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Pixel Velocity scores $10M in Series B round

Pixel Velocity has landed $10 million in seed capital thanks to a Series B round of investment in the image processing and data analytics startup.

"They're really well-positioned in an area that combines data from sensors and data analytics," says Jonathan Murray, managing director of the Ann Arbor office of Draper Triangle Ventures, which also participated in Pixel Velocity’s Series B.

The Ann Arbor-based company creates sensor technology that helps provide safety, security and operational continuity solutions to commercial and government facilities. Its imagery and data analytic tools help protect users from accidental or natural threats, such as leaks, spills or intrusion. The company is planning to expand into the oil and gas market this year.

Money from the Series B will fund the Pixel Velocity’s revenue growth and expanding operations by adding more working capital to its bottom line. That money will help do everything from adding inventory to expanding its staff. The company has hired 10 people over the last year, including positions in executive management, software development, and hardware engineers. It currently employs 17 people and the occasional intern.

"We will also be doing some work on our branding," Grisham says.

Source: Heather Grisham, COO of Pixel Velocity, and Jonathan Murray, managing director of the Ann Arbor office of Draper Triangle Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

Local investors bet on Ann Arbor as tech hub

Hoping to bring together Ann Arbor startups struggling to grow, a pair of execs at Nutshell Inc. have decided to develop a tech hub incubator. And they already have their first tenant before the doors have opened.


"Using the Madison Building in downtown Detroit as the model, a group of former Barracuda Networks Inc. executives wants to create a large hub for tech startups in downtown Ann Arbor.

They have signed a purchase agreement to buy two adjacent office buildings downtown and are negotiating to buy one or two more buildings. They hope to close on the first deal in about a month and have a build-out done in six months."

Read the rest here.

KTISIS doubles staff as it develops natural gas technology

KTISIS is a growing startup that is both diversifying Metro Detroit's economy and catering to its strongest economic asset..

"We are catering to the natural gas industry, especially transportation," says Stephen Chue, principal of KTISIS.

The Sterling Heights-based company offers consulting services dealing with alternative fuels and technologies.  It’s currently working on a gas tank for automobiles that would facilitate both liquified and compressed natural gas. Currently vehicles that run on natural gas are only able to utilize one or the other.

"We'll be able to break down that barrier," Chue says.

The KTISIS natural gas tank is currently in the development phase while the company tests a prototype at the Macomb-OU INCubator. It recently received a $15,000 grant from the state of Michigan to push along this development.

"The target is to role it out before the end of the year," Chue says.

KTISIS currently employs five people after hiring an engineer and a technician over the last year. It is currently looking to hire another engineer and a marketing professional.

Source: Stephen Chue, principal of KTISIS
Writer: Jon Zemke

How Ann Arbor's Skyspecs got off the ground

Ann Arbor-based drone firm Skyspecs lays out the story of its path to investment and product development in Crains' interesting business series, "Startup diaries," analyzing how new metro Detroit businesses find their feet.


"But these startups hardly have it easy. They slog through early years developing often-complicated technology and spending just as much time chasing money. It's a drawn-out, gambling lead-up to one day having sales that reward the effort. 

SkySpecs launched on paper in 2012, but that was just one small first step. The company's first few years were spent honing its product and chasing money, whether at business plan competitions or from investors. "

Read the rest here.

Detroit private equity firm makes big bet on coffee

Over the last few years, Huron Capital Partners, a downtown Detroit-based private equity firm that calls the Guardian Building home, has been investing a lot of money in coffee producers. The firm recently purchased Iowa-based U.S. Roasterie through one of its partners, bringing the total number of coffe companies it owns to five.

"There is a stable and growing demand for the product," says Matt Hare, principal of Huron Capital Partners. "The input costs were a fragment of the cost for the consumer."

The 16-year-old investment firm invested in Ronnoco Coffee in 2012. Since then it has made four more coffee company acquisitions. The U.S. Roasterie is the latest of those acquisitions, but probably won’t be the last as the firm eyes another purchase or two before the end of the year.

"U.S. Roasterie expands our product offering and gives us a redundant facility that gives us additional room for growth," Hare says.

Huron Capital Partners has grown steadily since its inception in 1999. It now employs 22 people after hiring three associates and analysts over the last year.

Source: Matt Hare, principal of Huron Capital Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor tech firms Aysling, Juggernaut merge

Tech firms Aysling and Juggernaut are merging, but the combination of the two companies isn't going to be difficult.

"We have shared the same office (they are both in the old Borders headquarters) for several years now," Emily Kania, director of marketing for Aysling.

Aysling, formerly known as Aysling Digital Media Solutions, sells and manages Adobe and WoodWing digital publishing software and digital media production services for publishers, retailers, and corporations. Juggernaut develops its own customer relationship management platform. Aysling will now sell and manage Juggernaut’s software.

The Ann Arbor-based companies are both connected through local angel investor David Fry. "He's invested heavily in both companies," Kania says.

Juggernaut's nine employees are now assimilated into Aysling's operations and will work under the Aysling brand. The company has a staff of 32 employees and one intern. It has hired seven people over the last year, mostly in software development, sales, and a new controller.

Source: Emily Kania, director of marketing for Aysling
Writer: Jon Zemke

B. Nektar Meadery to open a new tasting room in Ferndale

B. Nektar Meadery in Ferndale is expanding its tasting room, adding a whole new location in a second building not far from its production facility.

The meadery, which was founded in 2006 by friends and home brewers Brad Dahlhofer and Paul Zimmerman and Brad's wife Kerri, opened its doors for business in 2008. Demand for its mead, cider, and beer has increased yearly, and its tasting room, which is basically a tight space squeezed into the production area and its unfinished surroundings, has become popular with customers who want to have a mead together on site.

Construction is underway on the new and proper tap room, a 1,760-square-feet space that is expected to open in July. The new tasting room will have a hand-built 10-seat bar made of reclaimed and up-cycled barrel and pallet wood, as well as a kitchen to serve food.

When it opens, the production facility will be dedicated to brewing as the owners continue to expand their award-winning brews to other outlets and states.

Source: Brad Dahlhofer, co-founder B. Nektar Meadery
Writer: Kim North Shine

iVantage Group expands core team, moves into new home

Brighton-based iVantage Group has gone through a lot of changes over the last year. The 10-year-old staffing firm has moved into a bigger home (4,500-square-feet) and hired a new recruiter. The firm is looking to add three more recruiters and two sales professionals to the team. It has also made strategic investments in its technology infrastructure, allowing its recruiters to work more efficiently.

"We did all of this stuff without going into debt," says Juliet Shrader, president & CEO of iVantage Group.

The company specializes in staffing services for the IT, insurance and banking sectors, helping its clients find IT, engineering, finance and executive talent in the tech world. It was able to leverage its internal investments into a growing revenue, hitting nearly $10 million in revenue.

"We're doing business smarter," Shrader says.

Today iVantage Group employs a staff of 14 core team members and about 100 people in the field. Shrader expects to grow both numbers significantly in 2015.

"We're going to continue to add to those numbers," Shrader says.

Source: Juliet Shrader, president & CEO of iVantage Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Adams Fellows places final cohort of fellows with local startups

The Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program is welcoming its final fellows this year, placing a handful of ambitious young entrepreneurs with local startups throughout metro Detroit.

The Automation Alley-sponsored initiative places up-and-coming business people with local startups and established entrepreneurs and investors. The idea is to get more recent college grads working with startups and pursuing a career in entrepreneurship.

"We have a very strong cohort," says Terry Cross, managing director of the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program. "I would be very happy if we finished up with four successful entrepreneurs. They certainly have the entrepreneurial drive and spirit."

Adams Fellows are normally among the first employees of the startups with which they are placed. They have daily job responsibilities and are encouraged to participate in local entrepreneurial, business development, and leadership events. Participants are given opportunities to network with one another and with other young emerging leaders in the region.

The Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program has graduated 18 fellows since its inception in 2006. All but one of them went on to become full-time entrepreneurs.

"I think it's thrilling," Cross says. "Nothing could make me any happier."

Source: Terry Cross, managing director of the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program
Writer: Jon Zemke

Troy couples launches home goods company, June & December

Nick and Katie Forte needed a change in life. Nick found his catering business to be less and less rewarding. His wife, Katie, worked in graphic design and felt similarly about her career path. So the Troy couple decided to launch their own business, June & December.

"We teamed up and decided to move forward with this business," Nick says. "We always had a great appreciation for great products and products that are made in America."

June & December specializes in home goods -- everything from designer napkins to stationary to towels to pillow cases. All of the products are made in the U.S. and have a rustic, refined design, according to Nick.

The couple launched the company in September and sells these items online. They are looking to expand into dining items and other home goods later this year.

"We also want to expand into our own studio space," Nick says.

Source: Nick Forte, co-founder & business director of June & December
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M among top 10 universities for Peace Corp volunteers

If you're one of those townies who grumbles every time they see a U-M student playing beer-pong on their front lawn or crossing against the light when you least expect it or, well, whatever townies grumble about (over crowded restaurants, clueless drivers, too loud music, etc), keep in mind that you might be cursing the next Peace Corp volunteer. Yep, U-M ranked 8th when it comes to producing international do-gooders (51 volunteers currently).

The university also ranked No. 5 on the Peace Corps' list of the top-producing graduate schools

Or so says the Peace Corp in this report.

According to science Jolly Pumpkin is 6th best beer in Michigan

Dexter's Jolly Pumpkin Brewery ranks six out of the twelve best beers in the Mitten. Or so says Thrillist online magazine. And, frankly, we take serious issue with that assessment. Don't get us wrong, there are many fine Michigan brews on their "scientific" list. But sixth? Puh-lease. Jolly Pumpkin easily ranks in the top three. So say we all!


"Jolly Pumpkin is all about those rustic, country style, sour beers, and if the whole sour thing seems off-putting to you, don’t worry about it. Most folks who think they don’t like sour beer wind up liking Jolly Pumpkin’s sour beer, so much so that their facilities last year maxed out at around 4-5,000 barrels. And although this is a beer list, you should also eat their food. Trust us."

Read the rest o' the list here.

Southfield attorney grows staff of Rights First Law firm to three

Stephanie Fakih was not out of law school long when she launched Rights First Law. A year later, the freshly minted attorney is growing her firm.

Rights First Law now employs three people and helps a broad range of clients across Metro Detroit. Fakih expects to keep growing through word of mouth this year, too.

"We're seeing that return a lot quicker than we expected," Fakih says.

Rights First Law is a general practice law firm. It has been helping a broad range of clients including people starting businesses and people planning for retirement. Fakih choose to open her law firm in Southfield because of the high concentration of other small businesses.

"I felt like it was the perfect place to get a business going," she says.

Source: Stephanie Fakih, founder & principal of Rights First Law
Writer: Jon Zemke

Lochbridge grows workforce to build 'LAYR Cloud,' a connected car framework

Technology in cars used to be simple. A motorist would turn a dial and the radio would come on. A little bit later a driver could touch a button and the windows would automatically roll down. Or the doors would lock. Or the cruise control would set. That's far from the case today, and Lochbridge is growing its workforce in downtown Detroit to accommodate it.

"It's getting a lot more fancy," says Raj Paul, vice president for automotive and emerging technology for Lochbridge.

Lochbridge used to be a division of Compuware until it was a spun out into its own full tech-service integration firm and acquired by Los Angeles-based Marlin Equity Partners. It now employs about 1,000 people in downtown Detroit.

One of Lochbridge's biggest pushes is the development of its connected car framework. LAYR Cloud enables easier automotive app integration and improves the driving experience based on driver preferences. LAYR Cloud allows for one-to-one personalization where the information delivered to the vehicle adapts to the drivers preferences and behaviors through a single, uniformed interface that can delivered through any technology platform.

"The whole thing is personalized around the driver's need and where he is going," Paul says.

Lochbridge currently employs about 300 people working on automotive. Paul's team has about a dozen people working on LAYR right now, several of whom were hired over the last year. He expects those numbers to grow over 2015.

"We always look for young talent," Paul says.

Source: Raj Paul, vice president for automotive and emerging technology for Lochbridge
Writer: Jon Zemke

Bizdomís PaymentScholar hopes to simplify school bureaucracies

Dealing with school-related bureaucracy can be frustrating. Sometimes simple tasks like filling out permission slips at the school office or collecting money for extracurricular activities can be a challenge for parents, students, and school administrators alike. A new startup out of Bizdom is aiming to streamline that experience.

"I thought there was a great opportunity to come in and help schools with these issues," says Melanie de Vries, co-founder & CEO of PaymentScholar.

PaymentScholar specializes in digitizing forms, registrations, and payments for schools. It creates one platform to handle that small but important part of the education system so things don’t lost.

"This is a great time efficiency for them," de Vries says. "A lot of payments never make it to the bank. Checks get lost or they bounce."

PaymentScholar is currently working on a Beta version of its software with Pinckney Community Schools. It's looking to launch it publicly later this summer. In the mean time, the startup's team of four people is continuing to tweak the platform and raise seed capital at events like the most recent Great Lakes Angels meetup.

Source: Melanie de Vries, co-founder & CEO of PaymentScholar
Writer: Jon Zemke
3252 Articles | Page: | Show All
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