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Amplifinity settles into additional space at existing location

Increased sales, additional employees, and a larger office to match -- software company Amplifinity has grown into expanded space on the Ann Arbor’s north side.

Amplifinity recently doubled its office square footage from 6,500 to 13,500 at its location at 912 N. Main St., taking over the whole building after two other companies moved to new space, explained company president Eric Jacobson.

"Our head count has about doubled in the last year," he says, from 25 to 43 employees. "We're growing fast and selling a lot of software."

Amplifinity makes software for companies to manage brand advocacy marketing programs on social networks, and its popularity helped lead the company to its expansion. After employees became more and more packed into their previous space, Jacobson was able to work out an arrangement with landlord Peter Allen & Associates for the whole building, in no small part because he loves the location -- still within walking distance to downtown yet near the Huron River and its adjoining nature trails, and much more inspiring to creativity than a bland office park.

"Being able to walk out and walk away from your computer screen, sit by the river, watch the water flowing by -- it clears your head and allows you to solve problems in a completely different environment, rather than letters and numbers on a crystal display," he says.

Source: Eric Jacobson, president of Amplifinity
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Message Blocks eyes expansion into event software with new hires

If slow and steady wins the race it also can build the business. That's what the team behind Message Blocks is learning.

The Ann Arbor-based startup offers a comprehensive event-planning software platform that streamlines the event-planning process. The platform focuses on the event planner's experience, allowing users to share documents and presenters to use plug-in presentations. Message Blocks launched this platform in the fall of 2013 and has built it up ever since.

"We have kept every customer," says Len Gauger, founder & CEO of Message Blocks. "Our retention rate is quite high."

The 2-year-old startup has also attracted new clients. It landed the Michigan Realtors Association, which is using the platform for everything from events to media releases. Message Blocks also has pilot programs with new customers underway in Michigan, California, and Washington, D.C. This year the company is looking to take on bigger events, such as concerts.

"We are looking at out-of-the-box verticals that deal with large amounts of people," Gauger says. "It's about helping their team organize better."

Message Blocks currently employs a team of seven people and is looking for a few summer interns this year. It has hired three people over the last year and is looking to add another three right now.

Source: Len Gauger, founder & CEO of Message Blocks
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Materials joins Automation Alley’s 7Cs program

Steel startup Detroit Materials is looking to leverage one of the regions new up-and-coming business support programs to help it commercialize its high-performance steel.

The Wixom-based firm has joined Automation Alley's new 7Cs program, which helps fledgling businesses leverage advanced manufacturing.

"You try to build your business as much as you can, but it's difficult," says Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials.

The advanced materials startup spun out of Wayne State University a little more than a year ago. Its technology is commercializing ultra-high performance structural cast steels. Its steel is both lighter and stronger and has applications in a broad range of industries, including defense, infrastructure, and automotive.

"Our basic technology is developed," Guillen says. "It's being validated right now."

The two-person team is currently working to raise a $500,000 seed round this year. It is also working to get its first orders under its belt later this year, which it hopes the 7Cs program will help make possible.

Source: Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sales of Another Rinse’s recycled goods spread across U.S.

It didn't take much for Another Rinse's made-from-recycled-materials products to carve out their own little niche. The thing is, the Ann Arbor-based company’s never stopped carving.

The one-year-old company gives new life to old things by turning them into a refinished product with a new purpose. For instance, it turns old wooden golf clubs into bottle openers. And its sales have been growing exponentially since its launch. They can now be found in 37 states and three countries.

"Michigan is our top sales state followed by New York," says Michael Sydlowski, owner of Another Rinse. "We have been streamlining our sales online sales process."

Sydlowski worked in sales and marketing before launching Another Rinse out of his basement. At the time he wanted to find a new use for old golf clubs collecting dust there. He turned them into bottle openers and coat hooks. He added old wooden tennis rackets and baseball bats into the mix, along with turning old golf balls into corkscrews. Now he is looking to add reclaimed wood products to his lineup.

Another Rinse's products have recently shown up in consignment shops in Wisconsin and Indiana. The company’s products mostly end up being sold online. Sydlowski estimates 90 percent are either bought or gifted to men.

"I never thought the split would be that way," Sydlowski says.

Another Rinse is run by a core team of three people.

Source: Michael Sydlowski, owner of Another Rinse
Writer: Jon Zemke

Styleshack evolves into e-commerce/online content play

Styleshack got its start with the idea of helping local shops expand their business by helping them build out their online presence. The downtown Detroit-based startup has grown beyond that in its first year.

Styleshack started providing online content last year, primarily focused on telling stories about the fashion industry. It resonated with Styleshack's clientele.

"They really enjoyed and connected with the content, so we're an e-commerce, online content play," says Rachel Schostak, founder of Styleshack.

Schostak graduated from the Bizdom accelerator last year with the idea of building out e-commerce platforms for boutique stores and improving their online presence. Schostak learned that writing about fashion also enabled her company to help cross-promote the products in the stores of her company’s clients.

"It all has to connect with style," Schostak says. "For example, I just covered Fashion Week in New York."

Styleshack currently has 120 clients and its list of clientele is growing. Those companies are in metro Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Las Vegas. Schostak is looking to continue growing that list and expand into other parts of fashion and retail, such as menswear.

Source: Rachel Schostak, founder of Styleshack
Writer: Jon Zemke

WaitTime technology tracks fan movement in big venues


At major sporting events, every fan tries to calculate the best time to go to the concession stand -- the time when there are no lines and the stand is well-stocked. WaitTime wants to help fans eliminate the guesswork.

The downtown Detroit-based startup is working on advanced imaging technology for large entertainment venues. The idea is to let the house better track when and where its fans go during the game and how to better serve them.

"We are nearing the end of development," says Zachary Klima, founder & CEO of WaitTime. "We expect to finalize it within the next two weeks."

The Bizdom-graduate company launched a year ago with the idea of creating a software plug-in that allows a business to broadcast its wait times for service in real-time to their website, mobile app, or digital signage. It could be used at eateries, retail stores, professional service business, or any place that might have a line.

Klima and his partners ran into a few other people working in the space and decided to pivot last spring. The team of a dozen people is now targeting the sporting industry with its new technology platform. It is currently running as a pilot program at four Midwestern stadiums/arenas. The company plans to expand that list to 20 by the end of the year.

"We saw the sports industry as where the big money is in this space is," Klima says.

Source: Zachary Klima, founder & CEO of WaitTime
Writer: Jon Zemke

Inforum's inGAGE program aims to help women-led firms

The Inforum Center for Leadership is looking for a few good women, specifically women entrepreneurs.

The downtown Detroit-based organization works to support women in business. Its inGAGE strategy focuses on supporting women-led, high-growth companies.

"This is really to support women in disruptive companies in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) industries," says Rachele Downs, vice president of entrepreneurial strategy at the Inforum Center for Leadership.

The inGAGE program is in its third year. It’s first two cohorts had 33 graduates. Those women helped launch or grow 16 companies which created 43 new jobs. Those companies have raised $10 million in seed capital. And all of it adds up to a more experienced network of female entrepreneurs in Michigan.

The new inGAGE program will feature a "Growth" section that teaches women the basics of what it takes to launch a new business venture and a "Master Class" that focuses on emerging second stage entrepreneurs. The "Role Model and Investor Series" creates a supportive community of women entrepreneurs through angel investors.

"The more representatives we have in the investor class the more investment we will have in women-owned companies," Downs says.

Applications for inGAGE classes will be accepted until Feb 28. For information, click here. The Inforum Center for Leadership currently employs a team of 10 people. It is looking to hire a program manager.

Source: Rachele Downs, vice president of entrepreneurial strategy at the Inforum Center for Leadership
Writer: Jon Zemke

Stout Systems takes aim at record growth year in Ann Arbor

Stout Systems has been riding a nice wave of success since the Great Recession hit, and it looks like the ride has yet to crest for the tech firm.

"If it keeps going this way for us it will be a record year for us," says John W. Stout, founder & president of Stout Systems. "It was already a record January for us."

The Ann Arbor-based company providing staffing and consulting services in the software and IT sectors. It's fourth quarter last year produced the best sales ever for the 22-year-old firm. That allowed it to add to its staff, including four hires in January and another one coming onboard this month. The firm currently employs 35 people, including a dozen that work at client sites.

"The area we have grown the most is our consulting business," Stout says. "It has really taken off in the last few years."

Stout Systems also recently won the Corp! Magazine's 2015 DiSciTech Award in the Science and Technology category for its innovative and cost effective project management system. The DiSciTech awards are presented to Michigan companies and educational organizations that are leading the way in science, technology and digital initiatives through innovation, research and applied science.

Source: John W. Stout, founder & president of Stout Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

Media production firm Three Lyons Creative launches out of Hamtramck

Tony Eggert worked a corporate job in the automotive sector until he couldn't take it anymore. Now he is pursuing his passion and launching his own business, Three Lyons Creative.

Eggert launched the media-production company with his brother, Daniel Eggert, and his cousin, Mike Williams. The one-year-old company supports Detroit brands and businesses by creating video, web, audio, and graphic artwork.

"It came together because the three of us could combine and create a project that is greater than the sum of its parts," Tony Eggert says.

The Hamtramck-based company has done work for a number of local clients. During that time it has grown its team to six people. Three Lyons Creative created the campaign video for state Rep Rashida Tlaib's state Senate campaign last year. It also put together a short film called "Thick Air" that will premier next month at the Tangent Art Gallery.

"It's something that is representative of the work we want to do in the future," Tony Eggert says.

Source: Tony Eggert, co-founder of Three Lyons Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

An Auburn Hills-based company may have revolutionized the wheelchair

Clinton River Medical Products, an Auburn Hills-based company, may have revolutionized the wheelchair.

The company's new model, Tailwind, combines both the freedom of manual operation and power to make using a wheelchair easier. It also includes a sleek, lightweight design with an intuitive software that helps provide a little extra push when users want it deployed. Check out a video of how the product works here.

"It's a hybrid between a manual and a powered wheelchair," says Craig Doescher, general manager of Clinton River Medical Products. "It provides you with a boost when you place your hands on the grips."

Clinton River Medical Products finished development of this wheelchair in 2013 and has spent the last year introducing it to the marketplace. Doescher expects significant sales in 2015 because his company is launching a full-on marketing campaign to support the Tailwind.

"We're hitting the point where we have been in the market long enough for broad recognition to develop," Doescher says.

Clinton River Medical Products has a staff of 11 employees and one intern after hiring five (mainly sales and engineering professionals) over the last year.

Source: Craig Doescher, general manager of Clinton River Medical Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

Twenty-year-old tech firm DASI Solutions grows staff, revenue in downtown Pontiac

DASI Solutions has grown significantly over the last year by expanding its work from within. The 20-year-old tech firm grew its revenue by nearly 10 percent last year. All of that new work has come from familiar sources.

"Our growth has come from our existing base," says David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions. "They are buying more from us as the economy rebounds. It’s a good indicator we're doing something right."

DASI Solutions specializes in engineering and tech work, helping companies implement of CAD, CAE, and PDM collaborative technologies for product development. It bought and renovated its current headquarters in downtown Pontiac a little more than a year ago.

The firm currently employs a staff of 43 after hiring five people, including customer support and community outreach professionals. It is also looking to hire another four people in web design, marketing, engineering, and sales.

Darbyshire expects the company’s current trajectory to continue this year in much the same way it did in 2014. "I expect to grow even more," Darbyshire says.

Source: David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Draper Triangle’s Ann Arbor office spreads the seed capital

Draper Triangle Ventures opened its Michigan office in Ann Arbor a year ago, and the venture capital firm is off to a fast start.

The Pittsburgh-based firm has made investments in two Ann Arbor-based startups over the last year. The first was in Amplifinity, which makes referral software, in early 2014. Draper Triangle Ventures also recently sunk money into Pixel Velocity, a image processing and data analytics startup.

"A person can make and manage two investments per year," says Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures’ Ann Arbor office. "I'll make two investments this year, and Pixel Velocity is one of them."

Draper Triangle Ventures has more than $200 million under management across three funds. Its latest investment fund was set to raise more than $100 million. The venture capital firm invests in early stage tech ventures, such as software and IT startups.

Murray is Draper Triangle Ventures’ lone representative in Michigan. The firm has its main office in Ann Arbor and another satellite location in downtown Detroit. Murray expects to make one more investment in a local startup this year but that number could grow.

"I have a long list (of potential startups to invest in)," Murray says. "There are a lot of very good prospects on it. It could change from two investments to three investments if the right opportunity comes along."

Source: Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures’ Ann Arbor office
Writer: Jon Zemke

According to science Jolly Pumpkin is 6th best beer in Michigan

Dexter's Jolly Pumpkin Brewery ranks six out of the twelve best beers in the Mitten. Or so says Thrillist online magazine. And, frankly, we take serious issue with that assessment. Don't get us wrong, there are many fine Michigan brews on their "scientific" list. But sixth? Puh-lease. Jolly Pumpkin easily ranks in the top three. So say we all!

Excerpt:

"Jolly Pumpkin is all about those rustic, country style, sour beers, and if the whole sour thing seems off-putting to you, don’t worry about it. Most folks who think they don’t like sour beer wind up liking Jolly Pumpkin’s sour beer, so much so that their facilities last year maxed out at around 4-5,000 barrels. And although this is a beer list, you should also eat their food. Trust us."

Read the rest o' the list here.
 

Rocket Fiber, a super-fast fiber Internet service, coming to downtown Detroit

If you're just learning about Dan Gilbert's proposal to outfit the greater downtown area with hyper-fast fiber optic Internet service, you're probably connecting to the Internet with a dial-up modem. (For you youngsters who have no idea what "dial-up" means, read this.)
 
According to Crain's Detroit Business, Gilbert's spokespeople have confirmed their plans to launch Rocket Fiber, an "advanced fiber-optic Internet network that will serve residents, local government and businesses in and around downtown Detroit," providing them with connection speeds that are over 100 times faster than what is currently available.
 
According to Crain's, Rocket Fiber's network "originates west of downtown Detroit, and the initial scope covers the central business district from M-10 to the west, I-75 to the north, I-375 to the east and the Detroit River to the south." Eventually the network will be expanded to other areas of the city. More details on roll out of the service to come.
 
Read more in Crain's Detroit Business

NerdWallet says Ann Arbor is an innovative tech hub

Looks like news of Ann Arbor's tech scene is spreading. While we didn't break the top 10, NerdWallet lists us at a respectable 12th for innovation.

Excerpt:

Silicon Valley is by far the leader. With a high number of patents per capita and venture capital funding figures that no other place comes close to, the metro area that includes the cities of San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara leads all in tech innovation.

The West dominates. Only two East Coast places made our top 10 list — Burlington, Vermont, and Boston, Massachusetts.

Universities are key. Every area in our top 10 is located near a major university, suggesting that higher education and innovation are closely linked.

Read the rest here.
 
3252 Articles | Page: | Show All
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