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Campus Commandos doubles staff, grows revenue 5-fold

Campus Commandos has watched its revenue grow five fold, its client base triple and its staff double as the company continues to grow across the U.S.

The advertising agency for college students now has a staff of four people and more than 100 representatives at universities across the U.S. It has hired two people over the last year and now calls the Chrysler House in downtown Detroit home.

Campus Commandos has taken on a number of clients, including eBay and Hewlett Packard. For Hewlett Packard, Campus Commandos helped coordinate its online marketing efforts for calculators. Those efforts helped raise the online sales for the 50G calculator by 60 percent.

"We said, 'What is the only approved cheating tool on a test?' It's a calculator," says Adam Grant, CEO of Campus Commandos. "We can't use a word like cheating with the brand so we used 'personal exam assistant.'"

Grant has been working in the college student advertising arena since he was in college at Michigan State University in the mid-2000s. He went through the Bizdom entrepreneurial curriculum in 2009 and has turned Campus Commandoes into a growing business since then.

Source: Adam Grant, CEO of Campus Commandos
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M opens Michigan I-Corps to all comers entrepreneurial

The University of Michigan has worked for years to commercialize its research into growing businesses, employing a variety of programs that often look to pair university researchers with university business students and graduates. Michigan I-Corps is looking to broaden that scope.

The new entrepreneurial training program, part of the National Science Foundation's National I-Corps initiative, is looking to not only empower the entrepreneurial ambitions of university's research and business classes but also entrepreneurs and scientists from outside of Ann Arbor's ivory towers. Any Michigan-based technologist, regardless of academic affiliation or funding source, is eligible. The program is recruiting teams from Michigan's universities, tech companies and startups funded by venture capitalists.

"One of the best ways to enhance entrepreneurship is to get all sorts of folks to mix together," says Jonathan Fay, director of Michigan I-Corps.

The Michigan I-Corps will be comprised of approximately 25 teams, each with three members: a principal investigator (or senior executive), entrepreneurial lead (or product manager) and industry mentor. The statewide program will focus on customer discovery and business model generation, but will supplement it with modules on business basics, intellectual property, and entrepreneurship ownership and operations.

"What about your technology has value?" Fay says. "What about your technology do the customers want?"

Source: Jonathan Fay, director of Michigan I-Corps
Writer: Jon Zemke

Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program taking applicants

Interested in start-ups? How about becoming a serial entrepreneur? Does mentoring from some of Metro Detroit's top business people sound good? Does a $60,000 annual stipend pique your interest?

If so then you will want to check out the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program, an initiative serviced through Automation Alley to place up-and-coming business people (think recent college grads) with local start-ups and established entrepreneurs and investors. It is currently taking applications for the 2013-14 class, which will consist of four people, through April 1.

"The mission is to place these Adams Fellows in an intensive entrepreneurial environment with a lot of mentoring," says Terry Cross, managing director of Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program.

Adams Fellows will have daily job responsibilities and will be encouraged to participate in local entrepreneurial, business development and leadership events. Participants will be given opportunities to network with one another and with other young emerging leaders in the region.

For information, click here.

Source: Terry Cross, managing director of Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship Program
Writer: Jon Zemke

Velesco Pharma expands workforce across Michigan

If you're looking for a success story in the wake of Pfizer closing its operations in Ann Arbor five years ago, look no farther than Velesco Pharma.

The Plymouth-based company, it calls the Ann Arbor SPARK-managed Michigan Life Science Innovation Center home, offers pharmaceutical consulting and laboratory services. It also operates a plant in Kalamazoo that makes dosage forms for clinical trials. Each year since its start, the company has experienced sustained growth.

"Velesco Pharma continues to have significant growth," says Gerry Cox, COO of Velesco Pharma, former Velesco Pharmaceuticals. "We continue to work with ore than 75 different clients."

Velesco Pharma currently has 17 people and a few summer interns between its facilities in Plymouth and Kalamazoo. It has hired two people over the last year as it's clinical trial products and services continue to gain traction in the market. Cox expects to spend 2013 strengthening the firm's branding and business development resources to sustain its growth pattern.

"There has been significant demand," Cox says. "There has also been a lot of repeat business from existing clientele."

Source: Gerry Cox, COO of Velesco Pharma
Writer: Jon Zemke

Backyard Brains grows staff, expands into South America

Backyard Brains insect neuroscience kits can not only be found across the U.S. this year, but also on the other side of the world. The Ann Arbor-base company is now exporting its products to a number of South American countries, thanks to an entrepreneurship program in Chile.

Chile is going through an economic boom thanks to exports of natural resources. The government is using these good times to help spur more entrepreneurship through things like its StartupChile program, which brings in entrepreneurs from around the world to help inspire more business creation. Backyard Brains won one of the start-up grants and used it as a bridge to help spread its product sales to Chile and several other South American countries.

"It's been great," says Tim Marzullo, co-founder of Backyard Brains. "We have actually received another round of funding from the Startup Chile program. We have been going back and forth from Chile for the last year."

Marzullo and his partner Greg Gage, both neuroscientists, started Backyard Brains three years ago as a way to provide a cost-effective product that teaches grade-school students the workings of neurons in the brain. Its Robo Roach allows them to control insects via antennas. Since then the company has expanded to a team of nine and the occasional intern after adding five new positions in the last year.

Backyard Brains initially received a National Institute of Health grant for start-up funding. It is now angling for a second round grant from the National Institute of Health and otherwise using sales of its products to fund its growth. Backyard Brains' products can now be found in all 50 states and on all seven continents after sales from its Chile distribution made it ways to Antarctica.

"We are pretty well-known as the go-to company in the neuroscience equipment field,"  Marzullo says.

Source: Tim Marzullo, co-founder of Backyard Brains
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ginkgotree pivots biz plan to focus on higher-ed publishing

Scott Hasbrouck and his wife, Lisa Hasbrouck, moved to Ann Arbor for Georgia last spring to launch Ginkgotree from the Tech Brewery. Today, the start-up has adjusted its business plan and launched its higher-education technology.

Ginkgotree got its start creating a note-taking app built for the education industry. A few months into building the company, the Hasbrouck's shifted the firm's focus to creating a software platform that enables professors to create a digital curriculum that combines copy righted materials and open-educational resources.

"Essentially it's a tool for faculty to create a curriculum that would replace the text book in the course," says Scott Hasbrouck, CEO of Ginkgotree. "It would be much cheaper than a textbook."

Think of the cost of a text book's price in the $100-200 range and compare it to Ginkgotree's curriculum price point of $30. The four-person team at Ginkgotree launched the product over the holidays and has several hundred faculty members from across the country signed up to use it. Spring Arbor University is running a pilot program and Scott Hasbrouck expects a few more universities will sign up to run their own pilot programs later this year.

"Next fall is shaping up to be a pretty good time for us," Scott Hasbrouck says.

Source: Scott Hasbrouck, CEO of Ginkgotree
Writer: Jon Zemke

Quicken Loans aims for 700-800 interns this summer

Quicken Loans and its family of companies are gearing up for another big internship push this summer that could bring as many as 1,000 young people into the fold of the downtown Detroit-based firm.

The mortgage origination firm brought in excess of 500 interns last summer and a total of 750 for the entire year. This year, the goal is 1,000 for 2013 with the bulk of them (700-800) set to come in during the summer. The internships will be primarily for Quicken Loans proper, but other firms in the Quicken Loans family of companies, such as FatHead and One Reverse Mortgage, will also draw from the Quicken Loans internship talent pool.

"It's a tremendous value," says Michelle Salvatore, director of recruiting for Quicken Loans. "It's helping us with our candidate pool. We can engage with them and train them. It's really been our biggest candidate source."

Many of those internships turn into jobs. Salvatore says the company turned 78 percent of the interns who weren't returning to school into new employees. Quicken Loans currently employs several thousand and regularly has dozens of new jobs up for grabs at any one time. A vast majority of those employees and interns are based in downtown Detroit.

Quicken Loans interns are not only introduced to the company's go-getter culture but also the greater downtown area. Quicken Loans does at least six events that introduce the interns to the city each summer, such as outings to Tigers games and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

"We try to show them a lot of the city while they are here," Salvatore says. "A true urban core is what we try to expose them to."

Source: Michelle Salvatore, director of recruiting for Quicken Loans
Writer: Jon Zemke

Accent Reduction Institute turns interns into employees

Accent Reduction Institute could have moved wherever it wanted last year when Menlo Innovations, which it shared office space with, relocated from its Kerrytown headquarters closer to the University of Michigan's campus. Instead, the 7-year-old company found another office in downtown Ann Arbor.

"This is home to us even though north of 98 percent of our clients are outside of southeast Michigan," says Judy Ravin, president & founder of Accent Reduction Institute. She adds that she and her executive team "love Ann Arbor. We are three University of Michigan graduates. We feel really connected to the community. It's a wonderfully business community."

Accent Reduction Institute's close ties to U-M were a major reason for it staying nearby. The university serves a pipeline of talent for the company, mostly in the form of interns. Accent Reduction Institute has hired three of its former interns over the last year, expanding its staff to 20 people and 3-4 interns each year.

"Our interns provide a wonderful pipeline for other interns," Ravin says. We get fantastic people to work with."

The Accent Reduction Institute provides accent reduction training programs for non-native English speakers so they can carry on communication seamlessly. It also develops English pronunciation software to help people eliminate language barriers while maintaining their unique cultural identity. Menlo Associates, the holding company for Menlo Innovations, is still a major investor.

Ravin points out that the talent gap for major companies is driving the Accent Reduction Institute's recent growth. She explains that as more baby boomers retire the company's are scrambling to find their best talent to replace them in the workforce. That in turn is prompting Accent Reduction Institute to add to its staff. It is currently looking for up to two more linguistics professionals.

Source: Judy Ravin, president & founder of Accent Reduction Institutue
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's Lycera locks down strategic partnership with Merck

Merck is re-upping with Lycera, forming a second strategic partnership with the Ann Arbor-based biopharmaceutical startup that could bring the total investment between the two firms of nearly $600 million.

Lycera is working to develop new autoimmune disease drugs that will help treat things like rheumatoid arthritis. It landed its first strategic partnership with Merck (worth $295 million in research investment) in 2011, which focused on therapies targeting the retinoic acid related orphan receptor.

The second partnership, announced this week, is distinct from the first partnership deal because the firms will spend up to $300 million to discover, develop and commercialize small-molecule therapies directed to selected novel targets being investigated for the treatment of a broad range of immune-mediated disorders.

"The validates Lycera as the partner of choice," says Kathleen Metters, president & CEO of Lycera. "It was built on a very successful first collaboration (between Lycera and Merck)."

Lycera is based in the North Campus Research Complex at the University of Michigan (formerly Pfizer's Ann Arbor campus) where it has a staff of 22 employees and a handful of interns. It has hired three people over the last year, including a chemistry project manager. These hires are strategic and often represent people relocating to Ann Arbor. Metters expects to continue making those sorts of strategic, high-end hires throughout this year.

Lycera is also looking to continue its research into its proprietary products, which are independent from its partnerships with Merck, and develop new technologies in the autoimmune disease sector.

"This is a very important area to continue investment in," Metters says.

Source: Kathleen Metters, president & CEO of Lycera
Writer: Jon Zemke

SkySpecs takes top prize at Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge

SkySpecs has taken another top prize in local business plan competition and tens of thousands of dollars more in seed capital with it.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based start-up recently took the top prize worth $50,000 at the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge. It also took third place in the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, worth $10,000.

The company, founded by University of Michigan students, is developing unmanned aerial vehicles that use artificial intelligence to gather data in hazardous locations, such as collecting structural data in hard to reach places under bridges.

A2B Bikeshare
, another U-M student-led start-up, took second place at the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge. The showing was worth $15,000 in seed capital for the bike-sharing start-up.

The Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge is a business plan competition co-founded by the University of Michigan and DTE Energy. The competition, in its fifth year, aims to serve as a springboard for Michigan's college students to launch sustainability-oriented start-ups. This year it attracted participants from a broad range of colleges across the Great Lakes State, including Michigan State University and Western Michigan University.

"We were able to reach across the state," says Amy Klinke, assistant director at the University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship. "We had 70 teams apply this year."

Source: Amy Klinke, assistant director at the University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M among schools with the richest alums

How many billionaires has the University Of Michigan produced? Turns out it's 410, which puts us 15th in the world.
"Wealth-X, a due diligence firm specializing in profiling the world's richest individuals, recently published its international list of universities ranked by the number of alumni worth $1 billion or more -- and 17 of the top 20 are located in the United States. The only non-American institutions to break into the top 20 were the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the University of Mumbai. The top 15 are ranked in the slideshow below."
Read the rest here.

U-M student-led EXO Dynamics scores $15K in seed capital

Exo Dynamics just secured $15,000 in seed capital and plans to use it to move into a new home in University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex.

Exo Dynamics is leveraging the PhD work of a University of Michigan student to developing an electro-mechanical back brace for medical professionals. The back brace focuses on preventing injury and reducing pain without decreasing mobility. The team of five people is developing a second prototype and hopes to commercialize the device in early 2014.

The 1-year-old start-up scored the $15,000 from the Michigan Business Challenge which is sponsored through the university's Ross School of Business. The company won the $10,000 Pryor-Hale Runner up award and the $5,000 Williamson Award for Outstanding Business & Engineering Team.

"It was a fantastic experience," says Maren Bean, chief medical officer and co-founder of Exo Dynamics. "We got to meet a lot of great student entrepreneurs and some local entrepreneurs and investors. They gave us a lot of feedback on our business plan."

Source: Maren Bean, chief medical officer and co-founder of Exo Dynamics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Warmilu preps for clinical trials, commercialization

Warmilu, the start-up creating a better blanket for infants, is now running a pre-clinical trial of its product. The Ann Arbor-based company is prepping for clinical trials later this year and commercialization in 2014.

"This is the first time it has been tested on infants, and it works," says Grace Hsia, CEO of Warmilu (formerly M-Wrap).

Hsia and her team of eight people (mostly University of Michigan students and recent graduates) launched the company last spring. The idea is to help premature infants retain and increase their body heat, which helps improve their rate of survival. The blankets would be used both in hospitals and homes.

Warmilu is targeting low-income groups with this blanket. Think families living below the poverty line in the first world or in third-world countries. Members of Warmilu have already taken an exploratory trip to India and is planning on a follow-up trip later this year.

Warmilu is also beginning the process of raising angel round to fund the clinical trials of the blanket. The group is aiming to secure $20,000 for the clinical trials this year.

Source: Grace Hsia, CEO of Warmilu
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Business Challenge awards $62K to start-ups

Michigan Business Challenge sent out $62,000 in seed capital this week to a broad range of start-ups being led by University of Michigan students. That cash was accompanied by another $50,000 in seed capital from the Dare to Dream program.

Both programs are part of the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the university's Ross School of Business. The grants, ranging from $200 to $10,000, is provided by donations from alumni like the Mayleben (Dare to Dream sponsor) and partners who sponsor the awards, such as the $2,500 Marketing Award sponsored by Mark Petroff. That money is often the spark that accelerates the growth of these start-ups.

"It gives them extra motivation," says Sarika Gupta, program manager for the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. "Its validation of the idea and the business."

Among this year's winners are:

- Focus, a combination device and application for physical therapy and training, won the Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business for $20,000.
- Exo Dynamics, an ergonomic support device that enables healthcare practitioners who experience back problems to perform at their best in the operating room, won the $10,000 Pryor-Hale Runner up and the $5,000 Williamson Award for Outstanding Business & Engineering Team
- Torch Hybrid, a software service provider for marine hybrid-electric powertrain development and energy management, won $2,000 for Best Written Plan and the $2,500 Marketing Award sponsored by Mark Petroff
- Centricycle, a non–profit working to improve healthcare in rural India through the implementation of sustainable diagnostic technology and education, won $7,500 from the Erb Award for Sustainability

Source: Sarika Gupta, program manager for the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit-based private-equity firm relies on U-M for hires

All discussions about Michigan's developing new economy include talent - where to get it, how to retain it, and what the next generation of professionals need. Huron Capital Partners (Michigan's largest private-equity firm) sees the University Of Michigan as an important pipeline for employees.
"The 20-person firm now takes up most of the 27th floor of the Guardian Building. It's new hires are mostly investment professionals. A large quantity of them earned their MBAs locally.
"The University of Michigan is educating more of our team than any other school," says Michael Beauregard, senior partner at Huron Capital Partners."
Read the rest here.
617 Higher Education Articles | Page: | Show All
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