new mobile app.

Wisely launched its customer loyalty platform in Ann Arbor earlier this fall. Most customer loyalty programs track who buys what which business how often and giving a certain percentage of discount based on patronage. Wisely offers a tiered system of personal rewards for steady customers.
 
"When you have memories of going to a place you go back because of this emotion," says Mike Vichich, CEO of Wisely.

The 1-year-old company and its team of just under 10 people (it's looking to hire three people now) have signed up 30 local businesses in Ann Arbor to take part. They are mostly made up of bars and restaurants, such as Mani Osteria & Bar, the Raven’s Club, Slurping Turtle, and Ashley’s.

Each user of the Wisely app that qualifies for a certain level or reward with their patronage receives a special incentive to come back, such as the ability to make a reservation for two when the normal reservation threshold is six people. In the case of Raven’s Club, silver level Wisely users can receive a bottle of homemade hot sauce.

"It's a great way to create an emotion attachment in a customer," Vichich says.

The Wisely app tracks all of these purchases through the user's debit and credit cards. There is no other loyalty card to carry around and swipe or scan when making the purchase. Wisely is perfecting the app in Ann Arbor this fall and winter with the hopes of taking it national next year.

Source: Mike Vichich, CEO of Wisely
Writer: Jon Zemke
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