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WSU takes lead on bike sharing study

This is the kind of phrase, from the HuffPost Detroit, we consider music to our ears: A coalition of local business and nonprofit groups is now pursuing a study to see if this type of program, which already exists in places like Denver and Minneapolis, has a future in Motown. Wayne State University and other heavyweight institution and funders are involved in talks to get it done.

Read all about it here.

Internet2 expands executive ranks with new hires

Internet2 is growing in Ann Arbor, and has recently received a $1.84 million boost from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The Ann Arbor-based member-owned technology community provides a collaborative environment for U.S. research and education organizations to solve common technology challenges, and to develop innovative solutions. It received the $1.84 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for a two-year project to build privacy infrastructure and tools to help individuals preserve their privacy.

"As the Internet becomes robust and activity for more services becomes more in demand, privacy is going to become a bigger issue," says Todd Sedmak, public & media relations manager for Internet2. "How does that work with say healthcare regulations or data collecting? How does that impact the individual user."

Internet2 has also grown its ranks in the last year, expanding to 60 employees. Many of those hires have been to the organization's executive ranks. It is also working on a number of other tech projects. It worked with the University of Michigan to establish its Box.com program, a cloud service that allows staff and students at the university to share documents across campus.

"There is a lot of activity here," Sedmak says.

Source: Todd Sedmak, public & media relations manager for Internet2
Writer: Jon Zemke

Cataphora triples downtown Ann Arbor staff in first year

Cataphora has tripled the size of its downtown Ann Arbor office thanks to its internship program that is serving as a feeder system for new employees.

The Silicon Valley-based software firm's executive team has strong ties to the University of Michigan, prompting it to open a software engineering center in Ann Arbor's vibrant downtown last fall. It has since grown to three employees and a handful of interns and is looking to hire three more now. It's two last hires have been interns in the Ann Arbor office.

"We're going to keep growing organically," says Chris Kurecka, the Michigan Engineering Manager for Cataphora.

Cataphora has watched its overall business grow in recent months thanks to new clients based in the Midwest and East Coast. The Ann Arbor office is serving a critical role in maintaining and building that client base.

"Being in the same time zone or an hour plane rise away is reassuring to them," Kurecka says. "

Source: Chris Kurecka, the Michigan Engineering Manager for Cataphora
Writer: Jon Zemke

TechArb represents a generational shift in thinking

Visiting TechArb, writer Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic witnesses a seed change in the way college students view entrepreneurship. THe name of his article says it all, "These Students Love Startups Like the Animal House Guys Loved Beer" 
"I mean, I'm not even in Generation X and I find it easy to be cynical about this kind of excitement for putting one's shoulder to the capitalist wheel. At the same time, their excitement is infectious. I spent the rest of my time at TechArb excitedly talking with students about the companies they're trying to build and before I knew it, two hours had gone by and I was still not quite ready to leave. These are kids who probably first heard "Start Me Up" on a Microsoft commercial. You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world."
Read the rest here.

Greening of Detroit helps dozens find jobs with workforce program

The Greening of Detroit isn't just about growing and planting trees anymore. The Corktown-based nonprofit has started a workforce development program that is helping grow careers and planting displaced workers into solid jobs.

"It gives an individual a second-chance opportunity to succeed in life," says Devon Buskin, workforce development director for Greening of Detroit. "We thought it was important to not only train individuals but to train them in a lucrative sector."

The Greening of Detroit’s workforce development program trains unemployed or under-employed Detroiters in landscaping, forestry and agriculture as part of a eight-week training program. The program is partially funded with a $200,000 grant from Bank of America.

More than half (71) of the 137 graduates of the program have found jobs. "I'd like to see us double the number of candidates in training (within the next year)," Buskin says.

Source: Devon Buskin, workforce development director for Greening of Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Electric Field Solutions sees broad applications for its tech

Nilton Renno never intended to start a business. The University of Michigan professor of engineering had helped develop a technology that detects and measures electric fields and took it to an industry conference. The technology proved to be so popular with his peers that Renno began to commercialize it as its own start-up, Electric Field Solutions.

"I was surprised about the reaction to our technology," Renno says. "They said it has a wide variety of applications in industry."

The University of Michigan spin out has spent its first year developing its technology at the university's Venture Accelerator. The technology, which is being branded as Charge Tracker, locates electric charge buildup on objects located tens of feet away from it. This sort of technology is usually used by the consumer electronics industry to prevent the electric charges from harming their products, but Renno sees a broader application.

"After talking to many different companies most don't realize there is a problem," Renno says. "They don't know about it because there isn't a product to measure it. Our technology allows them to detect and measure the problem."

The Ann Arbor-based start-up recently received a microloan from the Michigan Microloan Fund Program that will help modify its electric field sensor to be used in industrial applications. It is currently used for research. The redesigned sensor will be used in customer visits in an effort to identify the most attractive market segment to pursue.

Electric Field Solutions currently employs two people and a couple of independent contractors. The company is also looking to hire a mechanical engineer.

Source: Nilton Renno, CTO & co-inventor of Electric Field Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Accelerate Michigan levels playing field in student competition

The student portion of last year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition drew a pleasant surprise that caused organizers to reform the rules to this year's competition.

Are You A Human, a venture-backed start-up co-founded by University of Michigan students, won the grand prize worth $25,000. It was the second year in a row U-M start-ups won the student portion of the contest and it prompted organizers behind the business-plan competition to reform the rules for eligibility so seed-funded start-ups led by students must compete in the main competition.

"We didn't think we would get a student team with $250,000 in private seed capital sign up," says Lauren Bigelow, executive director of Accelerate Michigan.

This year Accelerate Michigan is moving the competition to downtown Detroit where it will be held in the Book Cadillac Hotel on Nov. 15-17. It had previously been held in Ann Arbor around the University of Michigan. This year the organizers plan to capitalize on the Motor City's urban atmosphere and rebounding narrative.

More than 300 start-ups have applied to compete at Accelerate Michigan for the competition's $500,000 first prize. The contest regularly attracts the cream of the crop of start-ups from the Great Lakes region and a smattering of others from across the U.S. who are looking at moving to Michigan.

The deadline for signing up for the student-led portion of the event is Sept. 27. For information, click here.

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

U-M grads turn shopping into a social media experience, launch HangTrend.com

A group of recent University of Michigan graduates have come together to create an Internet start-up that combines both shopping and social media called HangTrend.com.

"We think that shopping in general is social," says Valentin Gui, co-founder & director of business development for HangTrend.com. "A lot of people still go to the mall. They go with their friends because they want to get a better idea of how a whole outfit will look."

HangTrend.com aims to make online shopping a social experience. Think of the site as being a combination of Facebook and visit to the mall. It allows users to look at clothes, make virtual outfits and share them with your friends to get recommendations and ideas. The site has lined up thousands of brands and millions of items.

The 7-month old start-up went live in July and has experienced 100 percent growth in users every week since it launched. "I want to have a national scale to the company," Gui says. "I want to be in all the universities in the U.S."

Gui (who graduated U-M in 2010 with a bachelors in economics) co-founded HangTrend.com with Leore Avidar (2011, bachelors of business administration), Enea Gjoka (2011, bachelors in chemical and molecular biology) and Zubair Ahsan (2012, masters in pharmaceutical engineering). The company currently employs the four co-founders and four interns.

Source: Valentin Gui, co-founder & director of business development for HangTrend.com
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan eLab wrestles Silicon Valley for start-ups

How does Ann Arbor develop start-ups and keep the business that blossom from them? Michigan eLab is working to just that.


"Stefanski -- who lives blocks away from downtown Palo Alto, the original home of many high-profile tech companies -- said he sees a promising start-up corridor growing between State Street and Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

But to hasten the growth, he said, Ann Arbor would have to become more than just "one of the biggest exporters of talent through the country.""

Read the rest here.

MI-SBTDC graduates first firms from Detroit New Venture program

The first two businesses have graduated from the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC for short) in Detroit's New Venture program.

The New Venture aims to help aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs establish their business through a 10-week, which teaches the basics about opening a business, how to make sure the venture is viable and consulting with the entrepreneurs after they are up and running. "We do it through training and business counseling," says Wendy Thomas, associate regional director for MI-SBTDC.

The first two graduates include Elias Khalil and Ramonte Forte. Khalil is looking to open an authentic Spanish Tapas Wine Bar in the Cass Corridor. Forte is prepping to launch The Security Wallet, an east side-based start-up aimed at helping limit identity theft.

New Venture got its start from the FastTrac program that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. The MI-SBTDC plans to launch this program at locations throughout Michigan. "Detroit is really where it started to bubble out," Thomas says.

Those interested in applying for New Venture, which is based in TechTown, should click here.

Source: Wendy Thomas, associate regional director for MI-SBTDC
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor welcomes new early stage VC firm, Michigan eLab

Michigan eLab is the latest venture capital firm to pop up in Ann Arbor's growing dandelion field of investment companies.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based venture capital firm will specialize in making early stage investments in technology and IT start-ups. Its founders will also focus on making investments that will keep local entrepreneurs, inventors and their innovative technologies in Michigan and grow the region's burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"We're really passionate about creating the next evolution of the next entrepreneurial ecosystem here," says Doug Neal, director of Michigan eLab.

Neal is also the executive director at the University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship. He and three other co-founders started working on Michigan eLab earlier this year. The other co-founders include Rick Bolander, Scott Chou (venture capital veterans since the 1990s) and Bob Stefanski (a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur with a number of technology start-up exits under his belt).

"We pretty much live and breathe this technology space," Neal says.

Michigan eLab is aiming to create a $40 million fund in its first go around. Neal expects to have the fund's first funding round closing this fall. The venture capital firm's first investments should come shortly after that.

The Ann Arbor area is traditionally a hub for bio-technology and life sciences venture capital firms. However, a number of tech/IT-oriented VCs have launched from the college town or nearby in Metro Detroit over the last few years. Many of these firms specialize in early stage investments, such as Resonant Venture Partners and Detroit Venture Partners. The latter, based in downtown Detroit, is resetting the benchmark for local investing, aggressively investing in start-ups in a local sector that is known for a slower, more conservative approach. Neal expects Michigan eLab invest more like Detroit Venture Partners.

"There will probably be a handful (of investments) this fall," Neal says. "The goal is to make 40 investments over the next 4-5 years."

Source: Doug Neal, director of Michigan eLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

Accio Energy lands one of first Venture for America fellows

Accio Energy is taking on one of the first Venture for America fellows this month, hiring an electrical engineering graduate from Brown University.

Venture for America
is launching its inaugural class of fellows this summer, pairing 40 fresh college graduates with start-ups in economically challenged regions. The New York City-based non-profit is modeled after Teach for America where it pairs top talent from U.S. universities with innovative start-ups growing in urban areas, such as New Orleans, Las Vegas, Cincinnati and Providence, Rhode Island. The idea is to give college grads an open door into entrepreneurship in the hopes they will launch their own start-ups in their host cities one day.

Metro Detroit companies are receiving 11 of these fellows, and Accio Energy is the only firm from Ann Arbor to receive one. The alternative energy start-up is reinventing the wind energy generation with new technology that creates clean energy from static electricity generated from the wind.

"The novelty of it combined with the size of the company were two huge draws," says Tim Dingman, the Venture for America fellow hired by Accio Energy.

Dingman recently graduated from Brown University with a degree in electrical engineering. He also founded his own start-up, which makes a showerhead efficiency upgrade for dorm rooms. He has been interested in developing clean tech for most if his college career, but wanted to get his professional start working for a young company creating disruptive technology.

"There is a lot of energy there," Dingman says. "There is a lot of room for innovation which is what I was looking for in my placement."

Source: Tim Dingman, fellow with Venture for America
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M's Institute for Social Research to get new $29M wing

As the interdisciplinary field of social science research stretches into new areas, the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR) is embarking on a $29 million expansion and renovation project.

The 56,700-square-foot addition will accommodate more hires and provide data archiving capacity and biospecimen laboratory and storage space. The five-story wing equates to a one-third increase in floor space at the Thompson Street building. Another 12,800 square feet of the existing facility will be reconfigured to blend with the addition. The ISR also has a 123,632 square-foot building on Perry Street.

The above-ground floors will contain more research offices, collaborative work areas, and a meeting room for up to 220 people. Data archiving and lab space are planned for the basement level. "There's going to be the ability to hold specimens and conduct assays on the specimens that we don't currently have the capacity for," says Anna Schork, assistant director of the institute.

The project will commence in August and is estimated to be complete by the summer of 2014. It is being funded through U-M's Office of the Provost, ISR resources, and a $14.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

"We're fortunate from a funding environment that we're continuing on the upward trend, but we're also being mindful not to overbuild," Schork says.

Source: Anna Schork, assistant director of the Institute for Social Research
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Bold Media launches out of Livonia, hiring

Haitham Fakhouri graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a bachelors degree in computer science in 2008 and soon figured out it would be easier to create a job than find one. So the aspiring entrepreneur created his own website design business, Bold Media.

The Livonia-based business started off just creating websites for small businesses. It has now grown to the point where it creates enough work for both Fakhouria and his first employee. Bold Media is looking to hire a sales and marketing person right now to help the company keep up with its expanding workload.

"Our scope of work has broadened," Fakhouri says. "We started out working for small-to-medium-size companies in southeast Michigan. Now we can handle mid-to-large-size companies across the U.S."

Bold Media has also expand its service offerings from just website development to include marketing, print and photography work. The idea is to enable the company to tackle bigger projects for bigger businesses.

"Now we're working on larger websites for bigger companies more frequently," Fakhouri says.

Source: Haitham Fakhouri, owner of Bold Media
Writer: Jon Zemke

First wave of Venture for America fellows land in Detroit

The first wave of fellows from Venture for America is hitting Metro Detroit this week and it looks like startups in the Motor City will be the main beneficiary.

Venture for America
is modeled after Teach for America where it takes top college graduates and places them in economically challenged areas. The difference is where Teach for America will make these young people teachers in struggling school districts Venture for America will place its top talent with growing start-ups in places like Detroit, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Providence, Rhode Island.

The Detroit cohort will receive 11 of Venture for America's initial class of 40 fellows. Of those 11, eight will be working for companies in Detroit. Those firms include, Digerati, Rock Ventures, Detroit Venture Partners, Quikkly, Bizdom, Doodle Home, Dandelion and Are You a Human.

"They want to be there," says Andrew Yang, founder & president of Venture for America. "They choose Detroit over the other cities. They recognize the energy that is going into revitalizing Detroit and want to be a part of it."

Yang founded Venture for America two years ago with the idea of helping revitalize economically struggling urban centers, like Detroit and New Orleans, by infusing them with some of the most talented individuals graduating from college today. The hope is these young people will stay in these cities and launch their own job-creating startups one day soon. The program also offers a door into entrepreneurship for young people who might otherwise choose to go to expensive business schools and take corporate jobs upon graduation to pay down student loans.

Source: Andrew Yang, founder & president of Venture for America
Writer: Jon Zemke
617 higher education Articles | Page: | Show All
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