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Flash Delivery partnership to bring Eastern Market's Red Truck Produce to your door

Later this month, Detroiters can go online, select from an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, prepared foods, and made-in-Michigan favorites, and, with a few clicks, have their order delivered directly to their home or workplace, thanks to a partnership between Eastern Market’s Red Truck Fresh Produce and Flash Delivery.
 
With a projected launch date of Nov. 15, Flash Delivery could help customers get turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes on the table by Thanksgiving.
 
The exclusive deal is a coup for Flash Delivery, the two-year-old Detroit startup led by entrepreneurs Ericka Billingslea and Tatiana Grant.
 
Better than planned
As a growth objective, the team sought a relationship with a regional chain like Meijer or Kroger, but when negotiations didn't materialize, Billingslea and Grant redoubled their efforts to strike a deal closer to home, and found a partnership that is more in line with their business ethos.
 
"To be honest, we were turned down by Meijer and Kroger, and a couple of years ago we attempted to get this off the ground, and it fizzled out and we never revisited the concept," Grant says of initial hopes with Eastern Market.
 
She re-pitched Eastern Market—this time with success. "We had an impromptu meeting, and they said this is something we might be able to get to work," Grant says.
 
It works for the bottom line too. Red Truck Fresh Produce staff will receive and package the orders for Flash Delivery drivers to collect and deliver, increasing profitability and efficiency over having drivers "shop" the orders on behalf of customers, Grant says.
 
A learning curve
The big picture focused quickly, but finer points required additional work, delaying the launch by a couple of months, Grant says.
 
"From a software perspective, we had issues synching the two systems," she says. Unlike their restaurant meal delivery service, which initiates with customer contact at Flash Delivery’s website, grocery delivery will begin from Red Truck Fresh Produce. This will be seamless to customers, as they will still begin their order at Flash Delivery's site.
 
"At the present we will be sending people to a specific URL," Grant says. "When the order comes in, [Red Truck] will send it to us, which is the reverse of how we started. This process makes it easier from a partnership perspective. We just get a notification, and we send it right over to our driver's phone."
 
Grant and Billingslea also conducted research to outfit their drivers' vehicles to best accommodate groceries.
 
"We settled on a combination of plastic crates and mesh containers, which keep things separated and upright," Grant says. "We also have coolers for things that need to stay cold," Grant says.
 
A wider customer demographic
Red Truck Fresh Produce, owned jointly by Eastern Market Corp. and the Warren-based Community Growth Partnership, accepts Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, payments. Grant says this creates opportunity for Flash Delivery to reach customers happy to save time and taxi fare by having their EBT-qualified purchases delivered.
 
"This will expose us to a further demographic that we couldn’t serve before. It's a win-win for both of us because we have been looking for a grocery partner and Red Truck will increase their sales volume," says Grant, adding that future growth will likely include business-to-business deliveries of fresh produce to area restaurants.
 
Just the right step
With Flash Delivery, Southeast Michigan Eastern Market fans can shop local, even when life gets busy and weather is uncooperative, Grant says.
 
"We are looking forward to giving people an Eastern Market experience direct to their door," Grant says. Customers can even take advantage of fresh, custom-designed meal ingredients, complete with chef-designed recipes already available in the store.
 
"Of course we were bummed when we were unable to move forward with regional and national companies," Grant says. "But the majority of our customers are pro-Michigan and pro-Detroit and for them to be able to get locally sourced fresh foods and Michigan-made products, it made more sense for us. We are looking forward to being able to tout that as well."
 
Claire Charlton is a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

Ann Arbor companies win $100,000 at Accelerate Michigan competition

Three Ann Arbor companies took home a combined $100,000 in prize money at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit.
 
Digital wellness platform developer JOOL Health was the biggest winner of the three, placing third and winning $50,000. Movellus Circuits and Workit Health each won $25,000 awards in the University Research Highlight and People's Choice categories, respectively.
 
This year's semifinalists for the state's largest business plan competition were narrowed down from nearly 200 applicants across the state and also included Ann Arbor's ContentOro, PreDxion Bio, and ShapeLog.
 
More than $1 million in cash and prizes were awarded, including a $500,000 grand prize for SPLT. The Detroit-based mobility company took advantage of intern placement and business incubation resources at Ann Arbor SPARK's Central Innovation Center earlier this year.
 
Movellus' prize money will go toward more protection for the intellectual property behind its semiconductor chip optimization software, which has already netted three major customers and significant interest from Silicon Valley, according to chief operating officer and cofounder Muhammad Faisal.
 
Faisal launched the company three years ago while finishing his doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. Today, Movellus employs five full-time and four part-time employees in its downtown Ann Arbor office. Faisal credits the U-M networking community with helping get the company to where it is now.
 
In his pitch to the Accelerate panel last week, Faisal said we all benefit and depend on more powerful, less expensive electronics released every couple of years, thanks to regular advances in chip technology. But the physical space on those chips isn't unlimited real estate, and it's running out.
 
"There's a need for software and architectural innovation, and that's exactly what we do," Faisal says.
 
Using Movellus' algorithms, Faisal says developers can produce chips that consume less power, cost less, and get to market faster.
 
A new release is due out from Movellus in early 2017, and there are plans to open a "customer- and investor-facing office" in California in the next six months. Faisal says the company will continue growing the engineering side of its business in Ann Arbor.

Motor City Match winners use grant money to help cushion construction costs

Construction has started on the Meta Physica Wellness Center in Corktown. The business will be located in the Bagley and Trumbull building, which counts the Bearded Lady salon and barber shop, Mama Coo's Boutique, and the Farmer's Hand market as its tenants. The latter two businesses are Motor City Match winners. All four businesses in the Bagley and Trumbull building will be women-owned.

Meta Physica Wellness Center owner Jenevieve Biernat started her massage business in Midtown, which she has since outgrown. The Corktown studio will feature expanded services, including two massage rooms, three saunas, a raw juice bar, and an apothecary. Biernat won both a $50,000 Hatch award and a $20,000 Motor City Match grant for her business earlier this year.

"Every bit of money helps," Biernat says. "You don't always know how much you need going in but it turns out you need a lot of money to do this."

Biernat says that once she's established, she'd like to put herself in a position to help others through the Motor City Match application process.

A resident of Corktown, Biernat has been visiting the other shops at Bagley and Trumbull nearly every day, learning from her future neighbors, and soaking up as much advice and information that she can.

Another $20,000 Motor City Match grant winner, Noelle Lothamer, is currently in the midst of construction of an Eastern Market storefront for her Beau Bien Fine Foods. The Michigan-sourced fruit jam-, chutney-, and mustard-makers recently celebrated the one year anniversary of their Eastern Market location, which has served primarily as a kitchen.

Lothamer says the money won from Motor City Match has quickly gone toward construction costs, including the storefront, roof, and some other much needed repairs. "As soon as we knew we could spend it, we did."

The hope is for the storefront to open by Thanksgiving, though Lothamer cautions that there is no set date. In addition to acting as a retail area for their jams, chutneys, and mustards, the Beau Bien Fine Foods storefront will also offer grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, and drinks.

Meta Physica Wellness Center is located at 1707 Trumbull Ave.

Beau Bien Fine Foods is located at 2478 Riopelle St.

Logicdrop expands, set to launch new product

Earlier this year, technology startup LogicDrop was crammed in a tiny space in Berkley, its founders finding every which way to fit up to 15 employees and computers and work desks. 
 
Things are a little roomier now that Logicdrop has moved into a spacious second-floor space on the same block as popular nightspots Sneakers, the Loving Touch, and Woodward Avenue Brewers in Ferndale. And that's been a boon to the organization.

“We have a very close-knit team. We spend a lot of time working on the culture of our company," says Logicdrop co-founder KimJohn Quin. "We try to bring that startup mentality to our team."

Logicdrop co-founders KimJohn Quinn, John Shuell, and Jared Grabill met each other 10 to 12 years ago, each coming from a long history of working at startups. They've been working on some form of their flagship technology product, Logicdrop Studio, for almost two decades now.

The technology has finally caught up to the vision they first shared nearly twenty years ago. It's a business rules platform that allows users to customize data analysis. They say their platform cuts weeks of computing time down to mere minutes.

Logicdrop is gearing up for the release of Logicdrop Studio and the bigger space is a reflection of how the company feels about its future. They've opened up their signature intelligence platform to a round of beta tests and expect to release a final version in the second quarter of 2017. The cofounders say that no matter their future growth, they want to maintain their startup mentality. 

The workplace culture is decidedly loose. There's no dress code, and there are no titles. Employees don't have to punch in and out, don't have to put in for vacation days; all that Logicdrop expects of its employees is that they complete the tasks they've been assigned.

Startups are trial-and-error enterprises, Shuell says, but they've worked it out to where Logicdrop is now growing. The team has discovered that while the Logicdrop Studio product is their goal, maintaining a service-based model to complement the development process of Studio allows them to keep the lights on. 
 
And it's their reputation that has carried them through; each of their clients have come to them, and not the other way around, says Shuell. Clients have included automotive companies, hospitals, law firms, banks, and Fortune 500 company Nestle.

Another way Logicdrop has kept the lights on is to hire college students. The company believes strongly in this practice; it allows them to keep costs down without having to outsource offshore talent. While it's not an official internship program, the company contends that the students it hires are better prepared for the workforce—should they decide to leave the company after graduation, which is not often the case.

"We expect everyone to understand why they do something, not to go online and say, I found the solution, place in your code and say I'm done," Quinn says. "We want our developers to understand why they did that. And that's been a huge feather in our cap."

Though they first may be leery of the age of some of the developers, clients recommend and return to Logicdrop because of the team's successes, according to Quinn. With the pending official release of Studio and expected growth, Logicdrop is currently hiring.

5 tips for growing a startup with Rocket Fiber's Marc Hudson

In the last three years, Rocket Fiber co-founder Marc Hudson has expanded an admittedly precarious and bold pitch for a high-speed internet venture into a successful, rapidly expanding Detroit startup in the face of major, multimillion-dollar competitors.
 
Hudson first pitched the idea for Rocket Fiber in 2013 while working as a software engineer for Quicken Loans. He says he thought of the idea while reading an article on Google Fiber in Kansas City, and the subsequent influx of technology and entrepreneurship following the launch.
 
Hudson says a light bulb went on, thinking it could be a "game changer" for Detroit. He pitched the idea through the Cheese Factory, Quicken Loans' internal ideas website where employees are encouraged to pitch concepts big or small that could improve the company.
 
This idea was definitely big and quickly caught the eye of Dan Gilbert, who backed the project financially.
 
The gigabit internet connection, which launched commercially in January, is 1,000 times faster than the average residential connection. The service is currently being used both homes and businesses in Detroit.
 
"Since January, we've been lighting buildings all over the central business district," Hudson says.
 
So far, Rocket Fiber has put down over 20 miles of fiber optic cable in Detroit. Various residential buildings in downtown and Midtown such as the Willy's Overland Lofts, Cadillac Square Apartments, and the Forest Arms Apartments already have Rocket Fiber connections available.
 
Hudson says Rocket Fiber is actively working to expand farther into Midtown, Brush Park, and New Center. They recently connected their first commercial customer in Corktown, as well.
 
“In 2017, we'll be setting our sights even bigger than just the downtown area," Hudson says. "We've always said that we want to expand, we want to grow, and we think there's a lot of opportunity to continue to build this company and network in the city of Detroit." 
 
Although solid plans aren't in place yet, Hudson says he hopes to eventually bring Rocket Fiber into the suburbs.
 
Beyond physical expansion, the company plans to soon break into the cable market, providing HDTV cable channels and on-demand services.
 
"We're still trying to work the bugs out," Hudson says. "TV is actually pretty hard to do, it's actually harder to do than the internet." Still, he says announcements regarding the new service will be made in the "not too distant future."
 
Hudson will be the keynote speaker at Southeast Michigan Startup's High Growth Happy Hour starting at 6 p.m. at Cafe Con Leche in Detroit. There will be time for networking and drinks, a casual chat and Q&A. The event is free, but advance tickets are required. Hudson will highlight Rocket Fiber's expansions and how the company has scaled an innovative tech startup across the city. To encourage this sort of growth from other ventures, Hudson has shared five of his tips for growing an innovative startup in the city.
 
Have partners
"I've been involved in a bunch of different startups, pretty much since I was in college, high school even," Hudson says. "One of the big difference makers for me in this startup environment was having partners. I tried to do a lot of it alone in the past, and it doesn't matter how well-rounded you are, there's always going to be some skill set that you just don't have."
 
Don't just have partners—have good partners
"For me, having Edi and Randy as my partners has been a huge part of the success of the Rocket Fiber story," Hudson says of Edi Demaj and Randy Foster. "They were the ones that we showing up, and doing things, and following through, and not just saying they were interested but showing they were interested. … So, to me, it's one thing if someone shows interest but if they actually jump in and roll their sleeves up and start building with you, that's a pretty good indicator that they want to be around for a while."
 
Trust the partners you put in place as you grow
"As a founder of a company, you have a vision, you have a dream, you have an idea and you want to do everything," Hudson says. "As you grow, you really have to trust in the people you put in place to pick things up for you because you can't be everywhere at all times. You have to have people you can trust to take and run with things. And you as a founder, a manager of those people, you need to be able to let go sometimes and let them go and build things. It might not be the exact same way that you would have done it, but that's OK."
 
Persevere
"Perseverance is one [tip] that is talked about a lot but is still understated," Hudson says. "There are so many times when this project, this idea, could have died along the way for different reasons. It was all about just rolling up our sleeves and just understanding, in our case, that this project was so important for the city of Detroit and for our organization that we weren't going to let the normal things that get in the way slow us down."
 
Ignore the noise
"We have a saying within our organization which is, 'Ignore the noise.' I think there's a lot of noise out there when you're building a business. It's other people trying to do something similar, it's your competitors dropping press releases, it's the naysayers telling you it can't be done. At the end of the day, it's really about putting the blinders on, focusing straight ahead on you, on your business, your dream, your vision, and shutting everything else out."
 
Lexi Trimpe is a freelance writer living and working in Detroit. You can find her on Twitter @LexiTrimpe or on Instagram @thewestvillageidiot.

Warmilu's blanket technology goes to Kenya, scales up

From deployments in Nairobi to clinical trials in Detroit to a new home in Ann Arbor, startup Warmilu continues to explore new horizons for its warming blanket technology.

Warmilu's IncuBlanket is a non-electric, reusable heating wrap that acts instantly. First developed by University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University students as a way to keep newborns warm, the idea grew to include uses for the elderly and people dealing with pain or soreness.

In March, Warmilu team members traveled to Kenya, where they spent two and a half weeks working alongside Ann Arbor's Relief for Africa foundation to introduce Warmilu products to doctors, Ministry of Health officials, and potential distributors in and around the cities of Nairobi and Eldoret.

The Warmilu team brought 35 IncuBlankets with them to distribute and test at six different hospitals in Kenya. Grace Hsia, Warmilu's CEO and co-founder, calls the trip an "eye-opening" discovery mission.

"It really validated and helped us realize there was a challenge greater than we had anticipated and potential for acceptance larger than we had anticipated," Hsia says.

With letters of support from four hospitals on the way, Warmilu is finalizing a distribution deal that would allow the company to start processing purchase orders for about 20,000 blankets.

Closer to home in Detroit, the Warmilu team is working with Dr. Nitin Chouthai at the Children's Hospital of Michigan on planning and deploying clinical trials that could help make the IncuBlanket's case as a warming option for transferring critical-care and neonatal patients in emergencies.

Pending approval, the tests will last three to five months and rate the IncuBlanket for efficiency, effectiveness, and safety compared with current methods of transporting low-birthweight and premature infants.

With high hopes for new market opportunities, Warmilu also has another first on the way: its first home.

The company, which Hsia says was previously "nomadic," is moving into a new, 2,000-square-foot headquarters and production space on the west side of Ann Arbor. Hsia says the move will help the five-year-old business scale up while bringing all operations in-house, from administration to production to storing raw materials.

"It will allow us to produce the blanket volumes we're projecting for at least the next two to three years," she says.

Warmilu's team of six will expand soon too, as the company looks to bring on a quality and production manager and several sewers.

Akervall Technologies makes Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies

Akervall Technologies started out slow and steady, but a recent growth spurt has landed it a spot on Inc. Magazine's latest Inc. 5000 ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America.

The Saline-based mouthguard manufacturer came in at No. 1,130 on the 2016 list, released last week, with a three-year growth rate of 342 percent and $2.5 million in revenue for 2015.

Sassa Akervall, CEO of Akervall Technologies, says the ranking helps tell the story of the business and its products.

"Getting recognition this way is beyond fantastic and a great way of getting the word out that we are a company in it for the long run," she says.

Akervall's husband, Jan Akervall, got the idea for the company's flagship product, the SISU mouthguard, while working his day job as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Unimpressed with the guards used to protect patients' teeth in the operating room, he wanted to find something better and ended up designing his own.

After launching in 2008, the Akervalls kept overhead low early on by operating out of their basement and requiring payment up front from retailers and distributors. Sassa Akervall attributes the company's tremendous growth to a number of factors: recent award wins (including 50 Companies to Watch in Michigan in 2014 and Accelerate Michigan's advanced materials track in 2014 and 2015), creative marketing and sales efforts, and product research and innovations.

"I always say that we grew very slowly and very mindfully," Sassa Akervall says.

The Akervalls permanently relocated their family to Ann Arbor from Sweden in 2004. They fell in love with the area a few years before that, when they had moved here temporarily for Jan's post-doctoral work at the University of Michigan. A job offer in the area helped bring them back, but launching a startup wasn't part of the original plan.

Today Akervall Technologies is run from its own facility in Saline with a staff of 20 and openings for an electrical engineer, accounting assistant, and more production workers. There are also new products on the way, with the first of them launching this fall. Sassa Akervall says the company is planning to expand its facility in the near future to accommodate continuing demand for its product.

Foodjunky aims for presence in all 50 states with help of Yelp partnership

Travis O. Johnson runs the Iron Man, bikes to work on Detroit's riverfront along the Dequindre Cut, and pushes himself and his team to become the largest online food-ordering site in the country--Detroit-based foodjunky.
 
"Our name is going to become a noun," says the 37-year-old wunderkind who alternates between Chicago and Detroit to grow his firm at the rate of 1,000 restaurants a month and hopes to have a presence in all 50 states by the end of the year.
 
"Our business model is the only one that has the ability to accommodate 100 percent of the country's restaurants," Johnson says, declining to reveal revenue numbers for the privately held company. According to a previous story, he acquired $750,000 in seed capital and hoped to acquire more.
 
Yelp, the online resource for user reviews and recommendations on restaurants to other services, is the key to his dreams, Johnson says. In June, he inked a deal with the San Francisco-based company to power meal requests directly from Yelp business pages to foodjunky's online roster of restaurants. The deal gives more visibility to restaurants and makes online food ordering easier.
 
"Partnering with foodjunky.com allows Yelp to expand food order and delivery options for restaurants, one of our most popular categories for transactions on Yelp," Chad Richard, senior vice president of Yelp’s business and corporate development, says in a release. About 21 million unique devices accessed the Yelp app, drawing 69 million visitors to its mobile website.
 
Yelp is the plum Johnson has eagerly awaited. He has three business partners, Jeremy Jongsma, Andrew Waldman, and Phil Boardman, and sees Yelp as a way to attract investor funding in Detroit and Chicago. With more investors in Detroit he will maintain his presence here, but otherwise he’ll go back to his hometown and keep in contact through Skype.
 
"Raising capital in the Detroit area for a pure tech startup is extremely challenging, which draws our attention out of Detroit and out of the state to raise capital with outsider investors," Johnson says.
 
Much tinkering, failing, and handwringing went into the business model Johnson hosts today. Most food ordering companies, like the nation's leading GrubHub, charge restaurants a fee for every order it channels. Johnson had been unsuccessful trying to duplicate the model and disappointed early investors.
 
"How a company fails is as arguably more important than how one succeeds. If nine out of 10 companies fail, it is extremely important it fails quickly and everyone involved learn from that failure," Johnson says, who plays math Olympics games to keep his mind sharp.
 
He stays active in the entrepreneurial community, first as a student in Bizdom University, a now-defunct Dan Gilbert project, to launching the Bootstrappers Breakfast for founders of early stage technology startups, in Bizdom, then foodjunky's offices in the Elevator Building.
 
Bootstrappers is a monthly breakfast for entrepreneurs where Johnson and others share the best ideas and practices for helping someone launch/grow their dream project and network with other young business people. The $5 breakfast, which takes place on the third Thursday of every month, draws up to 30 guests and often has a waiting list.
 
"Travis has been incredibly helpful in suggesting ways to grow my yarn and crochet business," says Ashley Cirilli, a team leader for Quicken who will take over the Bootstrappers' host role when Johnson heads to Chicago. He suggested she get brand labels for her blankets and shawls and invest in a display station. "Honest advice can go a long way to helping a person steer clear of expensive mistakes,” Cirilli says.
 
At a recent breakfast, Johnson advised a few entrepreneurs against paying $30,000 or more for a software application without testing the market sensibility of the idea on prospective customers.
 
"A startup doesn't have to be profitable, but it has to have clear, delineated goals,” Johnson says. “Keep communicating with your customers, find out what they want, and how you can fulfill that need." Johnson found his own business jumped measurably when he changed his business model from charging restaurants with a small profit margin for food orders and putting the cost onto consumers.
 
Wherever Johnson lives, he expects to sustain foodjunky to greater profitability and challenge himself to better outcomes in Ironman competitions. "Our bodies have so much more abilities than most realize," Johnson says. "I say 'can't' is the most overused swear word. I removed 'can't' from my vocabulary so things like the Ironman become possible. The most difficult thing is finding the next goal."
 
Cirilli and other monthly patrons of Bootstrappers Breakfast hope the goal can be realized in Detroit.
 
Maureen McDonald is a Metro Detroit freelance reporter who writes for Issue Media Group, Detroit Neighborhood News Hub, Crain's Detroit Business, and many other publications, and taught journalism at colleges around Metro Detroit.

365 Retail Markets surpasses 6,300 installations

A growing demand for high quality, automated food choices in office buildings is pushing Troy-based 365 Retail Markets into stratospheric sales. In the last year the company expanded into three global markets, added 15 employees, and hopes to enroll a private equity firm to grow even larger.
 
"The market is pulling us forward," says President Joe Hessling, whose firm ranks among the fastest growing in Southeast Michigan, offering tasty alternatives to Lunchables scarfed down at the desk. "As people spend more time in the work environment, they look for more amenities from their daily lives. Food service technology is how companies can compete with Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We're a benefit for employees."
 
Hessling, who skipped college and went straight into the food service business, started 365 Retail Markets in 2008. The company reached $23.5 million in revenue in 2015, up from $17 million in 2014; Hessling anticipates a 30 percent increase in 2016. For three years the company has enjoyed a funding boost from Plymouth Ventures. Their main product is its MicroMarkets technology, a turn-key, unmanned market, an updated Automat for the coffee shop/convenience store clientele. While other companies fulfill the merchandise, 365 Retail Markets provides the kiosks, coolers, freezers, shelving, and payment options from credit cards to thumb prints that allow 24/7 access and remote inventory management.

Hessling says his company recently surpassed its 6,300th installation and now services accounts in Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. In 2005, Inc. Magazine called 365 Retail Markets the global leader in MicroMarkets technology and ranked it No. 321 in the 5,000 fastest growing private companies.

Having the right technology at the right time is everything. Hessling says his goal is to achieve ultimate flexibility in what customers can order and how the equipment runs seamlessly. Nearly half the operating costs, according to Hessling, is software development, systems that can provide data analytics on what customers buy and how often. The company started with an honor system for payment, and now has developed theft deterrent and security packages for seamless operation 24/7.
 
"The amount of change one good software developer can make on the company trajectory is worth it," Hessling says. His firm has 30 developers among its 140 employees and 10 contractors with offices in Troy, Provo, Utah, and Santa Clara, California. The software and customer service team work with clients to prepare a launch site, get equipment installed, and work to keep the market running smoothly.
 
This month, 365 Retail Markets is launching Verii, a compact vending unit and a pay window for scanning and purchasing through smartphones. Hessling believes his firm could enlist up to 200,000 small offices with 25-100 employees who would be ripe for this service. Just say cha-ching!

Maureen McDonald is a Metro Detroit freelance reporter who writes for Issue Media Group, Detroit Neighborhood News Hub, Crain's Detroit Business, and many other publications, and taught journalism at colleges around Metro Detroit.

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Next High Growth Happy Hour focuses on real estate

Detroit's rapidly fluctuating real estate market has no shortage of entrepreneurs breaking into it. There's an opportunity to hear from two fast growing local startups at the next High Growth Happy Hour, August 3rd from 6 to 8 p.m., in Detroit’s North End neighborhood.

The speakers will be David Alade of Century Partners, a real estate development company with a holistic revitalization and innovative funding approach, and Max Nussenbaum, CEO & co-founder of property management startup Castle (read Model D's profile on Castle and their rapid growth). David and Max will share insights into Detroit's real estate market, including how they have broken in and created a new model for their businesses.

Agenda

6:00 - 6:30: Networking & Drinks

6:30 - 7:30: Casual chat and Q&A with attendees

7:30 - 8:00: Networking

RSVP here to attend. Space is limited for this free special event. Drinks and light appetizers will be served, and you’ll also get to be the first to see a brand new space Century Partners is redeveloping into a restaurant at 9425 John R Rd., Detroit.

Learn more about the High Growth Happy Hour series, which connects entrepreneurs and inspires them to scale in Metro Detroit.

Delphinus Medical Technologies lands in larger HQ in Novi

Newer, bigger and better offices often come to startups that lock down a multi-million-dollar venture capital raises. Add Delphinus Medical Technologies to that list now that it has moved on up to a newer, bigger and better headquarters in Novi.

The biotech startup has called Plymouth its home for most of its five years. Then it landed one of the largest rounds of venture capital in Michigan history last fall. The $40 million Series C round (led by Farmington Hills-based Beringea) will go toward developing and selling its whole breast ultrasound system, growing its team and finding a bigger place to house that team. At 21,000 square feet, the company's new home in Novi is three times larger than its previous office in Plymouth.

"It's just a fabulous facility," says Mark Forchette, president and CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies. "It has a great, inspiring cultural vibe to it."

Delphinus Medical Technologies is creating a new way to detect breast cancer utilizing technology spun out of Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute. SoftVue is a whole breast ultrasound system that allows physicians to image the entire breast, including the chest wall. The technology platform incorporates a circular ultrasound transducer, producing cross-sectional ultrasound cross-sections through the entire volume of breast tissue. 

The new headquarters will provide more space for research and development of SoftVue. Delphinus Medical Technologies has hired eight people so far this year, growing its team to just shy of 50 people.

Delphinus Medical Technologies signed a lease on its new office with the idea of providing enough room for R&D and also to act as a showcase for that technology. Forchette expects to host frequent visits from healthcare leaders, customers and vendors, so the company has added a dedicated demonstration room.

"We have room to grow," Forchette says. "We have a facility here that is multifunctional. We have lab space and office space and demonstration space."

Custom Home Health acquires hospice company, plans expansion

Custom Home Health recently acquired Advance Professional Hospice Care in Troy and is relaunching that business with an eye for broadening Custom Home Health's services and strengthening its bottom line.

The Royal Oak-based firm specializes in providing full-service, customized home health care services. The addition of a hospice sets the table for Custom Home Health to launch Custom Hospice and grow its operations.

"With the addition of hospice and the projected growth in health care, we are expecting between $2 million to $2.5 million in projected growth this year," says Chris Tillotson, president of Custom Home Health.

Custom Home Health raised its revenue by $2 million last year, crossing the $10 million milestone in 2015. It also hired 30 people in a wide variety of positions over the last year. The addition of Custom Hospice adds another dozen people to Custom Home Health's staff, which now stands at 135 employees. The company plans to hire at least 50 home health care and hospice clinicians and management staff in the next six months to support its growth.

"We are looking for the best people," Tillotson says.

Tillotson says his staff embodies Custom Home Health's competitive advantages. The firm looks for the right people that fit its company culture and work to achieve a high standard when it comes to performance. That translates to better outcomes for its patients.

"It comes down to outcomes and company culture," Tillotson says. "We hold our team to a higher standard."

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

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.

Jolly Pumpkin to add restaurant to Dexter facility and taproom

Dexter's Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is adding a full service restaurant to its main brewing facility, the ultimate complement to its already popular taproom.

The addition of the restaurant is part of an effort to turn the 50,000-square-foot facility into a destination for beer lovers. Patrons will be able to experience the full restaurant experience of Jolly Pumpkin’s brewpubs in Ann Arbor and Traverse City and the award-winning beer, wine and liquor served at them.

"It will be like our other Jolly Pumpkin restaurants where all of the alcohol will be provided by Jolly Pumpkin companies," says Ron Jeffries, founder, president & brewmaster of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.

The taproom will remain with the restaurant adjacent to it. Together the two, along with Jolly Pumpkin’s offices, will take up 20,000 square feet of the facility. Jolly Pumpkin is also working to work in tours and limited public access to the brewery.

"That is at least a year or two out," Jeffries says.

Jolly Pumpkin is one of the fastest-growing breweries in Michigan. Production at its recently expanded brewery in Dexter hit 7,000 barrels last year. This year production is on track to be up by at least 30 percent, exceeding the 10,000 barrel mark.

"We hope that growth continues through the rest of the year," Jeffries says.

Jolly Pumpkin employs in excess of 300 people at its breweries and restaurants, including 45 in Dexter. That number is expected to go up later this year or early next year when the new restaurant is expected to open. Jolly Pumpkin is currently working with the city of Dexter on plans, and hopes to start construction late this summer or early this fall. Jeffries hopes to open the restaurant by the end of the year or early 2017.

Source: Ron Jeffries, founder, president & brewmaster of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor's Park n Party expands online parking biz across U.S.

Park n Party got its start five years ago helping tailgaters find an easier way to party at Michigan football games, specifically helping them reserve that perfect parking spot online. Today, the Ann Arbor-based company is helping tailgaters across the U.S..

Park n Party has partnered with LAZ Parking to offer its online parking reservation services at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Indy 500 this spring. The company also has brokered partnerships to offer its services in downtown Detroit; Lincoln, Neb; Pasadena, Calif, and South Bend, Ind.

"We're hoping to get into Lansing," says Jason Kapica, co-founder of Park n Party. "We have some contacts there and we hope to get in there this fall."

Park n Party specializes in helping people attending events find and reserve a parking spot online. That way they can avoid driving around a traffic-choked venue looking for a parking spot.

"We make your event day a lot less stressful," Kapica says.

Park n Party started with a few hundred parking spaces near Michigan Stadium. Today it manages about 10,000 spaces in five cities, primarily towns with big college football followings. However, Park n Party doesn’t limit itself to any one sport. Users can utilize Park n Party’s online platform for any sort of game, concert or event.

Usually Park n Party and its team of four people rely on partnerships with parking lot owners near these venues to grow. Its work with these parking companies has allowed it to grow to other markets and create a density of parking offerings there. That's how its current expansion into Indianapolis took place and how the company plans to keep growing the future.

Source: Jason Kapica, co-founder of Park n Party
Writer: Jon Zemke

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