| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter


2965 Articles | Page: | Show All

Douglas Communications Group exemplifies new age in local media

Sharlan Douglas has become a prime example of what it often means to be working in media in the 21st century.

The Royal Oak resident has a career in local media that includes stints at WKBD TV as a promotion coordinator and a vice president of marketing & development for Metropolitan Center for High TechnologyTechTown's predecessor from the 1980s/90s. Today she is the owner of her own boutique public relations firm, Douglas Communications Group, a partner in a wine-tasting staffing company, and a recently elected member of the Royal Oak City Commission.

"I enjoy having the ability to control my work," Douglas says.

That means working from home with her one-woman PR firm. Today she handles a number of local clients, her largest being Carlisle/Wortman Associates. She handles a lot of the owned media for the Ann Arbor-based planning firm, such as producing content for blogs, newsletters, and trade show materials. One of the current projects is helping create awareness of how populations in local communities are aging and what that means to their areas. She is doing similar work for the LGBT Older Adult Coalition, which has partners like Affirmations in Ferndale and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

"How do you respond to that shifting?" Douglas says.

Douglas was recently elected to a seat on the Royal Oak City Commission. She had served on the city's planning commission for nine years prior and is an active member of the Michigan Association of Planning.

She is also a partner in Professional Pours, a staffing agency for wine sampling in grocery stores. Think of the people with a small table that ask shoppers if they would like to try a taste of a new wine. Professional Pours finds the people making the pitch.

"I am doing more and more work for Professional Pours," Douglas says.

Source: Sharlan Douglas, owner of Douglas Communications Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M and startup community create an entrepreneurial ecosystem

What do you get when you mix one of the biggest, best-funded institutions in the country with an ever-growing list of aggressive entrepreneurial incubators? Answers revealed in the article link below!


"Student organizations tout entrepreneurial spirit abound — namely MPowered, optiMize and MHacks — and administrative facilities and programs, like the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovate Blue, foster startup ideas and passion, providing resources that turn those concepts into realities.

Even outside the University, startup enthusiasm is everywhere. Incubators and consulting firms like TechArb, Ann Arbor SPARK and Menlo Innovations are in high demand — the former two even partner with the students through Innovate Blue."

Read the rest here.

Delphinus Medical Technologies brings on new CEO to ramp up growth

One of Metro Detroit’s most promising startups has a new leader who comes with a history of shepherding biotech companies through to acquisition.

Delphinus Medical Technologies has hired Mark Forchette as its president and CEO. Forchette served as OptiMedica Corp’s president and CEO before taking the job. The company specialized in ophthalmic medical devices. He led OptiMedica Corp. through commercialization, successfully completed multiple rounds of financing, and oversaw the company’s acquisition by Abbott Laboratories last year. He says he sees the same sort of potential with Delphinus Medical Technologies.

"I see an incredible technology that can improve women's health," Forchette says.

Delphinus Medical Technologies makes SoftVue, a "whole breast ultrasound tomography system" that helps diagnose breast cancer more effectively than traditional mammograms. The technology spun out of Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute in 2009. It has raised a $12 million Series A round in 2010 and a $11 million Series B last year. It has since hired 15 people, expanding its staff to 35 employees.

"We're in position now where we have on-boarded a lot of talent," Forchette says. "We're really excited about that."

That team will work to gain technical credibility with doctors and health systems, enabling them to thoroughly adopt the SoftVue technology.

"We have to do that clinically," Forchette says. "It's a process of incorporating physicians deeply within the company."

Source: Mark Forchette, president & CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Grand Circus celebrates first year in downtown Detroit

Last year, Grand Circus opened its doors in downtown Detroit to any and all interested in learning about software development. One year later, the company found hundreds of people willing to take them up on their services and has its sights set on deepening the local tech talent pool.

"Our business is developing talent for high-growth, high-demand jobs," says Damien Rocchi, CEO of Grand Circus.

Grand Circus occupies about 5,000 square feet in the Broderick Tower overlooking Grand Circus Park. Two of its three floors in the skyscraper are occupied by classroom space. The third floor is a co-working space for tech entrepreneurs.

About 500 people have leveraged Grand Circus’ variety of classes and workshops, ranging from eight-week classes in software development to boot camps on mobile app development. For instance, Grand Circus recently held an eight-week class in .NET development that wrapped up in August. Since then, more than 70 percent of the 42 people who took the class have been hired, and the job prospects of the remainder of the students are looking up.

"We're optimistic we can get the number up to 85 percent," Rocchi says.

Grand Circus has expanded its staff to 10 full-time employees, 30 instructors, and three summer interns. Rocchi believes those numbers will grow as the demand for software developers continues to go up. Rocchi declined to comment on the status of Grand Circus' revenues beyond acknowledging that the numbers are trending in the right direction.

"We're ahead of where we want to be," Rocchi says.

Source: Damien Rocchi, CEO of Grand Circus
Writer: Jon Zemke

Computing Source hires 120, moves to bigger office

Computing Source is growing so fast the firm’s founder is having a hard time describing it. He knows it has grown by a multiple of six over the last 18 months, but can't figure out how to express it succinctly.

He can tell you the company has hired 120 people since early last year, and it now employs a staff of 140. That prompted it to move from a 9,000-square-foot office in Southfield to a just under 40,000-square-foot space in Madison Heights this week.

"We were squished," says Mark St. Peter, managing director & CEO of Computing Source.

Computing Source specializes in offering all-in-one digital evidence solutions for legal professionals. It can provide electronic discovery, computer forensics, copy/scan/print services, hosted document review, contract attorney staffing, expert testimony, trial technology services, demonstrative evidence and trial boards, and paralegal on-call support.

"It's less hassle and more cost-effective to have it under one roof," St. Peter says. "We can't think of anyone else who is doing what we do as effectively under one roof."

The recent hires include electronic evidence techs, forensic examiners, trial presentation professionals, attorneys, and court reporters. The company has a number of open positions right now, so many that St. Peter can’t put his finger on the exact number.

"If you're a nerd, please call us," St. Peter says.

Computing Source just finished opening an office in Indianapolis to go with its offices in Chicago and Metro Detroit. St. Peter is considering keeping the former Southfield headquarters as a satellite office. He expects to open more offices across the Midwest over the next three years.

"Cleveland is next," St. Peter says. "Then Milwaukee and Pittsburgh."

Source: Mark St. Peter, managing director & CEO of Computing Source
Writer: Jon Zemke

AcuMax creates new survey to match employees & employers

Many employee assessment programs judge a subject by his/her past behavior. A new company in Dearborn, AcuMax, thinks there is a lot more to people than that.

"We don't try to predict based on past behavior or personalities," says Ed Fisher, consultant with AcuMax. "Behavior and personalities change over time."

The one-year-old company provides management tools and useful information to its customers so they can improve hiring, employee placement, and engagement. Its team of five people has developed the AcuMax Index that bases its results on a statistically valid, EEOC-compliant employee assessment that measures how an individual is naturally wired in the course of a five-minute survey. The survey measures four areas, including autonomy and idea flow; communication skills; work-style preference; and how information is processed to make decisions.

"We have an over 90-percent retention rate with our clients," Fisher says.

He says that nearly 70 companies are using the AcuMax Index now, including Wayne State University and Liberty Title Co.

"We're excited about our growth rate," Fisher says. "We're at about 50 percent a year, and I don't see why it would decline."

Source: Ed Fisher, consultant with AcuMax
Writer: Jon Zemke

UHY plans to open 25-person office in Chrysler House

Accounting company UHY is opening another Metro Detroit office in downtown Detroit, a move that will bring 25 new jobs to the city’s central business district.

The CPA firm provides a variety of accounting services for businesses, ranging from tax consulting to forensic auditing. Some of its clients include the likes of downtown Detroit-based Strategic Staffing Solutions. UHY has offices in Macomb and Oakland counties that employ more than 300 people.

UHY will move 25 of those employees to the new office in the Chrysler House near Campus Martius. The company will occupy the sixth floor of the 23-story building, occupying 4,000 square feet. It plans to execute the move in November.

"We've always wanted to make the move downtown and figured now is as good of a time than ever," Krystina Borrocci, director of marketing for UHY, wrote in an email. "There's lots of momentum, and a lot of movement both in the city and into the city. We have a significant client base there, as well as ties to the local community."

Rock Ventures, part of the Quicken Loans family of companies owned by Dan Gilbert, bought the Dime Building in 2011 and renamed it the Chrysler House. It has since renovated the structure and created space for a number of new businesses. That work was a primary reason why UHY decided to open downtown.

"One of the reasons we wanted to be in a Gilbert building was so that we could grow out of it before the lease is up, and continue to take more space in Chrysler House or in one of his other buildings," Borrocci wrote in an email.

Source: Krystina Borrocci, director of marketing for UHY
Writer: Jon Zemke

LogiCoul Solutions makes semifinals of Accelerate Michigan

If it's the little things that add up in life, then LogiCoul Solutions is well on its way to collecting more than its fair share this year.

The Sterling Heights-based startup that calls the Macomb-OU INCubator home has made a number of base hits in 2014, putting it into position to make a significant score before the end of the year. The battery-enhancement technology startup was one of the 20 presenters at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium last summer and recently made the semifinals of this fall's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. It also received the patent for its technology last July.

"That's very exciting for us," says David Stout, executive vice president of LogiCoul Solutions.

The 6-year-old company is developing technology that sends electromagnetic waves to a battery, which lowers resistance and creates more useful energy. The bottom line is a longer-lasting and more energy-efficient battery. The company started out with the idea of using it on lithium-ion batteries but switched to a lead-acid battery focus to take advantage of a much bigger market.

"We have never met a battery our process didn't like," Stout says.

The three-person startup is currently looking to hire a vice president of engineering. It also hopes to lock down a seed capital round later this year or early next year to continue the push toward developing its technology.

Source: David Stout, executive vice president of LogiCoul Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M spinout produces revolutionary battery technology

U-M tech innovation + entrepreneurial ambition = successful startup. See, math isn't so hard.


"Produced by Sakti3, Inc., a self-proclaimed “spinout” company from the University of Michigan, the battery cell has double the energy density of a current lithium ion battery. In more specific terms, the battery produces over 1,100 Watt hours per liter (Wh/l) in volumetric energy density. Typical lithium-ion batteries produce between 250-730 Wh/l."

Read the rest here.

Hannigan Insurance consolidates offices in new Ann Arbor HQ

Hannigan Insurance is consolidating its operations into a new office in Ann Arbor, a move that is bringing a handful of new jobs to Tree Town  - with the promise to create dozens more in the next few years.

Hannigan Insurance is both a technology company and national insurance brokerage. Its web-based distribution platform provides insurance options for people who are looking for everything from automotive insurance to renters insurance. The platform also offers similar services in the financial industry. Because the company is primarily doing online work, it meant positioning itself for growth by setting up show where knowledge workers want to live and work.

"For us it’s all about attracting top talent," says Brian Hannigan, CEO of Hannigan Insurance.

Hannigan Insurance has offices in Clinton Township and Ann Arbor. It employs five at each office. It has hired four people over the last year, primarily insurance agents.

"We wanted to pick a spot," Hannigan says. "We looked at spots like Royal Oak, Birmingham, and downtown Detroit. We already had a facility in Ann Arbor and choose to consolidate there."

Hannigan Insurance is looking to go through a period of fast growth over the next few years. It’s opening an customer retention and acquisition center in Ann Arbor in November that will provide space for it grow to from 10 people to 25 before the end of the year. It currently has 15 open positions for insurance agents and software developers.

"We have a three-year plan to scale up to 75 jobs," Hannigan says. "We're going to grow rather quickly."

The Michigan Economic Development Corp is providing Hannigan Insurance with a $400,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant to execute the move. Ann Arbor SPARK also helped broker the deal.

Source: Brian Hannigan, CEO of Hannigan Insurance
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ka-Ching! develops new easy-to-use instruction technology

Inspiration hit Bill Crose when he was trying to come up with a better way to train hotel workers. At the time he was working as the eLearning development manager for Intercontinental Hotels Group, figuring out the best way to train housekeepers, cooks, and bartenders to do their jobs.

"Really anybody who is doing a step-by-step procedure," Crose says.

That's when the idea for Ka-Ching! popped into his head. He left his job and started working on the Rochester Hills-based startup, a client of the Macomb-OU INCubator. Ka-Ching! is developing Pythia, a training system that audibly streams step-by-step directions through a mobile-headset audio device. It comes with completion-time reports for each step and a patent-pending interface between voice response, text-to-speech, and Wi-Fi technologies to link custom databases to the device.

"Anything that is a task that you don't know how to do can be delivered to you in a step-by-step process," Crose says.

Which means it could be used by businesses and large organizations looking to train employees. It could also be used by consumers who are trying to learn how to cook with certain recipes or people at the gym following a trainer’s routine.

Ka-Ching is currently in the early stages of developing its prototype. Crose expects to work on perfecting the prototype over the next year and have it ready for commercialization in time for the 2015 holiday shopping season.

Source: Bill Crose, CEO of Ka-Ching!
Writer: Jon Zemke

Professional Pours capitalizes on beer/wine sampling in grocery stores

Every job created isn't equal. Some pay more, others require certain skills, some are full-time and others are not quite that. Professional Pours has been creating a lot of the latter sort of jobs lately.

The Oak Park-based business provides staff for the wine/beer tasting tables now found in grocery stores. The company provides the staffers with background information on the product and others like it. They work as independent contractors a few hours a week, making $15-$18 per hour.

"This is a great part-time gig for parents, retirees, and students," says Sharlan Douglas, marketing director & co-owner of Professional Pours.

The company was founded four years ago about the same time the state legislature changed the law allowing for free beer, wine and liquor sampling in off-premise (package) establishments. It started out doing these offerings in Kroger stores on weekends between 1-4 p.m. Professional Pours did 900 events in 2012. That went up to 1,100 events last year, and it’s now on track to do 1,400 events.

"Now we're seeing more events on Thursday evening or Friday afternoon," Douglas says.

A vast majority of those are in Kroger, which Douglas points out has been leading the way in pushing the law change and leveraging it to help drive up its sales of craft and high-end alcohol. That has meant more part-time hires. Professional Pours now has a staff of four co-owners and 60 independent contractors, which is six more 1099s than a year ago.

Douglas says the company finds most of its staff through Craigslist ads and referrals. She and her husband (also a co-owner) are active in local theater circles and have brought on a number of local actors to work these tables. She says they pay a higher wage for the part-time work because they need people who will serve as educators about the product and present it in the best light possible. So far the business model is catching on.

"Other retailers are doing this," Douglas says. "Kroger is expanding this into stores that hadn't done sampling before and providing more time for events."

Source: Sharlan Douglas, marketing director & co-owner of Professional Pours
Writer: Jon Zemke

OU medical student invents new surgical device utilizing Google Glass technology

A medical student's promising new technology device means surgeons will be able to keep their eyes trained on their patients.


"Florence Doo, a second-year medical student at Oakland University, has her hands full.

Not with school, although that certainly keeps her busy, but with starting and growing a medical device company that plans to use Google Glass to deliver heads-up displays to surgeons. 

The benefit? Surgeons don't have to take their eyes off their patients during procedures to look around at video screens scattered around the operating room displaying the information they need. 

Surgeons can pull up important images such as CAT scans — and even transmit images of the operation in progress for teaching purposes — all while keeping their eyes on the task at hand."

More here.

Try2See app works to better connect people, places, things

Lots of startups are trying to master the 21st Century version of customer loyalty programs. A new Ann Arbor-based startup, Try2See, thinks it has found the way to do it.

The 1-year-old startup has come out with a mobile app that utilizes QR codes and smart phones that enable customers, businesses and locations to better connect and keep track of who does what where.

"We're looking for a way to automate that process," says Barry McDonald, founder of Try2See.

The general idea from the three-person team is to enable customers to swipe in their purchases at local stores with the scan of a QR code at the establishment. That way customers don’t need to carry an extra card to scan or wait for a cashier to punch a paper card. All of it can be done with a simple QR code scan.

Try2See is working with local businesses districts in Royal Oak, Ferndale, and the Avenue of Fashion along Livernois Avenue in Detroit. So far 62 businesses are signed up and the Try2See team is working to get more businesses owners and their customers on board.

"We're trying to get the entire business district to use the system," McDonald says.

Source: Barry McDonald, founder of Try2See
Writer: Jon Zemke

New Economy Initiative sends staff to co-working spaces

If you work in a co-working space in Metro Detroit, chances are you could soon be sitting next to a representative of the New Economy Initiative (NEI).

The special project for the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan focused on building the region's new economy is launching NEI Street Level, a new program that will give NEI staff a seat at the numerous co-working spaces across Metro Detroit. The idea is to spend a couple days a week embedded with local entrepreneurs to better understand their needs and challenges while also helping create connections in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"We think we can be better informed grant makers by being better embedded in the ecosystem," says Jim Boyle, senior program officer for the New Economy Initiative.

The first stop is Grand Circus in downtown Detroit. The co-working space inside the newly renovated Broderick Tower overlooks Grand Circus Park and is part of the M@dison Block technology cluster. New Economy Initiative staffers will be working there from this week until January. The New Economy Initiative has a core team of about a half dozen full-time people and has recently hired a communication's associate.

The NEI Street Level initiative plans to visit several other co-working spaces across the region in the coming months. Some of the candidates mentioned were Bamboo Detroit and co-working spaces in Ann Arbor. It's part of the non-profit's aim to help bolster the 1099 workforce in Metro Detroit.

"We're trying to shine a light on co-working spaces," Boyle says. "This is a new way to work."

Source: Jim Boyle, senior program officer for the New Economy Initiative
Writer: Jon Zemke
2965 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts