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Logic Solutions expands Showcase Sales app platform, staff

Logic Solutions has enjoyed some significant success thanks to the growth of its products, such as Showcase Sales apps. Now the Ann Arbor-based tech firm is enjoying some awards as part of that success.

The Showcase Sales mobile platform was recently named Technology of the Year at Corp! DiSciTech Awards. Winners of the award are seen as leaders in the digital, technology, and science industries that push the boundaries of their fields through innovation and research.

The Showcase Sales app serves as a catalog, order, and file management system for sales and marketing professionals. Its content management system gives the user total control of their brand, including your product catalog, pricing, and sales collateral. The platform started out as a customized enterprise solution before moving to a SAAS system a year ago. It appeared in the Apple and Andriod app stores last fall.

"There is more functionality," says Angela Kujava, director of innovation at Logic Solutions. "It's more accessible to a broader audience."

Kujava adds that the app has proven popular to sales force with products that lack a little bit on the excitement side. Think manufacturers and industrial firms who have lots of literature about the technical side of their products.

"We would love to be known as one of the top (business-to-business) mobile apps for sales and marketing professionals," Kujava says. "But when we talk about the mission that drives us, we want companies to see Showcase as the trigger point for successfully increasing productivity through mobile technology."

Logic Solutions has hired about 10 people in Ann Arbor over the last year, primarily professionals in marketing and sales. The firm employs 50 people in Ann Arbor and 250 total around the world.

Source: Angela Kujava, director of innovation at Logic Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

McConnell Communications celebrates 10 years in downtown

Things like digital marketing were just hitting the mainstream and social media wasn't even close to ubiquitous when McConnell Communications launched a decade ago. Today the downtown Detroit-based firm is going strong because it bridged that divide.

"The key is being able to marry old media with new media," says Darci McConnell, president of McConnell Communications.

McConnell worked as a reporter at both the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News before launching her own boutique public relations firm at the encouragement of the late Don Barden. Today McConnell Communications employs a staff of three people at its offices in Greektown.

McConnell Communications' core clientele includes a number of the large labor unions in Detroit, such as Service Employees International Union Healthcare Michigan, along with the likes of the Fort-Shelby Hotel. McConnell Communications is also one of the 32 local firms participating in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative.

"We want to continue our growth in the city," McConnell says.

Source: Darci McConnell, president of McConnell Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

Paxahau aims to return downtown, bigger and more Detroit-focused

It's May and that means it's Movement month for the team at Paxahau.

The Movement Electronic Music Festival, Paxahau's flagship downtown music event, features world-class electronic music acts and attracts tens of thousands of people to Detroit each year. This year Paxahau will grow its staff from a dozen permanent employees (it hired two of its interns to the permanent staff over the last year) to a team of 250 people to pull off the festival over Memorial Day weekend.
What's different this year is that Paxahau is no longer based in Detroit’s central business district, where it was founded nearly two decades ago. In 2012, the electronic music/music festival production company moved to Ferndale from an office in the third floor of Greektown's Cornice & Slate Co. building.

"We had no intention of moving for five years," says Jason Huvaere, president of Paxahau.

But it didn't work out that way. Huvaere got a call from the Cornice & Slate Co. Building's new owner a day after last year's Movement Electronic Music Festival and was told that Paxahau had to find a new home. It moved back to its old office in Ferndale by last fall (the company has moved back and forth between Detroit and Ferndale several times since its founding). Huvaere and his team have been searching for a new home in downtown Detroit ever since, and they are optimistic they will be able to find it by the end of this year.

"Any time we're out of the city we feel like we’re not at home," Huvaere says. He adds, "we're definitely moving back downtown."

Paxahau didn't miss a beat. It hosted 17 shows since last year's Movement. It has focused on small shows (with the exception of Detroit Jazz Festival) in the city. It also organized the Moogfest event in Asheville, North Carolina, last year.

"We brought about 50 people from Detroit to Asheville to do production management," Huvaere says. "It went very, very well."

Source: Jason Huvaere, president of Paxahau
Writer: Jon Zemke

Southfield-based PublicCity PR continues adding to clientele

Michigan-based is an important word in the world of PublicCity PR. The boutique public relations firm got its start doing work for small businesses in the Great Lakes State, and continues to grow because of those same sorts of clients.

PublicCity PR has landed a handful of new clients, all based in Michigan, over the last three months. Some of those firms include construction company Barton Malow (Southfield), Medical Weight Loss Clinic (Southfield), and the new Life Time Athletic in Bloomfield Township.

"These are recognizable brands, Michigan-based companies that are reaching out to us," says Jason Brown, principal of PublicCity PR. "This is all word of mouth organic growth."

This has allowed the 5-year-old business to grow out of Brown's kitchen table and into its own office. It also added a new employee to its team over the last year, expanding its staff to four people.

PublicCity PR has also been able to grow its practice to a level of comfort where Brown doesn't have to chase down every lead for new business or say yes to every opportunity to keep the lights on now.

"We take it as it comes," Brown says. "We are at a good level of clients."

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

Splash360 increases staffing to 14 since last year's launch

The co-founders behind Splash360 all worked in business marketing and began to see the same thing in recent years: digital marketing was all over the place. That inspired them to launch Splash360.

"They weren't unified. There was data all over the place," says Robert Standwick, CEO of Splash360. "That's when we saw the need to create a unified system."

The Sterling Heights-based startup housed in the Macomb-OU INCubator launched a software platform a year ago for use in both digital and traditional marketing. It enables customers to create, manage, customize and deliver brand-building marketing content, utilizing features like contact management, email marketing, print marketing, social media and lead acquisition.

Since Splash360's launch last year, its team of 14 people have been building up clientele, focusing on small- and medium-sized business like grocery stores.

"We're sending out more than 1 million emails a month," Standwick says.

Splash360 is now focusing on making its emails and website more mobile compatible. "If you're not mobile then you're not in the game," Standwick says.

Source: Robert Standwick, CEO of Splash360
Writer: Jon Zemke

PWB Marketing Communications keeps growth streak going

PWB Marketing Communications isn't measuring its growth over the last year in terms of new hires. It is looking at how much it has built out its network of partners and independent contractors.

"I'm cautious about that (hiring)," says Sean Hickey, COO of PWB Marketing Communications. "We have a core group of (six) people that are pretty flexible and knowledgeable."

The Ann Arbor-based firm now has a dependable stable of contractors it can tap for the growing number of projects its handling. The network of partners handles everything from market research to salesforce automation. The network allows PWB Marketing Communications to stay flexible and ready to take on more work.

"The nature of what clients want us to do is evolving," Hickey says. "I want to be able to say yes to that."

Hickey adds that most of the firm's work has turned digital over the last few years. It's reached the point that customers that want brochures only want them for emerging markets. They don't even take them to make pitches in the First World.

"Even the traditional work is done with an eye toward digital," Hickey says. "We don't do six-page brochures anymore because how are you going to fit six pages into a PDF?"

Source: Sean Hickey, COO of PWB Marketing Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

UpTo relaunches calendar app with richer content offerings

UpTo is relaunching its mobile calendar app with more built-in content that won't drown users.

UpTo's team is working to turn its new mobile app into a replacement for smartphone calendars. The app combines a users existing calendar and adds in extra information about things they like based on their location, such as concerts, friends' parties, and athletic events.

"It's truly innovative," says Greg Schwartz, co-founder & CEO of UpTo. "It's never been done before. We feel calendars will be the next place for disruption and we want to be that disruptor."

The top-layer of the app is filled with a user's normal calendar. The user can pinch or tap a time block and another layer of upcoming events will appear. Users can also connect privately with friends to share upcoming events to the back layer of a friend’s UpTo calendar. Check out a video about the app here.

UpTo got its start two years ago by launching a software platform that opens up its users' calendars to social media. The idea was to connect the user with friends and family by alerting them where the user expects to be in the near future. The 3-year-old startup abandoned that concept to go with its current version this spring.

"This is the first time UpTo is a total calendar replacement," Schwartz says. He adds that "it's really hard to grow with one foot in both (social and calendar) worlds."

UpTo has raised $3 million in venture capital since its launch in 2011. It has grown its team to 15 employees after hiring five people in the last year. Those new hires include software developers and one marketing professional. UpT also plans to add three interns this summer.

Source: Greg Schwartz, co-founder & CEO of UpTo
Writer: Jon Zemke

ACA leads to increased business and staff for Clarity Quest Marketing

Clarity Quest Marketing is enjoying a banner year, and one thing stands out as a reason why: the Affordable Care Act.

"This year in Q1 we have had our best quarter ever in the company," says Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing. "We are on track to have our best revenue ever this year."

The Ann Arbor-based firm has traditionally served the marketing needs of tech firms over many of its 13 years. It started to take on more and more work from healthcare firms, such as Vocollect Health Systems, the Pittsburgh-based business is the maker of AccuNurse. A few years ago the company’s portfolio was split evenly between tech and healthcare firms. Now about 75 percent of Clarity Quest Marketing's clients are healthcare based.

"That whole industry is booming," Slocumb says. "A  lot of it is being done by the Affordable Care Act."

That has allowed Clarity Quest Marketing to hire two people (senior-level consultants) in the last year, expanding its staff to 17 employees and two interns. Slocumb expects to hire more as Clarity Quest Marketing increases its visibility in the healthcare sector.

"We're working a lot on visibility," Slocumb says. "We are working with a lot of thought leaders in this space."

Source: Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown-based Exxodus Pictures premiers new film, Jinn

Exxodus Pictures is releasing its first full-length feature film April 4, and the downtown Detroit-based film plans to use it launch its business model that will generate multiple revenue streams.

Jinn is a adventure film about an elite class of warriors/monsters (Jinn) who are ancient, supernatural and made of fire. Set in present day Metro Detroit, the Jinn are hunting an automotive designer and his wife who are unknowlingly part of a bigger struggle between men and Jinn. Check out the trailer for the film here.

Exxodus Pictures shot the movie in southeast Michigan and produced it in its offices in the M@dison Building. The movie will be released in theaters across North America in all major markets.

"Everyone is excited to work for movies when we have them here," says Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad, co-founder of Exxodus Pictures. "When Batman and Superman come here everybody wants to work on them. I tell these people its better to own Batman and Superman than just work on them."

Ahmad and his partners chose Jinn as the firm's first movie because the storyline (famous is Islamic folklore) is widely known around the world, except in North America. That serves the dual purpose of being easily accepted to billions of people around world and a fresh storyline for American audiences at time when Hollywood increasingly recycles movies with sequel after sequel.

"This is the right idea for our company at this stage," Ahmad says.

Exxodus Pictures is also planning to merchandise its film in a non-traditional way. People will be able to buy replicas of the car in the movie, a specially designed Camaro called FireBreather, at car dealerships across the country for $95,000. Ahmad says 16 have been sold so far. Ahmad hopes the success of Jinn and car sales will help build up enough buzz for a sequel and eventually a trilogy of films.

"We have a bunch of movies in development," Ahmad says. "Even if we have a modest success with Jinn we hope to start making Jinn 2 soon."

Exxodus Pictures is five years old and employs 20 people. It has hired 14 people over the last year.

Source: Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad, co-founder of Exxodus Pictures
Writer: Jon Zemke

Carbon Media Group hires 30, expands outdoor-related digital content focus

Carbon Media Group is not trying to keep its growth slow and steady. The digital media firm is in the midst of taking a couple of big steps forward.

The Bingham Farms-based company has hired 30 people since the beginning of 2013, more than doubling its staff to 56 employees. It is looking to add some interns this summer. Many of the new jobs included positions in software development, account management, business development, sales, content writing and editing.

"We're getting ready for a big growth year in 2014," says Hyaat Chaudhary, CEO of Carbon Media Group.

For most of its first seven years, Carbon Media Group focused on digital advertising. Think banner ads, aimed at outdoors enthusiasts. It has since expanded its scope to include agriculture and action sports, like snowboarding or rock climbing. It is now working to become the largest digital content producer for the outdoor sporting world.

"It's really a growth in the breadth of the business," Chaudhary says.

Carbon Media Group now helps coordinate advertising and content creation for more than 600 websites for fans of the outdoors, agriculture and action sports/events/activities. It also has an extensive network of outdoor-related YouTube channels and its own CarbonTV outlet for online videos about the outdoors.

That expansion has allowed Carbon Media Group to grow its revenue by 33 percent in 2013. It is on track to hit its goal of 60-percent revenue growth this year, an expansion that should allow the firm to continuing hiring at a brisk pace.

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

Motor City Muckraker carves out niche in Detroit media landscape

These times are strange ones for news organizations. The type of days where venture-backed online news aggregators cut back and passion-play news sites expand. Motor City Muckraker is a member of the latter.

What started as a news blog by former Detroit Free Press reporter Steve Neavling two years ago this summer is now an online news site that employs Neavling and his girlfriend, Abigail Shah, and gives work to six contributors that write about Detroit all day everyday.

"I write between 2-4 stories a day," Neavling says. "We just started paying contributors a month ago."

Motor City Muckraker
has made a name for itself breaking big stories in a highly competitive news market, going toe-to-toe with some big media players and winning more than anyone expected. Among its editorial highlights is breaking the story about Grosse Pointe Park Police Department officers making racially charged videos last year. That work led to an investigation of the department and the officers implicate in the incident ordered to undergo sensitivity training.

Motor City Muckraker
is produced from Neavling and Shah's apartment in Midtown, employing lean-startup techniques out of necessity that comes with budget constraints. Neavling and Shah provided the little startup capital to get the website up and going while Neavling freelanced for the likes of Reuters and Tickle The Wire. Motor City Muckraker now harvests revenue from Adsense, advertising from local businesses, and crowdfunding campaigns. It recently worked to sell 50 t-shirts with the website's logo on them. They sold 65 and raised $1,300.

"We're using that money as seed money for freelance work," Neavling says. "We want a broad range of stories in different fields."

It's part of Neavling and Shah's vision to turn Motor City Muckracker into something more than just Neavling with a blog. They want Motor City Muckracker to become a central spot for conversations about the city of Detroit and where it is going.

"We want to get to know the city and understand the city," Neavling says.

Source: Steve Neavling, co-founder of Motor City Muckraker
Writer: Jon Zemke

Hile Creative creates more work, jobs with biz model pivot

Hile Creative made a name for itself as Hile Design up until about nine months ago. That was when the Ann Arbor-based company pivoted its business plan away from project-oriented work and more toward branding, giving itself a new name in the process.

"Now we're more geared toward helping companies establish their brand," says Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative. "That was a good move for us."

The 30-year-old company has hired three people in the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen employees. It is looking at adding interns this summer.

The extra staff has allowed Hile Creative to capitalize on its growth. The firm has watched its animation work spike recently. Hile Creative handles all of its animation work internally so it means more and more work for the Ann Arbor-based creative agency.

"We're becoming increasingly visual as a people," Hile says. "If you can come up with creative concepts visually people will get it."

Source: Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

XanEdu aims to hire 50 in Ann Arbor, invest $1M

XanEdu is consolidating its operations in Michigan and Kentucky into its Ann Arbor facility, a move that is expected to bring another 50 hires in the next five years.

"Ann Arbor is such a great place to live and work," says Dianne Michalek, vice president of marketing for XanEdu. "With the University of Michigan in our backyard we have great access to top talent."

XanEdu got its start as a traditionally publishing company in 1999 making educational materials for schools, such as course packs for colleges. It has expanded into digital realm in recent years, bringing those educational materials to mobvile devices, such as iPads, with an app. It currently employs 30 people in Ann Arbor.

XanEdu, with help from Ann Arbor SPARK, is investing $1 million toward expanding its operations in Ann Arbor. The new hires will be primarily in management, sales and IT positions. Michalek expects the new jobs will be created steadily over the next five years as the company grows.

"We are trying to expand our technology operations into new markets," Michalek says.

Source: Dianne Michalek, vice president of marketing for XanEdu
Writer: Jon Zemke

Click Click Car creates marketing software for auto leasing

The techies behind Click Click Car think they have built a better software platform to make leasing a new car as simple as a few taps on a computer and delivery to the customer’s home.

The East English Village-based startup, formerly uNetworked, is in the final stages of developing an online marketing platform for automotive dealers. The idea is to streamline the automotive leasing process so online consumers can pick the vehicle they want and get the best price as quickly as possible.

"It allows a potential car lease to shop for a car, find the car they like and get the lease price accurate to the penny," says Terry Bean, chief networking officer at Click Click Car. "It gives them all the forms then need. We will bring the car to them for a test drive or deliver it if they intend to lease it."

Click Click Car and its team of five people, and the occasional intern, are putting the finishing touches on the platform and expect to launch it before the end of the month. They are currently working with an automotive dealership that carries the Buick, GMC, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands. Bean declined to name the dealership beyond saying its based on the east side until after the software launches.

Click Click Car is also the software firm behind the 313DLove event earlier this month at Charles H. Wright Museum for African-American History. The event focused on the positive buzz the Motor City generates online, highlighting it with the #313DLove hashtag.

"We're trying to bring that lovefest from online to the real world," Bean says

Source: Terry Bean, chief networking officer at Click Click Car
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ghostly International leverages partnerships for growth

Ghostly International, the ambient music label, has taken advantage of its growth opportunities this year through a number of partnerships with other creative-based firms.

The Ann Arbor-based firm, it calls the Tech Brewery home, has hired one full-time employee and another part-timer over the last year. It currently has a staff of 11 employees across the company’s five divisions and in other cities, such as New York City and Los Angeles.

Driving the growth for the firm has been partnerships on a variety of projects. For instance, Ghostly International teamed up with Warby Parker to create a Ghostly International brand of sunglasses. You can check out a video about the partnership here.

Ghostly International is also partnering with Honeyslug Games to create the soundtrack for the Hohokum video game for PlayStation. The team at Honeyslug Games approached Ghostly International with a music playlist in mind for the video game and it turned out to be all Ghostly International songs.

"We will have an entire soundtrack for that surrounding the release," says Jeremy Peters, director of creative licensing & business affairs for Ghostly Songs, a division of Ghostly International. "They have been awesome to work with."

Ghostly International is also still releasing electronic music. It is release the new album for Tyco, Awake, this week. You can more information on the new album here, including its first single Spectre.

Source: Jeremy Peters, director of creative licensing & business affairs for Ghostly International
Writer: Jon Zemke
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