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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

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

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.

Eastern Market lands $250K grant for strategic planning

A quarter of a million dollars will help fund strategic planning efforts for Eastern Market that will help grow businesses in the district.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded the $250,000 grant to Eastern Market Corporation to pay for an update of the district’s development plan. Much of the plan from six years ago has already been implemented by the non-profit that manages the market and surrounding business district, such as renovating the farmers market sheds and protecting the character of the historic district.

"We want to make sure we engage our broad range of stakeholders in a more robust way," says Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp.

That includes fostering more entrepreneurship in the community. The farmers market now operates both Saturday and Tuesday and includes more space for a broader variety of vendors. Now there is more room for food entrepreneurs trying to get lifestyle businesses off the ground.

One of those challenges is modernizing the built infrastructure in the market. Many of the buildings are over a century old and were not constructed to accommodate 21st century businesses. Eastern Market's leaders wants to find a way to maintain the authenticity that plays a critical part in attracting 2 million visitors annually while also providing a solid foundation for young businesses to grow.

Eastern Market Corporation expects the new strategic plan to encompass the central market itself, along with the Gratiot commercial corridor and adjacent light industrial area. The new report is set to be released in late spring of next year.

Source: Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Logic Solutions adds to team on eCommerce growth

New work in eCommerce is helping drive some growth at Logic Solutions office in Ann Arbor. The tech firm is has watched a significant uptick in demand for its eCommerce services, allowing it to more than double its eCommerce team from six to 14 people. The firm currently employs about 50 people in Ann Arbor out of 250 worldwide.

"What we're seeing in the market place is a much bigger uptick for eCommerce technology in general and for Magento in particular," says Angela Kujava, director of innovation for Logic Solutions.

Logic Solutions primarily focuses on Magento and WooComerce eCommerce platforms. Magento holds a 26 percent market share of the top one million websites using eCommerce, while WooCommerce is one of the most popular eCommerce plugin for Wordpress websites.

While eCommerce work focused on normal websites is still king in the space for Logic Solutions, it has watched a big growth in mobile as of late. More and more customers are looking to make their eCommerce platforms accessible to mobile users.

"We're having many more conversations about mobile," Kujava says.

Source: Angela Kujava, director of innovation for Logic Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Huron River Ventures optimistic about local deal flow

Huron River Ventures recently announced its investment in Cribspot, leading a $660,000 seed round in the Ann Arbor-based startup.

An Ann Arbor-based venture capital firm investing in a Michigan-based startup isn't that unusual. However, it's becoming much more par for the course for Huron River Ventures. The Kerrytown-based venture capital firm has made 12 investments since it launched in 2010, and is on course to make a couple more before the end of the year.

"We are almost exclusively looking at Michigan-based companies right now," says Tim Streit, partner of Huron River Ventures.

That includes two that are in the final stages of due diligence before a potential investment. Streit says that startups in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem are maturing after several years of development. It means that the team of nearly half a dozen people at Huron River Ventures don’t have to travel far to make investments.

"We are seeing an exceptional deal floor out of the state of Michigan right now," Streit says. "We haven't had to look very far out of state to find companies."

Cribspot is latest example of it. The 1-year-old startup was launched by University of Michigan students who were looking to make the process of finding off-campus rental housing more efficient. The startup, which also has an office in downtown Detroit, went through the Bizdom program to help it sharpen its business plan.

"It's a great example of how the world is shifting," Streit says.

Source: Tim Streit, partner with Huron River Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

WCCCD scores $2.5M grant for cyber security education

Wayne County Community College District has won a multi-million-dollar federal grant to help train unemployed veterans for jobs in cyber security.

The U.S. Dept. of Labor awarded the community college $2.5 million for its Wayne County Generation Cyber Project with additional assistance coming from the state of Michigan and the office of Gov. Rick Snyder. The program will train and provide career guidance for veterans looking to gain a beachhead in the cyber security workforce.

"There are a lot of people who have a lot of skills already but not the most current skills," says Dave Murray, deputy press secretary for Gov. Rick Snyder. "They're looking for a way to elevate the skills to meet the jobs of today."

The Wayne County Generation Cyber Project is part of the nearly $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative. The federal initiative is aiming to help make the country's community college system provide more comprehensive offerings for worker training.

Wayne County Community College District will focus on developing the local cyber security workforce. It will hire and train more instructors, expand online education options, develop new curriculum, and purchase new equipment to help more veterans transition into the cyber security workforce.

Source: Dave Murray, deputy press secretary for Gov. Rick Snyder
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

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

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

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

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
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