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Edmunds acquires Tech Brewery’s Carcode SMS

Automotive website Edmunds has acquired Ann Arbor-based Carcode SMS, making the mobile startup the firm's first acquisition.

Carcode SMS created a website plugin that allows consumers to text automotive dealership staff and inquire about a specific car. The software assigns local cell phone numbers to dealerships so mobile shoppers can text them and provides the dealership with an app that allows staff to respond and manage conversations in a compliant environment. Edmunds plans to launch this technology across its dealership network, providing CarCode SMS for free to both dealers and consumers.

"More and more traffic is going through the dealerships mobile websites," says Steve Schwartz, co-founder of Carcode SMS.

The Tech Brewery-based got its starts a couple of years ago creating mobile technology for automotive dealerships that leveraged QR codes. The three-person team pivoted a year ago to focus on the text-message conversations platform. It won the 2014 Edmund Hackomotive contest last spring.

That was the first contact Carcode SMS had with Edmunds, which led to an invitation to participate in the company’s newly formed startup accelerator program last summer. It also led to a spike in the startup’s revenues thanks to dozens of new dealerships signing up for its .

"We ended up generating revenue very quickly after the hackomotive competition," Schwartz says.

It ended with the acquisition. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Schwartz and one of the other co-founders are leaving the company while Carcode SMS' CEO takes on a role with Edmunds.

Source: Steve Schwartz, co-founder of Carcode SMS
Writer: Jon Zemke

RetroSense Therapeutics scores FDA orphan status

RetroSense Therapeutics hit a significant milestone when the U.S. Food & Drug Administration granted the Ann Arbor-based startup an orphan designation for its lead technology.

Orphan status for a biopharmaceutical company is actually much better than it sounds. It gives the company bureaucratic cover to continue keep pushing forward its commercialization efforts by helping protect its rights to its research.

"It's a form of intellectual property identification," says Sean Ainsworth, CEO of RetroSense Therapeutics. "That's a key part of it."

The 4-year-old startup is developing a novel gene therapy to restore vision in retinal degenerative diseases, using technology licensed from Wayne State University. RetroSense Therapeutics' platform extracts a new gene from blue-green algae that helps make cells more photo sensitive. The company plans to apply this gene to human cells to regenerate photo receptors in the retina.

The FDA Orphan designation is intended to support the development of medicines and technologies that diagnose, treat or prevent rare diseases and conditions that impact 200,000 people or fewer in the U.S. It serves as an incentive for their development by designating a seven-year period of market exclusivity following FDA approval, along with certain tax credits for clinical testing expenses.

"It gives us the chance to demonstrate efficacy," Ainsworth says. "We expect to see that in our stage one clinical study."

RetroSense Therapeutics employs four people. It is in the process of wrapping up some of its pre-clinical testing and plans to launch clinical tests in 2015.

Source: Sean Ainsworth, CEO of RetroSense Therapeutics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Breast cancer survivor launches bio-tech startup, re-Contour

Julie Hyde-Edwards is a breast cancer survivor and an entrepreneur, and those two things are joined at the hip for her.

The Royal Oak resident was working as a graphic designer for a financial services firm when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lost her job midway through fighting her illness, and ended up going through a double mastectomy, which required removing large amounts of tissue from each breast.

But she survived. She innovated a new technology. And now she is working on commercializing it with her own startup, re-Contour.

"I was learning that there were stages of this that were problematic, so I tried to fix it myself," Hyde-Edwards says.

Re-Contour's technology is a type of surgical dressing that improves the aesthetic look of the breast and nipple, helping it avoid flattening and encourages healing after a mastectomy. The re-Contour dressing cover the breast mound, with no contact on the nipple area – providing a safe space around the newly created nipple and preventing clothes from applying pressure to it.

Mastectomies routinely leave large scars on the survivor, and nipple loss after the procedure is not uncommon. Many women struggle with the physical changes that occur after a mastectomy.

"It looks like someone took a machete and tried to cut you in half," Hyde-Edwards says. "It's pretty hard to look at."

Hyde-Edwards is currently working with Dr. Kenneth Shaheen, section head of plastic surgery at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, on commercializing the technology. Re-Contour received a patent for its dressing in April and it recently took first place in the Growth category (worth $13,900) at the Entrepreneur-YOU business and pitch plan competition at Walsh College in Troy.

Re-Contour has been working with a variety of local economic accelerators, such as TechTown in Detroit and the Macomb-OU INCubator in Sterling Heights, but isn't directly enrolled in any specific incubator program.

"We're hoping to produce this product within a year," Hyde-Edwards says.

Source: Julie Hyde-Edwards, founder & CEO of re-Contour
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ali Sandifer grows custom furniture biz in Russell Industrial Center

Abir Ali believes a lot of architects end up designing furniture instead of buildings at one point or another in their careers for a simple reason.

"A lot of architects veer toward furniture for instant gratification," Ali says.

It's a significant reason why Ali and her husband Andre Sandifer launched their own custom furniture company, Ali Sandifer. Both are architects who appreciate the scale and size of furniture -- and how creating a piece of furniture can be done in the fraction of the time it takes to design a building.

The Russell Industrial Center-based business specializes in making minimalist furniture with clean, sleek lines that are reminiscent of mid-century moderne. The coffee tables, chairs, and benches are made of domestic hardwoods. Prices range from $1,200 to $5,400. You can check out examples of their furniture here.

"We both design very clean and simple furniture," Ali says.

Ali Sandifer has watched the demand jump for its furniture and its custom furniture commissions over the last year, so much so that the company is looking to streamline its Internet sales process and be more selective with its workload in 2015.

"We're trying to become more intentional about the work and clients we take on," Ali says.

Source: Abir Ali, co-owner & creative director of Ali Sandifer
Writer: Jon Zemke

In Oakland County, job numbers, residential real estate see significant gains

Oakland County has regained more than three-quarters of the jobs it lost during the recession's nadir, and the average number of days homes spend on the market has been nearly cut in half, falling from 116 to 59 from 2009-2013. Check out the numbers in this Crain's Detroit story.


"Oakland County added more than 65,000 jobs in 2011, 2012 and 2013, according to an economic outlook for the county produced in May by the  University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy. 

Since 2010, the industries with the greatest growth in Oakland County have been in business support services and engineering services, which grew 56 percent and 49.1 percent, respectively."

More here.

DFCU eyes Carpenter Rd. location for new branch in 2015

Ann Arbor is Dearborn-based DFCU Financial's fastest growing market. To keep up, the credit union is looking at Pittsfield Twp. site to replace an existing branch with a larger location that offers more amenities. 

"It’s a high-traffic intersection, and therefore current and potential members will pass by this corner every day," says DFCU Financial CEO Mark Shobe of the new Carpenter Rd. site. "Its proximity to our current branch is an added bonus for an easy transition for our membership."

The proposed branch would be built in place of the now vacant Great Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Carpenter. The one-acre property would include a new 4,600 square foot branch, drive up window and ATM, and include services "to fit our brand promise," says Shobe. 

DFCU Financial hopes to move forward with the multi-million dollar project in mid- to late-summer next year. Seven to nine full-time employees are expected to work in the new location. 

Source: Mark Shobe, DFCU Financial
Writer: Natalie Burg

Axis CrossMedia revenue growth prompts studio expansion

AxisCross Media got its start 15 years ago when another firm (C3 Communications) went under. Today the company has grown its staff and its space as it sprints to keep up with the rapidly changing digital landscape.

"Evolution is constant," says Matt Madill, director of web development for Axis CrossMedia. "We are constantly changing. ... Over the last three years we have done a lot more video work and incorporated it with e-publications."

Madill started working at the company a dozen years ago. He became a full partner in the company in 2009. He helped lead its current evolution to digital video production and e-publication work. As a result, the company grew nearly 10 percent over the last year.

"We have become more diverse in our customer base," Madill says, adding it has been doing more work with advertising agencies; before, its workload was dominated by manufacturing and automotive firms.

That prompted the Troy-based company to double the size of its photo studio. It is now 1,500 square feet, which is helping the company facilitate an increased workload more efficiently.

"It makes doing a lot of the stuff more convenient," Madill says.

Source: Matt Madill, director of web development for Axis CrossMedia
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's Avegant raises $9+ million. Is this the future of video?

Could Glyph be the next generation in entertainment viewing? Some big investors are betting on that to be the case.


"Glyph is based on technology developed by Dr. Allan Evans, a graduate of the University of Michigan, and relies on images that are generated from reflected light, which mimics how the human eye sees the world.

Each headset incorporates an array of tiny mirrors that reflect light onto the retina. Reflection creates images that are crisp, avoiding the pixelated effect of images on older televisions and on smartphones, for instance, when their screens are too close to the eye, the company said.

Video for Glyph is generated from a smartphone or other mobile device and connects to Glyph through an HDMI cable that Avegant provides."

Read the rest here.


Universal Marketing Group hires 75, looks to hire 100 more

Universal Marketing Group announced the opening of a new call center in Ann Arbor last year with lots of fanfare. The Toledo-based firm promised to creates dozens of jobs and invest millions in Tree Town.

One year later it has accomplished a lot of those things. The 11-year-old company has grown the Ann Arbor office (its second location) to 75 people, and it’s in the process of hiring 100 more people.

"It's going pretty well," says Kirk Schimmoeller, general manager of Universal Marketing Group. "We are taking on more clients as well as servicing our existing client. We have the new office up and running now."

Universal Marketing Group is occupying a large section of the former Border headquarters. It received a $600,000 incentive from the state to open the location with the promise of creating 400 new jobs by 2016.

The company currently employs 300 people overall, and plans to have 150-200 employees in Ann Arbor by the end of next year. That hiring is ramping up now because its the beginning of the company’s busy season handling work for retailers and gyms.

"Our busy season continue through the first quarter," Schimmoeller says.

Source: Kirk Schimmoeller, general manager of Universal Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

MyFastbraces opens new dental practice in Troy

A Saginaw-based dental practice is expanding its firm by bringing a new technology for braces to Michigan, and opening a Metro Detroit location.

Dentists Donald Sabourin and Joel Hayden first ran into Fastbraces, a technology that claims to give people braces to correct their teeth faster and cheaper, while at a conference in Texas a few years ago. They brought the technology to their practice last year, and immediately noticed its popularity.

"We thought we would do five or six cases a month," Sabourin says. "We ended up doing 27 or 28 cases a month. We were like, 'Holy cow!'"

This fall they are opening a satellite location called MyFastbraces in Troy on Big Beaver Road to serve Metro Detroit. Since introducing the technology last year, they have hired an additional seven people including four employees at the Troy office.

Fastbraces were developed by a dentist in Texas as a way to help people correct the path and straighten out crooked teeth faster than traditional braces. Traditional braces move the tooth first and allow the root to follow. Fastbraces moves the root and the tooth at the same time, realigning the root and crown simultaneously. Fastbraces claims to cut the time and money needed to correct the problems by as much as half.

"We like to say half the time and half the price but at twice the comfort," Sabourin says.

MyFastbraces is currently looking to hire two registered dental assistants.

Source: Donald Sabourin, co-owner of MyFastbraces
Writer: Jon Zemke

Women-owned startups win big at Entrepreneur-YOU

More than $50,000 in seed capital and business-development services was awarded to nine local businesses as part of the Entrepreneur-YOU Business plan competition. The common denominator in all these ventures is they are all owned by women.

Walsh College hosted the Entrepreneur-YOU business plan and pitch competition with the help of the Michigan Women's Foundation, Inforum Michigan, and Fifth Third Bank. The annual competition, which dates to 2012, helps female entrepreneurs develop their business plans and firm the elevator pitches for their ventures. Each competition offers $50,000 to $75,000 in seed capital to the winners.

This year's winners in the Lifestyle category include: Tatiana Grant of Flash Delivery (1st place for $13,900), Shannon Byrne of Slow Jams Jam (2nd place for $9,400), and Yvette Rock of Live Coal Gallery (3rd place for $5,900). The Growth category winners include 1st place to Julie Hyde-Edwards of re-Contour (which is developing a nipple guard and mastectomy dressing), 2nd place to Julie Andreae of Secure Beginnings (developing a breathable crib mattress), and 3rd place to Adrienne Minerick for developing a blood-typing microdevice.

Grant, of Flash Delivery, plans to use the prize money to help improve the customer experience of its online grocery delivery service in Detroit. That includes making it more mobile friendly and building out a better online cart in time for the holiday season.

"We will be doing a big holiday push," Grant says.

Grant and her partner also picked up some important business lessons at the competition by running it past other succesful business women and practicing their elevator pitches.

"Less is more," Grant says about one of the lessons she learned at the competition. "And really know your stuff."

Source: Tatiana Grant, co-owner of Flash Delivery
Writer: Jon Zemke

DeNovo Sciences secures $2M Series A investment round

DeNovo Sciences has closed on a Series A round of investment worth $2 million earlier this month, allowing the life sciences startup to start fundraising for a Series B in 2015.

"We are in very good shape (from a monetary standpoint)," says Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences.

The Plymouth-based startup, it calls the Michigan Life Sciences and Innovation Center home, got its start in Ypsilanti in 2011 developing a platform for early detection of cancer from blood samples. The idea is to create an less-invasive method than the traditionally painful route of biopsies. It won the top prize worth $500,000 in the 2012 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The Series A consists of all new money from angel investors and pre-seed funds.

DeNovo Sciences has developed a fully automated system to detect cancer, primarily breast and colon cancers. Two of those systems are currently in use in medical centers in the Middle East and Asia. The startup also has purchase orders for two more locations, including one in the U.S.

"We are actively engaged with more customers around the world," Handique says. "We hope to see more orders next year."

DeNovo Sciences has a staff of nine employees, nine independent contractors and one intern. It has hired three people over the last year, including software developers and clinical researchers.

Source: Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

Thomson Reuters expands, to add 300 jobs over five years

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) approved a $2.4 million Michigan Business Development Programperformance-based grant for Thomson Reuters to grow its presence in the Ann Arbor area. Pittsfield Township to be exact. That supposedly means a few hundred new jobs.


"Thomson Reuters worked with Ann Arbor SPARK to secure the MEDC incentives. Pittsfield Township will consider offering support of the project in the form of a property tax abatement, the release says."

Read the rest of the press release reportage here.

Spry Publishing almost doubles staff with acquisition

Ann Arbor-based Spry Publishing has acquired Farmington Hills-based The Word Baron, a move that nearly doubles Spry Publishing's staff.

Spry Publishing is a health-and-wellness publisher and a member of the Edwards Brothers Malloy family of businesses. Most of Spry Publishing’s work is focused on the pharmaceutical industry. The Word Baron specializes in digital marketing, ranging from graphic design to building training manuals.

"It (acquiring The Word Baron) expands our creative services that we can offer our clients," says Jeremy Sterling, director of sales & marketing for Spry Publishing.

He adds the two firms have partnered on projects before and there is a good synergy between them thanks to how the services they provide complement each other so well. The Word Baron's three employees have moved into Spry Publishing’s offices in Ann Arbor, expanding the staff to eight employees.

The Word Baron has a number of clients in the automotive industry. Sterling expects the combination of the two firms will allow them to offer a more comprehensive publishing and marketing package to their respective clients.

"We should grow well across both of our businesses," Sterling says.

Source: Jeremy Sterling, director of sales & marketing for Spry Publishing
Writer: Jon Zemke

Stay-at-home moms become entrepreneurs with Clever Container

Karen Eschebach and Jennifer Weaver were both working as stay-at-home moms nearly a decade ago when entrepreneurial inspiration hit them. Eschebach was working as a professional organizer and the two friends were at a direct-sales party hosted by another friend when the CFL went off over their heads.

"We thought, why couldn't we do that with organizing products," Eschebach says.

That was 2006, which is also the same time they launched Clever Container. The St. Clair Shores-based company employs sales reps that host buying parties where they offer organizing tips, techniques and products for everything from kitchens to closets.

The company is now the full-time jobs of Eschebach and Weaver and it employs another dozen people beyond that. Four people have been hired over the last year. Those new jobs include customer service reps, graphic designers and a national sales director.

Clever Container has steadily grown over the years. It now offers private label products and is creating its own line of products. Sales hit $2 million in 2013.

"This year we expect to exceed that," Eschebach says.

Source: Karen Eschebach, co-founder & president of Clever Container
Writer: Jon Zemke
2984 Articles | Page: | Show All
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