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Armune Bioscience scores seed capital, grows Ann Arbor lab

Armune Bioscience recently landed $700,000 in seed capital and is looking to bring that number up to $2.5 million to complete its Series A round.

That money is going to go toward the commercialization of the 7-year-old company's cancer blood test, Apifiny, and the addition of more staff member. The company currently employs six people, two of which (both executive positions) were hired over the last year.

"We anticipate having several job openings in the second and third quarter of the year," says David Esposito, CEO of Armune Bioscience. "Four or so will be in our laboratory."

Armune Bioscience is developing an innovative, non-PSA blood test to aid in the early detection of prostate cancer. The startup plans to launch that blood test commercially later this year. The Kalamazoo-based company developed the product at its Ann Arbor lab where half of its staff works.

"We hope to have that on the market in the second quarter of this year," Esposito says.

Source: David Esposito, CEO of Armune Bioscience
Writer: Jon Zemke

Above and Beyond Orthopedics leverages NEIdeas grant to grow business

Above and Beyond Orthopedics plans to use a grant it won from the recent NEIdeas competition to add a key piece of equipment and create more jobs.

The 3-year-old prosthetics company won the $2,000 late last year, which awards grants to Detroit-based businesses looking for seed capital to grow. The money will go toward the purchase of an oven that will allow the Riverfront-based company to bring more of its production to Detroit and hire a few more employees.

"It (the oven) helps us do in-house fabrication of prosthetics instead of outsourcing it to other states," says YaVonne Money, owner of Above and Beyond Orthopedics.

Money is a native Detroiter and a graduate of Murray-Wright High School and Wayne County Community College District. She spent several years out of state to learn about prosthetics. She came home three years ago to open her business with an ambition of doing right by the community that raised her.

"I felt like I had a need to give back to the people who helped become the individual I am today," Money says.

Today Above and Beyond employs four people after hiring a biller over the last year. Money plans to hire a couple more later this year soon after her new oven arrives.

Source: YaVonne Money, owner of Above and Beyond Orthopedics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sight Machine to close on multi-million-dollar VC round, grow staff

Sight Machine doesn't have to look too far down the road to see some big things are on the horizon. The manufacturing software startup is poised to close on a big venture capital round in a few weeks, move into a new home in a few months, and exponentially grow the business this year.

The Ann Arbor-based startup is in the final stages of securing a seven-figure venture capital deal within the next couple of weeks. The deal is described as "less-than-$10-million" ...but not too much less than that.

"It's still a multi-million-dollar deal," says Patrick Fetterman, vice president of marketing for Sight Machine.

The 4-year-old company has been developing a software platform for manufacturers. It started out as a inspection technology but now has expanded to analyze a factory's entire operations. It’s being branded as manufacturing analytics that take up an enormous amount of computing power to operate.

Sigh Machine launched its first product two years ago. Now it has two Fortune 1000 companies as customers and a number of medium-sized businesses. Fetterman expects that list to grow rapidly once the seed capital is confirmed and used to grow the business. It is already bursting at the seams in its current home in Ann Arbor's Maker Works.

"We're looking for additional office space because we have outgrown it," Fetterman says. "We plan to double the size of the business."

Sight Machine has expanded its staff to 22 people after making nine hires last year. Those new jobs included sales, marketing, engineers and executive team members. More hires are expected this year.

"It's going to be a very exciting year for the company," Fetterman says.

Source: Patrick Fetterman, vice president of marketing for Sight Machine
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sadek Legal adds partner, becomes Sadek Bonahoom

Tifani Sadek left corporate law a year ago to start her own practice, Sadek Legal. Today, another former corporate lawyer is joining her firm, which has been renamed Sadek Bonahoom PLC.

Sadek met Erin Bonahoom midway through last year. Both young women were up-and-comers at large local law firms (Bonahoom at Plunkett Cooney and Sadek at Clark Hill), but both had aspirations to start their own practices focused on helping small businesses.

"We hit it off so well," Sadek says. "We have been meeting for months (and talking about working together)."

The friends decided to launch Sadek Bonahoom this month to start the year with a clean slate. The practice will be based out of TechTown and is looking to grow sooner rather than later.

"We're hoping to add an associate later this year," Sadek says. "We're going to see how it goes."

The duo decided that by partnering they could more easily realize their business aspirations and balance the demands of building a law practice. The partnership also allows them take on bigger clients whose needs require the work and expertise of multiple people.

"We are really going into it with a go-getter mindset," Sadek says. "We want to really grow this firm."

Source: Tifani Sadek, founding partner of Sadek Bonahoom PLC
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Level One Bank aims for big 2015 after acquiring Lotus Bank

Level One Bank made headlines last fall after acquiring fellow Oakland County-based Lotus Bank. Look for the newly merged banks (the acquisition should be completed in March) to make more news as they integrate together this year.

"This will be our third transaction," says Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank, referring to his bank's acquisitions of Paramount Bank in 2010 and Michigan Heritage Bank in 2009. "We're focused on completing the acquisition of Lotus Bank and folding it into Level One Bank."

The Farmington Hills-based bank got its start seven years ago. It has since grown to $825 million in assets, including the $110 million it added with the Lotus Bank acquisition. The bank has grown organically, too, locking down 18 percent growth in 2014 and projecting another 15 percent gain this year.

Level One Bank has hired 15 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 150 people. It’s also looking to hire another five people now. While those new jobs are largely across the board many of them are in the bank's newly beefed-up commercial banking and residential lending departments.

"We're pretty bullish on the local economy," Fehring says. "It seems southeast Michigan is fairing pretty well right now."

Source: Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

Innovative Learning Group set to move to bigger office in Troy

Innovative Learning Group has been a staple of downtown Royal Oak for years, and now it’s going to become a staple of Troy.

The 10-year-old business consultancy purchased a new building in Troy last December with plans to execute a move later this year. The new office is more than twice as large coming in at 10,100 square feet.

"We will be spending the year remodeling the building and moving just before the end of this calendar year," says Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group.

Innovation Learning Group specializes in training and human performance improvement for businesses. It has grown 40 percent over the last year and is looking to add another 15 percent this year. Most of that growth comes from its mobile work.

"Using your tablet or smartphone for learning or doing your job better," Toenniges says.

That increase in work has led to more hiring at Innovative Learning Group. It has hired six people over the last year, including project managers, graphic designers and office managers. It is also looking to hire another three (a consultant, project manager, and sales professional) to add to its current staff of 17 employees.

"We are full up (on space for employees) here in Royal Oak," Toenniges says.

Source: Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Biovigil Hygiene Technologies lands new hospital contracts, expands staff

Biovigil Hygiene Technologies is moving into a bigger home in Ann Arbor, which is allowing it to grow its business even more this year.

"We have doubled the size of our office and operations," says Brent Nibarger, chief sales & marketing officer for Biovigil Hygiene Technologies.

The 5-year-old company has hired six people in engineering and tech support over the last year. It now has a staff of 19 employees and the occasional intern. It is also looking to hire a couple people right now to keep up with its growth demands.

Biovigil Hygiene Technologies principal product is a hand-sanitizing system for hospitals designed to detect and monitor hand washing. It utilizes a room sensor, a base station, and an identification badge to monitor and automatically communicate compliance information. The idea is to help improve compliance and cut down on infections.

The company launched a joint marketing effort with Steris Corp last summer to get its technology in more facilities. It has added five hospitals in that time and is looking at add 50 more this year.

"We secured a national contract with Premier, which is the biggest purchasing group in the country," Nibarger says.
Source: Brent Nibarger, chief sales & marketing officer for Biovigil Hygiene Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Local startups use crowd funding to get a leg up

Crains offers a step-by-step primer on how local startups used crowd funding to get their businesses off the ground.


"Locally, cousins Lucy Carnaghi and Molly Mitchell used Kickstarter last year to raise the final $19,000 they needed to open Rose's Fine Food on East Jefferson Avenue. And Avegant Corp., an Ann Arbor-based startup, raised $1.5 million to produce a video headset called Glyph. 

But donors don't own any part of the business, and there is little to no recourse for them if a company fails to send the promised rewards. Kickstarter is littered with failures."

Read the rest here.

Agentjet carves out niche with high-end real-estate leads

Ever click on an online house listing, think you found the idea home, and call the real-estate agent only to learn it’s no longer on the market? Luke Petty and Eric Pointer, both local real-estate veterans, were quite familiar with the phenomenon and launched their own startup to combat it.

Agentjet is an online platform that provides high-quality real-estate listings with the best data available online. No more highs and lows of finding what my be the perfect home and then finding out someone else bought it. Check out a video describing the service here.

"You're not going to get any false data," says Hank Brown, CEO of Agentjet. "If a house says it’s for sale then it's for sale."

The Ann Arbor-based startup launched in 2012 and has grown to 11 people. It has hired four people over the last year, including Brown. It is now looking to add three more, including a customer service rep and a telephone sales professional. Agentjet currently has 500 real-estate agents utilizing its service.

"It has been growing very well," Brown says. "It was just about at break-even when they hired me back in August."

Agentjet is planning to undergo a large marketing push in 2015. The company has spent its first few years perfecting its software and plans to take the firm national this year.

"We're planning a major launch of the product in 2015 where we will expand our coverage area," Brown says.

Source: Hank Brown, CEO of Agentjet
Writer: Jon Zemke

Zingerman's and laboratory mice meet in bacteria study

Apparently researchers at U-M will spare no expense in their quest for knowledge. Even if it means feeding mice $6 loaves of bread.


"As it turns out, the Zingerman's diet appears to have fueled the growth of the mannans-consuming B. thetaiotaomicrons — more so than other bacteria that lacked that ability to process mannans."

Read the rest here.

Assets International sharpens focus to expand company

Assets International isn’t just about doing more work. The Southfield-based firm is about taking on the most profitable work it can do.

"We're just a little bit more picky about the work we’re doing," says Michael Zwick, president of Assets International. "Let's be a leaner, stronger company."

The 14-year-old company got its start helping regular people find and claim property that rightly belongs to them, such as inheritances. It has recently expanded into the oil-and-gas industry, helping property owners capture idle royalties from oil drilling and exploration. Assets International has only been doing that for a few years but today that line of work now makes up 25 percent of its bottom line, and that percentage is growing.

"There is a lot of money that is sitting there waiting for people to claim it," Zwick says.

Assets International currently employs 17 people. It has hired two people (a paralegal and office administrator) over the last year. That staff is also working to help create more revenue streams, such as helping corporations find money owed to them and create efficiencies in their workplace.

Source: Michael Zwick, president of Assets International
Writer: Jon Zemke

Hemingwrite offers word processor minus the distractions

A new startup called Hemingwrite is working to build a word processor that looks like a typewriter, works like a computer, and limits potential distractions.

The downtown Detroit-based company is well on its way to raising enough money to pull it off. Hemingwrite has already raised $322,701 in a crowd funding campaign as of Monday night with 10 days left to go. Hemingwrite has already surpassed its goal of $250,000, which it met within 36 hours.

Patrick Paul and Adam Leeb first started developing Hemingwrite last May. Previously, Leeb worked in e-commerce and investment banking and Paul worked in software and rooftop solar systems. Both saw an opportunity in simplifying the process of writing in the distraction-filled world of the 21st century.

"I've used distraction-free software before and it’s too easy to minimize and get on Facebook or Twitter," Paul says. "Adam came back to me and said let's make a piece of hardware."

The partners developed a prototype while working in a Detroit-based co-working space over the last six months. They are now entering the final design phase over the next two months and hope to start moving units later this year.

The current design features a normal-sized keyboard and a small screen for the manuscript. The machine automatically saves and syncs its work. It also can’t facilitate other things that are common distractions to writers, such as social media. Paul points out the startup choose the small screen because its already commercially available, and making a custom-sized screen is too costly.

"It also fits into our philosophy of always writing forward and completing a first draft," Paul says.

Source: Patrick Paul, co-founder of Hemingwrite
Writer: Jon Zemke

Vodka, gin distillery, tastng room planned for Royal Oak

Royal Oak may soon be home to small distillery and tasting room. Five Lakes Distillery received a small distiller license from the city commission this week, paving the way for owners Craig Schlicht and Keith Reid to make vodka, initially, and then, eventually, gin from a small space at 4320 Rochester Road.

The plan is to produce vodka on site, 90 percent of it for distribution, 10 percent on site for the weekend-only tasting room, which will take up 190 square feet of the 855-square-foot facility.

The owners have a permit to produce up to 60,000 gallons of spirits per year, says Todd Fenton, the city's manager of economic development, but as of now they expect to produce closer to 6,000 gallons.

No opening date has been set as other city permits are still required. If successful, Five Lakes could join metro-Detroit-made spirits success stories such as Valentine Vodka in Ferndale, Hard Luck Candy Vodka in St. Clair Shores, Griffin Claw Brewing Co. in Birmingham and Zim's Vodka based in Warren.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Todd Fenton, economic development manager, city of Royal Oak


Former entrepreneur joins SPARK to assist new startups

Though it meant a pay cut, entrepreneur Bill Mayer has settled in as the vice president of entrepreneur services at Ann Arbor SPARK. The Freep chatted with him about his job.


Q: OK. Let's say, I'm just a guy who just got laid off from the line, and I decide I have the next best product, next great idea — and I want to start my own business. How do I build my network and surround myself with smart people?
A: Well, so that's why places like SPARK, TechTown and Automation Alley exist. They tend to be hubs for entrepreneurial activity. If you are an entrepreneur, like entrepreneurship, you are kind-of a tech junkie, you work for a start-up, you just want to see what this entrepreneurship is all about, come to a SPARK event. There are like-minded people here. If we have have 100 people at an event, and you don't walk away with 15 business cards, it's bad on you. We try to make it easy. And in the Midwest, we tend to be a pretty friendly bunch. One person will introduce you to three, each of those people will introduce you to three more.

Read the rest here.

Aras Corp grows new Metro Detroit office to 4 people

Aras Corp opened its first Metro Detroit office in Troy last spring with an idea of leveraging more automotive industry work. Why here instead of anywhere else in the world?

"If you want to be in automotive you need an office in Detroit," says Bill Bone, CTO of Automotive Solutions for Aras Corp. "It's that simple."

The Maryland-based tech firm makes product lifecycle management software. Its Troy office now employs four people and is looking to hire three more right now. Those new job openings include a consultant and marketing manager.

"We're actually in an expansion mode right now," Bone says. "We're integrating the adjoining suite with us."

Aras Corp is also working to host its first industry conference at the Renaissance Center early this spring. The company plans to use it to help integrate it further into the region and with its customers.

"It's focused on our products, our services, and what our customers are doing," Bone says. "It's a community-based event. We are an open-sourced company."

Source: Bill Bone, CTO of Automotive Solutions for Aras Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke
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