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Wayne State, Fontinalis Partners launch investment programs

A pair of new but different investment vehicles are debuting in Detroit this year. One is a small fund managed by college students and the second is a special venture fund of one of the largest venture capital firms in city.

Wayne State University's School of Business recently received a $100,000 gift from Fifth Third Bank to open a student-managed investment fund. The fund will give the students access to a pool of money, giving them direct experience in stock portfolio management. The program mimics the structure of an asset management team, similar to those at Fidelity or Vanguard.

"We hope to raise more money for it," says Bob Forsythe, dean of the School of Business at Wayne State University.

The class that manages the fund will start in January. Forsythe hopes to expand the fund’s size to seven figures within the next few years through donations and returns on investments.

Fontinalis Partners, the venture capital firm co-founded by Bill Ford focused on next-generation mobility, is launching a Special Venture Partner program. There are five new members of the downtown Detroit-based VC's special venture partner program who will work to support Fontinalis' portfolio companies' efforts to reach new markets and advise their leadership teams.

Source: Bob Forsythe, dean of the School of Business at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M helps entrepreneurs develop a better eye dropper

With an assist from UM3D Lab’s Cube printers, Dr. David Lorch and Dr. Marius Tijunelis developed a clever eye dropper guide. 

Excerpt:

"During a fellowship at the University of Michigan Medial Center, David Lorch and his partners searched for problems that patients regularly face.

The fellowship was designed to teach the entrepreneurial process along the way, leading towards the invention of DROPin, a new and easier way for patients to distribute eye drops."

Read the rest here.
 

InfoReady hits 800 percent growth in three years

InfoReady recently won one of Ann Arbor SPARK's FastTrack Business Awards, which recognizes local companies with 20 percent annual average growth over three years. Except the Ann Arbor tech startup's growth numbers are much bigger.

The 4-year-old firm has closed 800 percent revenue growth over the last years. Sales of its research grant writing and management software continue to take off as the company grows beyond Michigan.

"Most of that growth has come from more than 50 clients now," says Bhushan Kulkarni, CEO of InfoReady. "We're getting a real national footprint. We have clients in 25 states."

The GDI Infotech spin-off's software platform helps researchers find and apply for the best grant opportunities and then review and track progress of the project. It also had features that matches researchers with other research projects. Most of its client so far have been in the medical sciences and engineering areas of research & development.

InfoReady raised $2 million in seed capital shortly after it launched. It plans to begin raising a Series A round late next year or early 2016. It has hired eight people over the last year, expanding its staff to 25 employees. It also is looking to hire another six people now to help accommodate its growth next year.

"We expect to double in size in 2015," Kulkarni says.

Source: Bhushan Kulkarni, CEO of InfoReady
Writer: Jon Zemke

Wayne State grad/musician starts music production firm, J IV Media

Alton James has long dreamed of working in music. So much so that he even recently worked as an independent contractor for larger firms on the coast, providing musical scores for a variety of broadcast productions.

Now the Wayne State University graduate is doing it on his own with his new company, J IV Media.

"Why should I just be a subcontractor?" James says. "Why not start my own business?"

James worked with the Blackstone LaunchPad program at Wayne State to set up the basics of his business. He recently got engaged and opened his own studio in his new house in Chesterfield Township.

"We love the homes and the community out here," James says.

J IV Media is currently working on providing musical work for two documentaries. One has a Detroit-rebound focus and is locally based. The second is out of New York City and focuses on the for-profit prison system. James is also working with a number of University of Michigan film students on their projects.

"I would love to do some commercials for local businesses," James says.

Source: Alton James, owner of J IV Media
Writer: Jon Zemke

TurtleCell hires 5, preps to launch retractable earbud iPhone case

People want TurtleCell's iPhone case with retractable earbuds so badly they are willing to give the Ann Arbor-based startup $10,000 to get the job done. Twice.

The smartphone accessory startup won the People's Choice award at last year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, which came with a check for $10,000 in seed capital. The company did it again earlier this month, taking the People’s Choice award at Accelerate Michigan and another $10,000.

"We do feel like we're a fan favorite," says Jeremy Lindlbauer, co-founder and director of branding & marketing for TurtleCell. "We weren't surprised. We were holding our breath for a bigger check."

The 2-year-old startup didn't win one of the main prizes (top prize came with $500,000) but its team did leave knowing it would be able to deliver on its promise to sell iPhone case with retractable earbuds. The company is working with Digital Treasures in Auburn Hills and expects to sell between 300,000 and 500,000 units next year.

"We're expecting to be in mass production and delivery by next March," Lindlbauer says.

TurtleCell got its start when a couple of University of Michigan students got frustrated with constantly untangling the earbuds for their iPhones while walking to class. The group of three went through a few prototypes and started to really gain traction with their latest version.

TurtleCell's main product allows full access to the smartphone’s buttons and has a four-foot-long headphone that easily retracts back into the case. The earbuds are higher-quality. TurtleCell has hired five people over the last seven months to get the product ready for sales in 2015.

"We have a lot going on over the next few months," Lindlbauer says.

Source: Jeremy Lindlbauer, co-founder and director of branding & marketing for TurtleCell
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M student creates mini-insoles to keep heels in high heels

High heels are one of those accessories that are usually high fashion with low functionality. A new startup based in Ann Arbor thinks it can improve the functionality.

High heels are notorious for being unstable pieces of footwear that can be tough to walk in. Heel Secret is making a small insole that helps keep the users foot securely in the shoe.

"That insole has a clear elastic strap that goes over your heel and forces your foot into the shoe," says Kiri Chapman, founder of HeelSecret.

Chapman is a student at the University of Michigan going for a bachelors in dance and a certificate in entrepreneurship. She is also a dancer who worked in a professional ballet troupe before coming to Ann Arbor. College came with more opportunity to wear high heels for Chapman, which presented both a problem and an opportunity.

"That's when I started to play with my shows to make them fit better," Chapman says.

She launched HeelSecret a year ago and then took second place the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition earlier this month. That showing comes with $5,000 in seed capital that will help Chapman create more prototypes of her insole, which she plans to perfect before selling them to the public.

"We really want a product that will speak for itself," Chapman says.

Source: Kiri Chapman, founder of HeelSecret
Writer: Jon Zemke

The state of Detroit's startup scene

Ann Arbor likes to think that it exists in a magical economic and political bubble. But the truth is, we are part of the Detroit metro region and its fortunes impact our fortunes. And so as our community's entrepreneurial ecosystem strengthens it only makes sense that we should pay better attention to Motown's situation... especially as more and more U-M grads choose to move there.

Excerpt:

"Detroit has lost more than 20 percent of its population 25 years and over in the last decade, according to U.S. Census Data. But a more shocking statistic indicates a different narrative: the population of college-educated residents under 39 year-olds increased by 59 percent in the 7.1 square mile area of Greater Downtown from 2000 to 2010, according to a Forbes report from 2011.

“There is a certain demographic that comes to Detroit that is well-educated, affluent and white and wants to do something,” said Associate Prof. Nick Tobier, who teaches topics like social entrepreneurship in the University’s School of Art & Design. “I mean that in good and bad ways.”

Now, Detroit is building an ecosystem of entrepreneurship, including venture capitalists — those who provide early-stage funding to promising startups — entrepreneurship-focused non-profits; lawyers; a tech-savvy Chamber of Commerce; office hubs, the vibrant urban areas that innovators crave and months-long programs that provide funding and mentorship to innovators."

Read the rest here.

U-M moves to #6 for most students studying abroad

The University of Michigan moved from 10th to 6th in the rank of higher education institutions with the most students studying abroad between 2012 ans 2013. This represented a 15-percent increase, with 2, 365 students studying overseas (for academic credit)

On the flipside, U-M dropped three ranks for schools that host international students.

You can check out all the stats here. Kind of like baseball, ain't it?

 

Ann Arbor lands office for Texas-based VC firm, Mercury Fund

Mercury Fund, a Houston-based venture capital firm, is opening its Midwestern office in Ann Arbor and is taking aim at making investments in Michigan-based startups.

To solidify its plans it has brought on Adrian Fortino as a partner to run the Ann Arbor office. Fortino had been running the Invest Detroit fund (he will remain an advisor) and will utilize his local expertise to make more investments in local startups.

"We are deeply interested in exploring the research and industrial background here," says Adrian Fortino, partner with Mercury Fund. "I see an immense opportunity in the industrial and research corridors."

Mercury Fund is in the midst of raising a $100-million investment vehicle, which Fortino expects to close before the end of the year. Mercury Fund has made investments in two local startups, DeepField and Swift Biosciences, and is currently looking at other potential investments.

The Ann Arbor office of Mercury Fund is located in the Headwaters space in Kerrytown. Headwaters is a small community of startups and early stage investors led by Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures.

"There is an incredible value to being around other investors in town," Fortino says.

Source: Adrian Fortino, partner with Mercury Fund
Writer: Jon Zemke

Cribspot adds $100K to seed round with Accelerate Michigan win

Cribspot announced raising a $660,000 seed round a little more than a month ago. Add another six figures to that number after its win at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

The Ann Arbor-based startup, it also has an office in downtown Detroit, took second place at Michigan's pre-eminent business plan competition. That showing comes with $100,000 in seed capital the startup can use in the best way it sees fit.

"We want to add more features that cater more toward landlords," says Jason Okrasinski, co-founder & CEO of Cribspot. "We also want to have a larger footprint across the country."

The 1-year-old startup and recent Bizdom graduate is creating an online portal that creates one central website for off-campus housing in higher education. The co-founders, mostly University of Michigan students, recognized that finding off-campus houses is an exercise of searching craigslist ads and signs on the sides of buildings. Cribspot offers a central location where students and landlords can come together to find/offer/manage student housing.

Cribspot landed $660,000 in seed capital early this fall with the round led by Huron River Ventures. It plans to put most of the $100,000 it won at the Accelerate Michigan competition to hiring another software engineer, expanding its staff to six full-time employees and four interns. It is also looking to expand into an other few university markets (it’s currently in 15) including Wayne State University and the University of Detroit Mercy.

Source: Jason Okrasinski, co-founder & CEO of Cribspot
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor-based startups all but sweep Accelerate Michigan

Ann Arbor-based startups all but swept the awards at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last week, taking home a combined $740,000 in seed capital.

Startups from Tree Town took the top two spots, and won six out of the nine sub categories. A startup led by University of Michigan students also took second place in Accelerate Michigan's student portion of the competition.

The big winner was SkySpecs, a startup developing drone technology, taking home the $500,000 first place prize. Getting here has been a long road for Ann Arbor-based company, originally placing in the student portion of the competition in 2012.

"This was our third year doing it," says Danny Ellis, CEO of SkySpecs. "It was a really, really good competition. I was impressed with so many of the competitors."

Cribspot, which calls Kerrytown home and has an office in downtown Detroit, took second place in the overall competition. That showing earned it $100,000 in seed capital, which company plans to use to adds staff to help further develop and expand its online-student-housing platform.

The following Ann Arbor-based companies took home category awards:

- Ornicept won the IT prize (worth $25,000) for its software platform that helps field workers collect and manage data.
- Solartonic won the Alternative Energy prize ($25,000) for its flexible solar panel technology, solarap, that attaches to non-traditional surfaces, such as wrapping around the pole of a street lamp.
- Akervall Technologies won the Advanced Materials prize ($25,000) for its thin-yet-tough mouthguard made of non-compressible, perforated materials.
- Freestride Therapeutics won the Life Science prize ($25,000) for its drug that relieves and even prevents shin pain for racing horses.
- AlertWatch won the Advanced Transportation prize ($25,000) for its patient-monitoring technology.
- TurtleCell won the People's Choice award ($10,000) for the second year in a row for its Phone case that comes with retractable earbuds.

HeelSecret took second place in Accelerate Michigan's student competition ($5,000) for its shoe attachment that helps better connect high heels to the people wearing them. The startup is led by University of Michigan students.

Source: Danny Ellis, CEO of SkySpecs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Breast cancer survivor launches bio-tech startup, re-Contour

Julie Hyde-Edwards is a breast cancer survivor and an entrepreneur, and those two things are joined at the hip for her.

The Royal Oak resident was working as a graphic designer for a financial services firm when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lost her job midway through fighting her illness, and ended up going through a double mastectomy, which required removing large amounts of tissue from each breast.

But she survived. She innovated a new technology. And now she is working on commercializing it with her own startup, re-Contour.

"I was learning that there were stages of this that were problematic, so I tried to fix it myself," Hyde-Edwards says.

Re-Contour's technology is a type of surgical dressing that improves the aesthetic look of the breast and nipple, helping it avoid flattening and encourages healing after a mastectomy. The re-Contour dressing cover the breast mound, with no contact on the nipple area – providing a safe space around the newly created nipple and preventing clothes from applying pressure to it.

Mastectomies routinely leave large scars on the survivor, and nipple loss after the procedure is not uncommon. Many women struggle with the physical changes that occur after a mastectomy.

"It looks like someone took a machete and tried to cut you in half," Hyde-Edwards says. "It's pretty hard to look at."

Hyde-Edwards is currently working with Dr. Kenneth Shaheen, section head of plastic surgery at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, on commercializing the technology. Re-Contour received a patent for its dressing in April and it recently took first place in the Growth category (worth $13,900) at the Entrepreneur-YOU business and pitch plan competition at Walsh College in Troy.

Re-Contour has been working with a variety of local economic accelerators, such as TechTown in Detroit and the Macomb-OU INCubator in Sterling Heights, but isn't directly enrolled in any specific incubator program.

"We're hoping to produce this product within a year," Hyde-Edwards says.

Source: Julie Hyde-Edwards, founder & CEO of re-Contour
Writer: Jon Zemke

Seelio adds 14 people to downtown Ann Arbor office

Startups launched and grown in Ann Arbor can sometimes end up in new homes after they are acquired. That’s not the case with Seelio. The 3-year-old startup is doubling down on Tree Town with a small spike in hiring.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based higher education software startup has hired 14 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 22 employees and an intern. It is currently looking to hire four more people in software development, educational services, and a director of a university partnership development. Check out the openings here.

"We have been hiring at a rapid pace," says Emily Keller-Logan, director of marketing & communications for Seelio. "We have brought on a lot of talented people."

Seelio's platform enables college students to showcase their portfolio of work. The software documents how their college projects came to fruition and presents them for employers in job interviews. Check out a video about the platform here.

"We're providing student lifecycle portfolios to institutions so that students can begin preparing for their careers from orientation to graduation," Keller-Logan says.

Seelio raised a $1.5 million seed capital round in 2013. It was acquired by Kansas City-based PlattForm last summer.

Source: Emily Keller-Logan, director of marketing & communications for Seelio
Writer: Jon Zemke

OcuSciences enlists Adams Fellow to grow startup

OcuSciences hired two people over the last year, expanding the bio-tech startup’s staff to five. One of those hires was a new CTO (coming Accuri Cytometers) and another is from the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship program.

The Automation Alley-managed program pairs recent college graduates with locally based startups. The idea is to get more talented young people involved in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Erich Heise joins OcuSciences as its business manager, specializing in business development.

"It's a chance for Erich to get his feet wet in a company," says Kurt Riegger, COO of OcuSciences. "OcuSciences is doing a lot of business development and Erich has a chance to do a lot of it."

OcuSciences spun out of the University of Michigan six years ago developing a new way to diagnose diseases like diabetes with eye scans. Its ocular diagnostic technology for metabolomic diseases that allows doctors to diagnose patients earlier and with higher accuracy. It's the type of new technology in an emerging area that attracted Heise back to Ann Arbor after he graduated from Case Western University.

"Ann Arbor is really an area of opportunity when it comes to entrepreneurship," Heise says. "Most people run to the coasts but I think this area is really blossoming."

OcuSciences’ technology is being used in two clinical centers, and the startup is working to bring two more online in the coming months.

"The need is high," Riegger says. "The challenge is can we get ahead of the need?"

Source: Kurt Riegger, COO of OcuSciences
Writer: Jon Zemke
617 Higher Education Articles | Page: | Show All
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