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Q LTD adds new work, such as new website for The Ark

No joke: A longtime Ann Arbor institution and a local business that has been around the block a few times meet in a downtown bar. The result is a brighter 2015 for both.

Q LTD is working with The Ark, the renown performance venue, to redesign and revamp its online presence. The downtown Ann Arbor-based non-profit hasn't updated its website in more than a decade. The new website is now mobile friendly and includes more information about The Ark's well-known events, such as the Folk Festival.

"The Ark is heading into its 50th year this year and it's kicking off a capital campaign," says Christine Golus, managing director of Q LTD.

The 34-year-old firm has been doing more work in recent years and is looking to add to its staff. Q LTD currently has a staff of 12 employees and an intern. It’s looking to hire a software developer, too.

The Ann Arbor-based firm has taken on a wide variety of projects as of late. Those include work for the University of Michigan's Human Resources and SIGGRAPH, which is short for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques.

"We are feeling a definite uptick in projects and work," Golus says. "We are seeing an improvement in the economy."

Source: Christine Golus, managing director of Q LTD
Writer: Jon Zemke

Metromode's editor says farewell

Today Metromode publishes its 376th issue. I have served as the publication's managing editor for 369 of those issues, since taking the helm in February of 2007. This issue will be my last. 

I'm not a sentimental person by nature. At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to write a Dear John letter. Choked-up sign-offs always struck me as, well, somewhat self-indulgent. As Metromode's editor I have been, by choice and design, someone who worked behind the scenes, shaping the publication's narrative, generating its story ideas, guiding its writers, but mostly letting others take the focus.

My wife convinced me to reconsider. 

So, this is my attempt (last minute as it may be) to explain what I've learned during my tenure at Metromode, what I tried to accomplish and who I have to thank for any success we might have achieved.

First and foremost, running Metromode has been an experience that has profoundly shaped the way I regard metropolitan Detroit, and one I am immensely thankful for. The last eight years have been a crash-course education in understanding what makes this region tick - no small thing for a non-native like myself, a guy who grew up in New York but spent his professional years living in the Pacific Northwest. 

To say that Metro Detroit's personality, pathologies, dysfunctions and triumphs are unique, would be an understatement. This is a place rich in history and possibility, often frustrated by what it knows it can be but has yet to achieve. Watching the region's recent evolution has been both heartening and frustrating - but always exciting. 

Change makes for a good story, but also a painful process for those involved. As Metro Detroit has wrestled with issues of identity and place, I saw Metromode as a tool for conversation, a forum for ideas, innovations and examples that might otherwise get drown out by traditional narratives. We've learned as we've gone along, and done our best to respond to what is moving the region forward... and what might be holding it back.

It's been an exciting to follow the new, innovative industries that now pepper our region's 1300 square miles, as we take the first steps toward a more diverse and nuanced economy. It's been encouraging to see open and heated discussions about transportation and community planning take centerstage in the media. I hope that my time at Metromode was, at least, partially responsible for igniting those conversations.

After a decade-plus of living in Michigan, I can no longer claim to be an outsider. But I hope my non-native status has prompted me to ask questions and tackle local issues with a somewhat different point of view. I have lived in diverse cities with reliable, efficient mass transit and dense urban cores. I know what it is like to own a home on a block with a seven story apartment building at the end of my street. I have rented apartments that were located within walking distance of a grocery store, a hardware store, nightlife and, even, my job. I have lived in communities that have been recycling for several decades rather than years.

Charting and challenging Metro Detroit's on-the-ground and behind-closed-doors attempts (some more serious than others) to address these and many other issues has not only helped me better understand the place I now call home, but informed my own entire world view. Not everyone gets the benefit of learning about their community through their job, especially with the breadth, depth and sophistication I have. For this I am blessed.

I have also been blessed with colleagues who have educated, partnered, supported and, thankfully, questioned my ideas and choices over the years. Jon Zemke, Kim North Shine, Dave Lewinski, Tanya Muzumdar, Dennis Archambault, Natalie Burg, Nicole Rupersburg, Amy Kuras, Nina Ignaczak and Patrick Dunn are only my more recent partners. They, and everyone who came before them, have been the heart and soul of the publication, working for far to little to produce far more than I asked. Luckily, their work here will continue even if mine does not.

Leaving Metromode does not mean leaving Metro Detroit, however. I will remain the managing editor of Concentrate in Washtenaw County (at least for the foreseeable future) and you can continue (or start) to read my film reviews in the Metro Times.

There is also, of course, the many friends, colleagues, contacts and connections I have made over the years. This community is rich with thoughtful, passionate and innovative people. I am honored to know them and look forward to finding other ways to know them better.

I have a good friend who ends our phone calls with, "bye, for now." I've always loved the sentiment behind that sign off. It's the promise that we'll talk again. So, to the readers of Metromode, past and present, thank you for indulging in my editorial vision for the last eight years. I look forward to more conversations, more debates, and more instances of inspiration.

Bye for now,

Jeff Meyers

3.7 Designs grows staff as its workload expands

Ann Arbor-based 3.7 Designs is looking at a growing bottom line, staff and office space all within the last 18 months.

The 10-year-old website development firm moved to a newer and bigger space above Arbor Brewing Co in downtown Ann Arbor in July 2013. It has also hired two people over the last year, expanding its team of five people. It is also in search of a front-end software developer right now.

"We have been really busy," says Ross Johnson, design strategist for 3.7 Designs. "A lot of our existing clients are doing more work. They have bigger budgets and more work. We have been picking up new clients as well."

Johnson adds that 3.7 Designs' clients have been asking for more comprehensive work over the last year. Before they were looking for more project-based work and now they are steadily updating sections of their website over time instead of doing it all at once.

"Every couple weeks we redesign another section and launch it," Johnson says.

Last year 3.7 Designs also released its own software platform focused on project management called Project Panorama. The company has been adding to the features of the platform as it continues to ramp up sales.

"That has been doing really well," Johnson says. "Better than expected."

Source: Ross Johnson, design strategist for 3.7 Designs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Visual Compass Web Design moves into bigger space in Ypsilanti's Depot Town

Visual Compass Web Design has always been an Ypsilanti-based tech firm. It was the first graduate of the Ann Arbor SPARK East Incubator in downtown Ypsitlanti. Its first stand-alone office was in downtown Ypsilanti. Its next move up was to Depot Town. Now the 6-year-old firm is taking over one of Depot Town's largest office spaces.

"After a year we basically filled the space (its previous office)," says Vince Chmielewski, president of Visual Compass Web Design, formerly VC Web Design. "We wanted to hire but didn’t know where to put them."

About the same time longtime Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti staple Fantasy Attic was closing its doors. Visual Compass Web Design took over the space, and moved right in last year. It now employs 10 people there and is looking to add interns this summer. It recently hired one photographer/UX designer and is looking to hire a software developer.

Visual Compass Web Design’s new home measures out to about 3,000 square feet. The company now has room for things like a dedicated photography studio, which occupies about a third of the square footage near the large historic windows.

"We have been trying to expand our video production services and this is a great space for that," Chmielewski says.

Visual Compass Web Design has doubled its revenue over the last year and is on pace to do it again. It has landed new clients, like Perfect Tacos, which owns 160 Taco Bell franchises. Visual Compass Web Design is also looking to add more work in graphic design and animation.

"We're trying to do a lot more mobile application development," Chmielewski says.

Source: Vince Chmielewski, president of Visual Compass Web Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

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

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

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
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