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Qstride expands into Ann Arbor with downtown space

Qstride is expanding its physical presence across the U.S. and the Troy-based firm has its eyes on Ann Arbor.

The software company, which already has a growing office in downtown Detroit, is opening a another office in downtown Ann Arbor and Virginia this winter. The Ann Arbor office has one person right now, but the leadership at Qstride expects that head count to grow.

"We have local people in these locations," says Shane Gianino, CEO of Qstride. "These are hotbeds for new technology."

The 20-month-old firm specializes in analytics and business intelligence software. Qstride has watched its revenue jump 135 percent over the last year, allowing it to expand its staff to 22 people. It has clients across the U.S. including in New York, California, Arizona and Ohio.

Gianino says there are a couple of reasons why Qstride choose Ann Arbor for its newest location. The biggest reason is its proximity to the University of Michigan.

"There is a lot of talent at the University of Michigan," Gianino says. "We need software engineers. Our lead data scientists is out of Ann Arbor and is in charge of that office."

Source: Shane Gianino, CEO of Qstride
Writer: Jon Zemke

Bizdomís Cribspot helps connect college students with housing

Tim Jones knows how much of a pain in the ass it is for college students to find off-campus housing. It’s why he and a group of three other undergrads at the University of Michigan started Cribspot, an Internet startup that helps connect students to off-campus rental housing.

"It's archaic (looking for off-campus student housing in Ann Arbor)," Jones says. "It's inefficient for most people. People talk to a friend or walk around in the cold and dial the numbers on the house."

Cribspot's website acts as one central location for landlords and students to offer and find rental housing around universities. Jones launched the startup a little more than a year ago, then called A2cribs, with Evan Dancer, Jason Okrasinski and Alex Gross. The idea of helping Ann Arbor students at U-M. It is now being used at half a dozen campuses across the U.S., including the University of Iowa, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Our main goal is to get all of that (housing) data on a map," Jones says.

The quartet of entrepreneurs took Cribspot to Bizdom in downtown Detroit and are working on turning it into a national brand. It wants to create a mobile app for its software and generate revenue from referrals for things like meal plans and furniture sales for students.

"We want to focus on just off-campus housing in college towns," Okrasinski says.

Source: Tim Jones and Jason Okrasinski, co-founders of Cribspot
Writer: Jon Zemke

Skidmore Studio scores more national biz as it grows in Detroit

When Skidmore Studio made its move to the M@dison Building in downtown Detroit two years ago, work from local companies drove the growth at the creative agency. The firm looked beyond the Motor City in 2013.

"Growing national work," says Tim Smith, president & CEO of Skidmore Studio. "We brought in five new clients with national scope."

Those new clients include Dave & Busters, Expedia and Chrysler. Skidmore Studio is doing everything from print and TV and digital work for those companies. Smith explains that they were attracted to Skidmore Studio’s heartland characteristics.

"It's that Midwestern work ethic," Smith says. "They are finding it a refreshing change of pace."

Skidmore Studio
also clocked a significant chunk of work from local big-name firms, such as DTE Energy and Quicken Loans. It is also working on a marketing campaign for Detroit Public Schools.

"We're still finding a lot of local firms that need help," Smith says.

That has allowed Skimore to hire three people over the last year, including a vice president, digital producer and interactive designer. It is also looking to hire an account executive. The firm currently has a staff of 29 employees and a couple of interns. Smith hopes to make a few more hires in 2014 as it works to land more mid-sized companies with a national scope.

Source: Tim Smith, president & CEO of Skidmore Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

NEI nears second round of grant giving

The New Economy Initiative is about to reach its fundraising goal, having raised $33 of $40 million in funding from local, regional, and national foundations. NEI is entering a three year-long period of grant-giving and support for the region's entrepreneurs. The group is planning a new-look NEI, one that will build on and improve the already successful first round of grant programs that began in 2008.

One planned change is a new focus on pre-existing businesses throughout southeastern Michigan. With so much attention being focused on the region's startup scene, NEI is crafting a contest to reward existing businesses that have the potential to grow. Still in the planning stages, the group hopes to have the contest ready for March.

Still, startups remain at the center of NEI's economy-stimulating strategy. The group's territory includes all of southeastern Michigan with a focus on Detroit. NEI executive director Dave Egner says that one of the reasons for this focus is that, as far as he can tell, there are more organizations servicing Detroit entrepreneurs than anywhere else in the world. That network of organizations allows NEI to more effectively distribute grants to promising entrepreneurs.

Grants are available to entrepreneurs of every stripe, says Egner. "Our focus is industry-agnostic. When we tried to pick sectors, we didn't get the outputs. We've been industry-agnostic since 2009."

NEI is hoping that the modifications planned for its second round of funding will improve on their already impressive numbers.

The New Economy Initiative launched in 2008 and has since awarded $76 million in grants to local entrepreneurs. The program has helped start over 675 new companies and created over 8,000 new jobs in southeastern Michigan. NEI has also helped support BizGrid, an infographic that breaks down Detroit resources for small businesses.

Source: Dave Egner, executive director of New Economy Initiative
Writer: MJ Galbraith

RazorThreat makes security software more interactive

RazorThreat recently added a new member to its executive ranks. It's an addition the digital security firm hopes will pay some big dividends in 2014.

The downtown Pontiac-based firm brought on Deane Tierney to serve as vice president of strategic accounts last month. Tierney previously worked as a channel account manager for Symantec Corp (a NASDAQ tech firm) where he grew reseller relationships. RazorThreat hopes its new employees will help connect the firm’s software platform with Symantec's.

"There is a really good alignment between our product and Symantec's product line," says Greg Guidice, president & CEO of RazorThreat.

The 4-year-old firm has also been working on fleshing out its own software platform, which provides digital security assessments and monitoring. Before the platform provided a few pages of reports. Now the firm is offering a more comprehensive package that includes meetings with its professionals and its clients as needed.

"It's so much more interactive," Guidice says. "Everything the product does is about visibility, context and action."

Source: Greg Guidice, president & CEO of RazorThreat
Writer: Jon Zemke

LHP Software expands Troy office with 11 hires

LHP Software makes controls applications for the transportation and medical device industries. It was founded in 2001 and now employs 250 people in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.

The engineering services company opened a technical office in Troy in January of 2012, and it has since grown the location to a 20-person outfit with ambitions of adding even more.

"We could double the size of our office," says Robert Stawarz, business development manager for LHP Software. "No doubt."

The Indiana-based firm has hired 11 people for its new Troy office over the last year. Those new hires include six people in software development, two in sales and three in recruiting. The firm currently has 20 open positions right now, primarily for software developers and engineers. It hopes to fill those jobs by the end of the year.

LHP Software's growth comes from an increasing demand to improve fuel economy and lower emissions in automobiles, along with a drive to bring more infotainment technology into passenger vehicles.

To help meet that demand, LHP Software has opened a second location in Troy that will serve as its technical and training center for the region. The company is partnering with Specialized Vehicles, to utilize part of its facility at 2468 Industrial Row. It will use the new space to prototype engine building, controls integration, calibration services, and other engine development.

"They have the facility and we’re renting half of it," Stawarz says.

Source: Robert Stawarz, business development manager for LHP Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

Re-Source Partners expands IT biz with 5 new jobs

Re-Source Partners grew its IT business by double digits last year and has high hopes of doubling that growth in 2014.

The Troy-based firm experienced a 10-percent increase in its revenues in 2013. That allowed it to hire five people, and it’s looking to hire a few more right now. It currently employs a staff of 30 people and the occasional intern.

"The growth of the team we have in regards to industry stature gives us the calling card to get in with big customers and make the sweeping changes that need to happen," says Matt Loria, vice president of Re-Source Partners.

Re-Source Partners provides full-service IT asset management and managed IT logistics services. It helps companies smooth out the IT back end of their operations. Financial firms have been utilizing its services more and more in recent months.

"It's in the space where finance meets IT," Loria says. "That has been our biggest growth area."

Which is why Loria is optimistic about 2014. He thinks a spike in revenue of 25 percent is possible for this year.

Source: Matt Loria, vice president of Re-Source Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

Broder & Sachse expands on strength of multi-family biz

Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services experienced a significant spike in growth in 2013, thanks in large part to company’s growth in multi-family sector.

The downtown Birmingham-based firm has hired 50 people over the last year, taking its staff to 150 employees and a few summer interns.

"We have grown dramatically," says John Hamburger, president of Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services.

The 20-year-old firm, it moved to Birmingham 10 years ago, offers a broad range of real-estate services, including construction and management of commercial, multifamily residential and industrial properties. It has a portfolio of 116 properties and 11 million square feet of space.

Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services’ leadership decided to focus more on multi-family residential projects n 2003. It watched that sector grow the next five years until the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008.

"In 2012 and 2013 the lending channels opened up," Hamburger says. "We started renovating and managing more properties."

The firm now manages 6,000 rental units across the U.S. It expects to expand that number to at least 8,000 and perhaps as high as 10,000 by the end of this year.

Source: John Hamburger, president of Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

Creative arts sector is worth billions to Michigan economy, study finds

When ArtServe Michigan added the for-profit arts sector into its annual report on the creative economy,  it found the arts' economic impact picture got that much larger: among other findings, for-profit businesses contribute nearly three percent of both total state employment and total wage.


"The big four counties — Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw — together account for 70 percent of all wages paid by creative industries.

And while many parts of the state economy took a hit in 2008, notably manufacturing, according to the report arts-related employment increased 15 percent from 2006 to 2011. The number of arts-related businesses grew by 65 percent over the same period."

More here.

Macomb-OU INCubator startups score seed funding

A handful of startups leveraging the Macomb-OU INCubator have scored a nice round of seed funding.

Three startups received a total of $78,000 from the Michigan Pre-Seed Microloan and the Business Accelerator funds. The winners include Splash350 ($15,000), Mobile Data Holdings ($38,000) and Coupon Wallet ($25,000).

"It's a big chunk of change for them when they are starting out," says Julie Gustafson, executive director of the Macomb-OU INCubator. "It helps propel them forward."

Splash360 is developing a software platform that allows customers to create, manage, customize and deliver brand-building marketing content. The Business Accelerator Fund money will help it launch and market the product.

"We think it’s a pretty exciting product," Gustafson says.

Mobile Data Holdings
has created a black box for data collection and verification that can be used in the seats of automobiles. The Business Accelerator Fund money will help Mobile Data Holdings test its Mobile Digital Video Recorder system.

Coupon Wallet received money from the Michigan Pre-Seed Microloan fund. Coupon Wallet's technology is digitizing paper coupons. Its microloan will help it integrate the technology with business loyalty programs.

Source: Julie Gustafson, executive director of the Macomb-OU INCubator
Writer: Jon Zemke

Kalyspo aims to commercialize technology by year-end

Kalyspo, the bio-tech startup and University of Michigan spin out, is well on its way to commercializing its surgical instrument tracking technology.

The Ann Arbor-based company’s technology helps prevent medical professionals from leaving foreign objects (think surgical tools like sponges) in patients during an operation. It accomplishes this by inserting a micro-machined tag that shows up clearly on x-rays and computer software. The technology is so advanced that it scores highly on both the sensitivity and specificity scales for finding these sorts of items.

"This is one of the best (detection rates) I have ever seen," says Dr. Theodore Marentis, co-founder of Kalyspo.

The 1-year-old startup employs a team of four employees, two interns and two independent contractors. It also won the Best of Boot Camp award at the Ann Arbor SPARK Entrepreneur Boot Camp.

Dr. Marentis expects to commercialize this technology before the end of the year. He says the company is in discussion with a couple of hospitals which could become potential customers, and it is looking to create other types of revenue streams.

"We're talking to a number of manufacturers about adding them to their product line," he says.

Source: Dr. Theodore Marentis, co-founder of Kalyspo
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M ranks 8th nationally for international student population

With over 6,800 international students, U-M continues to attract students from around the globe.


"Michigan's first two international students -- one from Mexico, one from Wales -- enrolled in 1847. Now the prestigious Big Ten university hosts the 8th-largest population in the country, 78% of whom come from Asia."

More here.

BUILD grads launch food-delivery service, Flash Delivery

A couple of graduates from D:hive’s BUILD program are launching a food-delivery service in Detroit’s greater downtown area called Flash Delivery.

Tatiana Grant and Ericka Billingslea both graduated from D:hive’s BUILD program with the idea of launching a food delivery service in Detroit. A mutual friend introduced them and decided to launch Flash Delivery together, covering most of the up-and-coming neighborhoods within the Grand Boulevard loop.

"Downtown specifically is becoming a typical downtown," Grant says. "There are businesses and services every other downtown in America has but we don’t. This is one of those services."

Flash Delivery and its team of two people, operating out of Lafayette Park for now, are offering to deliver food from local supermarkets and restaurants to patrons in the greater downtown area. Participating businesses include 24 Grille, R.U.B BBQ PUB and Sala Thai, among others.

Grant and Billingslea hope to establish their business this year and are looking at expanding its farther out into the city and suburbs in 2015, such as the Grosse Pointes, Palmer Park-area neighborhoods and Ferndale/Royal Oak area.

"We're letting the growth be very organic," Grant says.

Source: Tatiana Grant, co-owner of Flash Delivery
Writer: Jon Zemke

Huron Capital Partners aims for sustainability with new partnership

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important word at Huron Capital Partners.

The downtown Detroit-based private-equity firm, it calls the Guardian Building home, has formed a partnership with Phil Bomrad, a veteran of the energy and clean-tech industries. Huron Capital Partners plans to invest in companies with a focus on sustainability through a holding company, Albireo Energy.

"We see a lot of really strong trends in this market," says Jim Mahoney, partner with Huron Capital Partners. "We think it’s a large and fragmented market which is good for us to invest in."

Albireo Energy will focus on making investments in the energy services industry, specifically companies that focus on energy-efficiency and grid-services for commercial and institutional buildings. The idea is to provide capital to companies that help owners of large buildings lower operational costs and environmental impacts.

Some of the characteristics of the targeted growth firms are companies with strong expertise in building automation and energy efficiency retrofit projects that have an existing commercial building customer base and annual revenues greater than $15 million.

Mahoney expects Huron Capital Partners to make about a dozen investments from this partnership, including a handful over this year. The private-equity firm employs more than 20 people and has hired four over the last year.

Source: Jim Mahoney, partner of Huron Capital Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

GardenHoard plants future in heirloom seeds

Gardening has been a favorite pastime for Katie Flickinger's family for quite a while, so it's little wonder the fresh Central Michigan University graduate is turning that passion into a business.

Flickinger has recently started GardenHoard, an online company that sells heirloom seeds for a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. It offers more than 800 varieties of vegetation.

"It started out as a hobby but became a business," Flickinger says.

She leveraged the help of Blackstone LaunchPad’s entrepreneurial services at Walsh College's Troy campus. That helped her spike GardenHoard's revenues by 250 percent last year. She has already grown her revenues another 100 percent for this growing season.

"Every year we are improving and getting more sales," Flickinger says.

The Livonia resident now utilizes six community gardens across the region to get her stock. She and her husband are now looking to move to a house with five acres so they can bring all of their business under one roof.

Source: Katie Flickinger, owner of GardenHoard
Writer: Jon Zemke
2463 Articles | Page: | Show All
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