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Total Quality Logistics opens 13-person office in Troy

Total Quality Logistics opened up its 23rd office in the U.S. earlier this month, adding 13 new jobs in Troy.

The Cincinnati-based firm is one of the largest freight brokerage firms in the country. It employs 2,500 people in 12 states across the U.S. Last year it helped move 815,000 loads of freight and posted sales of more than $1.6 billion. It sees a significant opportunity in Metro Detroit.

"The work we do we can do anywhere," says Kerry Byrne, executive vice president of Total Quality Logistics. "The location is important so we can attract quality talent. It's really the region that attracted us."

Total Quality Logistics doesn’t have a goal for how big it wants to grow the office, but Byrne provides some encouraging examples. Its first office in Chicago opened five years ago and employs more than 100 people today. Its Tampa Bay office opened four years ago and also has over 100 employees.

"It really depends on our ability to attract talented individuals," Byrne says, adding that Total Quality Logistics is looking for driven, competitive sales people. For information on its open positions, click here.

Source: Kerry Byrne, executive vice president of Total Quality Logistics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Woodward Asset Capital acquires Homesource Realtors

Woodward Asset Capital has acquired Homesource Realtors with the idea of growing not as a real-estate brokerage, but as a technology firm.

The Southfield-based firm has developed a software platform called OfferSubmission that aims to sell properties faster and for maximum value. The seven-year-old company sees Homesource Realtors as the outlet for that platform.

"As the default market has changed we see an opportunity to disrupt the market with our technology," says Ron Jasgur, president of Woodward Asset Capital.

The first step was acquiring the real-estate brokerage. The second was rebranding it as SellerNation. The third, rebuilding the rebranded brokerage around the software platform that focuses on the seller experience.

Seller Nation’s OfferSubmission platform focuses on the seller side of the transaction. The idea is to bring in as many offers as quickly as possible. "It allows us to receive multiple offers and negotiate with them instead of waiting for offers to come in one at a time," Jasgur says.

Homesource made a name for itself as a discount brokerage. Jasgur is moving SellerNation away from that. "It really doesn’t fit into what we do," Jasgur says. He expects to roll out SellerNation across the country over the next 24 months.

Woodward Asset Capital currently employs 11 people. It has hired two more in customer service in the last year, and he sees more job postings in the company’s near future.

"With this acquisition we expect to hire another 6-8 in the next few months," Jasgur says.

Source: Ron Jasgur, president of Woodward Asset Capital
Writer: Jon Zemke

Windmill Pointe Brewing Co mixes beer, bikes and sustainability

Question: How far can you ride a bike while hugging a tree? Answer: All the way to Windmill Pointe Brewing Co.

Make sense? It will after you watch the crowdfunding campaign video for Detroit’s newest microbrewery by clicking here.

"We thought, 'How can we make ourselves standout right off the bat?'" says Shawn Grose, co-founder of Windmill Pointe Brewing Co. "How can we be different?"

For those of you who haven’t clicked on the video, this is how Windmill Pointe Brewing Co brews its beer. The microbrewery harnesses electricity generated from riders of stationary bicycles and uses that power to brew its beer. It's a process Shawn Grose and his brother Aaron Grose, the co-founders of Windmill Pointe Brewing Co, are calling pedal-powered beer. They have also developed a patent-pending technology that tracks how many beers each rider’s power has brewed.

"It keeps track of how many beers they have produced for us," Shawn Grose says. "They can spend these credits in the brewery."

So riders who help produce 10,000 beers worth of electricity will receive a gold jersey, a party thrown in their name and have their name etched into the Kilowatt Cup at Windmill Pointe Brewing Co.

The 1-year-old micro brewery plans to open in Eastern Market sometime next year. It has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $50,000 to make that happen. So far it has raised a little more than $1,000 as of Monday evening. To find out more about the campaign, click here.

The Grose brothers want to open Windmill Pointe Brewing Co in Eastern Market because of its proximity to the Dequindre Cut greenway and the cluster of slow-food businesses in the neighborhood. Shawn Grose points out Windmill Pointe Brewing Co will be the first brewery in Eastern Market since Stroh's closed its brewery a few decades ago.

Source: Shawn Grose, co-founder of Windmill Pointe Brewing Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

Media Academica establishes itself with local video work

When Shannon Kohlitz launched Media Academica in Ann Arbor, she was looking to take advantage of the growing demand for video work. It is turning out about as well as she could have hoped for.

"It did better than I had hoped," Kohlitz says. "We kept busy with mostly technology work."

The downtown Ann Arbor-based firm specializes in web animation and other sorts of online video work. Kohlitz has watched her firm’s revenue jump 25 percent over the last year thanks to work from the likes of Rave Computer, Ingeniose and XanEdu. Media Academica also did the kickstarter video for TurtleCell.

"I kept getting more, more clients," Kohlitz says. "I would love to be a vendor with advertising agencies."

Media Academica is getting ready to release two online videos for Rave Computer later this winter. Kohlitz hopes to add her first employee later this year as the work for her firm continues to pile up.

Source: Shannon Kohlitz, owner of Media Academica
Writer: Jon Zemke

Benzinga adds financial products, 5 new employees

Benzinga is growing in more than just a few ways these days. The Southfield-based startup is adding more products to diversify its revenue, hiring staff and possibly looking for a new home later this year.

Benzinga, which will turn four years-old in May, got its start providing financial news with a twist, adding ideas that stock market day traders and other investors can use to profit from the day's headlines. It quickly locked down $2 million worth of seed capital from Lightbank, the venture capital firm founded by Groupon’s co-founders. That enabled Benzinga to grow its staff and services. It’s not just a publication anymore. Think of it more as a technology company.

"We're a very flat organization," says Jason Raznick, CEO of Benzinga. "I gave a TEDx speech about a madeup word called Doarchy."

Combine the word "do" and "hierarchy" and you’ll have an idea about what Raznick is talking about. Benzinga empowers its employees to turn their passions into businesses and revenue streams. That means today Benzinga's main three revenue streams come from subscriptions to its news service, licensing the software it creates and Marketfy, which is a financial education platform.

"What we're really great at is creating something from nothing," Raznick says. "Marketfy didn’t exist a year ago. Now it’s generating crazy revenue."

Those sorts of innovations come from Benzinga’s staff of 27 employees and five interns. It has hired five people in the last year, including a new COO and software developers. There are four openings for software developers, marketing professionals and UIX designers.

Raznick is also looking to bring in more talent with roots in Michigan who are looking to move back to the Great Lakes State. To help accomplish that he is considering moving his company when the lease to its current home is up this summer. He is thinking about downtown Detroit or downtown Ann Arbor to help make it easier to attract young, technology-inclined talent.

"We're not sure what we’re going to do," Raznick says. "We need a cool environment."

Source: Jason Raznick, CEO of Benzinga
Writer: Jon Zemke

Swift Biosciences leverages VC for multiple hires

Venture capital and hiring helped make for a big year at Swift Biosciences.

When we last checked in at the life sciences startup in early 2013, it had just secured a $750,000 investment in its Series A. Since then it secured $7 million more in a Series B round of venture capital and hired seven people.

"We just hired three people this month," says David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences. The hires over the last year have been in the Ann Arbor-based startup’s R&D and commercial groups. Olson adds, "That funding (the Series B) is directly related to the three hires we made this month. We’re looking to expand, specifically in our commercial group."

The 4-year-old company is developing molecular biology reagents for research and diagnostic applications that provide new ways to examine disease-related genes. This genomic sequencing technology is expected to help researchers analyze samples faster, at a higher volume, and at a lower price per sample. It has raised $13.15 million to further the development of this technology platform.

Swift Biosciences launched its first two products last year and is set to launch its third product next week. The new product is a sample prep test kit that can work with damaged and small samples.

"It can do everything," Olson says. "It has a lot of capabilities."

Source: David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

Grand Angels sinks seed capital into ProNAi Therapeutics

Grand Angels is reaching across the Great Lakes State to plunk down some serious seed capital for one of Metro Detroit’s promising startups.

The Grand Rapids-based angel investor group has invested in ProNAi Therapeutics. The Plymouth-based biotech startup is developing a novel and proprietary DNAi drug technology platform to help fight cancer. It has enjoyed recent success with safely treating Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma patients in clinical trials.

The group has also invested in Ann Arbor-based Local Orbit, which is developing software that helps connect food producers (think farmers, co-ops and farmers markets) with grocers, restaurants and other eateries.

"Our applicants are roughly split between each side of the state," says Jody Vanderwel, president of Grand Angels. "We even have some from the northern part of the state."

Grand Angels launched a decade ago with the idea of focusing its investment on startups in the Grand Rapids area. Within a few years it expanded that focus to include the entire state of Michigan to enhance its deal flow. It started adding more members after making that decision, and now adds 3-4 new angel investors each year. The current membership stands at 48 high-net-worth individuals.

Source: Jody Vanderwel, president of Grand Angels
Writer: Jon Zemke

Grand Angels expand investment reach into Ann Arbor

Grand Angels has been spreading its wings across Michigan, making investments across the Great Lakes State including in Ann Arbor.

That's a significant step for the Grand Rapids-based angel investment group. Angel investors are high-net-worth individuals (think millionaires) who invest in early stage startups. The Grand Angels started a decade ago with the idea of investing in those startups in the Grand Rapids area. It quickly realized that opening up that area meant more opportunities to invest.

"We said we will look at deals anywhere in Michigan as long as it looks like a good deal," says Jody Vanderwel, president of Grand Angels. "That opened up the pipeline quite a bit."

One of those deals is in Local Orbit. The Ann Arbor-based startup is developing software that helps connect food producers (think farmers, co-ops and farmers markets) with grocers, restaurants and other eateries.

Local Orbit's online marketplaces are active across a dozen states. That enabled local farmers' sales through Local Orbit to grown 300 percent between 2012 to 2013. Local Orbit is leveraging its investment from Grand Angels to expand its targeted regions.

Source: Jody Vanderwel, president of Grand Angels
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Detroit-based Giffels Webster hires 18

Giffels Webster has added 18 people to its staff over the last year, and the planning and engineering firm is becoming more entrenched in the Motor City each year.

The 62-year-old company moved its headquarters from the burbs to downtown Detroit a couple years ago. Since then it has been actively trying to hire more Detroit residents. "We would live to increase that representation," says Scott Clein, president & partner of Giffels Webster.

Giffels Webster specializes in placemaking. That ranges from providing civil engineering services to landscape architecture. It still has satellite offices in Birmingham and Washington Township. Of its 18 hires over the last year, about 40 percent now work in downtown Detroit and another 40 percent work in Birmingham. The balance works in Washington Township.

Giffels Webster has a staff of 71 employees and two interns. Most of the new hires work in engineering and planning. About six of them are recent college graduates.

"We believe within the next few months we will be looking for another 3-5 hires," Clein says.

Chances are many of those new hires will be working in downtown Detroit. Clein explains those people will be headed toward downtown because of the growing amount of redevelopment work cropping up in the Motor City.

"There continues to be a ton of opportunity in Detroit," Clein says. "It's an exciting time."

Source: Scott Clein, president & partner of Giffels Webster
Writer: Jon Zemke

New $148M manufacturing research institute to open in Canton this spring

A heavy investment in terms of dollars and jobs has been made in a new high-tech lightweight metals research facility.

Excerpt:

"The $148-million high-tech manufacturing research institute announced Saturday by the White House is expected to bring 10,000 jobs to the Midwest and is to open this spring in Canton, the University of Michigan announced Sunday.

The American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute will be led by U-M, Ohio-based manufacturing technology nonprofit EWI and Ohio State University.

More than 50 other companies, universities and nonprofits across the U.S. will be involved in the public-private partnership to be headquartered in Canton, with key support in Columbus, Ohio."

More here.

Michigan Business Challenge sends 113K to student startups

A wide variety of student-led startups scored thousands of dollars in seed capital at the most-recent Michigan Business Challenge.

The annual business-plan competition at the University of Michigan awarded $113,000 from the Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream grant program. The competition awarded money to 16 teams that ranged from $200 to teams that made it past round one to $20,000 for the top placer. Among the winners were clock generator technology for the microprocessor market and a workout water bottle that can be turned inside out so it can be washed.

"When you have that kind of diversity of really smart people all in one place it is unusual if you don’t see that sort of breadth of diversity when these competitions come up," says Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, which organized the competition.

Among the top winners are:

Movellus Circuits won the Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business (worth $20,000) for its patent-pending clock generator technology for the microprocessor market.

Flipsi won the Pryor-Hale runner-up award for best business ($10,000) and the marketing award ($2,500). Flipsi is creating a reusable drinking bottle that flips completely inside out to facilitate easier cleaning.

A group of three U-M graduate students studying engineering ands business won the Erb Institute award for Sustainability ($7,500). The trio is developing an energy system that installs heavy-duty power electronics and battery storage units in commercial buildings for fast-charging services to electric vehicle drivers.

MyDermPortal won the Outstanding Presentation award ($2,000) and the Marketing award ($2,500) for its web-based app for dermatologists to provide follow-up treatment via the Internet for the most common diagnoses in significantly less time than an in-person visit.

Lab Compass won the Most Successful Undergraduate Team award ($2,500) for its cloud-based software enabling more efficient collection, storage and sharing of sensitive healthcare data used in medical research.

Nodify won the Best Written Plan award ($2,000) for its mobile apps that automatically refine a user’s professional network into a manageable group of important contacts and suggests relevant reasons to stay in touch.

"The ones that did emerge at the tip of the heap are the one that showed the most promise," Thornhill says.

Source: Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's Glyph Mobile Personal Theater nears $1.5M on Kickstarter

Apparently a lot of people want to chuck their widescreen TVs away and get a head[hones and goggle theater that provides a virtual and personal experience.
 
Excerpt:
 
Glyph Mobile Personal Theater plus Audio closed their crowdfunding round on Kickstarter this past week having raised $1,509,506 from 3,331 backers. The hardware from Ann Arbor, Michigan based Avegant now stands as one of the most successful rewards based crowdfunding campaigns of 2014.  Glyph set a goal of raising $250,000 – an amount that was easily topped in under 48 hours. 
 
Read the rest here.
 

AlertWatch scores FDA clearance for healthcare tech

The Food & Drug Administration recently gave a big green light to AlertWatch, which will get the Ann Arbor-based startup on the trial to cash-flow positive.

AlertWatch is developing patient-monitoring software to hospitals. The platform helps anesthesiologists monitor patients in the operating room, aggregating data from physiological monitors, anesthesia records, lab results and medical history to produce a dynamic real-time display of a patient's condition. The software determines whether things are normal, marginal or abnormal. The FDA gave it clearance earlier this month.

"If we didn't get that we'd be in in a pretty tricky situation," says Justin Adams, CEO of AlertWatch. "It is the major milestone for our product."

The 2-year-old startup has doubled its staff to four employees over the last year, hiring a developer and a technical writer. AlertWatch’s technology is currently being used in three pilot programs, including one that has analyzed more than 17,000 surgeries at the University of Michigan Health System.

"We're starting to get the word out and get some installs going," Adams says. "We're starting to create some revenue."

Source: Justin Adams, CEO of AlertWatch
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mobile startup Spincard creates 21st Century biz card

Startups have been trying to digitize business cards for about as long as smart phone have been in the mainstream. None have really proven successful. The five people behind Spincard think they have cracked the code.

"We're trying to find a better way to connect with people beyond the business card," says Anthony Montalbano, co-founder of Spincard.

Montalbano and four other local tech entrepreneurs were discussing how cumbersome and difficult it was to remember everyone they ran into at networking events from the pile of business cards spread out on a desk. They knew the software platforms meant to help alleviate this problem also came up short.

Spincard is a mobile app that gives each user a six-character code, or spin. That way users can give a new contact at a networking event the code. The new contact enters in the code to Spincard app and it immediately shows a picture of the user, their contact info and links to their social media outlets. Users can then sort through contacts by flipping through head shots of users. You can watch a video on it here.

"That allows you to find people by face," Montalbano says. "Then you can flip it over and see all of their information."

The Spincard crew built the app for Apple and Andriod users in less than three weeks at Grand Circus in downtown Detroit. They launched it earlier this month and are looking to get traction in local startup circles in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids this year.

"Our focus is to concentrate on small niche markets like Detroit and Grand Rapids," Montalbano says. "It only works if it's used by groups of people."

Source: Anthony Montalbano, co-founder of Spincard
Writer: Jon Zemke

Thomson-Shore acquires PublishNext, Seattle Book Co

Thomson-Shore has acquired PublishNext and its subsidiary Seattle Book Company in an effort for the Dexter-based firm to broaden its publishing platform.

"It is something we have been wanting to do for sometime now," says Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore.

The 40-year-old company, which is 100-percent employee owned, operates as a full-service book publishing, production, and distribution company. It employs 200 people and a couple of summer interns. The firm has hired 10 people (mainly in production and manufacturing) over the last year. It is also looking to hire two more people in sales and customer service.

PublishNext enables authors or small publishing houses to print their tomes or create an eBook. The Seattle Book Company has distribution channels in new markets that Thomson-Shore desires. Thomson-Shore’s acquired the two entities so it can create a broader publishing and distribution platform that allows it to fill the gaps it has with its customers.

"It was a really good fit from a market-fit and customer-service standpoint," Spall says.

He adds that Thomson-Shore has been looking to make an acquisition like this for the last 18 months and passed on a few other opportunities because they didn't fit Thomson-Shore's goals of supplying high-quality products and services.

Source: Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore
Writer: Jon Zemke
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