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123Net acquires Holland-based Internet firm, T2 Communications

Southfield-based 123Net is expanding across Michigan, acquiring another telecommunications company in Holland, T2 Communications.

"It will give us better and more robust connectivity throughout Holland," says Steve Hazel, agent manager for 123Net. "It will also give us a more robust customer support system."

The 20-year-old firm is one of Michigan’s largest telecommunications and Internet service providers. It has been active in West Michigan since 2000 and has partnered with T2 Communications for years. 123Net has also invested significantly in its Grand Rapids fiber ring, wireless PoP sites, and its Grand Rapids/Byron Center data center.

123Net serves thousands of businesses across Michigan with a network that includes over 2,500 route miles of fiber, more than 70 high speed fixed wireless towers, and four world-class data centers. It has grown significantly over the last six months, hiring five people in positions like marketing and project management. It currently employs a staff of 43 and is looking to hire three more.

The T2 Communications acquisition is 123Net's third merger over the last year. Although there aren't any more acquisition candidates in 123Net's pipeline right now, that doesn't mean there won’t be another one before the end of the year.

"There is always the possibility," Hazel says. "We seem to acquire firms at a steady pace of a couple at a time."

Source: Steve Hazel, agent manager for 123Net
Writer: Jon Zemke

MagWerks LED develops cutting edge light technology

LED lights have a reputation as being lean, mean, and ultra-energy-efficient. The reality is, however, that the less energy they use, the heavier they become. It's a challenge that's keeping LED lights from reaching their full potential.

"It's a largely unknown subject but an important one," says Michael Pickholz, CEO of MagWerks LED.

The Oxford-based startup believes it has an answer for that dilemma. The LED lighting design and engineering firm’s technology aims to make high-powered LED lights smaller, lighter, and cooler. The first target market is automotive lights. MagWerks technology leverages the structural properties of magnesium, which is 20 times stronger than plastics.

"It brings a vast improvement in performance," Pickholz says. "It makes it lighter and brighter."

The 3-person firm has recently joined Automation Alley's 7Cs program, which helps new companies leverage advanced manufacturing practices to grow their business.

"There is a need," Pickholz says. "How can you grow a company fast enough to satisfy that need?"

Source: Michael Pickholz, CEO of MagWerks LED
Writer: Jon Zemke

Transitions Legal partners with Vezina Law in downtown Birmingham

Working together is often the sort of business strategy that not only brings firms together but helps them become more successful. Those benefits are why two small law firms in downtown Birmingham are collaborating.

Transitions Legal and its principal attorney, Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, are now of counsel with Vezina Law. The idea is that each firm’s expertise will help complement the other’s strengths.

"We each have something that adds to our respective firms," Peskin-Shepherd says.

Transitions Legal specializes in family law and mediation. Peskin-Shepherd has grown to a staff of two people. Vezina Law focuses on business, healthcare, and employment law. It has offices in Michigan and Louisiana.

"They have been referring cases to us for two years," Peskin-Shepherd says. "We wanted to formalize that relationship."

Source: Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, principal of Transitions Legal
Writer: Jon Zemke

UV Angel closes on 7-figure seed round for infection-fighting tech

UV Angel has just closed on a angel round of seed capital worth at least $1 million to help further develop its infection-fighting technology.

The Livonia-based firm makes an innovative disinfection technology for hospitals and clinics. The idea is to prevent healthcare-associated infections, which can include nasty superbugs like H1N1 and MRSA. Such infections kill more than 75,000 people each year.

"We have had more healthcare-associated infection fatalities in the last year than there were deaths in Vietnam and the War on Terror combined," says Michael Armstrong, vice president of UV Angel.

UV Angel's platform continuously monitors device interactions and employs an automated disinfection process to create a safe working environment in medical centers. Each interaction between a medical professional and a piece of equipment (think computer keyboard or mice) initiates or pauses a cleaning cycle.

"We go after the high-touch surfaces and kill whatever is there," Armstrong says.

"Everything we do we record," he adds. "Nobody else does that."

UV Angel currently has pilot studies of its technology underway, which have shown that they consistently eliminate superbugs. Today a team of about 10 people at UV Angel are working on the technology and commercializing it. The firm recently hired three sales reps.

Source: Michael Armstrong, vice president of UV Angel
Writer: Jon Zemke

Crazy Diamond Performance aims to commercialize natural gas tech

Kevin Fern made a career as two things: a serial entrepreneur and a veteran of the alternative fuel vehicle industry. He is using both to build up his new firm, Crazy Diamond Performance.

The Shelby Township-based startup specializes in natural gas technology for automobiles. It is working to help transition more vehicles away from relying on gasoline for power to using compressed natural gas.

"We see a lot of merit in natural gas-powered vehicles," says Steven Bridson, business development manager of Crazy Diamond Performance. "It is beneficial to the U.S. because there is a lot of natural gas here."

The 3-year-old firm is utilizing compressed natural gas (a clear, odorless, and non-corrosive fuel) in its products. When combusted in a vehicle, it produces lower exhaust emissions, reducing carbon dioxide by 25 percent, and there are almost no evaporative emissions. With 120-octane and nearly the same energy content as gasoline, current generation compressed natural gas engines are just as powerful as their gasoline counterparts.

Crazy Diamond Performance currently has a team of four people working on its technology. It recently hired two people and is planning to hire more soon.

"We expect to bring on more people as the project we are working on are approved and funded," Bridson says.

Crazy Diamond Performance recently joined Automation Alley's 7Cs program, which helps small companies learn the basics of manufacturing and how to turn it to their advantage when growing their business.

"We think the 7Cs program will help us get the Crazy Diamond Performance message out to the industry," Bridson says.

Source: Steven Bridson, business development manager of Crazy Diamond Performance
Writer: Jon Zemke

CulturecliQ's software helps employers make the right hires via company culture

Hiring people isn't as easy as it sounds. Companies spends lots of time, money, and resources finding the right people that will fit into their operation. CulturecliQ thinks it has found a more efficient way to help them make the right hires.

The Livonia-based startup has developed a software platform (with the help of eyeWyre Software Studios in downtown Mt. Clemens) that matches companies and candidates based on whether the candidate would fit in with the company's culture.

"It's an easy-to-use tool to find candidates without sifting through thousands of resumes," says Joe Walker, COO of CulturecliQ.

Walker started CulturecliQ with Colleen Albright about a year ago. The pair used to work at Plunkett & Cooney where he was a partner and she worked in human resources, and then worked together at R. L. Polk & Co. Albright had the idea for the company a couple of years ago and the two decided to leave the corporate world for the startup world.

The system uses specifically targeted questions for the companies and candidates. The idea is to help both parties learn more about each other by providing them with more information than would be in a resume or on a company's website. CulturecliQ's software then sorts the different data points about the people to find the best fit for the job.

"With today’s talent shortage, people are hiring on soft skills because the hard skills can be taught," Walker says.

CulturecliQ went live in January. It currently has 40 companies and 500 job candidates using it. The company plans to do a wider release this spring across southeast Michigan and then beyond.

"We're ready to do a hard launch by May 1st," Walker says.

Source: Joe Walker, COO of CulturecliQ
Writer: Jon Zemke

Insert Catchy Headlines marks 10 years as an independent, woman-owned business

Josephine Dries' life changed 10 years ago. That was the time she started her own public relations firm, Insert Catchy Headlines. In a way, it was her method for declaring her own independence.

Dries worked in a family business for years. It was a situation where the men of the family took leading roles. Dries felt limited. She wanted to be in a situation where she could excel and occupy an equal role to everyone else. That meant striking out on her own.

"I said, 'OK, that’s good for you. Why can't I do it?'" Dries says. "If I can’t do it under your umbrella, then I will stand on my own two feet and do it on my own."

She never looked back. Today her Rochester Hills-based business is not only her full-time job, but Dries has been so successful that she raised her firm's prices. She plans to hire her first employee over the next year, and even attract a major local corporation as a client. Today Insert Catchy Headlines serves primarily small and medium-sized businesses.

"I went from one monthly client (when the business launched) to four monthly clients," Dries says.

Source: Josephine Dries, founder of Insert Catchy Headlines
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland University spins out first tech startup, Fulcrum Engineering

The first startup to spin out of Oakland University wants to make your vehicle safer by making its parts disengage during catastrophic accidents.

Fulcrum Engineering is developing technology that enables structural joints in a vehicles to decouple during big accidents. The idea is the force of the accident is displaced to better protect the motorists.

"We have shown we can reduce the force that is felt by the occupants of the vehicle by 60 percent," says Michael Latcha, president of Fulcrum Engineering.

Latcha is also an associate professor at Oakland University. He discovered the idea for the technology when trying to figure out ways to protect military vehicles from IED explosions. He found that if things like the engine or transmission were able to decouple during an explosion, then the force of the blast would also be displaced and better protect the people inside the vehicle.

"All your left with is the shell of the vehicle protecting the occupants," Latcha says.

Fulcrum Engineering is trying to commercialize that technology for use in everyday vehicles like sedans and work trucks. The idea is that only major accidents would enable the decoupling of the structural joints, not fender benders.

The Rochester-based startup launched last November. It made the finals of the Global Automotive Innovation Challenge and is currently working to license its technology to automotive suppliers.

Source: Michael Latcha, president of Fulcrum Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

Arbor Farms Market expands with cafe and salad bar

Arbor Farms Market is expanding, adding more dining and shopping space to its West Stadium Boulevard store. The local, organic grocer is adding 4,500 square feet to its existing 12,000-square-foot space. The newly expanded store is expected to open in June.

"We're taking down a wall that will open into new space," says Leo Fox, president of Arbor Farms Market. "The expanded store will be L shaped where before it was a rectangle."

The new space will include space for a cafe, a soup and salad bar and a sandwich shop. There will also be an expanded deli counter with a broad variety of new items.

"We will have a new 60-foot deli lineup for fresh foods," Fox says.

Fox launched Arbor Farms Market in 1979. It moved to its current location in 2004, doubling its space to 12,000 square feet. Arbor Farms Market currently employs 60 people. It has hired five new associates over the last year and is looking to add a couple more.

"We value serving the community," Fox says. "We value creating jobs. We value the shoppers who want to spend their money locally."

Source: Leo Fox, president of Arbor Farms Market
Writer: Jon Zemke

CareEvolutionís growth puts bigger office search on startups radar

Growth is a word that has become synonymous with CareEvolution. The Ann Arbor-based healthcare tech startup has been adding customers and employees. Now it's looking for bigger offices to house its growing workforce.

CareEvolution hired 30 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 80 employees and a couple of interns. Most of its new hires are in software development and healthcare professionals. It is currently looking to hire even more.

"We target about 10 people per quarter," says Vik Kheterpal, principal of CareEvolution. "We have a certain rhythm with our hiring."
CareEvolution's software specializes in breaking down information silos in healthcare systems primarily by sharing of electronic medical records and information. The idea is to make healthcare more patient-centric and efficient.

"Our company builds the bridges between our fragmented systems," Kheterpal says.

CareEvolution has spent the last year moving its software more into the mobile space. Moves like that have enabled CareEvolution's customers to speak highly of it and enable more growth. Its revenue spiked by 91 percent last year and Kheterpal expects his company to keep up that pace in 2015.

"Our revenue is growing exceptionally fast," Kheterpal says.

Source: Vik Kheterpal, principal of CareEvolution
Writer: Jon Zemke

Clarity Quest Marketing scores best year ever in 2014

Clarity Quest Marketing is one of those companies that has steadily carved out its niche over 14 years of business. Now that it's matured, the company is really hitting its stride.

"We have become one of the biggest healthcare IT marketing firms in the nation," says Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing. "We just closed two deals in the last week."

The Ann Arbor-based firm has hired three people over the last year, including project managers. It now has a staff of 20 employees and one summer intern.

Powering that hiring has been more and more word-of-mouth work from healthcare IT firms. It has signed deals across the U.S., including with the Chronic Care Management out of Cleveland and eMedapps in Chicago. It's also doing work closer to home, handling marketing for Mountain Pass Solutions, a University of Michigan spin-out.

Deals like that cleared the way for 2014 to become Clarity Quest Marketing’s best year ever. Slocum is optimistic her firm’s reputation will lead to a repeat of 2014 because of the steady pipeline of work it has lined up for this year.

"This year we're on track for the same as last year," Slocumb says. "I'm hoping its going to be better."

Source: Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

Hile Creative grows revenue with long-term clients, adding staff

A pivot in the Hile Creative business model is paying dividends for the Ann Arbor-based firm a little more than a year after it was executed.

The digital advertising firm made a shift from project-based work to more comprehensive branding for long-term clients. The move paid off. The 30-year-old firm's revenue is up 10 percent and it's looking to hire two people to its staff of 12.

"Our sweet spot is to work with companies that need help defining themselves in their competitive space," says Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative. "The question we always ask clients is why do you matter? Why would someone choose you over your competitors?"

Hile Creative grew by bringing on some more long-term clients, such as Venturi, a Traverse City-based maker of bathroom products. Hile Creative has also expanded its work with existing clients like Beaumont Hospital, Ann Arbor-based Heatspring, and the University of Michigan.

Hile Creative is looking to hire a graphic designer and web director now because it's aiming to do more video work for its clients. The company is betting more and more companies will turn to short videos to help them tell the stories about them and their products.

"More and more information, especially complex information, can be easily described through animation and videography," Hile says.

Source: Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

RightBrain Networks adds 7 people, looking for 5 more

Repeat after me: cloud computing is not going away. It's not only a technology that is here to stay but is the very future of computing. The team at RightBrain Networks saw this years ago and is now starting to reap the rewards of growing a business based on cloud computing consultation.

"For the longest time people thought that it was a fad," says Jamie Begin, CEO of RightBrain Networks. "In 2014-15 there was a massive uptick in demand for cloud computing services."

Begin launched RightBrain Networks in 2009 after he was laid off from his IT job the year before. His firm has since grown exponentially, most especially recently. Over the last year RightBrain has doubled its revenue (crossing the $1 million mark) and tripled its staff. It now employs 13 people after hiring seven in IT, sales and marketing over the last year. It is now looking to hire another five people.

"Our growth has been over 100 percent for the last four years," Begin says. "We will be at 20 people by the beginning of August and 30 people by the end of the year. It feels like I am riding a rocket."

The Ann Arbor-based company specializes in both IT and cloud-computing for both startups and large companies and institutions. Some of its customers include Silicon Valley-based startups, ProQuest, and the University of California, Berkley.

Source: Jamie Begin, CEO of RightBrain Networks
Writer: Jon Zemke

Swift Biosciences hires 4 as it debuts 2 new products

Swift Biosciences has launched two new products this month, releases the Ann Arbor-based company expects to help power its growth this year.

The 5-year-old life sciences startup makes tools for genomic research. It just released Accel-NGSTM Methyl-Seq DNA Library Kit. The new product utilizes AdaptaseTM technology, a unique molecular biology method that works with single-stranded DNA. The Adaptase technology enables next generation sequencing libraries to be made post-bisulfite treatment, allowing researchers to recover more of their input DNA and use a hundredfold less input material compared to other commercially available products.

"It's a way of examining the regulations of the genome, mostly what is on and what is off," says David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences. "What is active and what is not."

Swift Biosciences also recently launched its Accel-NGS Amplicon panels, which helps molecular biologists detect and screen clinically relevant mutations. The underlying technology enables hundreds of primer pairs to be amplified in a single tube. The panels can be used to target either contiguous coverage of a single gene, multiple loci throughout the genome, or a combination of both.

"It's a way of looking at a small number of important genes much faster and at a much lower expense than looking at the full genome," Olson says. "These genes can be the critical genes that impact our agriculture or oncology."

Swift Biosciences is also looking launching another new product or two before the end of this year (Olson declined to elaborate on them) along with a couple of new versions of is existing products. Its growing product portfolio has enabled the company to hire four people over the last year (technicians and sales & marketing professional), expanding its staff to 19 people.

"It would be fair to say we have grown 10-fold in the last year, customers and revenue," Olson says. "We hope to continue that pace this year."

Swift Bio Sciences has raised $13.15 million in venture capital, including a $7 million Series B it closed on earlier this year.

Source: David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

VC investment in Michigan at highest level in 15 years

Investment in Michigan startups hit a 15 year high in the first quarter of 2015. 


"Twelve companies across the state collectively received $75.3 million in venture capital investments from January to March, according to the MoneyTree report from the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers using data from Thomson Reuters. That compares to 14 deals for $37.1 million in the same period in 2014 and was the best first quarter since the 17 deals for $142.9 million to start 2000.

Two of the recent deals included companies in West Michigan.

Apjohn Ventures invested $3.5 million in Kalamazoo-based Armune BioScience Inc., which is commercializing a new-generation blood test for men suspected of having prostate cancer.

Meanwhile, Grand Rapids-based software firm Buoy76 LLC received $950,000 from Start Garden LLC, Huron River Ventures in Ann Arbor, Detroit Development Ventures and an undisclosed investor, according to the report. Buoy76 is developing Sportsman Tracker, a mobile application that forecasts the best time and location for hunters and anglers as well as their probability of success."

Read the rest here.
3384 Articles | Page: | Show All
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