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Stout Systems takes aim at record growth year in Ann Arbor

Stout Systems has been riding a nice wave of success since the Great Recession hit, and it looks like the ride has yet to crest for the tech firm.

"If it keeps going this way for us it will be a record year for us," says John W. Stout, founder & president of Stout Systems. "It was already a record January for us."

The Ann Arbor-based company providing staffing and consulting services in the software and IT sectors. It's fourth quarter last year produced the best sales ever for the 22-year-old firm. That allowed it to add to its staff, including four hires in January and another one coming onboard this month. The firm currently employs 35 people, including a dozen that work at client sites.

"The area we have grown the most is our consulting business," Stout says. "It has really taken off in the last few years."

Stout Systems also recently won the Corp! Magazine's 2015 DiSciTech Award in the Science and Technology category for its innovative and cost effective project management system. The DiSciTech awards are presented to Michigan companies and educational organizations that are leading the way in science, technology and digital initiatives through innovation, research and applied science.

Source: John W. Stout, founder & president of Stout Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

An Auburn Hills-based company may have revolutionized the wheelchair

Clinton River Medical Products, an Auburn Hills-based company, may have revolutionized the wheelchair.

The company's new model, Tailwind, combines both the freedom of manual operation and power to make using a wheelchair easier. It also includes a sleek, lightweight design with an intuitive software that helps provide a little extra push when users want it deployed. Check out a video of how the product works here.

"It's a hybrid between a manual and a powered wheelchair," says Craig Doescher, general manager of Clinton River Medical Products. "It provides you with a boost when you place your hands on the grips."

Clinton River Medical Products finished development of this wheelchair in 2013 and has spent the last year introducing it to the marketplace. Doescher expects significant sales in 2015 because his company is launching a full-on marketing campaign to support the Tailwind.

"We're hitting the point where we have been in the market long enough for broad recognition to develop," Doescher says.

Clinton River Medical Products has a staff of 11 employees and one intern after hiring five (mainly sales and engineering professionals) over the last year.

Source: Craig Doescher, general manager of Clinton River Medical Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

Media production firm Three Lyons Creative launches out of Hamtramck

Tony Eggert worked a corporate job in the automotive sector until he couldn't take it anymore. Now he is pursuing his passion and launching his own business, Three Lyons Creative.

Eggert launched the media-production company with his brother, Daniel Eggert, and his cousin, Mike Williams. The one-year-old company supports Detroit brands and businesses by creating video, web, audio, and graphic artwork.

"It came together because the three of us could combine and create a project that is greater than the sum of its parts," Tony Eggert says.

The Hamtramck-based company has done work for a number of local clients. During that time it has grown its team to six people. Three Lyons Creative created the campaign video for state Rep Rashida Tlaib's state Senate campaign last year. It also put together a short film called "Thick Air" that will premier next month at the Tangent Art Gallery.

"It's something that is representative of the work we want to do in the future," Tony Eggert says.

Source: Tony Eggert, co-founder of Three Lyons Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

Twenty-year-old tech firm DASI Solutions grows staff, revenue in downtown Pontiac

DASI Solutions has grown significantly over the last year by expanding its work from within. The 20-year-old tech firm grew its revenue by nearly 10 percent last year. All of that new work has come from familiar sources.

"Our growth has come from our existing base," says David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions. "They are buying more from us as the economy rebounds. It’s a good indicator we're doing something right."

DASI Solutions specializes in engineering and tech work, helping companies implement of CAD, CAE, and PDM collaborative technologies for product development. It bought and renovated its current headquarters in downtown Pontiac a little more than a year ago.

The firm currently employs a staff of 43 after hiring five people, including customer support and community outreach professionals. It is also looking to hire another four people in web design, marketing, engineering, and sales.

Darbyshire expects the company’s current trajectory to continue this year in much the same way it did in 2014. "I expect to grow even more," Darbyshire says.

Source: David Darbyshire, partner with DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Draper Triangle’s Ann Arbor office spreads the seed capital

Draper Triangle Ventures opened its Michigan office in Ann Arbor a year ago, and the venture capital firm is off to a fast start.

The Pittsburgh-based firm has made investments in two Ann Arbor-based startups over the last year. The first was in Amplifinity, which makes referral software, in early 2014. Draper Triangle Ventures also recently sunk money into Pixel Velocity, a image processing and data analytics startup.

"A person can make and manage two investments per year," says Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures’ Ann Arbor office. "I'll make two investments this year, and Pixel Velocity is one of them."

Draper Triangle Ventures has more than $200 million under management across three funds. Its latest investment fund was set to raise more than $100 million. The venture capital firm invests in early stage tech ventures, such as software and IT startups.

Murray is Draper Triangle Ventures’ lone representative in Michigan. The firm has its main office in Ann Arbor and another satellite location in downtown Detroit. Murray expects to make one more investment in a local startup this year but that number could grow.

"I have a long list (of potential startups to invest in)," Murray says. "There are a lot of very good prospects on it. It could change from two investments to three investments if the right opportunity comes along."

Source: Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures’ Ann Arbor office
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rocket Fiber, a super-fast fiber Internet service, coming to downtown Detroit

If you're just learning about Dan Gilbert's proposal to outfit the greater downtown area with hyper-fast fiber optic Internet service, you're probably connecting to the Internet with a dial-up modem. (For you youngsters who have no idea what "dial-up" means, read this.)
 
According to Crain's Detroit Business, Gilbert's spokespeople have confirmed their plans to launch Rocket Fiber, an "advanced fiber-optic Internet network that will serve residents, local government and businesses in and around downtown Detroit," providing them with connection speeds that are over 100 times faster than what is currently available.
 
According to Crain's, Rocket Fiber's network "originates west of downtown Detroit, and the initial scope covers the central business district from M-10 to the west, I-75 to the north, I-375 to the east and the Detroit River to the south." Eventually the network will be expanded to other areas of the city. More details on roll out of the service to come.
 
Read more in Crain's Detroit Business

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!

Excerpt:

"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.
 

NerdWallet says Ann Arbor is an innovative tech hub

Looks like news of Ann Arbor's tech scene is spreading. While we didn't break the top 10, NerdWallet lists us at a respectable 12th for innovation.

Excerpt:

Silicon Valley is by far the leader. With a high number of patents per capita and venture capital funding figures that no other place comes close to, the metro area that includes the cities of San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara leads all in tech innovation.

The West dominates. Only two East Coast places made our top 10 list — Burlington, Vermont, and Boston, Massachusetts.

Universities are key. Every area in our top 10 is located near a major university, suggesting that higher education and innovation are closely linked.

Read the rest here.
 

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.

Excerpt:

"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.

Excerpt:

"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.
 

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

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

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
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