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A new co-working space for downtown Detroit

A new co-working space is being established in downtown Detroit. WorkBuild HQ, located in the Julian C. Madison Building on Washington Boulevard, is about to become the latest in a wave of co-working spaces opening across the city.

WorkBuild HQ CEO Ernest Foutner, Jr. and co-founders Brandon Colvin and Marcus Twyman have already made the space available to tenants though an official grand opening party won't be held until July. An open house will be held this Saturday, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free to all, the casual affair will feature food and refreshments from Rubbed, Voigt's Soda House, and the Detroit Pop Shop.

A number of membership options will be available at WorkBuild HQ, including part-time and full-time pricing plans and public and private seating arrangements. A program called the Success Advancement Resource Center, or SARC, will be dedicated to guiding recent college graduates as they transition from school life to business life. A business incubator, Propel Plus, is also planned.

Encouraging collaboration between tenants will be a focus of WorkBuild HQ, says Foutner. He hopes to see a wide variety of professionals, entrepreneurs, and educators working together -- a sort of synergy, he says. The communal aspect of a co-working space allows tenants to sync up with other professionals who aren't in their industry, providing people the opportunity to both learn and benefit from each other.

"The days of the traditional office space are over," says Foutner.

Typical office amenities such as Wii-Fi Internet, mailbox services, and a conference room are complemented by more modern and non-traditional office perks, including a gaming station, happy hours, and yoga classes.

The Julian C. Madison Building is also home to PT in the D.

Source: Ernest Foutner, Jr., CEO and co-founder of WorkBuild HQ
Writer: MJ Galbraith

CitrinGroup investment firm adds 4 new consultants

CitrinGroup made a name for itself in its early years as an investment firm with a track record for sizable returns.

The 10-year-old firm realized there was a sizable number of financial firms that could do the same thing. If it wanted to continued its growth streak it would need to find a way to separate itself from the pack.

"It's been an exciting year," says Jonathan Citrin, chairman of CitrinGroup. "We have intensified our focus as a portfolio manager."

CitrinGroup’s advantage is divorcing emotion from its decision-making process. Sounds simple, right, or just industry standard? Not necessarily. Citrin points out his firm relies solely on numbers and seizing opportunity. No gut calls. No more sticking only to what they feel comfortable with.

"We have been super focused on keeping emotion out of decisions," Citrin says.

That has allowed the downtown Birmingham-based firm to make its returns more consistent and increase its new business. CitrinGroup has also grown its staff, adding four consultants to its core team of four employees.

"We were just creating a way to give our clients some added value," Citrin says.

Source: Jonathan Citrin, chairman of CitrinGroup
Writer: Jon Zemke

AlumaBridge brings lighter, sustainable solution to bridge repair

When a bridge collapses, hand-wringing and fear become the rule of the day. And yet attention to infrastructure never seems to be a priority until it’s too late. A new Ann Arbor-based startup is working to get ahead of that problem before the worst happens.

AlumaBridge uses aluminum as its principal material for prefabricated pieces of bridging in order to extend the life of aging bridges. The aluminum bridge deck panels are made using friction stir welding and have a non-skid surface. They can easily be applied to the steel girders on existing bridges, giving many more years of service.

"I would like to address some of the nation's most deficient structures,” says Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge. "It's a matter of getting the technology out there and commercializing it."

Osberg worked at Sopa Extrusions studying new ways to extend the life of the countries aging infrastructure. His work focused on aluminum bridge options and he spun out AlumaBridge last fall. The company is now working to install its first bridge in Quebec and is working on test panels for bridges in Florida. Check out a video describing AlumaBridge’s product and installation here.

"It mirrors the strength of concrete but is one fifth of the weight," Osberg says.

Stories of the country’s aging bridges have grown more numerous in recent years. Last year "an Associated Press analysis of 607,380 bridges in the most recent federal National Bridge Inventory showed that 65,605 were classified as "structurally deficient" and 20,808 as "fracture critical." Of those, 7,795 were both — a combination of red flags that experts say indicate significant disrepair and similar risk of collapse," according to a story in USA Today.

"This (AlumaBridge’s product) offers them an option," Osberg says. "It offers them a longer bridge life with a recyclable product."

Source: Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge
Writer: Jon Zemke

Inner State Gallery brings international artists to Eastern Market

When Jesse Cory and his team from 1xRUN moved their e-commerce art startup to Eastern Market, they also brought a retail component with it from downtown Royal Oak.

Inner State Gallery opened at 1410 Gratiot Ave. a year ago and has since hosted a number of contemporary artists, both national and international. It's part of the gallery's visitng artist program, although its founders don’t necessarily refer to it as that.

"It's not really a program," says Jesse Cory, partner with Inner State Gallery. "We have a loft for the artist to live here and make artwork."

The artist will live at the gallery for a month, giving them a home base to practice their craft in Detroit and host an exhibition. Shark Tooth, a Los Angeles graffiti artist, will host "I'm Shark Tooth, Who The Hell Are You?" at Inner State Gallery this weekend.

Inner State Gallery hosted Jerry Vile last month and will host Meggs, an Australian-based artist, later this summer. Most of the artists participating in the program are muralists.

"You'll see more murals popping up in Eastern Market," Cory says.

Source: Jesse Cory, partner with Inner State Gallery
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Smart Lighting Solutions brings on new LED product lines

Ralph Petty was working in property management in 2009 when the economy was falling apart. He and a friend who worked at Ford looked at the job landscape and decided to make their own by starting Smart Lighting Solutions.

"Energy efficiency is something that intrigued both of us," Petty says.

The Shelby Township-based firm specializes in helping businesses improve their energy efficiencies, usually through replacing light with more efficient options.

"The big push is starting to go towards LED (lights)," Petty says. "We're installing at a bowling center on the east side of Detroit that will be all LED."

Smart Lighting Solutions is also bringing new products to its lineup by adding Juganu Lighting's LED lighting products. The LEDs allow for energy savings of up to 80 percent over traditional lighting, such as metal halide fixtures.
The company now has a staff of three people after hiring a sales professional in the last year. Petty expects his company to continue to grow as the firm focuses more of its efforts on outdoor facilities.

"Our biggest goal is to work with outdoor facilities like parking lots and parking structures," Petty says.

Source: Ralph Petty, principal of Smart Lighting Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan's venture capital growth outstrips national trends

As Michigan becomes a knowledge economy, venture capital firms and deals are coming its way. 


"Despite a diminished national fundraising climate during the last five years in which total capital under management nationally decreased by 3.5 percent, total capital under management among Michigan-based firms increased by 45 percent, from $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion, essentially the reverse of the national trend.

Other key survey findings in Michigan's venture capital growth from 2009-2013 include:
  • 44 percent increase in number of venture capital firms in Michigan, compared to a 6 percent increase nationally.
  • Nearly a doubling in the number of venture capital professionals in Michigan, compared to a net 13 percent decrease nationally."
More here.

Virta Labs wins SPARK's Entrepreneur Boot Camp

Cyber attacks are becoming more and more ubiquitous, and one new startup in Ann Arbor is capitalizing on it, Virta Labs.

The 7-month-old startup helps defend medical devices from malware attacks. It recently won the Best of Boot Camp award at Ann Arbor SPARK’s most recent Entrepreneur Boot Camp.

"Malware is everywhere today," says Denis Foo Kune, co-founder of Virta Labs. "Medical devices are more susceptible to malware than most devices because there isn't much protection out there for them."

Virta Labs got its start with the research from a University of Michigan professor on the subject. The six-person team behind the startup is working on a detection technology for malware and other software anomalies on medical devices and process control systems. It accomplishes this by measuring the power consumption patterns of the machines it is protecting.

Because most medical devices rely on commodity operating systems, leaving them vulnerable to a garden variety of malware. Virta Labs' technology helps keep these at bay through early detection.

"We're going to be starting our Beta test very soon," says Michael Holt, business strategist of Virta Labs.

Source: Denis Foo Kune, co-founder of Virta Labs and Michael Holt, business strategist of Virta Labs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative intern to live in city's first shipping container house

A lucky intern at the nonprofit Michigan Urban Farming Initiative will become the first person to inhabit a house made from a shipping container, reports the Detroit News.

The container is currently being converted into occupiable housing in the parking lot of General Motor’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. Once completed, it will be moved to Michigan Urban Farming Initiative's headquarters on Brush Street in New Center.

The nonprofit purchased the container for $3,000, but estimates that it will cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to convert it into a home. According the News, "Local GM workers will volunteer to convert the container into a home and 85 percent of the materials will be scrap from local GM plants."

Read more in the Detroit News.

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

Fresh Cut Detroit starts to blossom in Woodbridge

Opening a flower farm is not a common career path, but launching Fresh Cut Detroit just made sense for Sarah Pappas.

Pappas has been working in urban agriculture since 2006 when she served as an Americorps member at a non-profit in New York.

"That was my introduction to urban gardening and farming," Pappas says. "I have been farming ever since."

Pappas moved to Detroit to take an urban farming job a Greening of Detroit in 2011, which led to another gig at Keep Growing Detroit.

Eventually, Pappas decided to start her own business based on her interests in urban agriculture. She completed the D:hive BUILD program and launched Fresh Cut Detroit from her home in Woodbridge six months ago with the idea of providing fresh-cut flowers to restaurants, events, and weddings.

"It felt like the right time because the local food interest is so strong here," Pappas says. "Plus, the local flower movement has been building over the last 5-10 years."

Starting in May, Fresh Cut Detroit will operate a flower stand at the corner of W. Forest Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard every Thursday between 4-8 p.m. It also offers a weekly bouquet service, which is currently sold out, though a new session is set to begin in July and run through October. Pappas hopes it will sell out, too, as demand for Fresh Cut Detroit’s flowers continues to grow.

"I'd like to have the same sort of demand that I have today, but more land for production," Pappas says.

Source: Sarah Pappas, farmer & owner of Fresh Cut Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Highland Park pastor builds biz with homemade BBQ pits

Drive down Hamilton Avenue in Highland Park and you’ll find Alfred Thomason's little slice of heaven, Rejoice Temple BarBQ Pits.

The 81-year-old Highland Park resident makes barbecue pits from refashioned metal barrels. It's an enterprise that has helped sustain Thomason and his ministry (he is a retired pastor) for several decades now.

"That way I can keep things going," says Thomason. "I don't ask anything from anybody. I do it all myself."

Rejoice Temple BarBQ Pits got its start in 1972 when Thomason's mailman asked if he would sell any of the barbecue pits he had previously made for himself. Thomason's poduct turned out to be a hit. "If I sold one I sold 50 of them," Thomason says. "They sold like hotcakes."

Rejoice Temple BarBQ Pits are fashioned from cleaned and processed 15-, 30-, and 55-gallon metal drums sourced from C-Mar Products located on 22nd Street just south of Michigan Ave in Southwest Detroit. Thomason, whose son and daughter occasionaly lend him a hand, turns each barrel into a custom-made barbecue pit, which sells for between $35 to $85, depending on its size.

Thomason sells about a half dozen barbecue pits each week.

"I used to make as many as 15 a week but I am too old for that now," Thomason says.

People interested in buying a custom barbecue pit can stop by Rejoice Temple BarBQ Pits' well-worn storefront at 16011 Hamilton or call Thomason at (313) 243-4803.

Source: Alfred Thomason, owner of Rejoice Temple BarBQ Pits
Writer: Jon Zemke
Photo: Matthew Bihun

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Liquid Web aims to hire 20 for new downtown Ann Arbor office

Liquid Web is building out a new office in downtown Ann Arbor, which the Lansing-based web-hosting firm expects to fill with 20 people as soon as possible.

"As soon as we find qualified candidates we will be hiring them," says Cale Sauter, public relations specialist at Liquid Web.

The 17-year-old firm's new office consists of 4,000 square feet at 315 W Huron St, which is across the railroad tracks from the Ann Arbor YMCA. It is set to open by July. For information on the job openings, click here.

"We have been looking at Ann Arbor for quite a while," Sauter says. "It has grown as a tech hub. there is a lot of talent over there. We have a handful of employees who commute from there."

Liquid Web has opened an office in Pheonix and is opening another office in Europe this spring. The company has hired 75 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 404 employees. Most of the new hires and a vast majority of its staff (384) are based in Michigan.

"We are headquartered here and we will always be headquartered here," Sauter says. "This is where the bulk of our growth will be."

Source: Cale Sauter, public relations specialist at Liquid Web
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ocunelis invents better way to apply eye drops

David Lorch and Marius Tijunelis were working through an entrepreneurial apprenticeship out of the Medical Innovation Center at the University of Michigan's Kellogg Eye Center, and they knew they wanted to start a business. They just didn’t know what kind.

The pair made a list of potential business that would fill unmet needs and began eliminating the weakest, one by one. At the end of the day they came up with Ocunelis and its eye-drop assist technology called DROPin.

"It's designed to help people aim their eye drops safely and accurately," Lorch says. "It helps you line up the bottle tip with your eyes so it gets the drop in the right part of your eye."

Lorch and Tijunelis launched Ocunelis last July and filed for a patent on their innovation shortly after. The two-person team is now working to ramp up sales starting in their own backyard.

"It can be bought at a few pharmacies in Ann Arbor and on Amazon," Lorch says. "We would like to see it out there helping as many people as we can reach."

Source: David Lorch, CTO of Ocunelis
Writer: Jon Zemke

WorkForce Software takes big drink from Ann Arbor talent pool

Two years ago, WorkForce Software opened up a satellite office in downtown Ann Arbor with an idea of using it as a talent magnet.

Today it employs 17 people and is moving to a bigger office in the center of Tree Town. It has hired nine people, all software development jobs, over the last year for its Ann Arbor office.

"We've done a very good job of finding talent," says Ken Olson, vice president of product development for WorkForce Software.

WorkForce Software makes management software for large-scale employers. The Livonia-based company added the Ann Arbor office because of the city’s depth of existing talent and the production of new talent that comes from the University of Michigan. The urban atmosphere also opened up the company to a new world of talent it needed to tap.

"It's really important to have an office that is walkable and accessible by buses and bikes," Olson says. "As soon as we opened the downtown Ann Arbor office we got a flood of interest."

WorkForce Software is taking the seventh floor of the Key Bank building at the corner of Main and Huron streets. The 3,400 square feet is roughly double the size of its original downtown Ann Arbor office.

"The view is nice," Olson says. "We have the entire top floor."

Source: Ken Olson, vice president of product development for Workforce Software
Writer: Jon Zemke
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