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Ocunelis invents better way to apply eye drops

David Lorch and Marius Tijunelis were working through an entrepreneurial apprenticeship out of the Medical Innovation Center at the University of Michigan's Kellogg Eye Center, and they knew they wanted to start a business. They just didn’t know what kind.

The pair made a list of potential business that would fill unmet needs and began eliminating the weakest, one by one. At the end of the day they came up with Ocunelis and its eye-drop assist technology called DROPin.

"It's designed to help people aim their eye drops safely and accurately," Lorch says. "It helps you line up the bottle tip with your eyes so it gets the drop in the right part of your eye."

Lorch and Tijunelis launched Ocunelis last July and filed for a patent on their innovation shortly after. The two-person team is now working to ramp up sales starting in their own backyard.

"It can be bought at a few pharmacies in Ann Arbor and on Amazon," Lorch says. "We would like to see it out there helping as many people as we can reach."

Source: David Lorch, CTO of Ocunelis
Writer: Jon Zemke

WorkForce Software takes big drink from Ann Arbor talent pool

Two years ago, WorkForce Software opened up a satellite office in downtown Ann Arbor with an idea of using it as a talent magnet.

Today it employs 17 people and is moving to a bigger office in the center of Tree Town. It has hired nine people, all software development jobs, over the last year for its Ann Arbor office.

"We've done a very good job of finding talent," says Ken Olson, vice president of product development for WorkForce Software.

WorkForce Software makes management software for large-scale employers. The Livonia-based company added the Ann Arbor office because of the city’s depth of existing talent and the production of new talent that comes from the University of Michigan. The urban atmosphere also opened up the company to a new world of talent it needed to tap.

"It's really important to have an office that is walkable and accessible by buses and bikes," Olson says. "As soon as we opened the downtown Ann Arbor office we got a flood of interest."

WorkForce Software is taking the seventh floor of the Key Bank building at the corner of Main and Huron streets. The 3,400 square feet is roughly double the size of its original downtown Ann Arbor office.

"The view is nice," Olson says. "We have the entire top floor."

Source: Ken Olson, vice president of product development for Workforce Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

Blackstone LaunchPad grows Make It Better competition

The Make It Better business competition enjoyed its broadest participation yet, attracting high school students from across the state.

The Walsh College Blackstone LaunchPad event encourages students to redesign an existing product or service or develop a new one. This year it doubled the number of participants, attracting students from Frankenmuth High School, Troy High School and Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores.

"We needed to get the work out to the high schools, and the right people at the high schools, before they developed their curriculum for the year," says Carol Glynn, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College.

This is the third Make it Better competition, which is held on an annual basis. Winners received as much as $500 for their ideas to help improve the quality of people’s lives or make their community a better place to live.

Among the winners were a Frankenmuth High School student who took first place for her idea of a Furry Friend Finder that tracks pets and reports on their location and physical condition. Second place went to a Troy High School student for a mobile application programmed to find recipes based on existing home food supplies.

"They're already asking us if we are doing this again next year," Glynn says. She adds, "I am hoping to get the funding next year so we can do it."

Source: Carol Glynn, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rave Computer pushes STEM education with RAVE CAVE

Rave Computer is making a push into local education with the establishment of the Center for Automated Virtual Environments, commonly known as RAVE CAVE.

Rave Computer, the anchor tenant of the Macomb-OU INCubator, works in modeling, simulation and visualization software. The 26-year-old firm has made three replacement hires over the last year and is looking to add another three people to its staff of 35 employees. It launched RAVE CAVE last year, taking a 3-D immersion cave out of storage at TARDEC and repurposing it as an educational tool to get more local students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

"I really enjoy STEM and being involved in the community," says Rick Darter, founder & CEO of Rave Computer. "I thought this is a great way to give back."

RAVE CAVE is a Reconfigurable, Automated, Virtual Environment, powered by a five-system cluster that was configured, built and installed by Rave Computer engineers. The system enables the users to experience visualization software and how it is used in the creation and design of new products.

"There are a lot of teaching tools that you can use to demonstrate why math is important. Why (information technology) is important," says Art Adlam, president of RAVE CAVE.

RAVE CAVE has hosted close to 500 local students, ranging from grade school to college students, with the bulk of the number coming from local high schools. The non-profit gives tours of the technology and also hosts workshops. It hopes to ramp up its usage over the next year, adding things like college courses and summer camps.

"We'd like to (host) as many (students) as possible," Adlam says.

Source: Rick Darter, founder & CEO of Rave Computer, and Art Adlam, president of RAVE CAVE
Writer: Jon Zemke

Saphran Solutions launches CapacityBase software platform

Data is everywhere. Often it's in random places, jumbled together in a slop of 1s and 0s that doesn't make much sense to the casual observer. Saphran Solutions is creating software that puts all of that data into proper perspective.

The Franklin-based business creates software platforms that help automotive suppliers and other manufacturers achieve efficiencies by narrowing the gap between business planning and performance.

Its newest proprietary software program, CapacityBase, does that by simulating and evaluating multiple product-demand scenarios to map out the user's short- and long-term capital investment plans to maximize returns. Think of it as a system that enables manufacturers to more effectively manage assets, avoid future risk and reduce costs.

"Essentially we connect the information the company already has and use it to streamline its operations to meet capacity," says Don Stilwell, vice president of sales & business development for Saphran Solutions.

The 10-year-old company employs 20 people. That team will work to aggressively market this new software platform to manufacturers.

"We are looking at adding additional people as we ramp up," Stilwell says.

Source: Don Stilwell, vice president of sales & business development for Saphran Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Southfield-based PublicCity PR continues adding to clientele

Michigan-based is an important word in the world of PublicCity PR. The boutique public relations firm got its start doing work for small businesses in the Great Lakes State, and continues to grow because of those same sorts of clients.

PublicCity PR has landed a handful of new clients, all based in Michigan, over the last three months. Some of those firms include construction company Barton Malow (Southfield), Medical Weight Loss Clinic (Southfield), and the new Life Time Athletic in Bloomfield Township.

"These are recognizable brands, Michigan-based companies that are reaching out to us," says Jason Brown, principal of PublicCity PR. "This is all word of mouth organic growth."

This has allowed the 5-year-old business to grow out of Brown's kitchen table and into its own office. It also added a new employee to its team over the last year, expanding its staff to four people.

PublicCity PR has also been able to grow its practice to a level of comfort where Brown doesn't have to chase down every lead for new business or say yes to every opportunity to keep the lights on now.

"We take it as it comes," Brown says. "We are at a good level of clients."

Source: Jason Brown, principal of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

Information Systems Resources hires 6 in Dearborn

Information Systems Resouces has hired six people in the last year as the Dearborn-based firm grows its service offerings into every sector of the IT world.

The 25-year-old company now has a staff of 53 people, including new hires for executive assistants, business development director, and electronics recyclers. That employee base now handles services that range from hardware sales to IT support to electronics recycling.

"We try to be responsive to the industry and our customer base," says Avery Tabron, director of business development for Information Systems Resources.

Information Systems Resources helps large corporations conform to federal regulations, such as HIPPA requirements and Department of Defense standards. It has also deployed a mobile tracking system that helps track the status of IT services to the minute.

Electronics recycling is one of the biggest areas of expansion for Information Systems Resources. The recycling division specializes in remanufacturing of electronics like desktop computers, taking out the precious metals and recycling the rest. That way when a school upgrades its computer labs the old workstations don’t end up in a landfill.

"That has had significant growth to this point," Tabron says. "We have hired two additional people on that team."

Source: Avery Tabron, director of business development for Information Systems Resources
Writer: Jon Zemke

Solartonic lands 3 new clients for solar technology

Solartonic has landed three new partnerships that the Ann Arbor-based solar company expects will help it bring its product, solarap, to new customers in Texas, Africa and the Middle East.

"They're market channels to get us to the customers in those markets," says Brian Tell, managing partner of Solartonic.

The 3-year-old company is commercializing solar panel technology, solarap, that is flexible and able to attack to non-traditional surfaces, such as wrapping around the pole of a street lamp. The idea is to generate power during the day to power the light at night. Solartonic is aiming to install these in places, like in light poles in parking lots, along walking paths and other remote places.

"Places that are inaccessible where it would be too expensive to build out the infrastructure," says Harry Giles, managing partner of Solartonic.

Solartonic employs a team of 10 after adding three people over the last year. That staff is currently working to open new markets in North America, including one in Detroit.

"We're trying to ramp up our sales," Tell says. "We're working on a demonstration project at NextEnergy Detroit we will debut in the fall."

Source: Brian Tell and Harry Giles, managing partners of Solartonic
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor start-up to market wearable body sensors

Imagine military uniforms that can assess the environment they're in. Or even the condition of the soldier wearing them? An Ann Arbor start-up isn't just imagining such a thing, they're developing it.


"A pair of professors, one at the University of Michigan, has completed the first round of funding for PsiKick, a two-year-old start-up aiming to sell ultra-low-power chips that can be embedded in a T-shirt or other clothing, do not need a battery or wires and can run on heat, vibrations and sunlight."

Read the rest here.

Akervall Technologies adds 4, moves to bigger space in Saline

Akervall Technologies is becoming a Saline-based company this week, making the move from Ann Arbor to a bigger space that should allow the mouthguard maker to do more of its own production.

"First, we're going to do packaging," says Sassa Akervall, president & COO of Akervall Technologies. "Eventually we will do manufacturing, which we currently outsource."

The 7-year-old company makes a thin-yet-tough mouthguard made of non-compressible, perforated material, and is 30 percent stronger than conventional mouthguards. The SISU Mouth Guard is the creation of Dr. Jan Akervall, a local ear, nose and throat specialist and Sassa Akervall's husband.

Akervall Technologies has grown its sales by 45 percent last year and is projecting another revenue spike of 50 percent in 2014. It as also hired four people over the last year, expanding its staff to eight employees.

"We're hoping to be at least 15 people by the end of the year," Akervall says.

Akervall Technology’s new facility measures out to 15,000 square feet, but the firm will only occupy 9,000 square feet to start. "We're looking for tenants right now," Akervall says. "Our plan is to fill that space within two years."

Source: Sassa Akervall, president & COO of Akervall Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Splash360 increases staffing to 14 since last year's launch

The co-founders behind Splash360 all worked in business marketing and began to see the same thing in recent years: digital marketing was all over the place. That inspired them to launch Splash360.

"They weren't unified. There was data all over the place," says Robert Standwick, CEO of Splash360. "That's when we saw the need to create a unified system."

The Sterling Heights-based startup housed in the Macomb-OU INCubator launched a software platform a year ago for use in both digital and traditional marketing. It enables customers to create, manage, customize and deliver brand-building marketing content, utilizing features like contact management, email marketing, print marketing, social media and lead acquisition.

Since Splash360's launch last year, its team of 14 people have been building up clientele, focusing on small- and medium-sized business like grocery stores.

"We're sending out more than 1 million emails a month," Standwick says.

Splash360 is now focusing on making its emails and website more mobile compatible. "If you're not mobile then you're not in the game," Standwick says.

Source: Robert Standwick, CEO of Splash360
Writer: Jon Zemke

McConnell Communications celebrates 10 years in downtown

Things like digital marketing were just hitting the mainstream and social media wasn't even close to ubiquitous when McConnell Communications launched a decade ago. Today the downtown Detroit-based firm is going strong because it bridged that divide.

"The key is being able to marry old media with new media," says Darci McConnell, president of McConnell Communications.

McConnell worked as a reporter at both the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News before launching her own boutique public relations firm at the encouragement of the late Don Barden. Today McConnell Communications employs a staff of three people at its offices in Greektown.

McConnell Communications' core clientele includes a number of the large labor unions in Detroit, such as Service Employees International Union Healthcare Michigan, along with the likes of the Fort-Shelby Hotel. McConnell Communications is also one of the 32 local firms participating in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative.

"We want to continue our growth in the city," McConnell says.

Source: Darci McConnell, president of McConnell Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

Design Source Media moves to bigger space in Warren

Design Source Media is moving from Sterling Heights to a bigger space in Warren, which will help accommodate its growing staff.

The website design firm has hired two people over the last year, a copy writer and technology consultant. It’s also looking to hire a new web designer. The 2-year-old firm currently employs nine people.

Prompting that expansion is the firm’s growth into creating websites for new industries. It has traditionally done work for landscaping and construction firms. It is now aiming to do more work for athletes, sports teams and manufacturers.

"We want to understand that industry (manufacturing) better," says David Lee, president of Design Source Media.

The firm has also spent the last year refining its business practices, making them more customer-friendly.

"The client knows exactly what phase we're at in the web-development process," Lee says, "and what steps need to be taken next."

Source: David Lee, president of Design Source Media
Writer: Jon Zemke

ProNAi Therapeutics lands $59.5M in Series D funding

ProNAi Therapeutics isn't exactly hurting for money these days thanks to a $59.5 million Series D financing round it announced this week.

The biotech startup is developing a cancer-fighting drug called PNT2258. The drug is currently in clinical trials, which should take 3-5 years to get FDA approval.

"We're going to be using the majority of our funds for clinical trials," says Mina Sooch, co-founder & CEO of ProNAi Therapeutics. "We hope to treat many patients with the funds, probably a few hundred."

The Plymouth-based startup, which also has an office in Kalamazoo, describes PNT2258 as a drug that utilizes a proprietary DNA interference technology to block a key oncogene BCL2 that then signals cancer cells to die. It is currently in the midst of Phase II clinical studies of patients with relapsed or treatment refractory non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, including those with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, Richter’s transformation, and follicular lymphoma.

ProNAi Therapeutics is 10 years old and employs a staff of nine employees and one intern. It has hired three people over the last year, including professionals in research & development, finance and administration. Proceeds from the Series D round will be used to continue to build out the company's team, along with supporting drug manufacturing and advancing development of preclinical drug candidates in ProNAi Therapeutics' portfolio.

Source: Mina Sooch, co-founder & CEO of ProNAi Therapeutics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Computer Networking Center shifts to corporate tech education

Computer Networking Center has made a shift with the economy in the last few years, which has allowed it to attract new customers and add staff.

The Livonia-based company has specialized in IT education since 1998. In recent years it has made its money with grant-based education programs from government agencies, focused on helping retrain workers for jobs. In the last two years it has migrated over to more corporate education.

"A lot more people are back to work these days, which is good," says Sunil Ajwani, manager at Computer Networking Center.

The firm is leveraging a partnership with Automation Alley's Technical Talent Development Program that helps bring more tech education to local companies looking to expand. Hewlett Packard's office in Pontiac was one of the first companies to take advantage of it last year.

"That was the first major company to come to us from Automation Alley," Ajwani says. "They liked us so much they asked us to teach the class there."

Computer Networking Center is now working with 24 companies through Automation Alley's Technical Talent Development Program. That allowed the firm to hire another educator, growing its staff to five employees.

Source: Sunil Ajwani, manager at Computer Networking Center
Writer: Jon Zemke
2657 Articles | Page: | Show All
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