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Warmilu finds economic soft spot with warming blankets for seniors

The team at Warmilu has discovered that nothing is as easy as it seems, especially when you're trying to create a new product from scratch.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup has been working to bring its warming blanket technology to market for the last year but has run into snags along the way, such as getting labeling and packaging right. However, the 3-year-old company is still looking to launch sales of its blanket later this fall, perhaps as soon as November.

"That's our goal, but we know it’s an ambitious goal," says Grace Hsia, CEO of Warmilu.

Warmilu represents its blanket as a non-electric heating wrap that acts instantly, is reusable, and microwave safe. Hsia and her two co-founders (all University of Michigan graduate students) developed the blanket with the idea of keeping newborns warm. It has since grown the idea to include using it for the elderly and people dealing with pain or soreness from ailments like arthritis.

"There is a robust home-heat-care market," Hsia says. "It's mainly men and women over the age of 50."

Warmilu and its team of five people (it recently hired a marketing and creative director) are hoping to use the revenues from its initial sales to help fund the further development of the blanket for neonatal care. The startup is also working to raise a seed capital round of $250,000 to fund the development of the technology, but Hsia and her partners would prefer to continue bootstrapping the venture by growing its sales beyond Michigan.

"We want to reach out and build that Warmilu presence not only in Ann Arbor but globally," Hsia says. "We would like to self-finance our growth."

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

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

U-M Tech Transfer accelerates invention production

The University of Michigan has set another round of records this year when it comes to inventions and innovations.

The university's Office of Technology Transfer reported 439 new inventions for the last fiscal year, which us up from 421 the previous year. U-M also recorded 148 option and license agreements (up from 108 a year ago) and launched 14 startups.

"It has been a steady (upward) trend for the last five years," says Ken Nisbet, associate vice president for research and tech transfer at the University of Michigan.

Now each invention doesn't equate a new startup. Oftentimes a startup developing a new technology platform will be based on a handful of patents. Nisbet estimates that about 25 percent of new inventions are robust enough to become their own startups.

"These inventions are a whole range of ideas," Nisbet says. "It could be a platform technology that is big and broad or a smaller piece of technology that a company can enhance."

He adds that each newly created startup spun out of the university requires much more complex technology than say a software developer coming up with a new mobile app. Because of the complexity of it means that more than a dozen new startups launched each year puts U-M toward the more prolific end of research university technology transfer programs. For instance, MIT normally leads the way and it routinely notches about 20 new startup launches each year.

"Fourteen is a pretty robust number when you consider the type of startup it is," Nisbet says.

The University of Michigan has 22 startups currently housed in its Venture Accelerator on the North Campus Research Complex. Each of those startups employs a couple of people. For instance, Exo Dynamics is a U-M spinout that is developing a back brace for the 21st Century. It currently has a team of five people working on the venture.

Check out a video promoting U-M’s Tech Transfer program here.

Source: Ken Nisbet, associate vice president for research and tech transfer at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U-M student-led VCs look for a few good startup investments

Opportunities for finding seed capital for local startups are anything but in short supply this fall. A broad range of financial sources are looking to invest tens of thousands of dollars in promising ventures, such as the University of Michigan’s Social Venture Fund and the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

Three student-led venture capital funds at the University of Michigan are putting out calls for applications. The VCs are looking to sink $50,000 to $100,000 per investment, and they are looking for a broad range of startups to evaluate.

"We invest in 1-2 companies per year," says Joanna Herrmann, director of investments for the University of Michigan’s Social Venture Fund. "Last year we invested in two companies."

The other two student-led funds (the Wolverine Venture Fund and the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund) are looking to make investments of similar sizes in a wide variety of ventures.

This is the fifth year for the university's Social Venture Fund. It has made five investments in that time, including an investment in downtown Detroit-based software mapping startup Loveland Technologies, which has hired three people in recent months. The Social Venture Fund looks for companies that are for-profit and aim to make a social or environmental impact.

"We try to cast a really wide net," Herrmann says.

Bigger money is at stake at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition this fall. The annual business plan competition offers prizes that are often worth $10,000 or more. Top prize is $500,000. Startups from Washtenaw County, and the U-M specifically, have historically fared quite well, often taking the top spot and walking away with six figures in seed capital. For information this year’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition click here.

Source: Joanna Herrmann, director of investments for the University of Michigan’s Social Venture Fund
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U-M grad creates new video game, Black-White Game

A recent University of Michigan graduate is creating a new video game, and it stars a "Happy Dude."

What exactly the Happy Dude in Black-White Game is is still up for debate. It’s a small white character going through a Super Mario Brothers-like game made up of black, white, and grey scenes. This much is known, the main character is small and happy.

"He is sort of a block with legs," says Paul Nagel, creator of Black-White Game. "He is of his own species. He's not a marshmallow or a tooth. He is just a happy little dude."

Nagel, who also goes by the alias James Covenant, graduated from the University of Michigan earlier this year with a bachelors degree in industrial engineering. He is currently working at the university as a video editor while working to create Black-White game.

"We have a lot of the mechanics down, general story outline," Nagel says. "If we had the funding now we would ship it a year from now."

Nagel describes the game on its Facebook page as, "Black-White is a puzzle platform video game for PC/Mac/Linux. You must invert Happy Dude's color from black to white to solve challenging puzzles." So the Happy Dude can change colors which will allow the protagonist to make his way through different levels. Check out a demo of the game here.

"When you're playing it it's very intuitive," Nagel says. "It makes a lot of sense."

Nagel plans to launch the Black-White Game for laptop next year. He is working to launch a crowd-funding campaign for the video game later this fall.

Source: Paul Nagel, creator of Black-White Game
Writer: Jon Zemke

Delphinus Medical Technologies brings on new CEO to ramp up growth

One of Metro Detroit’s most promising startups has a new leader who comes with a history of shepherding biotech companies through to acquisition.

Delphinus Medical Technologies has hired Mark Forchette as its president and CEO. Forchette served as OptiMedica Corp’s president and CEO before taking the job. The company specialized in ophthalmic medical devices. He led OptiMedica Corp. through commercialization, successfully completed multiple rounds of financing, and oversaw the company’s acquisition by Abbott Laboratories last year. He says he sees the same sort of potential with Delphinus Medical Technologies.

"I see an incredible technology that can improve women's health," Forchette says.

Delphinus Medical Technologies makes SoftVue, a "whole breast ultrasound tomography system" that helps diagnose breast cancer more effectively than traditional mammograms. The technology spun out of Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute in 2009. It has raised a $12 million Series A round in 2010 and a $11 million Series B last year. It has since hired 15 people, expanding its staff to 35 employees.

"We're in position now where we have on-boarded a lot of talent," Forchette says. "We're really excited about that."

That team will work to gain technical credibility with doctors and health systems, enabling them to thoroughly adopt the SoftVue technology.

"We have to do that clinically," Forchette says. "It's a process of incorporating physicians deeply within the company."

Source: Mark Forchette, president & CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M and startup community create an entrepreneurial ecosystem

What do you get when you mix one of the biggest, best-funded institutions in the country with an ever-growing list of aggressive entrepreneurial incubators? Answers revealed in the article link below!

Excerpt:

"Student organizations tout entrepreneurial spirit abound — namely MPowered, optiMize and MHacks — and administrative facilities and programs, like the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovate Blue, foster startup ideas and passion, providing resources that turn those concepts into realities.

Even outside the University, startup enthusiasm is everywhere. Incubators and consulting firms like TechArb, Ann Arbor SPARK and Menlo Innovations are in high demand — the former two even partner with the students through Innovate Blue."

Read the rest here.
 

J-RO School of Music focuses on contemporary music

Josh Ross is starting his career by combining the two main subjects he studied in college, business and music.

Ross graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelors degrees in both business administration and music earlier this year. So he launched the J-RO School of Music, a new business that teaches young people about music by using both classical and contemporary examples.

"Everyone teaches classical," says Josh Ross, founder of J-RO School of Music. "That's great but if someone wants to learn about pop or hip-hop there aren’t many places that do it."

The idea is to swim with the current when it comes to teaching young people about music by teaching them fundamentals for songs they are already excited about. Ross does camps and workshops that put equal emphasis on contemporary music, like pop, rock, musical theater, and hip-hop, and classical music.

"What's great about it is the kids are familiar with the songs and then they want to learn how to play them," Ross says.

The J-RO School of Music has facilitated 50 students so far this year. The students have ranged in ages from 7 to 70-years-old. Ross, who is releasing his own acoustic rock album this fall, would like to up those numbers beyond 100 and open his own storefront for the company over the next year. He hopes to use the base of that business to do more community outreach so underprivileged kids can have equal access to music education.

"I want to make it sustainable so I can provide some programs for children who don’t have those opportunities," Ross says.

Source: Josh Ross, founder of J-RO School of Music
Writer: Jon Zemke

OU medical student invents new surgical device utilizing Google Glass technology

A medical student's promising new technology device means surgeons will be able to keep their eyes trained on their patients.

Excerpt:

"Florence Doo, a second-year medical student at Oakland University, has her hands full.

Not with school, although that certainly keeps her busy, but with starting and growing a medical device company that plans to use Google Glass to deliver heads-up displays to surgeons. 

The benefit? Surgeons don't have to take their eyes off their patients during procedures to look around at video screens scattered around the operating room displaying the information they need. 

Surgeons can pull up important images such as CAT scans — and even transmit images of the operation in progress for teaching purposes — all while keeping their eyes on the task at hand."

More here.

Cribspot raises $660K seed round, plans to add 3 positions

Cribspot has made a name for itself as a startup that helps connect college students to off-campus rental housing. Now the Ann Arbor-based company is aiming to become a national name in student housing.

The 1-year-old startup has raised $660,000 in seed capital from Bizdom (Cribspot also has a location in downtown Detroit) and the First Step Fund. Local venture capital firm Huron River Ventures led the round.

"We're going to see some real exciting growth from them in the next few years," says Tim Streit, partner with Huron River Ventures.

Cribspot got its start as A2cribs when Tim Jones, Evan Dancer, Jason Okrasinski and Alex Gross (all University of Michigan students) created one central website for off-campus housing. Finding off-campus housing is usually an archaic mess made up of ads on Craigslist, newspapers, and on the sides of the buildings. Cribspot looks to solve that by giving landlords and students a central location to advertise and find off-campus housing.

Cribspot is currently on 15 campuses across the U.S., adding 10 more to its list this fall with Michigan State University, University of Iowa, and the University of Texas. More universities are set to come online soon.

"We're trying to grow as fast as we can," says Okrasinski, co-founder & CEO of Cribspot. "We plan to open in Detroit at Wayne State University in the next few months."

Which will mean more campus reps. Cribspot currently employs a staff of six people and is looking to hire three more. Even more hires in the form of campus reps are set to happen soon thanks to the seed round.

"We're using that money for the marketing and user growth," Okrasinski says. "We're also using it for new hires."

Source: Tim Streit, partner with Huron River Ventures; and Jason Okrasinski, co-founder & CEO of Cribspot
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Institute of Music Education's first students start classes

The first students are filing into classes at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME) this week.

Jack Stablein is one of them. The 19-year-old Rochester native lives in Birmingham and is the frontman for Fifth and Main, a folk rock band. He decided to join the initial class of the DIME to pursue his bachelor degree in songwriting and sharpen his performance skills. He choose the Detroit Institute of Music Education because he can still study music theory while also working intensely on his performance skills.

"They're really focused on the performance part of music," Stablein says. He adds its location in downtown Detroit (1265 Griswold) is also attractive. "The more connected with the Detroit Institute of Music Education I am, the more connected I am with Detroit and bigger-and-better things."

The DIME has its roots in the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, which was launched in Brighton, England, in 2001. The firm grew to several locations across the United Kingdom before it was acquired. Farmington Hills-based venture capital firm Beringea, which has an office in London, convinced the firm's founders to open a U.S.-version of the business in Detroit last summer.

The company now has seven full-time employees and 20 sessional instructors. It's looking to hire 3-5 more employees this fall, including a student counselor and administrative workers.

"The ability and talent of the instructors is much higher than any other city we have opened in," says Sarah Clayman, managing director of the DIME. "That was very pleasing."

The Detroit Institute of Music Education's first class is composed of 45 full-time students, who soon will be joined by a few more who are going through the application process. The school is also offering short courses that last six weeks, such as teaching about DJing and song writing.

"We're doing lots of short courses this year," Clayman says.

Source: Sarah Clayman, managing director of the Detroit Institute of Music Education; and Jack Stablein, student at the Detroit Institute of Music Education
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mountain Labs streamlines medical research with software

Alex VanDerKolk is a graduate of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business but also a fan of medical research. The recent recipient of a BBA is leveraging both passions to launch his own startup, Mountain Labs.

"I have always been interested in the medical field," VanDerKolk says.

The Ann Arbor-based company is developing data collection software, called Symport, for medical research. The idea is to create a platform that is simple to use, HIPAA complaint, and smart enough to streamline what can often be the archaic world of the healthcare research.

VanDerKolk has firsthand experience of how archaic that healthcare research can become. The 20-something worked as a data analyst for the University of Michigan Health System for a few years before he graduated late last year. He was appalled at the 20 Century-style tools university researchers were using to conduct 21st Century research on multi-million-dollar projects for a multi-billion dollar research institution.

"It was just a very inefficient process," VanDerKolk says. "We saw a lot of very smart people spending a lot of their time doing very mundane managerial tasks."

That inspired him to launch Mountain Labs last April. He raised $200,000 in seed capital and put together a seven-person team to build the software platform (with the help of Atomic Object’s Ann Arbor office) this summer. The technology is now in private Beta being tested with a few different research teams at U-M.

"Now we're starting to add software developers and bring our developers back in house," VanDerKolk says.

Mountain Labs is aiming to conduct a true pilot phase with a University of Michigan research department this fall. It is also looking to raise a $750,000 Series A by January so it can start looking at doing pilots outside of U-M.

Source: Alex VanDerKolk, president of Mountain Labs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Walsh College breaks ground on expansion of Troy campus

Walsh College's Troy campus is getting a $15 million addition and renovations that will support a more contemporary learning and teaching environment.

The groundbreaking last week at 3838 Livernois Rd. marked the start of construction of a two-story, 27,000-square-foot renovation and addition to the original campus building built in the 1970s. Another 27,000 square feet of interior space will be renovated during the 18-month-long project.

When complete, the campus will offer distinct pavilions for a business-communication focused student success center, a student lounge and a one-stop student services center.

Technological upgrades are part of the renovations, and will fold into programs that focus on the development of business communication skills that are critical to leadership roles in business, says Stephanie Bergeron, president and CEO of Walsh College.

The project is the fifth improvement to the 4,000-student campus since 2007, including the Blackstone Launchpad for Entrepreneurs in 2010, a Barnes & Noble bookstore in 2012, and a Finance Lab in 2013.

Source: Erica Hobbs, Airfoil Group
Writer: Kim North Shine

EXO Dynamics gears up to test back-brace prototypes

EXO Dynamics is in the process of finishing the first commercially viable prototypes of its mechatronic back brace and begin testing on its first subjects this fall.

The Ann Arbor-based startup, it calls the Venture Accelerator in the University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex, received a $50,000 state grant to create four commercially viably prototypes. EXO Dynamics is at the end of that process.

"We will have that finished by next month," says Mushir Khwaja, chief commercial officers of EXO Dynamics. "We will do the final assembly here to put some finishing touches on it."

EXO Dynamics and its team of four employees and one summer intern is developing an electro-mechanical back brace for medical professionals. The brace will be able to be worn by physicians under their lead vests in operating rooms.

"We will field test them with physicians in the fall," Khwaja says.

EXO Dynamics has received a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, which means the startup expects to receive its patent for the back brace later this fall. The company also recently took second in the New Business Idea category of the Great Lakes Entrepreneur Quest business plan competition.

Khwaja plans to begin fundraising a seed capital round for EXO Dynamics later this year while field testing is going on. The company hopes to raise about $1 million in seed capital to commercialize its technology.

Source: Mushir Khwaja, chief commercial officers of EXO Dynamics
Writer Jon Zemke

U-M research pushes envelope of wearable technologies

Could monitoring chronic ailments be as simple as breathing? That seems like a distinct possibility thanks to new technology coming from the University of Michigan.

University researchers, working in conjunction with the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps program, are developing a wearable sensor that could provide continuous disease monitoring of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia or lung disease. The sensor, which is about the size of a finger nail, detects airborne chemicals either exhaled or released through the skin. It can be worn as a wired device.

Nitric oxide and oxygen are among the chemicals it can detect. Abnormal levels of either can serve as indicators for high blood pressure, anemia or lung disease. The sensor could also be used to detect hazardous chemical leaks, or provide data about air quality.

"This device has a broad range of applications," says Sherman Fan, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Michigan.

The sensor is currently still a test subject in a U-M lab, but the team of researchers hope to commercialize the technology in the not-too-distant future. Fan is developing the sensor with Zhaohui Zhong, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Girish Kulkarni, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering.

"I would say (commercialization of the chip is) probably 3-5 years down the road," Fan says.

Source: Sherman Fan, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

RBD Creative moves to larger office in Plymouth

For RBD Creative’s first seven years, it called the carriage house of one of Detroit's oldest structures home. Today the company has matured to a traditional office in a new home in the suburbs.

The marketing company made the move to Plymouth in March. The new home puts it closer to core clients, such as the University of Michigan and Genesis Genetics, which is also based in Plymouth.

"That's part of the reason we moved to Plymouth," says Dorothy Twinney, president & owner of RBD Creative.

Also necessitating the move is RBD Creative's growth making it into a different and bigger company. When it launched it had three people. Today it has a staff of a dozen employees and the occasional intern after making two hires over the last year. The new office in Plymouth is much bigger, measuring out to 2,000 square feet. It also has a conference room.

"Now we have a much bigger conference area," Twinney says.

RBD Creative is looking to add more clients in the food and academic sectors both this year and next.

"For whatever reason these two areas seem to be our thing," Twinney says.

Source: Dorothy Twinney, president & owner of RBD Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke
617 higher education Articles | Page: | Show All
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