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CureLauncher secures $500K Series B, signs 4 big clients

CureLauncher has closed on a Series B round of funding worth $500,000.

The Bloomfield Hills-based startup that likes to refer to itself as the Wikipedia of clinical trials also closed on a half-million-dollar Series A last year. The Series B was led by Birmingham-based early stage venture capital firm InkWell.

"It will help us grow fast," says Steve Goldner, chairman & CEO of CureLauncher. "It will add more talent to the team."

CureLauncher's software is a one-stop shop for people looking to participate in clinical trials. Tens of thousands of clinical trials are held in the U.S. each year but they are routinely delayed because of enrollment issues. CureLauncher's database cuts out the delay by connecting sick people with cutting-edge treatments.

"In the last year we have signed worldwide master service agreements with four of the largest pharmaceutical companies and clinical research organizations around the world," Goldner says.

That has allowed CureLauncher to hire five people over the last year, and it's currently looking to hire three more. The relationship managers help prospective patients calling into CureLauncher's offices to find the best clinical trials. The two-year-old startup now has a staff of 14 employees and two summer interns.

Source: Steve Goldner, chairman & CEO of CureLauncher
Writer: Jon Zemke

Homeward Healthcare delivers better hospital discharges

The inspiration for Joe Gough's current startup hit a little too close to home. He was working at the University of Michigan when his son had to go to the hospital. A bad discharge complicated his son’s recovery (he's fine now) and inspired Gough to launch Homeward Healthcare.

Homeward Healthcare creates a mobile app that helps medical staff better communicate with their patients and make more informed decisions about treatment and discharge. The Ann Arbor-based company's software platform enables a patient to help direct their care letting them fill out questionnaires on a mobile device where they can be free of social pressure to say certain things.

"You're trying to get honesty from a patient," says Joe Gough, president & CEO of Homeward Healthcare.

The idea is to help give medical staff the best information possible so they know when best to discharge the patient and what medical treatment would be most appropriate at which time. Today hospital readmissions are a leading cause of longer hospital stays and higher bills.

"It's a severe problem in the healthcare space," Gough says.

Homeward Healthcare and its team of eight people have built out the mobile app and are getting ready to launch it at Hurley Medical Center in Flint this fall.

"We are in one hospital right now," Gough says. "We will be going in front of patients next week."

Source: Joe Gough, president & CEO of Homeward Healthcare
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Institute of Music Education's first students start classes

The first students are filing into classes at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME) this week.

Jack Stablein is one of them. The 19-year-old Rochester native lives in Birmingham and is the frontman for Fifth and Main, a folk rock band. He decided to join the initial class of the DIME to pursue his bachelor degree in songwriting and sharpen his performance skills. He choose the Detroit Institute of Music Education because he can still study music theory while also working intensely on his performance skills.

"They're really focused on the performance part of music," Stablein says. He adds its location in downtown Detroit (1265 Griswold) is also attractive. "The more connected with the Detroit Institute of Music Education I am, the more connected I am with Detroit and bigger-and-better things."

The DIME has its roots in the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, which was launched in Brighton, England, in 2001. The firm grew to several locations across the United Kingdom before it was acquired. Farmington Hills-based venture capital firm Beringea, which has an office in London, convinced the firm's founders to open a U.S.-version of the business in Detroit last summer.

The company now has seven full-time employees and 20 sessional instructors. It's looking to hire 3-5 more employees this fall, including a student counselor and administrative workers.

"The ability and talent of the instructors is much higher than any other city we have opened in," says Sarah Clayman, managing director of the DIME. "That was very pleasing."

The Detroit Institute of Music Education's first class is composed of 45 full-time students, who soon will be joined by a few more who are going through the application process. The school is also offering short courses that last six weeks, such as teaching about DJing and song writing.

"We're doing lots of short courses this year," Clayman says.

Source: Sarah Clayman, managing director of the Detroit Institute of Music Education; and Jack Stablein, student at the Detroit Institute of Music Education
Writer: Jon Zemke

Nexlink hires in Auburn Hills on strength of mobile industry

Mobile technology is creeping into more and more parts of the everyday economy and Nexlink Communications is one of the players making that happen sooner rather than later.

The 10-year-old tech firm has doubled its revenue each year. That has allowed it to grow to 200 employees spread between two manufacturing facilities in Minnesota, three offices in Asia, and its headquarters in Auburn Hills. Thirty of its positions are in Auburn Hills, where the company has hired five people in purchasing and sales over the last year.

Today's growth is coming primarily from its business in the mobile sector. That includes supplying new and used mobile devices, software provisioning, carrier services, back-end service and product support.

"We have a bundled solution for companies that are getting into mobile," says Peter Schmidt, director of sales and marketing for Nexlink Communications. "The big areas are healthcare, transportation and hospitality."

For instance, Nexlink Communications will help truck drivers switch their record keeping from hand-written records to elecrtronic records entered on a tablet in the vehicle. Or providing a tablet at a table in a restaurant so patrons can pay without needing the server. In both cases Nexlink Communications supplies a preloaded tablet that can be mounted and used by the workforce or customer.

Source: Peter Schmidt, director of sales & marketing for Nexlink Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

Imagine Detroit helps promote biz through free videos

Own a business in the greater downtown Detroit area? Need to get the word out about what you're doing? Imagine Detroit wants to help you tell that story.

The Mt. Clemens-based organization, an offshoot of NES World Group, is making dozens of short videos for small businesses based in downtown Detroit. So far subjects of the videos include Motor City Brewing Works in Midtown and Brooklyn Street Local in Corktown. Check out the more of the featured businesses here.

"We're trying to develop a feel for what downtown is like," says Gregory Dilone, Jr., president & founder of Imagine Detroit.

The videos are free to the businesses. The three-person team at Imagine Detroit produces them with the idea of helping boost the small business climate in greater downtown Detroit.

"We want to make guerilla-marketing videos that aren't over-produced," Dilone says.

Dilone and his group currently are working to hit 200 interviews. They already have 55 under their belts. He is also looking at moving his marketing agency, NES World Group, to downtown Detroit in the not too distant future to take part in what he is marketing.

"Detroit has so much passion behind it right now," Dilone says.

Source: Gregory Dilone, Jr., president & founder of Imagine Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Duo Security raises $12M Series B from Silicon Valley VC

Duo Security announced this week that it has raised a $12 million Series B round with a big-name Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm (Benchmark Capital) leading the way. What’s interesting is that Dug Song, the startup's CEO & co-founder, never had any intention of raising the 8-figures worth of new funding.

"Benchmark approached us," Song says.

More specifically Matt Cohler approached Song. He approached Song multiple times. Song didn't respond. He didn't even pick up the phone when Cohler called because Duo Security wasn’t raising seed capital. Song finally did pickup the phone when several of his friends told him he was crazy for ignoring one of the most successful entrepreneurs in tech today.

Benchmark Capital has been in the middle of a number of high-profile deals in the Bay Area since its launch in the mid 1990s, including investments in Zillow, Zipcar, Yelp, and Twitter. It's probably most famous for investing early in eBay.

"They are probably one of the top three venture capital investors in the world," Song says.

Cohler made a name for himself by getting in on the ground floor at number of high-profile startups over the last decade. He was a founding member of Linkedin. Then he went on to become an early hire at Facebook. Kohler joined Benchmark Capital as a general partner in 2008 and led investments in Dropbox and Instagram. He is now the point person for Benchmark Capital's investment in Duo Security.

Duo Security makes online security software, specifically a two-step verification process that confirms the right person is accessing protected information. Duo Push seamlessly integrates with the user's online password system, so when a user logs in on a computer Duo Push sends a push alert to that user's smartphone asking whether to approve or deny the login request. Check out a short video of it here.

Song (a big proponent of A2 New Tech Meetup and the Ann Arbor Skatepark) and Jon Oberheide launched the startup in 2009 at Tech Brewery. They raised a seven-figure seed round off the bat, attracting local venture capital firms (Reasonant Ventures) and coastal VCs (True Ventures). They have since grown the company to several dozen employees. Song declined to say how many but did say Duo Security is looking to hire 10 people right now.

"There are more (open positions) being added," Song says.

Which is why Duo Security is moving. It's nearly tripling its office space to 14,000 square feet at 123 N Ashley in downtown Ann Arbor.

"We're about to move," Song says. "Our anticipated move date is in November. It's a big build out."

Which might help explain why Song is too busy to take extra investor calls, and why they’re calling in the first place.

Source: Dug Song, co-founder & CEO of Duo Security
Writer: Jon Zemke

Write A House selects first winner, poet Casey Rocheteau of Brooklyn


Last week, Write A House, a group awarding free houses in Detroit to writers, selected its first winner, poet Casey Rocheteau of Brooklyn.

Rocheteau was selected from a field of hundreds of applicants from around the country by a panel of judges that included former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and local writers dream hampton and Toby Barlow.

According to Write A House's blog:

"Rocheteau is a writer, historian, and performing artist. She has attended the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop, Cave Canem, and Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and she has released two albums on the Whitehaus Family Record. Her book, Knocked Up On Yes, was released on Sargent Press in 2012, and her second collection, The Dozen, will be published in March 2016 by Sibling Rivalry Press. Rocheteau can be found online at www.caseyrocheteau.org and @CaseyRocheteau."

Write A House purchased a house in Wayne County's annual auction of tax-foreclosed properties last year and partnered with Young Detroit Builders, a 10-month training program that helps 18-24 year old students working towards their GEDs develop skills in the building trades, to renovate it. Rocheteau will move into the house in November.

In the mean time, Write A House will install a house sitter at the home.

Write A House opens a new round of applications in early 2015 for its next set of houses, which are located in the same neighborhood where Rocheteau will reside. Until then, the organization will continue to raise funds to purchase and renovate Detroit homes for its residency program. Donations can be made through Fundly.

Source: Write A House

PishPosh expands space with eye for maker education

The team at PishPosh has been working all summer toward building out new studio space in downtown Detroit, and now the podcasting and video production startup is about to embark on a new line of business -- maker education.

PishPosh plans to start offering day-long classes in mid October that teach people how to building new technology. The firm wants to ensure that classes are affordable -- think spending a few hundred dollars to learn how to build a drone or an arcade-style video game console. When classes conclude, participants get to walk out with their new toys.

"They get a box with all the parts they need," says Michael Evans, co-founder of PishPosh. "They get lunch, and then they get to leave with what they built."

Both Evans and his partner, Ben Duell Fraser, are instructors at Grand Circus, where classes in how to create software often cost thousands of dollars. They believe that PishPosh's new classes will complement Grand Circus' offerings and help grow the local tech community by giving them a broader range of education options.

The classes are set to take place in a 600-square-foot space in PishPosh's offices in the Department of Alternatives, a downtown Detroit-based entrepreneurial collective near Grand Circus Park. The walls in the education room are up and are covered in primer paint. Evans and Duell Fraser expect to finish off the space within the next few weeks.

"This is our training room," Evans says. "We're thinking of calling it PishPosh Academy."

PishPosh made its name with its "Slash Detroit" online video series, a roundup of the local news with a sharp sense of humor. Duell Fraser serves as the main anchor of the broadcast. The startup has toyed with making other shows over the last year and is now playing around with other formats, such as an uncensored version of the Friday Fahles where local media members give their take on current events.

PishPosh has expanded into 2,000 square feet at the Department of Alternatives to keep up with its current workload. Not only is it doing its Slash Detroit episodes and preparing to offer maker classes, it is doing custom video work, such as creating a documentary on Code Michigan for the state of Michigan. The company needed bigger and more intricate work/studio space to keep up with its portfolio of projects.

"If everything goes the way we want it to go, it wouldn't be too long before we needed the extra space anyways," Duell Fraser says.

Source: Michael Evans and Ben Duell Fraser, co-founders of PishPosh
Writer: Jon Zemke

RedViking's engineers score awards as firm adds staff

RedViking likes to think of itself as the home to some of the top engineering talent in Metro Detroit. Now it has some hardware to back it up.

Three of the Plymouth-based testing company’s employees (Chris Lake, Greg Giles, and Jason Stefanski) recently were recognized in Plant Engineering's "Engineering Leaders Under 40" class for 2014. The awards recognize up-and-coming talent in the engineering sector of manufacturing.

"Each of those guys has a strong background in engineering," says Randy Brodzik, president & CEO of RedViking. "As we have grown they have grown with us and helped us grow."

The 31-year-old company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Superior Controls, builds testing systems for manufacturers in the automotive, defense, and aerospace industries. The testing systems, which often focus on power train systems, are quite precise and require extensive engineering. RedViking has experienced a significant bump in growth in recent years on the strength of manufacturers, including automotive. Aerospace work has supplied its biggest gains over the last year.

That has allowed RedViking to hire a number of people. The company currently has a staff of about 200 employees and half a dozen interns. It has added 15 jobs (mostly engineers) in the last year and is looking to hire another 10 people right now. Those jobs include engineers, sales, and project managers. The company is holding a job fair at its headquarters (46247 Five Mile Road in Plymouth) between 4-8 p.m. on Oct. 23. More info here.

"One of the things we have been successful at is recruiting strong engineering talent," Brodzik says.

Source: Randy Brodzik, president & CEO of RedViking
Writer: Jon Zemke

HealPay expands focus to billing activities for businesses

HealPay originally made its name by creating software that helped debtors pay their bills. Today the Ann Arbor-based startup is taking aim at a bigger market.

"We have submerged ourselves into billing," says Erick Bzovi, co-founder of HealPay.

HealPay is now offering its clients a more comprehensive option where it handles all of their billing and payments. Those services can now be done online or over the phone. It is also offering this with its original settlement app.

"We're deploying an IVR so that debtors can check their balance at any time," Bzovi says. "That's huge."

HealPay currently employs a staff of four employees and two interns. It recently turned one of those employees (a software developer) into a full-time position. It could do that because it has grown its client list to a number of medium-sized law firms and other businesses across the U.S., and that clientele is growing.

"We want to be in a place where we double our client size," Bzovi says. "We'd like to have 60 or 70 clients and in more states. We're in seven different states now. We would like to be in 20 states."

Source: Erick Bzovi, co-founder of HealPay
Writer: Jon Zemke

Avicenna Medical Systems signs first deal with VA health system

Avicenna Medical Systems recently signed a contract with the VA Health System Region 11, a move that will help deploy the startup's software platform in a number of medical institutions.

"That includes 11 hospitals and 20 site clinics," says Khaled El-Safty, co-founder & CTO of Avicenna Medical Systems. "We are working day and night to deploy it."

Avicenna Medical Systems' software platform is called AviTracks, which enables users to better manage treatment of their chronic diseases from home. It's aimed at people who utilize blood thinners or monitor cardiac rhythms. The idea is to lessen the information burden on healthcare IT systems, freeing medical staff to maximize time with patients and employ best practices for treatment.

The 7-year-old company's contract with the VA is set to last three years starting this summer. Avicenna Medical Systems is now looking to get into more regions of the VA health system now that it has signed one contract.

"Getting into the VA is one of the harder things we accomplished," El-Safty says.

Avicenna Medical Systems currently employs a staff of four people. It is looking to hire three more before the end of the year, including an account manager and software developer.

Source: Khaled El-Safty, co-founder & CTO of Avicenna Medical Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

Danlaw adds 30 engineering jobs in Novi

Danlaw has enjoyed a healthy sales increase since the end of the Great Recession, including a significant spike over the last year.

The Novi-based firm specializes in automotive-embedded electronics for network communications, infotainment, and telematics. Much of its recent growth has come from connected-vehicle technology work, which enables a car to communicate to other electronic devices around it.

"It has grown a lot in the last few months," says Tom Rzeznik, president of Danlaw. "Our connected-vehicle division has propelled our growth over the last five years."

That equates to an 80-percent revenue increase for the 30-year-old company between 2012 and 2013. It has hired 30 people in Metro Detroit over the last year, with a vast majority of those new hires being engineers. The firm now employs 150 people in the U.S. and 250 abroad in China and India.

Rzeznik says the company is on pace to do similar numbers in the 2013 to 2014 year, which is why it continues to hire.

"We're looking at significant growth this year as well," Rzeznik says.

Source: Tom Rzeznik, president of Danlaw
Writer: Jon Zemke

Walsh College breaks ground on expansion of Troy campus

Walsh College's Troy campus is getting a $15 million addition and renovations that will support a more contemporary learning and teaching environment.

The groundbreaking last week at 3838 Livernois Rd. marked the start of construction of a two-story, 27,000-square-foot renovation and addition to the original campus building built in the 1970s. Another 27,000 square feet of interior space will be renovated during the 18-month-long project.

When complete, the campus will offer distinct pavilions for a business-communication focused student success center, a student lounge and a one-stop student services center.

Technological upgrades are part of the renovations, and will fold into programs that focus on the development of business communication skills that are critical to leadership roles in business, says Stephanie Bergeron, president and CEO of Walsh College.

The project is the fifth improvement to the 4,000-student campus since 2007, including the Blackstone Launchpad for Entrepreneurs in 2010, a Barnes & Noble bookstore in 2012, and a Finance Lab in 2013.

Source: Erica Hobbs, Airfoil Group
Writer: Kim North Shine

Covaron Advanced Materials raises seven-figure Series A

Big changes have taken place at Covaron Advanced Materials over the last year. The Ann Arbor-based startup has brought in a new CEO, raised a seven-figure Series A, and consolidated its investor circle to one person.

Covaron Advanced Materials, formerly Kymeira Advanced Materials, is developing a new chemistry for ceramics. The new technology was developed by company founder Vince Alessi and co-founders Cam Smith and Reed Shick. The advanced ceramics formula makes ceramics a more affordable and streamlined option for a number of molds and durable goods, such as those used in the automotive sector.

"We are a game-changing technology for a lot of industries," says Michael Kraft, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials.

Which explains why it won the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in 2012. And then the main competition at Accelerate Michigan in 2013. It also raised a $300,000 seed round from a number of local venture capital organizations, like Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures and Invest Detroit's First Step Fund.

"We had a lot of help from the Ann Arbor SPARK Business Accelerator Fund," Kraft says.

Those investors are gone now. Kraft says a single investor he declined to name but described as a person who owns "a Michigan-based consortium of companies" bought out everyone else and provided the money for a Series A. Kraft declined to name the individual or the exact amount of the Series A besides saying it was in the "seven figures" and provide enough funding to grow the company for 24 months.

Kraft, a Michigan State University graduate, was recruited from California to serve as Covaron Advanced Materials' new CEO. He explains the plan is to focus on growing the company through targeted application development of its ceramics technology. The idea is to aim for a long-term growth cycle (similar to what life sciences startups go through) so it can maximize the use of its technology in several markets. Covaron Advanced Materials and its team of 10 people (all recently moved from independent contractors to full-time employees) plans to leverage the sole investor’s portfolio of firms to grow.

"We're in a consortium of companies that employs more than 1,000 people and has more than $150 million in capacity," Kraft says. "That gives you an idea of the support we have."

Kraft acknowledges this is a unique situation for a startup. There are no exit requirements or need to pump up artificial value or need to exit because a subset of the startup's investors needs to cash out. There is only the goal of growing a big business that could one day have its fingers in a lot of pies.

"We have choices," Kraft says. "We don't need to paint ourselves into a corner."

Source: Michael Kraft, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

Tata Technologies invests in STEM education in Metro Detroit

Tata Technologies is making a significant investment in local STEM education, and it’s not hard to see why after looking at the company’s recent hiring spree.

The Novi-based firm has hired dozens of people over the last year, expanding its staff to 450 people in Metro Detroit. It employs 650 people in the U.S. with a vast majority of them based in Metro Detroit. The company currently has several dozen open positions in Auburn Hills and Novi right now.

"We are currently adding almost a hundred people a year," says Warren Harris, CEO & managing director of Tata Technologies.

And those are mostly engineering positions. Tata Technologies (its parent company is based out of India) specializes in engineering and product development IT services for the manufacturing sector. It employs thousands of people around the world, and choose to set up shop in Metro Detroit in part because of the deep engineering talent pool here.

Which is part of the reason why Tata Technologies recently made a large donation to enrich STEM education in Detroit Public Schools. Tata Technologies, along with the Detroit Lions and the nonprofit group Athletes for Charity, are working to provide more opportunities for Detroit Public School students to learn more in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. The STEM Youth Literacy Program will take place at Clark Preparatory Academy and Dixon Educational Learning Academy.

The donation is part of Tata Technologies's goal of improving STEM education around the world, and to help build up its future engineering talent pool.

"One of the commitments we are making is to build up our engineering talent not only here but around the world," Harris says.

Source: Warren Harris, CEO & managing director of Tata Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke
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