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Seelio secures $600K in seed capital, Menlo mentorship

Internet start-up Seelio has landed an investment from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, which is part of a larger angel round worth slightly more than $600,000.

The investment has allowed the downtown Ann Arbor-based company to expand its staff to 10 employees and two interns. It is now looking for strategic investors and has moved into the offices of Menlo Innovations, which is helping mentor the 1-year-old firm.

"We're very proud to be based out of Ann Arbor," says Moses Lee, co-founder & CEO of Seelio. "We have a very good team that is committed to the state of Michigan."

Seelio is developing a software platform that allows college students to showcase their portfolio of work. "We're able to document the entire story of a project and who you worked with," Lee says.

The platform is currently being used in 800 college campus across the U.S., including the University of Texas, UCLA, MIT, Albion College, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, among many others. Seelio plans to expand its geographic reach around the world with universities in Europe the next in line.

"Some major universities are interested in this platform," Lee says.

Source: Moses Lee, co-founder & CEO of Seelio
Writer: Jon Zemke

App firm started by U-M students reinvents note-taking

The article claims that Fetchnotes is based in Cambridge but it was founded in Ann Arbor by U-M students. It went out to Boston to participate in a business accelerator program. 
 
Excerpt:
 
"...what if there was a way to improve on this simple idea by integrating one of our favorite social media platforms, Twitter?
 
Meet Fetchnotes.
 
Fetchnotes is more than just a place to store ideas. Users generate their own organization method through hashtags and followers."
 
Read the rest here.
 

Huron Capital becomes local private equity top dog with $500M fund

Huron Capital Partners has closed on a $500 million investment fund, allowing the downtown Detroit-based private-equity firm to hire six people over the last year.

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.

Huron Capital Partners
(Michigan's largest private-equity firm) invests $20-$50 million in companies with high growth ceilings in need of fresh capital, such as corporate spinoffs and family business succession. It got its start in 1999 with a $72 million fund. Since then it has raised two more funds that have been deployed worth $185 million and $385 million.

It now has a controlling stake in 61 companies. Three quarters of those are in the U.S. The remainder are Canadian-based. Three of those 61 companies were locally based, including Quest Specailty Chemicals, Matrix System Automotive Solutions and Michigan Orthopedic Services. Huron Capital Partners exited all three firms. Huron Capital Partners was named Private Equity Firm of the Year for 2010 by Mergers & Acquisitions, the pre-eminent magazine for private equity, for its Ross Education deal, which produced 18.7 times its original investment and a 76-percent internal rate of return.

That deal/award helped set the stage for Huron Capital Partners' fourth fund. The recently closed investment vehicle is worth $500 and received some significant investments from institutional investors, including $15 million from the University of Michigan's Endowment Fund. Beauregard, a member of the investment committee at Huron Capital Partners, expects this latest fund to invest in about a dozen platforms which will trickle down into 20-25 companies.

"I expect there will be a handful of companies based in the area that we will invest in and help them grow their base here," Beauregard says.

Source: Michael Beauregard, senior partner and member of the investment committee for Huron Capital Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

University Research Corridor adds $15.5B to Michigan economy

The Michigan University Research Corridor (URC) helped create $2.6 billion in added economic impact in Michigan compared to similar figures released in 2007, according to a report released by the non-profit earlier this month.

The URC is a consortium of the state's three research universities (University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) focused on helping creating synergies between Michigan's universities and increasing research that comes from them. Its more recent report shows the URC contributed $15.5 billion to the state's economy.

"We think that is pretty impressive when we benchmark ourselves against Research Triangle and Massachusetts and Northern California," says Jeff Mason, executive director of the Michigan University Research Corridor.

One of the factors in that growth is the increase of spin-out companies from technology developed at research at Michigan's three research universities. In 2011, the three universities spun out 18 companies, which ranked it third against other similar innovation clusters.

"What you see is these institutions spinning out on average of one company every month," Mason says.
 
Source: Jeff Mason, executive director of Michigan University Research Corridor
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor start-ups score big at Accelerate Michigan

Start-ups from Ann Arbor and those with close ties to the college town did quite well at this year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

The top three finishers in this year's business plan competition all hailed from cities outside of Washtenaw County but they all have roots in the Ann Arbor area. Algal Scientific and nanoMAG (the first and second place finishers) both got their start in Ann Arbor before moving to Plymouth and Livonia, respectively. They both still work extensively with Ann Arbor SPARK. East Lansing-based InPore Technologies (the third place finisher) is headed up by Gerry Roston, a serial entrepreneur that calls Saline home.

Steve LeBeau, president of nanoMAG, praised the folks at Ann Arbor SPARK and at Accelerate Michigan with preparing his start bio-tech firm to do so well at the competition and be ready to raise a significant amount of revenue. He expects his start-up will be able to leverage its $100,000 cash prize from Accelerate Michigan into a seven-figure angel round.

"In the middle of this (competition) you're a venture capital fund saying, 'Send me a packet about what's going on,'" LeBeau says. "And you have a 12-page packet (prepared and peer-reviewed as part of the competition) to send them."

Other top placers at the Accelerate Michigan calling Washtenaw County home include:

- Eco-Fueling, the Saline-based business won the advanced transportation prize worth $25,000 for its fuel-efficiency technology built for diesel engines.
- Ornicept, the Ann Arbor-based start-up won the alternative energy prize worth $25,000 for its technology that monitors bird activity so wind turbine developers can make informed decisions.
- Protean Payment, the Tech Brewery-based company won the products and services award worth $25,000 for its software that can combine every creditcard in a consumer's wallet into one card.

Source: Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and Steve LeBeau, president of nanoMAG
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Spider9 grows to a staff of 12 in little more than one year

Spider9 sees the growth potential in green technologies, such as alternative energy and electric automobiles, and it's capitalizing on them with new battery technology spun out of the University of Michigan.

"It's a battery-based technology where you could control the voltage and wattage that comes off the cell," says Glynne Townsend, CEO of Spider9. "It saves money and improves reliability."

Spider9's technology is known as OS Energy. It improves the energy output, life and reliability of renewable energy systems by optimizing the performance and efficiency of all components of the system ultimately increasing system life, and reliability while reducing cost.

The 1-year-old start-up is working with the University of Michigan Office of Technology Transfer and is based in Northville. It now employs 12 people and is in the process of commercializing the technology. It is now testing it with what Townsend described as a "large Edison utility."

Source: Glynne Townsend, CEO of Spider9
Writer: Jon Zemke

ForeSee Results adds 40 in Ann Arbor, has 25 openings now

ForeSee Results has experienced double-digit revenue growth (25 percent over the last year), which has allowed the Ann Arbor-based company to hire dozens of new employees in 2012.

The 11-year-old company has added 40 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 275 employees. It currently has 25 job openings right now and expects to keep adding to its staff at that pace in 2013.

"We should be to 300 in the next 30-45 days," says Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results. "There is a lot of hiring going on right now."

ForeSee Results
provides user-satisfaction surveys, primarily through websites. It leverages the American Customer Satisfaction Index, developed at the University of Michigan, to measure the results. This year it has expanded the reach of its surveys, making headway into social media, mobile, call centers, and in brick-and-mortar stores. Online surveys still account for 80 percent of the company's business, but the other avenues are gaining ground.

"It's been pretty diversified," Freed says.

All of the company's growth has been organic and Freed expects that trend to continue in 2013. More double-digit revenue gains are also projected for next year.

Source: Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results
Writer: Jon Zemke

Echo360 acquires U-M spin-out LectureTools, grows staff

Echo360, a Virginia-based educational technology company, has acquired LectureTools and plans to continue growing the start-up in Ann Arbor.

LectureTools' technology is working to reinvent the software programs used for educational materials, such as course packs, handouts and quizzes. It was originally developed at the University of Michigan and spun out of the university two years ago. The company now employs five people and an intern. Details of its acquisition were not released but it does appear the start-up will stay rooted in its downtown Ann Arbor office.

Echo360 specializes in educational learning tools and plans to use LectureTools' technology not only in its own software but also to build up the brand independently.

"One of the reasons we were acquired is so we can build it out to our true vision quickly," says Jason Aubrey, co-founder of LectureTools. "We're also building it out with Echo360s products."

Aubrey expects to begin really scaling LectureTools technology in January. The company recently hired one person in customer development and is looking to hire two more people in design and user-experience.

Source: Jason Aubrey, co-founder of LectureTools
Writer: Jon Zemke

TechArb sends off latest class, aims to focus on more mature start-ups

TechArb is graduating 31 business teams this fall, making for almost 100  student-led start-ups that have passed through the small business incubator since its launch in 2009.

The University of Michigan developed the incubator with the idea of creating a space designed to encourage college student entrepreneurship. It has since helped launch a number of new economy-based start-ups, including companies in software, bio-tech and alternative energy.

Each semester-long class has carried about 30 start-ups on average, but the leaders behind TechArb are planning to shrink those class sizes in the new year, cutting particioation in half to 15.

"These teams we're letting in are much more mature and venture quality," says Moses Lee, associate director for student ventures at TechArb.

In the past, TechArb had welcomed both mature start-ups that went onto score investment from venture capital firms (Are You A Human) and the raw entrepreneurial ambitions of students with business ideas. Lee expects the future, more mature start-ups will still span a number of industries and expects this class to have start-ups in the software, bio-tech and engineering spaces.

Source: Moses Lee, associate director for student ventures at TechArb
Writer: Jon Zemke

Life sciences start-up ProNAi raises $2 million in Plymouth

ProNAi continues to raise millions of dollars for its research in Plymouth. The 8-year-old start-up brought in $2 million this year and has raised $20 million in total from the likes of the Apjohn Ventures Fund and the Grand Angels.

Those funds have allowed the company to expand to eight employees and the occasional intern after hiring five people in the last year. The life sciences firm is developing a cancer-fighting drug. It recently finished its initial human clinical trial and has to conduct two more clinical trails before it can be approved by the Food & Drug Administration.

"The drug targets cancer cells and is designed to kill cancer cells," says Mina Sooch, CEO of ProNAi. "Simply put, it doesn't kill normal cells. We had little-to-no side effects in the study that we just conducted."

Sooch expects the next clinical trails to take at least four years. Commercialization could come within five years. In the meantime, Sooch and her team continue to raise more money to push the development of the drug forward.

Source: Mina Sooch, CEO of ProNAi
Writer: Jon Zemke

EMU opens office in NW Detroit, MI-SBTDC moves downtown

Educational and entrepreneurial options are moving around and into Detroit this fall.

Eastern Michigan University
is opening a new off-campus center on the city's northwest side at 7800 W. Outer Drive across the street from Wayne County Community College District's northwest campus. The 10,983-square-foot facility consists of space for faculty offices, classrooms, a computer lab and a student lounge.

EMU offers a wide range of courses and degrees in the new space, including nursing, social work and education sectors. The new office replaces a smaller location in the Northwest Activities Center.

The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center, commonly known as MI-SBTDC, is also moving its offices from TechTown to the former Barden Communications building in downtown Detroit. Grand Valley State University purchased the building earlier this year and MI-SBTDC, which helps grow tech entrepreneurs and start-ups, moving into the space to be closer to Grand Valley State, which also is the home to MI-SBTDC headquarters.

"It's really about creating some synergies between Grand Valley State University and the Detroit office of MI-SBTDC," says Wendy Thomas, associate regional director of MI-SBTDC.

MI-SBTDC will move six employees into 1,500 square feet of space in the former Barden building, which overlooks Comerica Park.

Source: Eastern Michigan University and Wendy Thomas, associate regional director of Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting adds staff in Ann Arbor

What was once Biotechnology Business Consultants is now BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting, a new name for a longtime staple of Ann Arbor's tech scene.

The 22-year-old consulting company specializes in helping bio-tech start-ups develop their technologies and nurture their business. Stability and growth often take several years of work and millions of dollars in investment to bring new bio-tech innovations to the market. BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting has been there for a lot of that evolution.

And its growing. BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting has increased its staff from five employees and an independent contractor last January to seven employees today. Lisa Kurek, BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting's managing partner, credits the federal government's  recent reauthorization of the federal research funding, like Small Business Innovation Research grants, as the driving force of growth in the bio-tech space.

"Once we had that long-term commitment we picked up some steam because we have a solid national reputation," Kurek says.

BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting recently received a FAST grant from the federal and state governments that clocks in at the low six figures. She sees more more like that in the marketplace as the reason why her sector will continue to grow and why she is looking at adding more staff in the not-too-distant future.

"I would love to add someone else," Kurek says.

Source: Lisa Kurek, managing partner with BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M has most Fulbright students... again

You know your university is doing something right when it bests both Harvard and Brown. And not by a little. Fulbright student tally for the top 3 schools: U-M with 40, Harvard with 31, Brown with 29. Takes a little of the sting away from the Wolverine's loss this weekend.
 
Excerpt:
 
"Michigan says this marks the sixth time in the past eight years it has held that honor. It also led the nation in Fulbrights in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011."
 
Read the rest here.
In related news, U-M increased enrolled 1.7% in 2012.

Travelocity founder to headline Accelerate Michigan competition

A trio of significant changes are coming to this year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

First, the $1 million business plan competition will be held in downtown Detroit this fall. The third installment of the new economy competition will take place in the Book-Cadillac Hotel, the Guardian Building and Orchestra Hall, using the Motor City's vibrant downtown and emerging tech economy as a back drop.

Accelerate Michigan will also welcome Terry Jones as its keynote speaker. The founder & former CEO of Travelocity will speak about start-up culture and building tech businesses in broader terms than previous speakers, which have all been Michigan-based.

"He's a very unknown quantity," says Lauren Bigelow, executive director of Accelerate Michigan. "He has enjoyed an awful lot of success. He has done 10 start-ups."

Accelerate Michigan will also beef up its top prizes. The competition has traditionally had a $500,000 top prize and smaller five-figure prizes. This year the first place winner will still receive $500,000 while second place will take $100,000 in seed capital home and third place will received $50,000. Bigelow explains that in previous years the top-prize competitors came down to three very-worthy start-ups and only one would walk away with a big check. The new prize break down helps solve that.

"Every year it has come down to three like clockwork," Bigelow says.

Accelerate Michigan will be held between Nov. 13-15. For information, click here.

Source: Lauren Bigelow, executive director of Accelerate Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

TechArb's Skyspecs makes aerial inspections easier

SkySpecs recently graduated from the University of Michigan's student small business incubator, TechArb, and is looking to begin commercializing its technology next year.

The 8-month-old start-up is developing a small aerial device equipped with video and other detection equipment that can be used to inspect hard-to-reach infrastructure, such as bridges. The company got its start when Danny Elis founded the Michigan Autonomous Vehicles Team at U-M in 2009 and used the technology as his senior-year thesis.

"We have been working on this for a while," Ellis says. "For a while we played around with the idea of turning it into a company."

That became a reality last March. It currently has a prototype but it's close to finishing a second prototype thanks to some angel investment and the potential of landing a $250,000 grant from the state of Michigan in the next few weeks.

SkySpecs plans to take its fully developed prototype and begin selling its services within the next few months. It then hopes to leverage that business into producing enough of its aerial vehicles to sell.

Source: Danny Ellis, CEO of SkySpecs
Writer: Jon Zemke
617 higher education Articles | Page: | Show All
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