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GENOMENON leverages local startup support for success and growth

GENOMENON is one of those startups that local leaders get all warm and fuzzy about. The Ann Arbor-based company is a cross between life sciences and tech, and has a very promising future.

And then there are the startup resources that have been invested in its success. GENOMENON has leveraged just about every new economy startup program in southeast Michigan. It spun out of the University of Michigan, taking advantage of U-M's Office of Technology Transfer along the way. It has worked with Ann Arbor SPARK, the local small business development center, and the Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest initiative, among others.

"We have really maximized the resources in the Michigan startup community," says Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON.

GENOMENON is the product of three U-M pathologists, including Dr. Kiel. They are developing software focused on interpreting the mountains of data that come from genome sequencing. The end result could lead to things like improving cancer diagnosis and treatment. Think of it as data analytics for genome sequencing.

"We can produce the data really efficiently," Dr. Kiel says. "It's interpreting the data that is the problem."

GENOMENON is currently made up of seven people after launching last May. It is currently looking to hire a handful of software developers.

"We need boots on the ground, people who can code," Dr. Kiel says.

Source: Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON
Writer: Jon Zemke

Kraemer Design Group adds 10 new people as it fills up office

Kraemer Design Group has a good problem. The architecture firm has been adding staff so fast it has run out of places to put new hires.

"We are trying to grow," says Bob Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group. "We are struggling with the fact that we are out of desks."

The downtown Detroit-based company has hired eight people over the last year and is in the process of bringing two more onboard. Those new hires were primarily arcitects and interior designers, rounding out the firm’s staff at 28 employees and two summer interns.

Kraemer Design Group is now looking to redesign its office to accommodate those new hires. Its home is in the office space section of the Detroit Opera House parking garage overlooking Broadway Street.

Two factors are prompting this growth: Kraemer Design Group's international work, which consists primarily of hotel designs and carried the company through the Great Recession, and adaptive reuse design work in downtown Detroit. The firm has been handling the design of several major recent projects like the David Whitney Building rehab and the new home of the Archdiocese of Detroit at 1212 Griswold.

Kraemer Design Group is currently working on several other renovation projects in downtown Detroit, including the old Kresge Department Store at 1201 Woodward and The Griswold apartments project on top of the Westin Book-Cadillac's parking structure. The firm is also working on the new offices for Covisint in Southfield.

Source: Bob Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Reliance One hires 15 as it expands across Midwest

Reliance One has become a staple in the staffing business in Michigan over its 16 years.

The Auburn Hills-based company is now working toward expanding that reputation, opening a new office in Chicago this winter.

"We have clients in that market and clients we currently have locally have offices in Chicago," says Jim Beath, co-founder & chairman of Reliance One. "We need to continue that relationship with our clients."

The company has grown significantly over the last few years, notching a double-digit revenue gain in 2014. It’s on pace to do it again this year. That growth has allowed the company to hire 15 people over the last year, including recruiters, administrative, and back office support staff. It now has a staff of 65 employees and an intern. It is also looking to hire four more recruiters and promote more people internally.

"We added a lot of great people that have learned a lot about our company and our industry," Beath says.

Source: Jim Beath, co-founder & chairman of Reliance One
Writer: Jon Zemke

Touch of Class scores NEIdeas grant to expand restoration business

David Moss's path to entrepreneurship is a fairly familiar one. He started in business as a kid with a paper route. As a grown-up, he went to work in corporate America as a quality analyst, but he grew tired of that and decided to go back into business for himself, starting Touch of Class Restoration.

"When you start with that mentality, it just keeps growing on you," Moss says.

Started 14 years ago as a cleaning business, Touch of Class Restoration has evolved into a remediation company specializing in cleaning up water and fire damage. Moss made the transition after learning there were higher profit margins in that niche.

The company suffered a major setback a 18 months ago when a burglary left Moss with a lot of work and no equipment. Since then, the company's fortunes have changed for the better. Moss applied for a $10,000 NEIdeas grant, which Touch of Class Restoration won last fall.

"I bought a lot of new equipment," Moss says. "I wasn't going to let criminals run me out of Detroit."

Source: David Moss, president of Touch of Class Restoration
Writer: Jon Zemke

Wayne State University issues call for new cohort of Detroit Revitalization Fellows

On Monday, Jan. 26, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows began accepting applications for a third cohort.
A part of Wayne State University's Office of Economic Development, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows program is seeking to match approximately 20 "talented mid-career leaders with civic, community and economic development organizations working at the forefront of Detroit’s revitalization efforts." Since 2011, the program received approximately 1,000 applications and awarded 48 fellowships over the span of two cohorts.
Fellows will be paired with one of the program's partner organizations, where they will work for two years as full-time employees while concurrently receiving a slew of professional development services and participating in monthly workshops, study trips, and dialogues with community leaders.
While the program seeks applicants from around the country, it is, according to a press release, "especially interested in receiving applications from Detroiters already living in the city and those who have left the region and are ready to bring their talent back home." Fellows typically possess a graduate degree and between five and 15 years of professional experience.
According to the program's website, Detroit Revitalization Fellows applicants have the chance to be placed with the following employers:
Belle Isle Conservancy, Charles H. Wright Museum, City of Detroit Department of Transportation, City of Detroit Department of Innovation & Technology, Data Driven Detroit, Detroit Creative Corridor Center, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Detroit Future City, Detroit Historical Society, Detroit Riverfront, Conservancy, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, EcoWorks, Eight Mile Boulevard Association, Global Detroit, Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, Henry Ford Health System, Invest Detroit, Metro Matters, Southwest Detroit Business Association, and Teen Hype.
For a complete list of Detroit Revitalization Fellows job descriptions, click here.
To apply to the program, visit detroitfellows.wayne.edu/application.
Applications will be accepted now through Feb. 20.

U-M grads seeks to promote social entrepreneurship with Arbor Brothers

From the University of Michigan to Teach For America to Wall Street, a pair of U-M alums get together for a beer at Ashley's and realize that they still wan't to make the world a better place. Enter Arbor Brothers, a part-time philanthropic organization that helps facilitate social entrpreneurship.


"While maintaining their day jobs, the two started with a few pilot projects. They spent 100 hours with Nick Ehrmann, then a Ph.D. student at Princeton University, who founded Blue Engine, a nonprofit that places teaching assistants in public high schools in New York City. They worked with Hot Bread Kitchen, an organization that empowers women and minority entrepreneurs in culinary workforce programs, a loan package that financed a move to a full-time kitchen. Then in September 2010, they quit their jobs and focused all their efforts on Arbor Brothers."

Read the rest here.

Saline-based Image Data Conversion hires 7 as it continues to grow

Image Data Conversion has been growing a lot since the economic recovery commenced a couple of years ago through both organic growth and acquisitions.

The Saline-based company specializes in digitizing documents. Think turning paperwork and microfilm into more readily accessible digital documents. That could be everything from newspapers to building permits.

"The business has been growing in the double digits since 2010," says Bob Palmerton, director of finance administration for Image Data Conversion. "There is a lot of paper out there."

The 4-year-old company has also been acquiring or launching new divisions in the last few years. It acquired Beam Film in 2012 and launched Reveal Digital in 2013. It has steadily consolidated it sales efforts since then.

That has allowed Image Data Conversion to hire seven new people over the last 18 months, expanding its staff to 65 employees. Of those, 55 are based in Saline. That number could jump again in the near future as the company considers acquiring more firms in the not-too-distant future.

"We keep a short list of potential candidates that would fit in well with the company," Palmerton says.

Source: Bob Palmerton, director of finance administration for Image Data Conversion
Writer: Jon Zemke

Akadeum Life Sciences spins out of local entrepreneurial ecosystem

Akadeum Life Sciences just landed a six-figure seed capital round. The $150,000 raise was led by Ann Abror-based venture capital firm Michigan eLab.

"They are wicked smart entrepreneurs doing something really hard that will have a big impact on the world," says Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab. "Those three criteria are really important to us."

Akadeum Life Sciences is developing a platform that helps researchers prepare samples faster and more efficiently. It uses buoyant beads to improve cell isolation, allowing the targeting of cells in complex solutions using surface antigens.

The technology was spun out of the University of Michigan and the two-person startup leveraged a number of local entrepreneurial resources along the way, including U-M's I-Corps program and Invest Detroit. It is currently sharing space at Menlo Innovations office in downtown Ann Arbor, receiving mentorship from the company’s principals, like Richard Sheridan.

"We like their approach to solving problems and making products, which is customer-oriented," says Brandon McNaughton, co-founder & CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences.

The 9-month-old startup is rare in that already has customers. Eight researchers working on cancer research are paying for the technology and another half a dozen potential customers are in the pipeline.

"We want this in as many hands as we can possible get," says John Younger, co-founder & CSO of Akadeum Life Sciences.

Source: Brandon McNaughton, co-founder & CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences; John Younger, co-founder & CSO of Akadeum Life Sciences; Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rochester's Trent Design rebrands to Trent Creative, grows

Trent Design is in the final stages of rebranding itself as Trent Creative, a move the boutique branding firm will execute later this month.

"We do more than design," says Marilyn Trent, principal of Trent Creative. "Our current clients know that but when we talk to new prospects it can be limiting."

The Rochester-based company, it also has an office in Midtown Detroit, has hired two people in design and client services over the last year. It currently employs six people and the occasional intern. It is also looking to hire two more people in software development and marketing.

Trent launched what will soon become Trent Creative 23 years ago. It has focused on design work for most of its life but recently moved into offering more comprehensive branding services.

The firm's work for Art X Detroit was also recently chosen as one of the 350 best designs in the U.S. in the 2014 Regional Design Annual representing the best in the Midwest. While awards like that may not directly translate into more business it is another feather the company can put in its cap when pitching new clients.

"It gives us credibility and respect," Trent says.

Trent Creative also plans to become more engaged in work in the greater downtown Detroit area. It is currently working with Midtown Detroit Inc and M-1 Rail to help encourage people to continue to do business in the neighborhood while construction of the trolley line is going over the next 18 months.

"We want to continue to help people keep shopping and doing business on Woodward as we keep building this wonderful rail," Trent says.

Source: Marilyn Trent, principal of Trent Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

App firm jacapps adds voice-recognition technology to arsenal

Bingham Farm-based jacapps recently signed a deal to partner XAPPmedia to bring new voice recognition technology to its line of mobile apps.

Radio stations have been leveraging jacapps mobile apps for years, giving the company enough credibility to expand its client base into other industries, such as automotive. XAPPmedia provides an interactive audio advertising service, utilizing voice recognition technology. That way people listening to an ad on the radio can respond to a cue on the advertisement to make an order with just their voice. No buttons needed.

"We think this is a huge leap forward," says Bob Kernen, COO of jacapps. "You can see how it can be a big driver with ads."

The 6-year-old company also recently launched a new product platform that allows it to streamline the creation of its apps.

"It allows us to work in a much more efficient way," Kernen says. "We don't need to build each app from scratch. We can configure them to our clients needs."

Which has allowed the company to grow its revenue by 20 percent over the last year. That in turn has prompted jacapps to hire two people (software developers), rounding its staff out to 10 employees and an intern.

"We have had really strong revenue growth over the last few years," Kernen says.

Source: Bob Kernen, COO of jacapps
Writer: Jon Zemke

IPS Technology Services adds 5 new staffers, looks to hire 3 more

Revenue increases have become par for the course for IPS Technology Services since its launch in 2009.

Back then the Troy-based tech firm had revenues in the five figures. Those have risen sharply each year since. Revenues crossed into six figures within three years and into seven figures within four years.
"Now the challenge is to maintain it," says Pradip Sengupta, president of IPS Technology Services.

IPS Technology Services works primarily in technology spaces, such as software, IT and staffing. It has made significant gains in sending new employees to other companies in the IT and engineering fields. That has allowed the company to hire five people over the last year in IT, business analysts, and software development. It currently has a staff of 30 employees and is looking to hire three more in software development right now.

"We try to hire the best," Sengupta says.

Sengupta credits the company's rise to its ability to deliver on its services and please its customers. He expects that philosophy to carry the company's growth trajection this year.

"We would love to cross the $2 million mark," Sengupta says. "Our goal is $2.5 million. We want to hit $20 million in 2020."

Source: Pradip Sengupta, president of IPS Technology Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sidewalk Ventures aims to connect Detroitís entrepreneurs with investors

Jeff Aronoff worked for three years as the executive director of D:hive, the downtown Detroit-based nonprofit that, among other things, helped aspiring entrepreneurs realize their dreams and small businesses grow. That experience led him to his new venture, Sidewalk Ventures.

"I really discovered that there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are successful and have great products and revenues but still have difficulty finding access to money," Aronoff says.

Sidewalk Ventures aims to bridge that gap by helping local businesses leverage community-based investment. The 3-week-old company essentially pairs Detroit-based entrepreneurs and small businesses with local investors so the companies can grow and provide a smart profit to their backers.

The Midtown-based company will focus primarily on helping local retail businesses, but it is also looking to work with food companies and small-scale manufacturers. It will aim to help entrepreneurs raise anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million.

"Our sweet spot is $100,000 to $500,000," Aronoff says.

Sidewalk Ventures is already working with a handful of Detroit-based companies, and Aronoff expects that number to grow significantly as the year goes on and his firm establishes itself.

"Our goal is to start fundraising and close a deal by the end of the first quarter," Aronoff says.

Source: Jeff Aronoff, founder & principal of Sidewalk Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

Guitar pedal maker Red Panda expands product line, staff, and office space in Midtown's Green Garage

Red Panda is a music tech startup that has a little bit more of everything this year. The Midtown-based company has added seed capital, new products, more employees, and a bigger space in the Green Garage.

"It's a space that is three times larger," says Curt Malouin, owner of Red Panda. "It's a little more than 600 square feet."

The 3-year-old startup makes digital guitar pedals for musicians. Guitar pedals have traditionally been analog pieces of technology. Malouin is an electrical engineer with experience working with analog circuitry in the automotive industry. He leveraged that experience to create new guitar pedals that focus on digital signal processing.

Red Panda has a new product in development and recently released another. Bitmap is a bitcrusher with fractional bit reduction and sample rate modulation. It digitized a guitar signal and reduces its sampling rate and fidelity.

"So it sounds like an 8-bit computer or an Atari video game sound," explains Malouin in layman terms.

Increased sales of Red Panda’s products has allowed it to move to a bigger space and double its staff to four people over the last year. The startup also landed a $10,000 NEIdeas grant last fall that is allowing it to purchase new manufacturing equipment that will allow it print graphics on its products and prompt it to hire more staff.

"Bringing graphic printing in house is much more environmentally friendly and faster than screen printing," Malouin says. "It will allow us to bring more products to the market quicker."

Source: Curt Malouin, owner of Red Panda
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter-based kSpace Associates creates 5 new jobs

Last year turned out to be quite the year for kSpace Associates. The Dexter-based tech firm tied for its best year ever (2011) in terms of revenue generated.

"A good chunk of that was solar panel metrology tools," says Darryl Barlett, CEO of kSpace Associates. "We anticipate we will have similar sales level in 2015."

The 23-year-old firm develops and manufacturers diagnostic tools for the semi-conductor industry. In addition to solar metrology sales, several sales of its MOS Ultrascan system, which measures the curvature and bow of semiconductor wafers, were made to Chinese firms.

Those spiking sales allowed kSpace Associates to hire four people over the last year, expanding its staff to 26 employees and the occasional summer intern. The new hires include an optics engineer, a sales engineer, a field service technician, and an office assistant. It is currently looking to hire a software developer.

The company is also looking to pump up its sales of LED-based metrology products in 2015. The firm also landed a Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop new products. The first phase of the grant is worth $150,000.

"Phase 1 is a six-month project," Barlett says. "We hope to apply for Phase 2 by the end of the year."

Source: Darryl Barlett, CEO of kSpace Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Check out these techs. Google Demo investors will.

Three Detroit-area tech startups have won a chance to pitch their companies to investors lined up by Google and looking for business ideas to put their money behind.
After competing last week in the Grand Circus Detroit Google Demo Day competition, the founders of AdAdapted, GENOMENON and LevelEleven, are hoping to be picked to visit Google’s California HQ in April and spill to investors what’s promising about their companies. One or two will make the cut to make the trip to Mountainview, Calif.

“We’re very impressed by the talented entrepreneurs and innovative companies in the Detroit area. Google for Entrepreneurs partners with organizations like Grand Circus to help these local communities of entrepreneurs grow and thrive,” said John Lyman, head of partnerships and marketing for Google for Entrepreneurs.

Read more about these little companies that could here.
3150 Articles | Page: | Show All
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