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Oakland University students build diabetes app, TypeOneTwo

A trio of Oakland University computer science majors placed at the MHacks hackathon in Ann Arbor with its diabetes mobile app.

Andrew Clissold, Steven Wiggins and Brandon Powell are the undergrads behind TypeOneTwo. The mobile app helps people who live with diabetes track and analyze their glucose and insulin levels.

"I have been wanting to make an app to help me better track my stuff," says Powell, who also lives with Type 1 diabetes.

The friends built out the app during the MHacks software programming competition at the University of Michigan earlier this fall. The 2-month-old startup placed in the top 10 after the 36-hour hackathon, and set the stage to further develop the app into a business.

"This was something that was fun for all of us and could help other people," Powell says. "It was really a blast. We had so much fun. We just sat down and programmed for 36 hours."

The trio behind TypeOneTwo plans to keep developing the app over this winter and launch it to the public in early 2015.

Source: Brandon Powell, co-founder of TypeOneTwo
Writer: Jon Zemke

SE Michigan firms dominate Accelerate Michigan competition

Eleven startups took home cash prizes at last week's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and each one of them is based in southeast Michigan.

While Ann Arbor-based firms took home the lion's share of the winnings, companies based in Metro Detroit also won some of the category awards worth $25,000 apiece. Those winners included Wixom-based SurClean (Product and Service category), Plymouth-based Beet Analytics Technology (Manufacturing), and Detroit-based Inventev (Advanced Transportation).

Ann Arbor-based firms SkySpecs (drone technology) and Cribspot (online platform for off-campus housing) took the top two spots worth $500,000 and $100,000, respectively. Ann Arbor startups also took six of the nine category wins. More info on those here.

Accelerate Michigan is an annual business plan competition held in downtown Detroit. It aims to promote and grow the cream of the crop of startups based in Michigan or looking to move to the Great Lakes state. Its $1 million in prize money and services also serves as a motivational tool to push startups closer to investment and commercialization.

"It's a very good learning process," says David Wang, CEO of Beet Analytics Technology. "I have never prepared so much for a 10-minute pitch process."

Beet Analytics Technology provides diagnostic and analytical tools that accelerate problem solving in complex manufacturing and automation operations. Its software improves problem identification and reduces production downtime so the user can optimize productivity gains.

SurClean is developing a laser-based technology that replaces the harmful chemicals, media blasting, and other abrasives typically used in the removal of paint and other coatings from aircraft, vessels, and bridges undergoing maintenance. Its technology uses a laser beam to disintegrate and remove paint and other coatings like rust from substrate in a cost-effective, safe, energy-efficient and earth-friendly way.

Inventev is creating a hybrid-electric system for commercial trucks. The technology is a new transmission architecture that allows electric machines to operate other aspects of the trucks, such as the hydraulic lift. That way the truck's diesel engines don't need to idle while they dump their load.

Source: David Wang, CEO of Beet Analytics Technology
Writer: Jon Zemke

Startups from NextEnergy, Bizdom win big at Accelerate Michigan

Startups with close ties to two Detroit-based business accelerators practically swept the top prizes the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last week.

Clients of NextEnergy and Bizdom took home 83 percent of the $810,000 in prize money, including the top two spots worth a combined $600,000 in seed capital. NextEnergy’s startups led the way, taking home four prizes in the competition.

"The companies we work with are in a pretty good spot," says Jean Redfield, president & CEO of NextEnergy. She adds that 13 NextEnergy client startups made the semifinals, too. "They tend to do pretty well because they got pretty good support."

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is an annual business plan competition held in downtown Detroit. It awards $1 million in seed capital and services to new economy startups either based in Michigan or looking to move to the Great Lakes State.

SkySpecs took home the top prize worth $500,000 for its sophisticated collision-avoidance system for drones that enables them to inspect wind turbines, utility towers, and other pieces of infrastructure. NextEnergy helped the Ann Arbor-based company with its go-to-market strategy, partnerships matchmaking, and fundraising.

Cribspot was named the runner up ($100,000) for its software platform that helps connect college students to off-campus rental housing. The one-year-old startup graduated from Bizdom earlier this year and just finished raising a $660,000 seed round.

The following NextEnergy client startups won sub-category prizes worth $25,000 each: Solartonic (Energy), Ornicept (IT), and Inventev (Transportation). Redfield points out that the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition helps these companies not only by providing them with seed capital, networking opportunities, and exposure, but also with a good inspiration to move quickly.

"It gives them a set of deadlines and high expectations to perform to," Redfield says. "We always speak about speed in regards to startups. Competition deadlines are a great way to bring speed to the table."

Source: Jean Redfield, president & CEO of NextEnergy
Writer: Jon Zemke

Beet Analytics Technology scores win at Accelerate Michigan

Beet Analytics Technology was already on a significant growth spurt. Now it has a win at last week's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition to add to that momentum.

The Plymouth-based tech firm won the Manufacturing category of the Accelerate Michigan competition, putting $25,000 in seeding capital toward its growth plans. The 3-year-old manufacturing software startup plans to use the prize money toward further developing its platform and acquiring more hardware for it.

"We are prepared for another leap forward," says David Wang, CEO of Beet Analytics Technology. "We have had a lot of interest."

Beet Analytics Technology is developing diagnostic and analytical tools that accelerate problem solving in complex manufacturing and automation operations. Its software improves problem identification and reduces production downtime so the user can optimize productivity gains. The company has landed a couple of contracts with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from around the world and now claims to have landed contracts or is in talks to sign with half of the 10 largest OEMs in the world. It has hired seven people over the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen employees.

This activity led it to give the Accelerate Michigan competition a try this year. The annual business plan competition is Michigan's pre-eminent contest for startups, awarding $1 million in seed capital and services each year. The top prize is for $500,000. Wang and his team left the competition impressed with what they saw.

"I was amazed by how many quality entrepreneurs there are in Michigan," Wang says. "I was happy to meet all of them."

Source: David Wang, CEO of Beet Analytics Technology
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

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

Cayman Chemical hires 17 as it fills out Ann Arbor offices

Interns are an important part of Cayman Chemical's growth. The bio-tech firm has hosted a steady stream of interns over the years and turned a number of its former interns into full-time positions.

The Ann Arbor-based company hosted 15 interns over the summer, and has three right now. Over the last year, the company has turned seven into full-time employees making up nearly half of its new hires. And the firm is looking for more.

"We are working to hire interns all year," says Christine Booher, vice president of human resources for Cayman Chemical. "We want to hire five right now."

The 34-year-old company provides researchers with bio-chemical tools and research services. It has hired 17 people over the last year, and is currently looking to hire another four people right now. Those new job openings include two entry-level scientists, a regulatory affairs professional, and a facility management professional. Check out its open positions here.

That growth puts Cayman Chemical’s staff to 225 employees. A consistent growth in revenue (Booher declined to say how much) has lead to the constant hiring. That has allowed the firm to continue filling up newly acquired space. The company doubled its building count in Ann Arbor to four last year, and recently just opened a new product shipping area.

"We have our facilities pretty much full at this time," Booher says.

Source: Christine Booher, vice president of human resources for Cayman Chemical
Writer: Jon Zemke

AutoBike sells out of bikes, aims to take shifting product national

AutoBike made some significant sales of its first bicycle and automatic shifter this year.

The Troy-based bike startup sold out all 150 of its bicycles and is now looking at the possibility of selling its automatic shifting technology as a retrofit to a couple of large bike distributors. The idea is to find another way to get its shifting technology onto more bikes in 2015.

"We have prototypes with a couple of different companies," says Sean Simpson, president & CEO of AutoBike.

AutoBike got its start three years ago making an automatic shifter for bicycles. The idea is to create a smoother, more enjoyable ride for casual bicyclists who love the idea of a leisurely ride but don’t commute on a bike often.

"We're trying to sell it to your friend who hasn't ridden a bike in 30 years," Simpson says.

The 4-person startup raised $610,000 in seed capital last year, including the $25,000 prize at the 2013 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. It also helped install one of its automatic shifter retrokits on a bike for a veteran. The recipient is a double-arm amputee working with Project Mobility, one of the 19 programs of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Source: Sean Simpson, president & CEO of AutoBike
Writer: Jon Zemke

DotMine Day Planners relaunches on consumer demand

Sarah Nicoli left the corporate world more than a decade ago to start her own firm, DotMine Day Planners.

These days she is relaunching the company after realizing there is demand for good, old-fashioned, paper-and-pen day planners from a core group of her old customers.

"I just got an email today from a woman who placed an order," Nicoli says.

The Ann Arbor resident worked in product development at Proctor & Gamble before launching DotMine Day Planners in 1999. She built up the company until last year when she choose to focus on digital versions. That's when she realized her core customer group still really liked the feel of in-hand planner.

"People emailed us saying last year was the worst year for them without their paper planner," Nicoli says.

Now DotMine Day Planners is relaunching its product and rebuilding its relationships with retailers. It has rebuilt its team to seven people and has added a marketing person recently. Nicoli plans to keep rebuilding her good business through the rest of next year.

Source: Sarah Nicoli, president of DotMine Day Planners
Writer: Jon Zemke
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