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Steel startup Detroit Materials spins out of Wayne State

A new startup spinning out of Wayne State University believes it can make a stronger steel that will have applications in a broad range of industries, including defense, infrastructure, and automotive.

Detroit Materials technology promises to create a high-quality steel that is both lighter and stronger than current options. The steel alloy is expected to help create efficiencies in areas like energy sustainability, pollution reduction, increased safety, and lower production costs.

"We're in the process of revalidating the technology so we can show that everything we say can happen in a lab can happen in a production facility," says Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials.

The technology was developed by a research team led by Wayne State University Engineering Profesor Susil Putatunda. The team focused on creating advanced materials with high-yield strength, fracture toughness, and ductility. A $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and $25,000 from the Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund got the technology to the point where it could be considered for commercialization.

Detroit Materials is also partaking in the New Economy Initiative's Technology Development Incubator Program, which opened the door for a licensing agreement and the creation of the startup last September. Detroit Materials is currently working from the Invest Detroit offices in the Renaissance Center while it looks for a permanent office in the greater downtown Detroit area.

Detroit Materials currently has a staff of two, including its CEO. Guillen worked as an entrepreneur-in-residence for the Detroit Technology Exchange. The company is also looking to hire two part-time engineers while it works to secure three pilot programs for its steel technology by the end of this year. It is also preparing to raise a Series A round of seed capital.

"Our goal is to raise a Series A within the next six months," Guillen says.

Source: Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

Elegus Technologies develops advanced battery tech

A group of three Masters of Entrepreneurship students, one PhD student, and one professor from the University of Michigan believe they have come up with a better cell phone battery, or at least a piece of technology that will help these batteries last longer.

Elegus Technologies is commercializing a battery separator membrane that keeps battery electrodes from touching and short circuiting. It's thinner, less expensive, and more heat resistant than current option on the market. It's applications range from helping prolong cell phone battery life to jets to electric vehicles.

"We saw a lot of potential for growth not only with lithium-ion batteries but with other applications," says John Hennessy, co-founder of Elegus Technologies.

The team at Elegus Technologies has raised $23,000 in seed capital from grants and business plan competition wins. They hope to raise $150,000 by the end of summer. That money will help validate the technology. It is working on testing it through the rest of this year.

"Once we get that testing done we can get samples out to customers who are interested in it," Hennessy says.

Hennessy is one of three masters of entrepreneurship students at U-M’s Ross School of Business and a U-M PhD student who decided to take on the technology and turn it into a startup. Elegus Technologies was recently named the Entrepreneurs of the Year by the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship. Hennessy and his team are currently working with the professor at U-M that originally developed the technology.

"We thought it had the best potential out of all of them so we stuck with it," Hennessy says.

Source: John Hennessy, co-founder of Elegus Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M student-led FrostGear develops motorcycle helmet cooling tech

Zachary Hwang has been riding motorcycles for years. The temperature inside his helmet has, well, been less than comfortable.

"Heat has always been a big problem in the summer," Hwang says. "There is no air conditioning."

That inspired the University of Michigan student to launch his own startup, FrostGear. Hwang and two of his fellow Master of Entrepreneurship classmates have been working on a cooling technology for motorcycle helmets. The technology works because it cools the helmet, which in turn helps make the rest of the rider's body cool.

"We can make a smaller device that attaches to the helmet," Hwang says.

The TechArb-based startup is currently working on prototypes of its technology, leveraging resources from Ann Arbor SPARK and the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship. It has applied for a provisional patent for its technology.

"Ideally by December we will have a Beta product that we can take to trade shows," Hwang says.

Source: Zachary Hwang, CEO of FrostGear
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ingenex Digital Marketing fills out new office above Arbor Brewing Co

Ingenex Digital Marketing moved into a bigger office in downtown Ann Arbor last summer, bringing a couple of local startups with it.

The digital marketing firm took over the second floor of the Arbor Brewing Co in July. The dramatically bigger office (about 4,000 square feet) was more than enough for its growing staff and a couple of local tech companies subleasing office space, including HealPay and 3.7 Designs.

"It allows us to have a really nice space and have people nearby we can collaborate with," says Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing.

The 8-year-old company now employes six employees and five summer interns from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. It has hired a content manager (a U-M grad) and a web designer over the last year.

Ingenex Digital Marketing specializes in inbound marketing, doing work for the likes of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan and helping launch and market a mobile app for Campus Commandos, a college-focused marketing firm. That has allowed Ingenex Digital Marketing to continue to grow its revenue, and Mehraban expects to push $1 million in sales.

"Our revenue is trending up, for sure," Mehraban says.

Source: Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

EMU, U-M chosen for Google Community Leaders Program

EMU joins Wayne State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the University of Michigan for a Google-sponsored program that teaches search optimization and digital marketing experience to students in order to help them support local businesses.


"Five Eastern Michigan University students have been accepted into Google's Community Leader's Program, a volunteer operation in which students help equip local small businesses and non-profits to compete in the digital age. The five EMU students, Mahdi Alkadib, Patrick Cotter, Joseph Wendl, Robert Larson, and Sean Tseng, will work with various local businesses and organizations throughout southeastern Michigan, introducing them to tactical Google tools like Google+, Google Apps, Google Analytics and Google AdWords."

Read the rest here.

Qlovi doubles staff as it adds publishing partners

Qlovi is growing in both staff and clientele, as the Ann Arbor-based education startup gains traction after its first full year of operation.

"We have grown as a team and we reach more markets," says Harlyn Pacheco, CEO & co-founder of Qlovi. "We have 20 publishing partners and HarperCollins just came onboard."

Thats up from a half dozen publishing partners a year ago. A trio of University of Michigan graduates launched the startup nearly two years, focusing on creating a suite of literacy instruction and publishing platforms for the K-12 and digital publishing markets. The courses are digital and easy to access from mobile devices.

Qlovi has also been hosting more virtual Q+A sessions between classes and the authors to help create more a connection between the teachers and the students. “That allows us to create an on-going relationship with them,” Pacheco says.

The seven-person staff, up from three people as of September, is working to grow the reach of its product. That means more efforts to grow its clientele and increase the number of publishing partners.

"We want to reach more schools and more districts," Pacheco says. "Doing it in Michigan would be great."

Source: Harlyn Pacheco, CEO & co-founder of Qlovi
Writer: Jon Zemke

LTU selected as USA national organizer for World Robot Olympiad

LTU is taking a principal role in the World Robot Olympiad Association, which runs a global LEGO robotics competition that draws participants from around the world. LTU will also be hosting the USA competition finals next September.


"The Olympiad started in Singapore in 2004. This year over 17,000 teams are participating. Each country has its own competition, and the winning teams from each country are invited to attend the World Robot Olympiad to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals.

This year's finals competition is scheduled to be held in the Olympic city at Sochi in Russia  Nov. 21-23. The event will be organized by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Industry, and the Ministry of Communication of the Russian Federation. Participants from over 36 countries – including the United States for the first time – will be offered accommodations in the Olympic Village hotels and apartments."

More here.

Ann Arbor start-up to market wearable body sensors

Imagine military uniforms that can assess the environment they're in. Or even the condition of the soldier wearing them? An Ann Arbor start-up isn't just imagining such a thing, they're developing it.


"A pair of professors, one at the University of Michigan, has completed the first round of funding for PsiKick, a two-year-old start-up aiming to sell ultra-low-power chips that can be embedded in a T-shirt or other clothing, do not need a battery or wires and can run on heat, vibrations and sunlight."

Read the rest here.

Ocunelis invents better way to apply eye drops

David Lorch and Marius Tijunelis were working through an entrepreneurial apprenticeship out of the Medical Innovation Center at the University of Michigan's Kellogg Eye Center, and they knew they wanted to start a business. They just didn’t know what kind.

The pair made a list of potential business that would fill unmet needs and began eliminating the weakest, one by one. At the end of the day they came up with Ocunelis and its eye-drop assist technology called DROPin.

"It's designed to help people aim their eye drops safely and accurately," Lorch says. "It helps you line up the bottle tip with your eyes so it gets the drop in the right part of your eye."

Lorch and Tijunelis launched Ocunelis last July and filed for a patent on their innovation shortly after. The two-person team is now working to ramp up sales starting in their own backyard.

"It can be bought at a few pharmacies in Ann Arbor and on Amazon," Lorch says. "We would like to see it out there helping as many people as we can reach."

Source: David Lorch, CTO of Ocunelis
Writer: Jon Zemke

Blackstone LaunchPad grows Make It Better competition

The Make It Better business competition enjoyed its broadest participation yet, attracting high school students from across the state.

The Walsh College Blackstone LaunchPad event encourages students to redesign an existing product or service or develop a new one. This year it doubled the number of participants, attracting students from Frankenmuth High School, Troy High School and Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores.

"We needed to get the work out to the high schools, and the right people at the high schools, before they developed their curriculum for the year," says Carol Glynn, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College.

This is the third Make it Better competition, which is held on an annual basis. Winners received as much as $500 for their ideas to help improve the quality of people’s lives or make their community a better place to live.

Among the winners were a Frankenmuth High School student who took first place for her idea of a Furry Friend Finder that tracks pets and reports on their location and physical condition. Second place went to a Troy High School student for a mobile application programmed to find recipes based on existing home food supplies.

"They're already asking us if we are doing this again next year," Glynn says. She adds, "I am hoping to get the funding next year so we can do it."

Source: Carol Glynn, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College
Writer: Jon Zemke

Thing Thing moves to Detroit as part of DC3 Creative Ventures

Three graduates of the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and a professor recently launched a design firm called Thing Thing and moved it Detroit.

Simon Anton, Rachel Mulder, Thom Moran, and Eiji Jimbo met each other in Ann Arbor. After working in a U-M design studio for a few years, the foursome knew they had something special, which turned into Thing Thing.

"It was a shared interest and a really good working dynamic that inspired us to start an design practice," says Simon Anton, co-founder of Thing Thing.

The four partners describe Thing Thing as an "experimental design practice" because it takes industrial technology and recycled materials and finds new ways to turn them into cool new products. It's currently developing a series of lights it wants to release as its first product later this year.

"It (Thing Thing's way of doing business) allows us to find new uses for things that we can make our own," Anton says.

Thing Thing made the move to Detroit last August and has spent that time immersing itself in the Motor City. The group currently lives in Boston-Edison and has a work space at 1252 Edison St in the North End. Thing Thing's team is also working in the Detroit Creative Corridor Center’s Creative Ventures program to build out its business and become more engrained in Detroit’s emerging creative community.

Source: Simon Anton, co-founder of Thing Thing
Writer: Jon Zemke

AskSupportNow pilot projects attract startup's first customers

A year ago, the startup AskSupportNow had just landed $5,000 worth of seed capital to build out its IT platform. Today the Blackstone LaunchPad-based company is running a number of pilot projects with paying customers and aims to begin marketing its software later this year.

"As we started sending out our software, we found more and more bugs, but we have been solving them," says Brian Royster, CEO of AskSupportNow. "It's a lot of work."

The 1-year-old startup is developing a software platform that provides IT services to small- and medium-sized businesses. The platform focuses on pinpointing and solving IT problems before they happen by monitoring hard-drive temperature and the condition of the system's RAM. Check out a video about it here.

There are now three people on the AskSupportNow’s team working out the bugs in the software. They have 13 pilot projects for the software, including a handful of businesses. They plan on wrapping up development of the software later this year and beginning a marketing push in the fall.

All of this was made possible by a few thousand dollars they received from Wayne State University Blackstone LaunchPad’s Warrior Fund.

"The Warrior Fund gave us a pretty good head start," Royster says.

Source: Brian Royster, CEO of AskSupportNow
Writer: Jon Zemke

Wolverine Venture Fund scores win with Silverpop exit

The Wolverine Venture Fund, an investment vehicle run by students at the University of Michigan, is celebrating a win now that it has recorded its fourth profitable exit with the IBM's acquisition of Silverpop.

Silverpop is a software company offering marketing automation and real-time personalization technology services. The Wolverine Venture Fund invested $200,000 in 2000. The size of the return hasn’t been released yet besides the managing director of the fund saying the exit "makes us very happy."

"What's nice about this one is that it's a company that was founded during the Dot Com boom," says Erik Gordon, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and managing director of the Wolverine Venture Fund. "Very few of these companies were standing three years later. This is one of the few Dot Com companies that was able to survive and pivot a few times."

The Wolverine Venture Fund got its start in 1997 with $2 million donated by supports of U-M’s business school. It has since grown to $6.5 million, recording four successful exits. The fund specializes in making early round investments in startups of around $100,000 to $200,000. The fund currently has about a dozen active portfolio companies.

The students who run the Wolverine Venture Fund number about 25 each year. About a dozen students sign up for a two-year stint of managing the fund each year. Most of those students are MBA students at the Ross School of Business but a few others are often graduate students in science and technology fields of the university.

"It's a huge commitment," Gordon says. "You come in and do it for two years, including through the summer. This is a real deep dive. They become real venture capitalists."

Some of the Wolverine Venture Fund’s recent alumni include Jake Cohen, a partner with Detroit Venture Partners, along with Michael Godwin and Jason Townsend, co-founders of Resonant Venture Partners.

"That's the fund's real accomplishment," Gordon says. "We are training our students to get up and make it happen."

Source: Erik Gordon, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business
Writer: Jon Zemke

Lawrence Tech receives $697K grant for entrepreneurial project studio

The Kern Family Foundation is giving nearly $700,000 to Lawrence Technological University as part of an effort to make the university’s curriculum more entrepreneurial in nature.

"We want to transform the educational experience of our students," says Maria Vaz, provost at Lawrence Technological University. "We want our students to have an entrepreneurial mindset."

The Kern Family Foundation is giving Lawrence Tech a $697,000 grant over three years, which is the final in a phase of $2.4 million worth of giving from the Wisconsin-based foundation that started in 2003. The grant is focused on incorporating the entrepreneurial mindset into undergraduate engineering education at Lawrence Tech.

For instance, the grant helped infuse entrepreneurial aspects into 50 courses throughout the college. It also helped to establish a freshman studio for engineering students that is project-based and focused on creating an enterprising attitude in students. The latest installment of the grant will help create a sophomore version of that studio.

"We want to institutionalize even more of the changes we made to the curriculum," Vaz says.

Source: Maria Vaz, provost at Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M researchers develop Entrain mobile app to reduce jet lag

A professor and graduate student at the University of Michigan, both mathematicians, have launched a mobile app focused on minimizing the effects of jet lag.

Entrain helps its travelers leverage shortcuts to getting their internal clocks on pace with their new time zones quickly and efficiently. The app is named for entrainment, which is the scientific term for synchronizing circadian rhythms with the outside hour. Entrain’s technology is based on new findings by U-M Matt Professor Daniel Forger and former U-M undergraduate student Kirill Serkh. Olivia Walch, a PhD student at U-M, created the mobile app, which launched last week.

"I took the results from the research paper and put it into app form," Walch says.

Forger and Serkh’s research focused on the impact of light on the average person. They identify it as the strongest signal to regulate circadian rhythms. Short disruptions to light exposure from things like jet lag can cause fatigue and lowered performance. Entrain provides shortcuts to eliminating these symptoms by providing custom schedules of light and darkness, boiling down to one block of time each day when the user should seek the brightest light possible and another when you should put yourself in the dark, or at least in dim light.

"Some of the schedules are pretty easy to follow," Walch says.

And the app has proved popular so far. "We have already had 50,000 downloads," Walch says.

Source: Olivia Walch, co-founder of Entrain
Writer: Jon Zemke
617 Higher Education Articles | Page: | Show All
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