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LTU selected as USA national organizer for World Robot Olympiad

LTU is taking a principal role in the World Robot Olympiad Association, which runs a global LEGO robotics competition that draws participants from around the world. LTU will also be hosting the USA competition finals next September.


"The Olympiad started in Singapore in 2004. This year over 17,000 teams are participating. Each country has its own competition, and the winning teams from each country are invited to attend the World Robot Olympiad to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals.

This year's finals competition is scheduled to be held in the Olympic city at Sochi in Russia  Nov. 21-23. The event will be organized by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Industry, and the Ministry of Communication of the Russian Federation. Participants from over 36 countries – including the United States for the first time – will be offered accommodations in the Olympic Village hotels and apartments."

More here.

India-based scooter maker comes to Ann Arbor

Why did a Mumbia-based scooter company lay down roots in metro Detroit? It's that word economic development folks like to endlessly toss around: "ecosystem." As in, Michigan has the right one for their product.


"The Mahindra Group — based in Mumbai, India — inaugurated its North American Technical Center in Troy on Friday. The center will develop fully engineered vehicles for Mahindra Global Automotive and will employ more than 100 engineers.

A separate manufacturing facility, Mahindra GenZe, will be located in Ann Arbor."

Read the rest here.
Here's what SPARK had to say about the company.

Automation Alley awards FIRST robotics scholarship

With the aid of scholarships, high school and college students are gearing up for careers in robotics, an A+ industry in Michigan.


"Automation Alley, Michigan's largest technology business association, has selected Brett Opel, a senior from Clarkston High School, as its FIRST robotics scholarship recipient for 2014. The scholarship, supported by the Automation Alley Fund, was created to recognize high school seniors involved in FIRST robotics that are interested in pursuing a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) course of study at a Michigan college or university."

More here.

1xRUN expands staff with 9 new hires to keep up with growth

Some might have questioned the reasoning behind 1xRUN's move from downtown Royal Oak to Eastern Market a year and a half ago. The team at the online artwork startup can't hear those critics anymore over all the hiring it has been doing over the last year.

The 4-year-old firm, which was founded by the team behind the Inner State Gallery, has expanded its staff to 15 employees thanks to nine hires over the last year. The startup has also expanded its service offerings, moving into digital printing and book publishing -- all from its new home at 1410 Gratiot Ave.

"Moving downtown has been such a great experience for us," says Jesse Cory, CEO of 1xRUN. "There is just tremendous support for local businesses and the arts."

1xRUN sells limited-edition prints and other pieces by contemporary artists online. The idea is to create scarcity for cutting edge artwork while also making it easily accessible and affordable. 1xRUN recently wrapped up a show in Honolulu with Pow Wow Hawaii, a large mural festival. It is also looking at doing similar events in Taiwan and Israel later this year.

"We're definitely busy," Cory says. "We have a lot of cool projects going on."

1xRUN also is expanding into publishing and is working on books of artists that have inspired the company’s team. It is currently working on six titles and is set to release its first book in L.A. this weekend. 1xRUN made the jump into the printing world, too, adding that service at its headquarters in Eastern Market.

"We're doing all digital printing in-house," Cory says. "We hope to open that up as a retail operation later this year."

Source: Jesse Cory, CEO of 1xRUN
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
2657 Articles | Page: | Show All
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