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DeNovo Sciences secures $2M Series A investment round

DeNovo Sciences has closed on a Series A round of investment worth $2 million earlier this month, allowing the life sciences startup to start fundraising for a Series B in 2015.

"We are in very good shape (from a monetary standpoint)," says Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences.

The Plymouth-based startup, it calls the Michigan Life Sciences and Innovation Center home, got its start in Ypsilanti in 2011 developing a platform for early detection of cancer from blood samples. The idea is to create an less-invasive method than the traditionally painful route of biopsies. It won the top prize worth $500,000 in the 2012 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The Series A consists of all new money from angel investors and pre-seed funds.

DeNovo Sciences has developed a fully automated system to detect cancer, primarily breast and colon cancers. Two of those systems are currently in use in medical centers in the Middle East and Asia. The startup also has purchase orders for two more locations, including one in the U.S.

"We are actively engaged with more customers around the world," Handique says. "We hope to see more orders next year."

DeNovo Sciences has a staff of nine employees, nine independent contractors and one intern. It has hired three people over the last year, including software developers and clinical researchers.

Source: Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

Thomson Reuters expands, to add 300 jobs over five years

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) approved a $2.4 million Michigan Business Development Programperformance-based grant for Thomson Reuters to grow its presence in the Ann Arbor area. Pittsfield Township to be exact. That supposedly means a few hundred new jobs.


"Thomson Reuters worked with Ann Arbor SPARK to secure the MEDC incentives. Pittsfield Township will consider offering support of the project in the form of a property tax abatement, the release says."

Read the rest of the press release reportage here.

Stay-at-home moms become entrepreneurs with Clever Container

Karen Eschebach and Jennifer Weaver were both working as stay-at-home moms nearly a decade ago when entrepreneurial inspiration hit them. Eschebach was working as a professional organizer and the two friends were at a direct-sales party hosted by another friend when the CFL went off over their heads.

"We thought, why couldn't we do that with organizing products," Eschebach says.

That was 2006, which is also the same time they launched Clever Container. The St. Clair Shores-based company employs sales reps that host buying parties where they offer organizing tips, techniques and products for everything from kitchens to closets.

The company is now the full-time jobs of Eschebach and Weaver and it employs another dozen people beyond that. Four people have been hired over the last year. Those new jobs include customer service reps, graphic designers and a national sales director.

Clever Container has steadily grown over the years. It now offers private label products and is creating its own line of products. Sales hit $2 million in 2013.

"This year we expect to exceed that," Eschebach says.

Source: Karen Eschebach, co-founder & president of Clever Container
Writer: Jon Zemke

Spry Publishing almost doubles staff with acquisition

Ann Arbor-based Spry Publishing has acquired Farmington Hills-based The Word Baron, a move that nearly doubles Spry Publishing's staff.

Spry Publishing is a health-and-wellness publisher and a member of the Edwards Brothers Malloy family of businesses. Most of Spry Publishing’s work is focused on the pharmaceutical industry. The Word Baron specializes in digital marketing, ranging from graphic design to building training manuals.

"It (acquiring The Word Baron) expands our creative services that we can offer our clients," says Jeremy Sterling, director of sales & marketing for Spry Publishing.

He adds the two firms have partnered on projects before and there is a good synergy between them thanks to how the services they provide complement each other so well. The Word Baron's three employees have moved into Spry Publishing’s offices in Ann Arbor, expanding the staff to eight employees.

The Word Baron has a number of clients in the automotive industry. Sterling expects the combination of the two firms will allow them to offer a more comprehensive publishing and marketing package to their respective clients.

"We should grow well across both of our businesses," Sterling says.

Source: Jeremy Sterling, director of sales & marketing for Spry Publishing
Writer: Jon Zemke

Billhighway adds 10 jobs, focuses on staff development, culture

Every time Billhighway makes a new hire, a press release gets its wings and flies off into the world. More specifically, the Troy-based tech firm likes to announce each new hire with a press release. The company’s public relations team has been busy in 2014 sending out in excess of half a dozen new announcements about new hires.

The 14-year-old firm has hired 10 people over the last year and is looking to hire another three in project management and software development. The firm currently employs 50 people and seven interns. One of its former interns from earlier this year was also hired into a full-time position.

"Our turnover is really low, like 1-2 percent (quarterly)," says Brenda Gallick, director of team member success for Billhighway.

A big reason for that is Billhighway works to grow its employees. About 30 percent of its open positions are filled by candidates from within looking to take the next step up in their careers.

"We spend a lot of time on career development," Gallick says.

Billhighway launched as a software platform that helps people divvy up expenses, such as dues or dinner costs, in 1999. It has grown and evolved to the point that it specializes in helping non-profits and other organizations deal with their finances. It has experienced significantly higher demand for its software as it makes a bid to reach second-stage status, prompting the hiring spree. The company's leadership doesn’t expect that trend to lessen anytime soon.

"We have quite a bit of growth planned going forward," Gallick says.

Source: Brenda Gallick, director of team member success for Billhighway
Writer: Jon Zemke

Community Choice Credit Union creates 50 jobs, set to open new branch

Community Choice Credit Union is experiencing a significant bump in just about everything these days. The Farmington Hills financial institution is adding members, deposits, staff, and new branches.

"We're in the process of opening one right now," says Philip Cooper, COO of Community Choice Credit Union. "It should be ready in late November, early December."

The 79-year-old credit union likes to call its branches member centers. The newest one will open in Northville near Six Mile and Haggerty roads. It will employ seven full-time people.

Community Choice Credit Union is focused on serving the metro Detroit area. It has hired 30 people for a broad range of jobs over the last year, expanding its staff to 189 employees. It also has 20 open positions, some of which can be found here.

The credit union has also grown its assets, which now total $17.3 million, up 3.5 percent since the beginning of the year. Cooper credits the increase in assets to his organization's additional membership.

"It was growth in membership and what the members have brought to us in deposits," Cooper says.

Community Choice Credit Union has eight branches across metro Detroit. The new branch in Northville will be its ninth location. The credit union plans to open a handful of branches each year for the next five years to keep up with its expansion plans and better serve its membership in the region.

"Our growth is really centered on the tri-county area," Cooper says.

Source: Philip Cooper, COO of Community Choice Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

Vivergy software bridges sustainability and public health

A couple of tech entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor are working to bridge the gap between living a sustainable lifestyle and improving the public health with their new startup, Vivergy.

Kevin Kononenko and Dom Parise's are releasing the digital platform this week. Vivergy enables individuals to score their impact on local health due to their energy consumption and air pollution. That way they can see if the tweak their everyday behavior they can see how it can have a real-world impact on lessening things, like childhood asthma.

"Children in Ann Arbor inhale on average seven cigarettes each year," Kononenko says. "That is the equivalent of living with a smoker for three months."

Kononenko and Parise were inspired by the frustrating conventional wisdom that comes with sustainability -ie. the problems seem too enormous, things are slow to change, and that the positive actions of one person are often negligible.

"It always feels very negative, overwhelming, and sad," Kononenko says. "I wanted to do something about it that encourages people to think about it in a different way."

Vivergy is launching this week and the two partners are planning to focus on generating local usership at first. However, the platform can be used anywhere in the world.

Source: Kevin Kononenko and Dom Parise, co-founders of Vivergy
Writer: Jon Zemke

Human Element creates 3 jobs as it hits double-digit growth

Human Element has grown in a number of ways over the last year. It has watched its revenue spike by double-digits, its staff is on the rise, and its office expand by a few thousand square feet.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based e-commerce company (it specializes in the Magento e-commerce platform) has watched its revenue jump by 40 percent since 2011. That has allowed it to hire three people, a software engineer and project manager over the last year, and it's looking to add a software developer now to its team of 13 employees and six independent contractors.

"Growing that quickly has its challenges," says Ben Lorenz, managing partner of Human Element. "We're targeting 30 percent growth right now. We feel that is a manageable way to grow the team."

Which has prompted the 9-year-old company to expand its office. The company added 2,000 square feet earlier this year. Another addition of a few thousand square feet of office space seems like its in the card considering the company’s current growth curve.

"If we can stay on track of our growth plan we will need more space next year," Lorenz says.

He adds that a rebound in demand for e-commerce work, specifically the Magento platform, has driven the growth. Lorenz is quick to add that his company is controlling the growth because it takes a long timeline (typically closer to a year than just a few months) to get new hires up to speed with the rest of the team.

Another factor is Ann Arbor SPARK giving a Phase 4 grant to Human Element last year. The $12,000 grant helped the company form some strategic planning for its growth so it can lessen the learning the curve to getting bigger.

"SPARK has been helping us quite a bit," Lorenz says.

Source: Ben Lorenz, managing partner of Human Element
Writer: Jon Zemke

Eastern Market companies score $60K in grants to purchase equipment they need to grow

Eastern Market Corporation just scored $60,000 for further developing Michigan's largest open-air farmers market.

Charter One is giving $60,000 tin grants to growing companies in Eastern Market as part of its Growing Communities program. The 32 businesses that have received the grants are food-related ventures that are based in Metro Detroit and at least have a strong connection to Eastern Market. The money will help those businesses buy specific pieces of equipment that will help them grow their bottom lines.

"They need that one piece of equipment to speed up their production or to open a new sales opportunity," says Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp, the nonprofit that overseas the market and the surrounding historic district and helped disperse the grants.

Among the grant winners is Labrosse Farm in Detroit, which specializes in raising and selling heirloom tomato plants. Its grant will pay for a greenhouse that will assist with the production of the tomato plants. Trinosophes, a coffee shop and art space in Eastern Market, will use its grant to buy a double door commercial refrigerator. Mootown Ice Cream & Desert Shoppe in Eastern Market will use its grant for a mobile ice cream cart.

Carmody says these small improvements are part of a "wholistic approach" toward improving Eastern Market's overall entrepreneurial ecosystem. Charter One has operated its growing Communities program since 2012 and has awarded $360,000 in grants to small food-related businesses (mostly in Eastern Market) over that time.

Source: Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Core3 IT merges with Enlighten Technologies to form Detroit IT

Core3 IT is merging with Enlighten Technologies and forming a new company called Detroit IT.

Troy-based Core3 IT has specialized in providing hands-on work, such as a help desk. Enlighten Technologies, which was based in Birmingham, has carved out a niche for itself for IT consulting work. The two firms merged because their products complemented each other and enabled them to offer a more comprehensive package to their customers under the Detroit IT brand.

"Both teams bring a lot to the table," says Paul Chambers, CEO of Detroit IT.

Core3 Solutions also offered digital marketing and web development services. It is spinning out that side of the company into its own entity called Element5 Digital, which will employ nine people after the split.

Detroit IT will have a staff of eight people, including three from Enlighten. Chambers plans to continue expanding the range of  services and products the new company can offer.

"We're going to continue to grow our team and enhance our offerings," Chambers says. "It will really be unmatched not only in the Detroit area but in the Midwest."

Source: Paul Chambers, CEO of Detroit IT
Writer: Jon Zemke

Slows Bar BQ plans Grand Rapids location, creates dozens of jobs

Slows Bar BQ caught lightning in a bottle when it opened in Corktown nearly a decade ago. It reached profitability. It grew. It became a media darling, and its partners became the poster children of Detroit success in the 21st Century.

Lots of people want to import Slows magic to their corner of the world. The co-owners get inquiries from across the U.S. and around the world.

"I got one from a guy in Dubai," says Brian Perrone, executive chef & partner with Slows Bar BQ and its takeout location, Slows To Go. "It's been happening for a long time now."

And they turn them all down. That is until they saw a potential spot in western Michigan's most dynamic downtown and pulled the trigger on launching Slows Grand Rapids next spring. The Grand Rapids location will consist of a new, full-service, barbeque restaurant inside the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. It will feature a similar menu to the Detroit restaurant, including brisket, ribs, pulled pork, smoked turkey, and jambalaya, along with several dozen Michigan-based craft beers on tap.

"We weren't really looking for an opportunity out there," says Perrone. "This opportunity fell in our lap. We toured the building and were blown away by the space."

Slows opened in 2005 in Corktown. It opened its take-out facility in Midtown (Slows To Go) n 2010. It also has a satellite operation in Ford Field. Since then the companies under the Slows brand have grown to employ 163 people in Corktown and Midtown, hiring about 50 people over the last year alone. Slows' Detroit operations currently have five positions open, which can be found here. Perrone expects the Grand Rapids location to easily employ a couple dozen more people when it opens.

Perrone and his partners have purposely taken a slow approach toward expanding Slows over the years. The idea is that taking it slow helped preserve the magic it originally caught a decade ago.

"We didn't want to expand too quickly and lose anything," Perrone says. "We wanted to take our time with it."

Source: Brian Perrone, executive chef & partner with Slows Bar BQ, Slows To Go, and Slows Grand Rapids
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mom Biz Coach founder debuts DIY biz coaching book

About a decade ago, Lara Galloway was a stay-at-home mom aiming to become a work-at-home mom by starting her own business. The trained life coach found that she needed the help of a business coach and then came to the realization that starting a businesses is not something someone does on the side.

"There was no way I was going to work 60 hours a week to get it off the ground," Galloway says. "That's why I left corporate America."

Instead the Bloomfield Hills resident launched Mom Biz Coach, a consulting firm that helps other women blend work and family. She says she often helps women who are building businesses that have grown quickly.

"They are growing beyond themselves and they need teams," Galloway says.

And mentors. Galloway is a firm believer in the idea that mentorship makes everyone better. It's also why she is launching her own book this month, Moms Mean Business: A Guide to Creating a Successful Company and Happy Life as a Mom Entrepreneur. Galloway describes the tome as a DIY coaching tool.

"We know that everybody in businesses can benefit from a mentor or a coach," Galloway says. "But not everybody can afford to hire one."

Source: Lara Galloway, founder of Mom Biz Coach
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Detroitís foodjunky spreads across U.S.

Last year, foodjunky was a startup trying to gain traction for its 21st century food ordering platform. It had big ambitions and a small customer base, mainly in downtown Detroit. This year, that customer base is much wider.

"In January, we were in one state," says Travis O Johnson, co-founder of foodjunky. "Now we're in nine states. We’ve been growing pretty rapidly."

The 1-year-old company's platform helps large groups make orders from restaurants, simplifying the error-prone process of one person relaying lots of food orders to another over a phone line. Check out this video of how foodjunky works: 

Foodjunky currently has a few hundred restaurants in its network, mainly in the Midwest and Texas.

"We will be hitting 1,000 pretty soon," Johnson says.

Foodjunky, which graduated from Bizdom last fall, has hired two people over the last year, and is currently looking to hire a software developer. The startup employs a staff of six people.

Those number could grow quickly as foodjunky gets ready to close on a seed round. It originally aimed for $250,000 but became over-committed. Johnson hopes to close on a bigger round later this year. He also hopes to hit $1 million in revenue next year.

"We should have a majority of the U.S. states covered," Johnson says.

Source: Travis O Johnson, co-founder of foodjunky
Writer: Jon Zemke

BoostUp grows staff to 6 people in M@dison Building

Finding the money for the down payment on a car or a home is never as easy as it sounds. It's a challenge one Detroit-based startup is turning into a business.

BoostUp provides an online platform that helps users to save up enough money for the down payment on the house or car of their dreams. The platform lets the user tell their family and friends about their goal through social media and gives them an option for people to donate toward that cause in the form of birthday or holiday gifts.

"We have recently put the emphasis on cars and homes," says John Morgan, founder & president of BoostUp. "We are focused on the downpayment phase."

The 1-year-old company spun out of Synergy Marketing Partners and was originally named Motozuma. It scored an angel investment from Detroit Venture Partners, which prompted it to move from Chicago to the M@dison Building. It is working with a number of large corporations, such as Hyundai and Quicken Loans.

BoostUp currently has 40,000 users. They spend about 4-6 months saving for vehicles and 6-12 months saving for homes. Morgan hopes to scale those numbers significantly over the next year hitting six-figures of users.

"We think a goal-based interface is important for consumers," Morgan says.

BoostUp currently employs a staff of six full-time employees and another three part-timers. It has hired four people over the last 12 months, including positions in marketing, sales and customer support.

Source: John Morgan, founder & president of BoostUp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Customer Discovery Ninja platform helps gauge customer demand

Customer Discovery Ninja isn't Steven Sherman's first startup, but his first startup served as the inspiration for Customer Discovery Ninja.

The Ann Arborite spent a large part of last year trying to build up YouKnowWatt, a technology platform that brings real-time information to home energy audits with an eye for making more houses energy-efficient. That startup didn't pan out, but Sherman and his co-founder did stumble upon a market need when trying to determine their customer base.

They were doing customer research with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform when they realized the technology wasn’t doing everything they wanted. So they decided to make their own to facilitate more comprehensive interviews with potential customer.

"You're not pitching a solution," Sherman says. "You're trying to understand the core of their problem."

Customer Discovery Ninja is currently in private Beta with a handful of paying customers. The platform works to gauge customer demand for a new product. For now the new service is limiting its focus as it building up its platform.

"It's for general U.S. consumers," Sherman says. "You won't find an B2B on there."

Sherman and his partner would like to hire 100 paying customers (think businesses and entrepreneurs) paying $5 per interview by the end of this year.

Source: Steven Sherman, co-founder of Customer Discovery Ninja
Writer: Jon Zemke
2868 Articles | Page: | Show All
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