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Loven Systems creates big data tech that mimics user decisions

Lots of tech companies claim they can solve big problems in business with big data analytics. A new startup in Northville, Loven Systems, believes it can do it better than everyone else by making technology that can mimic its user’s decision-making process.

"We look at how people make decisions," says Satyendra Rana, CTO of Loven Systems.

Loven Systems is developing a cognitive software solution that will help business users outside of the IT department gain valuable insights from their available data. Rana is a serial entrepreneur who has worked in data analytics for decades. He co-founded Wayne State University's Big Data and Business Analytics Symposium and has worked to expand the data industry in the region.

Rana knows where the pitfalls are when it comes to big data’s potential and its reality.

"There is a big gap between what businesses want and what technology can produce," Rana says.

Loven Systems bridges that gap by crafting its software to think like its users. The idea is that if it makes decisions like its user would, then they will be more comfortable with the software's results and follow through on the insights. Rana points out that too often big data analytics firms come up short because they are used to running perfect information, which isn’t easily found in the real world.

"In the business world there is no perfect information," Rana says.

Loven Systems got its start 18 months ago with just Rana. By January of 2015, the company had a team of four people. Today it employs 30 individuals who are helping the firm lock up new clients in the retail and healthcare sectors. It's aiming to add financial sector firms soon, which will create the need for more hiring.

"We will probably have 40 people by the end of the year," Rana says.

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

Immigrant turns American Dream into own business in Pontiac

Hector Martinez came to metro Detroit with little more than a dream for a better life and some loose connections to the area. 20 years later, he's built his own a business and created jobs in Pontiac.

Trees&Co has established itself as a staple in the local tree-trimming market. It added two people over the last year, expanding its staff to five full-time employees and another four part-timers, and is looking to hire even more, for jobs ranging from arborists to climbers to groundsmen to sales reps.

"We have been building up our system and our equipment," Martinez says. "Now I feel like we are there. We have the customer lists and the equipment. Now we just need the people."

Twenty years ago Martinez wanted to be one of those people, a guy on someone's team working for an honest day's wage. In 1996, he moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland in hopes of finding a better life, and choose Pontiac because an acquaintance lived there and could make room for him.

Martinez worked at a Taco Bell for a few months until a friend complained about being quoted an arm and a leg to have a tree removed near his house. Martinez offered to give it a try for $100.

"I was able to cut the whole thing down without hitting his house," Martinez says. "He said you should do this for a living."

That was the start of Trees&Co. Martinez wasn't afraid of heights and liked working outside. He bought a chainsaw and started building up a customer base. Word of mouth made slow-but-steady growth possible over the years, allowing Martinez to turn the weekend side job into his full-time gig. Then he started hiring people. Today Trees&Co does $500,000 in gross revenue.

"I want to provide more work for more people," Martinez says. "We have the potential to make $2 to $3 million and provide more jobs in the community."

Sizzles Burgers and Subs brings Mediterranean twist to downtown Ypsilanti

Many restauranteurs have grand ambitions for changing their local food scene with new foods and flavors, but almost all of them end up offering standard American staples like hamburgers, sandwiches and pizza.

Mohamed Fayed wants to put those two things together with his new eatery, Sizzles Burgers and Subs, in downtown Ypsilanti. He describes it as typical American fare with a Mediterranean twist.

"It will be burgers, subs and wraps with Mediterranean flavors," Fayed says. "It will be everything we are used to with fresh ingredients and a Mediterranean twist."

Sizzles Burgers and Subs is as much a new adventure for Fayed as it is a venture. The Dearborn resident came to the U.S. from Yemen at age six and grew up in Metro Detroit with family that had been here for generations. He graduated from Fordson High School in Dearborn, then the Michigan Institute of Aviation & Technology, and worked as a supervisor at Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems. Then he decided he wanted to be his own boss and open his own restaurant.

Fayed scanned Metro Detroit to find the right location. The right one for him turned out to be a tough one. He bought a small shoebox of a storefront in downtown Ypsilanti. 10 N Adams hasn't been occupied in the better part of a generation and it showed the day Fayed walked through it.

"It had a lot of clutter," Fayed says. "The ceiling had moisture. The paint was peeling. A lot of mold, but we have remediated that. It was just an all-around mess."

Fayed has cleared out the building with the help of his brother, Ali Fayed, and is working to take plans to the city for Sizzles Burgers and Subs this spring. The Fayed brothers are doing most of the work themselves to get it open.

"It's a big challenge," Fayed says. "There are a lot of hurdles we have to overcome."

But that doesn't mean the Fayed brothers haven't gotten a warm reception.

"I like the area," Fayed says. "Plus the people here are very friendly. They all came out and congratulated me."

Source: Mohamed Fayed, owner & operator of Sizzle Burgers and Subs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Arbor Brewing Co expands in India market with new production plant

Arbor Brewing Co made headlines a couple of years ago with its expansion into India, opening a brewpub in Bangalore. Today it's capitalizing on that success by working to open a production plant in Goa then follow with taverns that stretch across the continent.

"The plan is to open a series of taverns that are fed from this central location," says Rene Greff, who co-owns Arbor Brewing Co with her husband Matt Greff.

Arbor Brewing Co launched in 1996, opening a brewpub in downtown Ann Arbor. It followed with the Corner Brewery near Ypsilanti’s Depot Town a few years later. The company employs about 90 people between the two locations. It brews about 6,500 barrels of beer for distribution across Michigan between the two locations.

A former University of Michigan student and patron of Arbor Brewing Co reached out to the Greffs about opening up a franchise of the micro brewery in India a few years ago. Not long after that Arbor Brewing Co India opened in Bangalore and started packing big crowds into its space. The Greffs have talked about expanding further into India or Asia with another franchise.

The plans for a production plant are more ambitious. When fully operational the India brewery will have the capability to producing 100,000 barrels of beer annually.

"This is going to be much bigger (than Arbor Brewing Co's Michigan operation, which maxes out at 10,000 barrels a year)," Rene Greff says.

Arbor Brewing Co India has already purchased the land for the production plant and expects to begin construction within a month. Brewing equipment is set for delivery in early May.

"It would be really nice if we were producing beer by the end of the year," Rene Greff says. "But I wouldn't be surprised if it slips into the spring of 2017."

The master plan for the India expansion also includes the opening of at least half a dozen taverns in regions across India. The Greffs hope to open a couple this year at the same time the production plant opens with as many as six within the next three years. Distribution of Arbor Brewing Co's beers across India and Asia is also up for consideration within a couple of years after the production plant opens,

"When we first get up and going we plan to focus on the Indian market," Rene Greff says.

Source: Rene Greff, co-owner of Arbor Brewing Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

The most interesting billionaire in metro Detroit you've probably never heard of

 
Manoj Bhargava is the 62-year-old, ex-ashram monk creator and founder of 5-Hour Energy, a company headquartered in Farmington Hills. 5-Hour Energy's 2-oz. bottles, now ubiquitous at party stores and gas stations around the country, revolutionized the energy drink market and made Bhargava a very rich man (he estimates his fortune at $4 billion).
 
But what's most interesting about Bhargava, however, is what he plans to do with his wealth. In addition to pledging to give 90 percent of it away to charity, he also runs a $100-million private equity fund called Stage 2 Innovations, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, is "dedicated to advances in water and energy technology."
 
Read about Bhargava's investments, as well as his daily routine, in this recent profile in the Wall Street Journal.
 

Saline-based Imetris to launch HR management software

Imetris is expanding beyond its normal IT work to launch a new software platform later this year. The Saline-based company has been working on a human resources management software platform for small businesses. It would track recruiting and hiring efforts, helping companies streamline the process. The first module for it is nearly done and the company is preparing for a launch later this year or early next year.

"We are testing it within the company right now," says Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris. "We will be offering it to a select few customers and take it from there."

He adds that Imetris first became interested in building a HR management software platform after noticing there was a growing demand for it among small- and medium-sized businesses. He also noticed there wasn’t much in the market to satisfy that demand.

"There are not many products our there," Acharya says.

Imetris' core business consists of tech services in IT and data management, specifically managing data storage area devices for large corporations. Its revenue has grown 8 percent over the last year, mostly from work from new clients. That allowed the company to hire 10 people, expanding its staff to 110 people.

Source: Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris
Writer: Jon Zemke

Woodbridge developer continues line of fable-themed rehabs with "Wonderland House"

Alex Pereira and Secure Realty, the team responsible for the "Lorax"- and "Up"-themed redevelopments in Woodbridge, are back at it, this time with an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed duplex on Commonwealth Street.

Consistent with his other rentals, the Wonderland house is a modern rehabilitation of a century-old building. Were he to stop there, Pereira's rentals would be simple attractive updates of classic homes; 21st century utility upgrades complement the refurbishment of early 20th century designs and hardware. Pereira, however, has opted for something with a little more panache. The front yard of his first Woodbridge rental is marked by a sculpture of and quotes from the title character of "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss. His second redevelopment is painted in the same pastel color scheme as the house from Disney animated film "Up."

The Wonderland house is a duplex. Each unit is roughly 2,000 sq. ft. with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Much work was done to restore the home, including a back wall that was bowing outward due to water damage. Pereira's crew disassembled the brick wall, shored up the infrastructure, and put it back together.

Sculptures of Alice and the Queen of Hearts stand out front. A quote from the tale will line the large planter box where the sculptures rest. On the third floor, Pereira has commissioned four custom-made stained glass windows, each depicting a scene from "Alice in Wonderland." Bold reds, yellows, and blues highlight the building's eaves and frames.

"People have this misconception that historic colors are bland and drab and brown and all tones of beige. It's not true," Pereira says. "Historic colors used to be very, very bold. They were just limited in the pigmentation that they used to be able to get."

Pereira says he received some flak for the pastels of the Up house, so this time he consulted the National Historic Trust to find colors more suitable for the period in which the Wonderland house was built.

Of course, that's not the only blowback he's received. From past stories Model D has run on Pereira and his Woodbridge projects, the comments section has become a place to air grievances, with arguments breaking out over Pereira's properties and practices. And while he's certainly not the only person redeveloping properties in Woodbridge, Pereira is likely the most polarizing--something he doesn't seem to mind. But whether his are designs considered whimsical or tacky, acts of rehabilitation or gentrification, Pereira believes in what he's doing.

"There's a group of people that love what I do and encourage me to do it, and there's a group of people that wants me not to do it," Pereira says. "At the end of the day, I think you have to be a little bit light-hearted with these types of projects. They're here today and they may be gone tomorrow. Who knows? Things change. But I think what most individuals fear the most is change, in general. We are in a time in Detroit's history where everything is in flux--for the better, in my opinion, but there's a subset of people that don't like change."

He's already working on a fourth property, 4305 Trumbull Ave., a stately manor in a condition of serious disrepair and neglect. No word yet on that building's future theme.

The Wonderland House is located at 3947 Commonwealth St. 

Writer: MJ Galbraith

A2B Bikeshare aims to become Uber/Lyft of bike sharing

Pivots and partnerships. Those are two words that start with P that A2B Bikeshare hopes will add up to yet another P word: profit.

The Ann Arbor-based startup, homed in Menlo Innovations' Startup Garage, recently executed a pivot in its business plan and struck a partnership that helps move its new bikesharing technology forward. It's in the midst of launching its technology in a couple U.S. cities with more plans in the works.

"We're looking to launch a couple of hundred bikes before the end of year," says Ansgar Strother, founder & CEO of A2B Bikeshare.

The 1-year-old startup wants to become the Uber or Lyft (popular car-sharing startups) for bicycles. A2B Bikeshare originally got its start with the idea of launching bike-sharing programs for cities with fleets outfitted with touch screens and credit card swipes for users to navigate and pay on.

"It ended up being too expensive and not durable enough," Strother says. "We switched to a low-energy bluetooth technology."

The general idea of launching a bike sharing program for a city is still the same now but use a mobile app for patrons to reserve and pay for their bike.

"When you're all done you just push it back into the rack," Strother says.

A2B Bikeshare also struck a partnership with a bicycle supplier that provides bicycle fleets for large corporations. A2B Bikeshare plans to leverage those fleets of bikes for its own customers.

Today A2B Bikeshare is working to launch a bike-sharing fleet in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Marfa, Texas. It is also working to launch in other cities before the end of the year and lay the groundwork for a national network of bicycles its patrons can use across the country.

Source: Ansgar Strother, founder & CEO of A2B Bikeshare
Writer: Jon Zemke

First scooters set to roll off Mahindra GenZeís line this year

Ann Arbor's Mahindra GenZe is gearing up to produce its first scooters this year.

Mahindra GenZe is a division of an Indian-based scooter manufacturer, Mahindra and Mahindra. It opened a regional technical center in Ann Arbor to design scooters to sell in North America three years ago. Its manufacturing facility followed a little more than a year ago. The first scooters are set to roll off the assembly line later this summer.

"We are kicking out our last pre-production prototypes," says Terence Duncan, head of product management at Mahindra GenZe. "All of the engineering work is done."

The electric scooter is sleek and simple, focused on the needs of urban commuters looking for a convenient transportation option that works well in densely populated areas. The scooter comes with a 7-inch touchscreen monitor built into the handlebars and plugs into normal electric outlets to charge its lithium-ion battery. Check out a video on it here.

"Our monthly numbers will be very low at the start," Duncan says. "We will increase our output gradually. By the end of the year we hope to be at 3,000."

Mahindra GenZe currently employs a staff of 35 people in Ann Arbor. It has hired a dozen people over the last year in mostly white collar positions. It is also looking to hire another six people who specialize in assembly, electrical engineering, and project management.

That staff is not only working on the company's scooter but widening its product portfolio. The company is currently experimenting with electric bicycles that it is looking to produce in Ann Arbor, too.

"We are building prototypes for them," Duncan says.

Source: Terence Duncan, head of product management at Mahindra GenZe
Writer: Jon Zemke

MyFab5 hits 1 million photo milestone this spring

MyFab5 is hitting a number of cool milestones this year. The social media startup's technology has now helped in the sharing of more than 1 million pictures and its getting ready to launch a designed mobile app later this month.

"We have redesigned every feature from head to toe," says Omeid Seirafi-Pour, co-founder & CEO of MyFab5. "It's all the same features but much easier to use and looks much better."

The Ann Arbor-based startup allows its users to take pictures of their meals at restaurants and then rank their experience. The company got its start allowing users to rank their top five businesses in certain genres in local areas, but transitioned to a photo-based version when it noticed its users liked using it with Instagram.

The 2-year-old company now averages 250,000 users each month. Those users shared their 1 millionth photo earlier this year, helping MyFab5 reach a critical milestone.

"That was a pretty big one for us," Seirafi-Pour says.

MyFab5 has hired one person (an Andriod developer) to grow its staff to four employees and three interns over the last year. That team has relied on grass roots and viral marketing efforts to build the startup into what it is today. It's now looking at embarking at a national marketing campaign later this year.

Source: Omeid Seirafi-Pour, co-founder & CEO of MyFab5
Writer: Jon Zemke

Small vineyard takes shape in old school on east side

Local land baron Dennis Kefallinos is getting back to his roots in his adopted home by planting a small vineyard deep in the Motor City’s east side.

The Bellevue Vineyard is rising in one of the playfields of an old Detroit Public Schools elementary school at 3100 Bellevue. The school had been closed and stripped several years ago before Kefallinos purchased it.

"This school has been pretty beaten up over the years," says Eric Novack, senior project manager of Boydell Development, which is owned by Kefallinos. "He said, 'We need to do something over there soon to activate it.'"

Kefallinos is one of the larger property owners in Detroit. He owns several downtown properties, such as the Michigan Theatre, and many others scattered throughout the city's neighborhoods like the Russell Industrial Center. He is known for owning several vacant commercial buildings across the city and redeveloping several others most people had given up on, turning them into lofts and affordable spaces for small businesses.

Kefallinos immigrated to America from Greece in the 1960s. He started off a dishwasher and worked his way into becoming one of the entrepreneurs behind the development in Greektown in the 1980s. The Bellevue Vineyard is a way for him to return to his ancestral roots.

"This is not foreign to him at all," Novack says. "He did this for a few years at farms before he came to the U.S."

Kefallinos and his team at Boydell Development planted 300 vines imported from Washington for Canadice, Reliance and Interlacken grapes. The vines are expected to take root over the next two years and be ready for harvesting by year three.

The Boydell Development team has tested the soil for toxins and found none. They tilled the soil and balanced its PH levels by adding compost.

"This is our test," Novack says. "We plan to do 300 vines. Dennis originally wanted to do more."

Source & Photos: Eric Novack, senior project manager of Boydell Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

Troy-based iDashboards hires 30 on heels of global expansion

Troy-based tech firm iDashboards is enjoying rapid growth as the firm's global expansion gains traction.

IDashboards creates business intelligence dashboard software with real-time results. The interactive computer dashboards for businesses analyze, track, and organize data into easily useable parts that help streamline a company and enable it to grow faster.
 
The 12-year-old firm spent its first decade establishing its product in North America. In recent years, it has expanded internationally, adding customers in dozens of countries and a recently opening an office in Germany. iDashboards is planning to open another office in the United Kingdom later this year.

"It's a big world out there," says Shadan Malik, president & CEO of iDashboards. "We have software that is pretty unique. We have customers in 40 countries. That speaks for itself."

IDashboards' revenue grew 18 percent last year, and the company is aiming to spike it by as much as 50 percent this year. That's possible because of its diversified customer base and its efforts to grow globally have gone quite well so far this year.

iDashboards has hired 30 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 90 employees and three interns. It is also looking to hire four more people.

"We just hired five people yesterday," Malik says.

Source: Shadan Malik, president & CEO of iDashboards
Writer: Jon Zemke

(EO)2 Fastener creates streamlined car-top transport system

Richard Rayos had a stroke of inspiration the fall of 2009. The metro Detroit resident worked in robotics and the automotive industries, but his true passion was for the outdoors.

Rayos was heading out on a trip with one of those large carriers full of gear strapped to the top of his car. They carrier was convenient as far as size and staying attached to his car, but not much else.

"You don't want to take it on or off because it’s a pain in the ass," says Rayos, president & CEO of (EO)2 Fastener. "I thought there had to be a better way."

That led to the creation of (EO)2 Fastener, a snaptop rail and carrier made to securely attach to your car and easily come off when you want it. The carriers come in both large sizes and sizes small enough to use as a backpack on a hiking trip. Check out a video on (EO)2 Fasteners here.

(EO)2 Fastener has been working with automakers and automotive suppliers, selling 120,000 units last year. It's looking to increase sales this year as it targets both regular consumers and commercial uses, such as military customers looking to use the system to better attach equipment to vehicles.

"It can be used for everything from camping gear to putting a battery on a tank," Rayos says. "As you need it you can snap it on the vehicle and travel 100 mph in the rain and it won't come off."

The Sterling Heights-based firm currently calls the Velocity Incubator home. It employs a staff two people and Rayos is currently looking to hire an administrative assistant.

Source: Richard Rayos, president & CEO of (EO)2 Fastener
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Bikes to open retail space on Capitol Park as its sales grow

Later this week, Detroit Bikes will open its first retail space in a storefront overlooking Capitol Park in downtown Detroit.

"It's an opportunity for us to sell bikes the way we want them to be sold," says Zakary Pashak, founder & CEO of Detroit Bikes.

The Detroit-based startup aims to make the Motor City the home of the classic American commuter bicycle -- a bike whose streamline design employs thinner, smoother tires on larger wheels, a frame made of chromoly steel, and only three speeds.

Detroit Bikes bicycles will be showcased at 1216 Griswold in the ground-floor retail space of The Albert starting on Friday. The store will also serve as a place for Detroit Bikes to tell its story and showcase other local businesses the firm works with.

Pashak moved to Detroit a couple of years ago from Calgary to start Detroit Bikes. He bought a vacant 50,000-square-foot factory on Detroit’s west side and retrofitted it to manufacture the classic American commuter bicycle. The company currently employs 25 people after making 12 hires over the last year, including welders, marketing professionals, and product managers. It’s now looking to hire a couple of welders and a national sales director.

Detroit Bikes sold 1,000 bikes in its first year through bike shops across the U.S. Its bikes can also be found at at a few retail locations in Switzerland and Canada. This year Pashak has loftier sales goals. He brokered a deal with New Belguim Brewing to promote its Fat Tire Amber Ale.

"This year we'll do 4,000 to 5,000 sales," Pashak says. "We already sold 2,500 to New Belgium."

Source: Zakary Pashak, founder & CEO of Detroit Bikes
Writer: Jon Zemke

CareEvolutionís growth puts bigger office search on startups radar

Growth is a word that has become synonymous with CareEvolution. The Ann Arbor-based healthcare tech startup has been adding customers and employees. Now it's looking for bigger offices to house its growing workforce.

CareEvolution hired 30 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 80 employees and a couple of interns. Most of its new hires are in software development and healthcare professionals. It is currently looking to hire even more.

"We target about 10 people per quarter," says Vik Kheterpal, principal of CareEvolution. "We have a certain rhythm with our hiring."
 
CareEvolution's software specializes in breaking down information silos in healthcare systems primarily by sharing of electronic medical records and information. The idea is to make healthcare more patient-centric and efficient.

"Our company builds the bridges between our fragmented systems," Kheterpal says.

CareEvolution has spent the last year moving its software more into the mobile space. Moves like that have enabled CareEvolution's customers to speak highly of it and enable more growth. Its revenue spiked by 91 percent last year and Kheterpal expects his company to keep up that pace in 2015.

"Our revenue is growing exceptionally fast," Kheterpal says.

Source: Vik Kheterpal, principal of CareEvolution
Writer: Jon Zemke
22 Immigrant Owned Business Articles | Page: | Show All
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