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Arborlight scores $1.7M in seed capital for LED tech

Arborlight is looking to increase the firepower of its business this year, and the Ann Arbor-based startup has a lot of dry powder to commit to that effort. The LED light company just raised $1.7 million seed round led by the Michigan Angel Fund. That cash will go toward commercializing its LightWell and further its sales reach across the U.S.

"We have a lot of market pull right now," says Michael Forbis, CEO of Arborlight. "People are calling us from all over the country."

The University of Michigan spinout is developing a sun-light-like LED light for both residential and commercial buildings. Its "daylight emulation system" utilized an energy-efficient LED light that can imitate sunlight down to the color, temperature, and other subtle details. It even has the ability to mimic the sunlight exposure outside by tapping into the local weather forecast. Check out a video on it here.

The 5-year-old company currently employs five people and the occasional intern. It has hired two people over the last year and it is looking to hire two more in production positions right now. Arborlight also plans to pass the $1 million revenue milestone this year, and go well beyond it in in the near future.

"We think we can hit $4 million in a couple of years from now," Forbis says.

Source: Michael Forbis, CEO of Arborlight
Writer: Jon Zemke

Epsilon Imaging grows, looks to raise $5M in investment this summer

Epsilon Imaging is bringing in a lot of money these days - both revenues and seed capital. The Ann Arbor-based startup makes a software upgrade to cardiac ultrasound. It raised a $4.25 million in a Series B last year and is in the midst of raising another round of seed capital. The target for that raise: $5 million. The goal to get it done: this summer.

"The market window has opened for us," says Eric Sieczka, CEO of Epsilon Imaging.

The 7-year-old company develops and markets EchoInsight, a solution that improves the diagnostic accuracy of existing echo cardiograms by providing quantitative analytics and standardization of interpretation.

"Our product is applicable to the whole heart," Sieczka says.

The American Society of Echocardiography recently issued updated guidelines and recommendations for the use of quantification and strain imaging for echo cardiography, and the American Medical Association has approved a new current procedural terminology code for strain imaging. Sieczka believes these events will opens a market window for the rapid adoption of EchoInsight. It's currently used by a number of major institutions and hospitals around the world.

"We have a pretty good foothold in the U.S.," Sieczka says.

Epsilon Imagining currently has a staff of nine employees and an intern. It has hired a CFO over the last year and is looking to add another person (a software developer) right now.

Source: Eric Sieczka, CEO of Epsilon Imaging
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sakti3 leverages $20M Series C, including $15M from Dyson

Sakti3 has closed on a eight-figure Series C round of seed capital to help develop and commercialize its lithium ion battery technology.

The Ann Arbor-based startup closed on a $20 million Series C earlier this month. That investment includes a $15 million investment from Dyson, the vacuum cleaner company. Sakti3 now has a broad range of investors including General Motors and Khosla Ventures.

"We think this is a huge development for Sakti3," says Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3. "The Dyson partnership is critically important for our growth and first entry into the market."

Sakti3 spun out of the University of Michigan seven years ago looking to help lithium ion battery technology take a big step forward. Sakti3's technology claims to offer double the energy density of today’s commercial cells at half the price. It has been targeted for the automotive industry but Dyson sees potential in it for its handheld vacuum cleaners.

Sastry says her startup employs less than two dozen people and is hiring. She declined to say how many jobs it has open or how many people it has hired over the last year.

Source: Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3
Writer: Jon Zemke

Thomson-Shore smooths out acquisition to grow

Acquisitions are normally heralded as happy things, win-win experiences for everyone involved. Thomson-Shore learned over the last year that is not always the case.

The Dexter-based book publisher acquired PublishNext and its subsidiary the Seattle Book Company last year in an effort to broaden its publishing platform. The idea seemed great on paper.

In reality it turned out to be rocky at first with old management from the company not fitting well with the new ownership. After a few months Thomson-Shore replaced that leadership and promoted one of the employees from within to manage it.

"Since then it has done quite well," says Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore. "It's growing very fast."

The 43-year-old company also rebranded PublishNext and the Seattle Book Company as Thomson-Shore Publishing Services and Thomson-Shore Distribution Services.

"It's an easier message," Spall says. "There was some confusion when customers would call."

Straightening all that out helped the company grow over the last year. It has hired six people, expanding its staff to 160 employees and the occasional intern. It’s also looking to hire another three people, primarily in manufacturing right now.

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

CAM Logic caps off banner year with more hires

Last year, CAM Logic, a product lifecycle management sales company, grew organically and through acquisition, but its leadership has a different way of describing that success.

"It was a banner year," says Angelo Biondo, GM & vice president of CAM Logic.

The Oxford-based company specializes in selling product lifecycle management solutions like 3-D scanning and rapid prototyping technologies used to design, build, and improve products. It experienced 38 percent revenue growth last year selling those products and support services.

Part of that growth came through acquisition. CAM Logic bought the Midwest book of business from a competitor (Acuity) last year. That acquisition aside, CAM Logic still experienced 22 percent revenue growth, which is par for the course for the company these days. It has also hired four people, expanding its staff to 20 employees.

"We have seen steady growth," Biondo says.

Leading that growth is CAM Logic’s team expanding its workload with its current customers, or "increasing walletshare" as Biondo says. A lot of that expanded business has come from increased sales in printing and scanning equipment.

"That business has really ramped up in the last year," Biondo says.

Source: Angelo Biondo, GM & vice president of CAM Logic
Writer: Jon Zemke

DroneView Technologies lands seed capital for commercial drone tech

DroneView Technologies has landed an undisclosed amount of seed capital from a big name, R.L. Polk & Co chairman Stephen Polk.

The Bloomfield Hills-based company is developing technology for drone aerial imaging solutions and drone operator training.

"It's an opportunity where we would rather make our own platform," says Michael Singer, CEO of DroneView Technologies. "It's an industry that's really at an inflection point. It was developed by the military and is being adapted to commercial uses."

The 1-year-old company currently employs two employees and 6-12 independent contractors. It is headquartered in Bloomfield Hills but also has an office in New York. The seven-figure seed capital raise will help the company further develop its technology and add to its team.

DroneView Technologies is looking to apply its technology to a broad variety of industries, such as real-estate construction and industrial inspection. Any place where data needs to be collected in hard-to-reach places.

"We want to become a nationally recognized brand in drone space," Singer says.

Source: Michael Singer, CEO of DroneView Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Plymouth-based Algal Scientific scores $7M in Series B

Algal Scientific recently secured a Series B round of investment worth $7 million. The Plymouth-based biotech startup plans to use the money to commercialize algae-based chemicals that help wean livestock farmers from over using antibiotics on their animals.

"The $7 million is a great thing," says Geoff Horst, CEO of Algal Scientific. "We're seeing a lot of interest from the agricultural industry."

The 6-year-old startup launched by developing a wastewater treatment system that uses algae to remove nutrients from contaminated water. The leftovers would become the raw materials for biofuel production. It won the grand prize of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition a few years ago and has since raised a combined $10 million in seed capital, including the most recent Series B.

The latest investment was led by Formation 8, with additional participation from Evonik Industries and Independence Equity. Algal Scientific has also received extensive help from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

"Without them we certainly wouldn't be where we are right now," Horst says.

Algal Scientific is now focused on developing agriculture solutions, such as the massive overuse of antibiotics in food supply. Its principal product, Algamune, is the world’s first beta glucan commercially produced from algae, which can be introduced into the diets of livestock and poultry to naturally support the animals' immune systems without relying on antibiotics.

"We have been really ramping up production of the algae," Horst says.

The company has hired five people over the last year. It now employs a staff of 14 employees and the occasional intern.

Source: Geoff Horst, CEO of Algal Scientific
Writer: Jon Zemke

Waltonen Engineering aims to fill 30 positions for engineers, designers

Waltonen Engineering is looking for engineers, designers, project leaders, and others as it hustles to keep up with the demands of customers. The Warren-based firm is looking to fill 30 positions in all. You can check out the openings here.

"Our customer base has been extremely busy," says Lloyd Brown, CEO of Waltonen Engineering. "We want to make sure we are in a position to support our longstanding clients. The one thing we hate to do in business is turn down business."

To make sure that doesn't happen, the 58-year-old firm is looking to fill positions working on products in the manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, and military sectors.

"It's busy in all sectors right now," Brown says. "The demand is there."

Waltonen Engineering has worked to diversify its client base in recent years, allowing it to consistently notch double-digit increases in revenue. The firm hired 20 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 125 employees and about a dozen interns.

Source: Lloyd Brown, CEO of Waltonen Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

BUILD partners with Etsy to offer craft entrepreneurship classes in Detroit

Etsy is coming to Detroit thanks to a partnership with a local nonprofit.

BUILD Institute, which teaches the basic building blocks of business to Detroit entrepreneurs, will offer Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship Program in Detroit this spring, providing micro-business training for underemployed, low-income adults with creative skills.

Etsy is an online marketplace for crafts and homemade goods. Its Craft Entrepreneurship Program will not only help people harness their creative skills to earn extra income, but will teach them how best to market and sell their goods and connect with local entrepreneurial resources. The five-week course costs $75 for BUILD graduates and $100 per person for the general public.

"We're assessing the program as we go through it," says April Boyle, executive director of BUILD Institute. "If this pilot goes well, we will run it again."

The BUILD Institute got its start in 2012 as a program of D:hive, a multi-faceted welcome center that connected Detroiters and visitors with various opportunities in the city. BUILD specializes in helping aspiring entrepreneurs learn the basics of starting their own businesses and has grown into an independent organization since it spun off of D:Hive earlier this year. It has graduated 460 people since its inception. It graduated 160 people last year and is currently running six classes of about 60 people. Most of them are from Detroit, but some come from suburbs as close as Ferndale or as far away as Ann Arbor.

"There is a waiting list," Boyle says. "We can't keep up with demand."

Source: April Boyle, executive director of BUILD Institute
Writer: Jon Zemke

Singlethreadís software connects dealership mechanics with customers

Mechanics specialize in fixing cars. Motorists excel at breaking them. More times than not, neither party is good at communication. Singlethread believes it can bridge that divide.

The 1-year-old startup makes a software platform that helps mechanics at car dealerships and their customers better communicate via text messages. That way mechanics can send status updates to customers and car owners can quickly give approval to fixes.

"One of the biggest problems in automotive dealerships is poor communication between the mechanics and their customers while the car is being fixed," says Will Mapes, founder of Singlethread. "They end up being ships that pass in the night."

Singlethread's team of five people developed the technology with Atomic Object's downtown Detroit office, splitting time between the central business district and Royal Oak. They launched the platform six months ago and now has deployed it in 10 automotive dealerships in Michigan, Florida, and Texas. Singlethread is now looking to expand to more dealerships across North America.

"We will be growing as fast as possible," Mapes says. "Our mandate is to just meet demand right now."

Source: Will Mapes, founder of Singlethread
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit startup Slope makes cut for prestigious Microsoft Venture Accelerator

Slope, a startup creating a video production platform for everyday people, made the cut for the newest class in the Microsoft Venture Accelerator program. The 1-year-old company is one of 14 startups from across North America to earn an invitation to the accelerator (more than 500 applied) and the only Detroit-based startup.

This is the second class for the Microsoft Venture Accelerator. The residency begins this week and takes place over four months in Seattle. Each startup receives $25,000 in seed capital without giving up any equity. Check out a Fast Company story about the newest class for the Microsoft Venture Accelerator here.

Most importantly for the Slope team, it receives a front-row seat on how to build and launch an enterprise-level software platform from the corporation best known for it.

"It was really a no-brainer for us to go for this accelerator," says Brian Bosche, co-founder & CEO of Slope.

Slope, formerly TernPro, is creating a video-creation platform so simple and accessible that everyday people can produce online videos and track the public's interaction with them. The platform also allows the user to store their photos, graphics, and videos so they are available to create more online content. The startup's platform is currently in private Beta.

"We hope to have a public launch at the end of the accelerator," Bosche says.

Bosche co-founded Slope with Dan Bloom shortly after the pair completed their fellowship with Venture For America, a program similar to Teach For America that pairs talented young people with startups in economically challenged cities. The two recent college grads were part of the first class of VFA fellows in Detroit in 2012.

Bosche worked at the Bizdom accelerator in downtown Detroit, helping startups in the incubator tell their stories through short videos. That work served as the inspiration for the Slope, which has grown its staff to seven people. Bosche (who lives in the tax foreclosure house in Virginia Park that VFA fellows are renovating) and Bloom plan to return to Detroit after the accelerator program is finished and continue building out Slope in the Motor City.

Source: Brian Bosche, co-founder & CEO of Slope.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Court Innovations aims to streamline court experience

Ever been stuck in a courthouse wading through the mundane and time-consuming process of challenging a traffic ticket? Court Innovations thinks it has an answer for that soul-crushing experience.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup has created a software platform that enables litigants to navigate the local court system online for things like civil infractions. The idea is to eliminate the need to stand in line at a court house when an issue can be resolved with the click of a mouse pad?

"We are moving from weeks and months (of time spent on small legal matters) to days," says MJ Cartwright, CEO of Court Innovations.

The fledgling startup spun out of the University of Michigan Law School a little more than a year ago with the help of $3 million in seed capital from the university's Third Century Initiative. It has since launched in three district courts in Ypsilanti, Highland Park and Bay City where it has been used by hundreds of litigants. Bay City started off using it for traffic court and civil infractions, but has since moved it to more areas.

"That's where they has the highest volumes of traffic," Cartwright says. "In Bay City we were able to expand it to the warrants, like failure to pay or show for a warrant."

The Court Innovations team (seven employees and five interns) is aiming to expand that even further to include people who are pleading down from low misdemeanors to civil infractions. It is also working to establish itself in more courtrooms across Michigan and the Midwest, a task Cartwright plans to begin fundraising for later this year.

"We'd like to be in a dozen courts in Michigan and hopefully one outside of Michigan," Cartwright says.

Source: MJ Cartwright, CEO of Court Innovations
Writer: Jon Zemke

IncWell invests in automotive cyber security startup TowerSec

Cyber-security startup TowerSec has landed an investment from venture capital firm IncWell, helping bring its technology to the automotive industry.

"It's something we see scaling very quickly," Sophia Kahn, project manager for IncWell.

The Ann Arbor-based startup specializes in beefing up cyber security for automobiles. The idea is that as cars are becoming bigger targets for hackers now with the advent of infotainment and driverless automotive technologies. So not only could hackers steal a motorist’s identity while driving but even take control of the car.

"It's a growing concern with cars becoming more connected," Kahn says.

IncWell is a Birmingham-based venture capital firm that invests in technology startups. Some of its other investments include CureLauncher (a Bloomfield Hills-based startup that refers to itself as the Wikipedia of clinical trials) and iRule, a downtown Detroit-based home entertainment startup.

IncWell's investment in TowerSec was part of seed round for the startup. Kahn declined to say who led the seed round, who else participated in it, the total amount raised in the round, or the size of IncWell's investment.

Kahn also declined to detail much about TowerSec’s platform besides that it is designed as a business-to-business play aimed at commercial and fleet vehicles. She adds that TowerSec's platform is "integration ready" in its development but wouldn't explain further what that specifically meant.

Source: Sophia Kahn, project manager for IncWell
Writer: Jon Zemke

TLS Productions grows beyond core auto show biz

TLS Productions has been around 60 years, spending most of that time making a name for itself as the go-to firm for auto show lighting. Today it's working to be more than just that.

"We want to continue to serve the auto industry but we want to do more corporate events," says Carl Kedzierski, marketing manager for TLS Productions. "We recently did a gig with ESPN."

The Ann Arbor-based firm provides sales, rental, and production for the stage part of special events. It does this for all of the major auto shows, such as the North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit, and smaller events, such as theater productions.

An ownership change two years ago moved TLS Production's focus from auto show all the time to an effort to diversifying its clientele. The lion’s share of the company’s revenue still comes from auto shows, but its non-auto-show work has grown significantly over the last two years. It’s a trend the company hopes to expand over the next year.

"If lighting and audio can be applied to the event then we’re going for it," Kedzierski says.

TLS Production's employs a core staff of 17 employees and the occasional intern. It also has a stable of 30-45 freelancers it consistently leans on during its busy times. It is currently looking to hire 10 account executives across the U.S., including one in each the Ann Arbor-area and Metro Detroit markets.

Source: Carl Kedzierski, marketing manager for TLS Productions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Trilogy Health Ventures expands into Oakland County

Trilogy Health Ventures continues to expand in Michigan's home healthcare market, but this time the growth is taking place a little closer to home.

The Ann Arbor-based firm owns a handful of franchises for the Right at Home In-Home Healthcare & Assistance brand, which provides home healthcare services for the elderly and injured people who need help but want to stay in their homes. It recently bought the franchise that covers western Oakland County.

"It's a huge opportunity with the aging demographic there," says Barry Paxton, president of Trilogy Health Ventures. "That is an affluent area where people would like to stay home for their finals years."

Trilogy Health Ventures has three other franchises across Michigan, including on in Mid Michigan (Bay City, Mt. Pleasant and Flint), the Ann Arbor-Jackson area, and the greater Grand Rapids region. The businesses have taken off over the last two years. It has quadrupled its revenue over the last year alone.

Trilogy Venture now employs 145 people, including 80 hires over the last year. Some of those hires are due to normal turnover in the workforce and a majority of the jobs created as for nurses and caregivers. Paxton expects his staff to hit 250 people by next year.

Source: Barry Paxton, president of Trilogy Health Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke
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