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PublicCity PR adds to clientele as company grows

PublicCity PR has come a long ways in its first six years. The boutique public relations firm has literally gone from kitchen table to some of the larger boardrooms in Metro Detroit.

The Southfield-based company has recently expanded its client list with some big names, including the likes of Gardner White, Belle Tire, Affinity Tool, InstaBOOST, Michigan Women’s Foundation, and TVStoreOnline.com.

"I never imagined six years ago that we would be in this position to win business from such big establishments," says Jason Brown, founder & principal of PublicCity PR. "It's all from a lot of hard work."

PublicCity PR started on Brown's kitchen table in Oakland County. At the time he was just a former reporter who had been working in PR for a decade, looking to scratch out a living in the communications world. Now he oversees a growing staff of four employees and an intern in the company's own office.

Part of those gains have come from PublicCity PR joining the PRConsultantsGroup as the new Michigan representative. The nationwide organization is composed of senior-level public relations and marketing consultants in every major market in the U.S. Members often work together on projects with each member acting as the expert for their region. PublicCity PR recently work as part of that conglomerate on campaign for Travelocity where the company’s mascot (a gnome) made appearances across Metro Detroit.

"That was an easy project but there is more work to come," Brown says.

Source: Jason Brown, founder & principal of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

Josh Linkner launches new startup, Fuel Leadership

High-profile serial entrepreneur Josh Linkner is launching a new startup with the goal of disrupting the business leadership development space, Fuel Leadership.

Linkner has made a name for himself by molding tech firm ePrize (now known as HelloWorld) from launch to acquisition and co-founding downtown Detroit-based venture capital firm Detroit Venture Partners. He is also the author of two New York Times bestsellers, "Disciplined Dreaming" and "The Road to Reinvention," which focus on innovation in entrepreneurship.

Fuel Leadership promises to be in a similar vein. The startup's debut press release describes itself as "disrupting the stale, low-quality, expensive and time-draining leadership development business model by delivering bold and high-octane one-day conferences offering timely and relevant topics by superstar speakers, fused with a year-long subscription to proprietary online leadership development content."

"I just think the model is broken," Linkner says. "The bottom line is the whole thing (leadership development conference today) is expensive, time-consuming, and low-quality."

Fuel Leadership's secret sauce is maximizing time and providing support over time. The startup will bring one-day, high-impact conferences focused on leadership training to a variety of cities across the U.S., so executives won't have to lose days to travel. The first, on April 13th, will be held at MotorCity Casino and feature guests like Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Ford CEO Mark Fields. Two more yet-to-be-announced conferences will be held across the U.S. later in the year. Fuel Leadership plans to hire between 6 and 8 people next year, eventually working his way up to a staff of between 30 and 40 in the U.S. and abroad.

The other part of Fuel Leadership’s equation is offering support to those who participate in a conference through a year-long membership in Fuel Online. The online resource offers a plethora of learning materials on leadership, including 5,000 videos, 500 archived webinars, CEO interviews, and book summaries.

The downtown Detroit-based startup currently employs four people and currently is looking to hire sales professionals and project managers. Linkner expects those number to increase significantly over the next year.

"We are going to be ramping up in the coming months," Linkner says.

Source: Josh Linkner, chairman of Fuel Leadership
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

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

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

Grand Circus, a magazine of Detroit culture, set to launch in spring


Eileen Tjan and Alex Trajkovski are both native Michiganders who have bounced around other major cities across the U.S. including New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. But the pair’s passion lay back in Detroit.

"I had to constantly defend Detroit to everyone," Trajkovski says. "I didn't really want to be in New York and was really proud to be from Detroit. And I realized most people don't know anything about Detroit."

"Our roots are in the Midwest and Michigan," Tjan says. "A lot of our friends were moving back to Detroit and doing some cool work. We wanted to be part of it."

So they are launching their own publication focused on life in the Motor City.

Grand Circus Magazine will be a glossy magazine that focuses on the lifestyle of artists, young people, and creatives in Detroit. The four-person team behind it will work on featuring everything from fashion editorials to city guides.

"It's going to be a pretty deep dive into the cultural significance of Detroit right now," Tjan says.

Operating out of Palmer Park, the partners plan to print the first edition of Grand Circus early this spring. First, however, they will launch a crowdfunding campaign to help fund startup costs. The team paid many of those costs out of pocket and hope the crowdfunding campaign will raise enough to reimburse them.

"That will go toward the cost of printing and other upfront costs," Trajkovski says.

Source: Eileen Tjan and Alex Trajkovski, co-founders of Grand Circus Magazine
Writer: Jon Zemke

Clicktivated Video turns watching videos into revenue events

Chris Roebuck started a company out of frustration while trying to relax. The founder & CEO of Clicktivated Video wanted more when he was watching a video on a small, mobile screen, so his Metro Detroit-based company is tackling it.

"There was no way of satisfying the urge to dive deeper into the online video while you’re watching it," Roebuck says.

Clicktivated Video, which has offices in Birmingham and downtown Detroit, has developed a software platform that allows viewers to click on items in a video. The click creates a small bookmark that allows the viewer to make an online purchase or find out more information on it. The company's team of six people is still working on enhancing the technology.

The 1-year-old startup launched its service midway through las year. It has signed on a couple of mid-sized players in video, such as the Home Shopping Networking.

"We are starting to work with a few major networks," Roebuck says.

Source: Chris Roebuck, founder & CEO of Clicktivated Video and Ben Hatala, director of operations for Clicktivated Video
Writer: Jon Zemke

Franco Public Relations Group grows staff to 20 as it celebrates 50th anniversary

Franco Public Relations Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary with its biggest growth spurt in a long time. The downtown Detroit-based firm hired four people in 2014 thanks to 20 percent revenue growth.

"It was better than we have done in year-over-year growth than we have done in about a decade," says Tina Kozak, president of Franco Public Relations Group.

The boutique public relations firm has been a staple in downtown Detroit for decades. It moved its office to the Renaissance Center when the building opened in 1977 and has been there ever since. The company now has a staff of 20 employees and two interns. Its newest hires include an assistant account executive, a manager, and a director.

The newly expanded staff is now offering more than the traditional public relations services. It has expanded to include content generation, social media, and integrated marketing. Franco Public Relations Group has also expanded clientele, adding high-profile firms like Punch Bowl Social, which just opened a new location in downtown Detroit.

Kozak is optimistic her company will continue to grow at a similar rate this year, though she points out that Franco Public Relations Group is focusing on doing good business, not just more business. The current economic climate, however, is making growth easier today than it was just a few years ago.

"There is more work out there now," Kozak says. "Businesses we are working with now are loosening up their budgets a little bit."

Source: Tina Kozak, president of Franco Public Relations Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Creative Many Michigan moves HQ to TechTown

Creative Many Michigan is moving its headquarters from Wixom to TechTown, bringing with it seven jobs to New Center.

The arts-based-economic-development nonprofit, formerly known as ArtServe Michigan, was renting space in the Detroit Public Television facility in Oakland County. It is now occupying about 1,400 square feet of space to be closer to the heart of the region’s arts scene and its major players, such as the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, which also calls New Center home.

"Clearly Detroit is a major hub for arts and creative industries," says Jennifer Goulet, president & CEO of Creative Many Michigan.

The nonprofit has added one new person to its team of seven people over the last year. It is also looking to add another person. That team plans to spend a large part of 2015 updating the non-profit's Creative State Michigan report, which details the economic impact of the arts and creative communities across the state.

"We are directly working with Detroit Creative Corridor Center for the second phase of our creative economy research," Goulet says.

Source: Jennifer Goulet, president & CEO of Creative Many Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rockstar Digital expands staff, work into LED signs

Ever want to use your big-screen TV as a tablet computer? Surf for information with a touch of a fingertip on a screen with plenty of space for information? A Sterling Heights-based company is making that happen.

Rockstar Digital is turning large, flatscreen TVs into interactive displays. That includes everything from use one to help customers navigate the car-buying maze in an automotive dealership or finding their favorite store in their mall.

"We're creating a 70-inch, 3-D map of the mall," says Robby Dhillon, president of Rockstar Digital.

Dhillon is a recent graduate of Kettering University in electrical and computer engineering. He saw the rise of LED technology in 2007 and worked to created a software point of sale platform for Lady Jane. A little more than a year ago he launched Rockstar Digital with the idea of combing different sectors of cutting-edge technology.

"I wanted to do something that wasn't just software but software and hardware," Dhillon says.

Today the company has a staff of 12 employees and an intern. That team is working on turning 70-inch flatscreen panel into way-finding machines for everything from businesses to city streetscapes. Check out a video of how it works here.

Source: Robby Dhillon, president of Rockstar Digital
Writer: Jon Zemke

SimuQuest aims to double revenue within 2 years

SimuQuest spent 2014 laying the groundwork for 2015, inspiring The Ann Arbor-based software firm’s leadership to be optimistic about the coming year.

"We have goals to double our revenue over the next two years," John Mills, founder, president, and CEO of SimuQuest. "We have lots of good reasons to believe we can do that."

The 13-year-old firm specializes in software and data management services. It spend this last year launching two new platforms. It launched UniPhi for Ford earlier this year. The model-based development tool centralizes data management, moving everything to the cloud and streamlining the data management and analysis process for the user.

SimuQuest also launched QuantiPhi this year. The chip configuration and driver integration tool provides a full complement of configurable low-level drivers that guides the user through the intricacies of successfully configuring the chip and driver settings.

Mills and his leadership team are speaking to investors about the prospects to raise a seed round. That capital would help SimuQuest market and sell UniPhi and QuantiPhi, which Mills expects to help spike the company's revenue in 2015.

SimuQuest has also expanded its staff this year. The company has hired one person earlier this year and is looking to hire five people between sales and technical professionals. That expanded team is expected to help push sales and improve the company’s existing technologies and develop the next generations.

"It's pretty amazing," Mills says. "We are doing some things that could change the controls in software products and how they are developed."

Source: John Mills, founder, president, and CEO of SimuQuest
Writer: Jon Zemke

Carbon Media Group adds 15 jobs, signs bull riding partnership

Carbon Media Group has inked a new partnership with the Professional Bull Riders, a deal that the online media startup hopes will bring its viewership together.

The Bingham Farms-based company helps coordinate advertising and content creation for more than 600 websites for fans of the outdoors, agriculture and action sports/events/activities. It has an extensive network of outdoor-related YouTube channels and its own CarbonTV outlet for online videos about the outdoors. The startup’s two primary audiences consist of fans of outdoors and rural activities along with fans of action sports like hunting, fishing, and skying.

"The Professional Bull Riders is a very elegant bridge between the two types of content we have," says Hyaat Chaudhry, CEO of Carbon Media Group.

YouTube made the introduction between the two organizations because Carbon Media Group is the second largest global sports network on YouTube. The Professional Bull Riders, which has roughly 20 million fans, was in the process of figuring out how best to develop its digital audience.

Carbon Media Group is on track to grow 35 percent in 2014, and Chaudhry expects to do that again next year. "That's roughly on track with our annual growth rate," he says.

The 7-year-old company has hired 15 people over the last year, including professionals in design, sales, account management, and executive leadership. It now has a staff of 62 employees and plans to bring on two interns this summer. It is looking to hire five people now, including staff accountants and marketers.

"We're always looking for good digital media sales people," Chaudhry says.

Source: Hyaat Chaudhry, CEO of Carbon Media Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Lambert, Edwards & Associates leverages Detroit office to grow firm

Lambert, Edwards & Associates moved its Metro Detroit office to downtown Detroit two years ago, and now the public relations firm is starting to reap the benefits of the move.

The Grand Rapids-headquartered company has landed six new clients since making the move. Those new customers are mainly in the healthcare, financial, and automotive sectors. Among the new clients is Great Expressions Dental Centers, an Oakland County-based firm that is expanding south of 8 Mile Road. It wanted a PR firm with a presence in Detroit to help it grow in the Motor City.

"Being there is half of it," says Jeff Lambert, president and managing partner of Lambert, Edwards & Associates. "It's also what you are doing there."

Lambert, Edwards & Associates is growing in Detroit. The company has hired five people over the last year and currently is looking to fill two more postitions. The firm now employs 50 people, including 15 in its downtown Detroit office.

"We have hired four people in Detroit in the last 90 days," Lambert says.

Source: Jeff Lambert, president & managing partner of Lambert, Edwards & Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Brooklyn's famed Galapagos Art Space to move into nine Detroit buildings

Detroit will get a new center for burlesque, visual, and other performing arts when a (soon to be former) Brooklyn institution, Galapagos Art Space, moves into rehabbed buildings, including an old power plant, in Corktown. (The new lake planned for the property should make a big splash.)

Excerpt:

"The Galapagos Art Space, a performance center and cultural staple in Brooklyn for nearly 20 years, will close this month, another casualty of rising rental prices that its founder says are making it difficult for independent arts organizations to survive in New York...

Although the last night of programming is likely to be Dec. 18, the center will have a second life — more than 600 miles away, in Detroit. Over the past year, Mr. Elmes and his wife, Philippa Kaye, have bought nine buildings totaling about 600,000 square feet in that city’s Corktown neighborhood and in neighboring Highland Park, paying what he described as the price of “a small apartment in New York City” for the properties....

One of the places where “young artists and thinkers” appeared to be gravitating, he said, was Detroit."

More here.

That being said, while luxury Detroit apartment rents are nowhere near those in NYC, is the Brooklynization of Detroit coming? Check out this report in the Detroit Free Press

 

Detroit Labs hires 30, launches mobile app for Detroit Police Dept.

The Detroit Police Department is launching a new app today aimed at helping it better communicate and interact with the people living and working in the Motor City.

The DPD Connect app (available for Andriod and iPhone) will provide streamlined pathways for users to report tips to police, a phone directory for the city’s public safety agencies, links to the police departments social media channels, and news/crime statistics. Users will be able to leave anonymous tips (delivered through an independent third-party service to ensure anonymity) and also access local public safety numbers, such as community officers and neighborhood precincts.

"The whole theme is to better connect people to the police department," says Will McDowell, a business analyst with Detroit Labs, which built the app.

The Detroit Police Department approached the downtown Detroit-based software firm to create the mobile app earlier this year. McDowell oversaw the construction of the app, which was worked on by a large team from Detroit Labs including five of the company’s interns.

Detroit Labs has hired 30 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 75 people. It recently moved from the M@dison Building into a bigger office in the M@dison Building (1520 Woodward) earlier this year. Many of its new hires come from the company's apprentice program, which trains software developers and paves the way for full-time employment at the company. The firm is also looking to hire established software developers.

"We're always looking for good developers," says Bill Camp, who works in planning and development at Detroit Labs.

Source: Bill Camp and Will McDowell, Detroit Labs
Writer: Jon Zemke
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