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Ford and U-M team up to open battery lab

Developing the next generation of hybrid and electric battery for autos is tricky business. Innovations don't always square with nusiness needs. Ford and U-M are hoping to close that gap by joining forces.


"The center, on the university's campus in Ann Arbor, will bring together battery makers, car companies and researchers who will test new batteries for prototype vehicles.

Ted Miller, who manages battery research at Ford, said the lab will be unique in the U.S. He said that labs currently testing new battery chemistries can't produce them in the amounts or formats needed for automotive research. And battery companies aren't always sure that what they're developing could be useful to the automotive industry."

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Arborlight creates LED lights that mimic natural light

Miss sunshine on a cloudy day? Or perhaps in a room with no windows and wish you had a sunbeam? Arborlight thinks it has an solution for you.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up is creating a "daylight emulation systems," which is basically an LED light that does a convincing impression of a skylight. The light it emits mimics the color, a and temperature of natural sunlight, along with other subtle details. For instance, the technology has an algorithm that is connected to a weather forecast, allowing the LED to behave in the same way as the outside lighting.

"It looks, acts and feels like a real skylight," says Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight.

The start-up has developed a prototype at the University of Michigan North Campus Research Complex and is currently working on its first demonstration units. Arborlight has also assembled a team of five people and is in the process of bringing No. 6 onboard. The company has raised its first $500,000 in seed capital and is looking to raise a Series A next year.

"We expect to begin making sales in early 2014," Forbis says.

Source: Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight
Writer: Jon Zemke

U-M's Solar Car Team finishes 9th in World Solar Challenge

It was a heartbreaker for U-M's solar car team. One of the most decorated teams of its kind in the United States -the team has finished third in five of the challenges- the team's solar-powered roadster struggled to make a comeback after a crash during its crossing of the Australian Outback.
"“Everything happened pretty quickly, but I heard the driver over the radio say that he was fine so that gave me some relief,” Chudler says. “I'm really impressed with how our team rallied after the crash. The damage to the car was definitely not insignificant, but we were able to fix it up overnight and get the car safe and ready to drive the next morning. It was a whole-team effort and everyone performed remarkably.”"
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DragAroundMe aims to simplify file-sharing software

DragAroundMe is looking to make it easy for people to share large files online. The TechTown-based startup is creating software that will enable its users to share large documents in a more efficient manner.

"The idea is to simplify file-sharing ability," says Kum Wang, founder of DragAroundMe.

Wang was inspired to start the company six months ago to help make it easier for college researchers to share large files. What makes DragAroundMe's technology unique is that its users can drag and drop its files in a place that will make them easily accessible to all of its users in the group and erase them after 24 hours unless the users designate them to remain.

"After 24 hours everything is gone," Wang says.

DragAroundMe has participated in TechTown's accelerator programs this summer and is a semi-finalist in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The startup's team of five people is still developing the technology, Wang says its development is nearly complete, with an eye on the higher-education market.

Source: Kum Wang, founder of DragAroundMe
Writer: Jon Zemke

Covaron Advanced Materials scores $550K in seed capital

Covaron Advanced Materials has locked down another $250,000 in seed capital, bringing the total for the downtown Ann Arbor-based start-up’s initial seed round to $550,000.

The $250,000 comes from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, which is run by Ann Arbor SPARK. It serves as matching funds for the $300,000 in venture capital it raised earlier this year, and is the precursor to the next round of funding the start-up plans to being raising soon.

“We expect we will be looking for A-round funding in the first quarter of next year,” says Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials.

The 1-year-old start-up, formerly Kymeira, is developing a new chemistry for ceramics, which brings the benefits of existing advanced ceramics to new parts and markets. Vince Alessi, a University of Michigan graduate, developed the technology, which is in the final stages of commercialization. The seed capital will go toward finishing that process so it can start to make its first sales this fall.

“It (the seed capital) is going toward several things, like securing our intellectual property position, and replicating and validating the basic chemistry,” Hatfield says. “We are moving very rapidly to create the capability and the customers for the initial sales.”

Those initial sales will be in the mold, tool-and-dye industry. Covaron Advanced Materials' team of six people is also eyeing sales in the oil-and-gas industry further down the line.

Source: Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

Warmilu begins sales as it broadens heating blanketís customer base

Warmilu got its start by creating a warming blanket for infants but now the Ann Arbor-based startup is registering its first sales by broadening its customer base.

Warmilu has started selling some of its heating blankets to elderly people who use it for things like helping alleviate pain caused by arthritis, diabetes and to help with improve the overall comfort level while aging. The company is also looking to open up its customer base to people who want to use the blankets for kittens and puppies. The start-up is aiming to put its price at $29.99.

"We're looking to get 1,000 units sold by the end of the year," says Grace Hsia, co-founder of Warmilu.

The three co-founders are University of Michigan students. Hsia recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a Masters in Entrepreneurship. Warmilu has also landed a $10,000 grant from the University's Center for Entrepreneurship. So far the start-up has raised $45,000 in seed capital to fund its commercialization efforts. Hsia says it's still going to FDA approval of its blankets so it can sell them for their original purpose, warming infants.

"It's going to take us another year to get FDA approval," Hsia says.

Source: Grace Hsia, co-founder of Warmilu
Writer: Jon Zemke

Creators Co-op launches for-students-by-students biz incubator

The co-founders of the Creators Co-op know there are a number of small business incubators and co-working spaces dedicated toward the tech industry in Ann Arbor. But they didn't see anything that really fits the needs of student entrepreneurs with an independent streak. That's why they are launching their venture just off the University of Michigan's campus this fall.

"We want to create a safe space for students, by students," says Nancy Xiao, general manager & co-founder of Creators Co-op. "It's a mixture of co-working space and a professional-style fraternity."

Xiao is a senior at the University of Michigan and a member of the university's MPowered student entrepreneurship program. She met former U-M football player Dhani Jones at a university event in Cincinnati a few years ago after speaking about the need for more entrepreneurial space for studentpreneurs. The pair hit it off and have since formed a core team of eight people to launch the Creators Co-op.

They have secured a brick, tudor-style house at 631 Oxford, which is right next to a bus stop for the university bus line that connects Central and North campuses. The space will be open to university students who want to launch any sort of business. It will differentiate itself from the like of Ann Arbor SPARK, Tech Brewery and Workantile because it will be student-oriented. It is different than TechArb, U-M tech incubator for students, because it is independent from the university and will help students build any sort of business that interests them.

Creators Co-op is sorting through applications for student entrepreneurs this fall and hopes to welcome its first class of about 30 people during the winter semester. The co-op will offer business-building and entrepreneurial mentoring services. It also hopes to work with a number of successful local business people to help the students matriculate into parts of the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"A lot of it is geared toward building great people," Xiao says.

Source: Nancy Xiao, general manager & co-founder of Creators Co-op
Writer: Jon Zemke

Silicon Valley's NVIDIA opens tech center in Ann Arbor

NVIDIA, a Silicon Valley-based corporation, is opening a technology center in Ann Arbor so it can maximize its proximity to Michigan's automotive and technology centers.

NVIDIA's Ann Arbor office will focus on software technology in the automotive industry, such as navigation and infotainment applications. The new space will provide the company access to the automotive hub in Metro Detroit while also putting it next door to the plethora of tech start-ups in Ann Arbor.

"We're focused on bringing more innovation to the automotive industry," says Danny Shapiro, director of automotive for NVIDIA. He adds that his firm sees Ann Arbor as "a hub where a lot of technology innovation is taking place."

The firm's Ann Arbor office currently has six people. Shapiro expects that number to climb as significantly within the next year. The staff will include both hardware and software engineers, business development professionals and marketeers.

"We will be 20 strong (in the near future)," Shapiro says.

Source: Danny Shapiro, director of automotive for NVIDIA
Writer: Jon Zemke

Automation Alley Tech Talent Program helps fill region's IT gap

A year ago, Automation Alley landed a $5 million grant from the  U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration to help build up Metro Detroit's IT workforce.

Today the business accelerator's Technical Talent Development Program has trained 78 new people to work in IT and retrained 48 existing employees for companies. It expects to hit 119 new hires and 82 incumbent workers by the end of the year. The program aims to train 540 new IT workers within its first five years and retrain 460 workers in the same time frame.

"We are right on schedule, primarily in the new hire section," says Alysia Green, director of talent development for Automation Alley. "That's the main focus of the grant."

Automation Alley's Technical Talent Development Program provides funding to local employers for high-level IT training for both potential employees and existing workers. The training is administered by corporate training companies, workforce development organizations and educational institutions.

"When you talk about this high-level IT training, the costs range from $2,000 to $8,000 per person," Green says.

She says that many of these workers are ending up in fast-growing local IT firms, such as Secure-24 in Southfield and GalaxE.Solutions in downtown Detroit, among several others.

Source: Alysia Green, director of talent development for Automation Alley
Writer: Jon Zemke

CourseHack.it app pairs syllabus with digital calendar

CourseHack.it is startup made up of four recent graduates of Michigan State University who all shared the same frustration: entering in the reading assignments from their course syllabus into their digital calendars. It was a tedious task that could only be done manually before they launched CourseHack.it.

The four partners entered Bizdom in the spring of 2012 and used the start-up accelerator's resources to build and perfect their software. CourseHack.it helps students organize their course assignments into their electronic calendars by enabling students to upload their electronic syllabus into their iCal or Google Cal.

"This software can be a powerful tool to helping students," says Chris Roszell, co-founder & CEO of CourseHack.it.

The downtown Detroit-based startup launched its software last fall and has compiled 1,300 users since then. It is currently working with a handful of local universities to help integrate CourseHack.it's software with more students. The company also plans to do some direct marketing to students and universities.

"The long-term plan is to bring on some large universities," Roszell says.

Source: Chris Roszell, co-founder & CEO of CourseHack.it
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ginkgotree scores DVP money, moves to [email protected] Building

Detroit Venture Partners has invested $500,000 in Ginkgotree, a cash infusion that helped convince the Ann Arbor-based startup to move into the [email protected] Building in downtown Detroit this summer.

Ginkgotree creates a software platform that allows professors to create a more affordable digital curriculum. It recently closed on a Series AA worth $750,000, which was led by Detroit Venture Partners' half-million-dollar investment. The investment also came with an invitation to move into the entrepreneurial tech hub it anchors in downtown Detroit.

"It wasn't required but (moving to the [email protected]) is something we felt was best for the company," says Scott Hasbrouck, CEO of Ginkgotree. He adds that he likes the dynamic entrepreneurial atmosphere in the [email protected] and the one-on-one mentoring that is easily accessible.

That investment also allowed the 2-year-old startup to go from a team of four people to a staff of six employees and a few summer interns. More hires could also be in the offering soon.

Ginkgotree's software gives professors access to copyrighted material and other open-educational resources so they can put together an all-digital curriculum. The idea is to make the educational material more accessible and cost-effective than the current model, which can cost thousands over a few years. The startup has recently launched a couple of strategic partnerships and is in talks to have its software be used by hundreds of universities across the U.S.

We want to have pilots in many more universities (within the next year)," Hasbrouck says.

Source: Scott Hasbrouck, CEO of Ginkgotree
Writer: Jon Zemke

Guidesmob app makes new homes familiar for users

Not too long ago, Daniel Kerbel was an international student coming from Costa Rica to go to Michigan State University. It was an experience that at first proved difficult to adjust to but eventually inspired him to start his own business, Guidesmob.

The 1-year-old start-up makes a mobile app that helps students discover and learn more about the college towns they just moved to. The idea is to streamline the adjustment period for young people who are excited to discover a new place but too often don't have much of a clue of how best to live life there.

"The toughest thing was the weather," Kerbel says. "It got really cold really quickly. Coming from a tropical climate it was hard to adjust to." He adds that "if you didn't discover something while it was warm you won't be able to do it until it's warm again."

Guidesmob's app offers everything from Google Maps to weather forecasts. It also lets students know what options they have there for social functions, such as restaurants, bars and other gathering places or events.

Guidesmob, which went through Bizdom's start-up accelerator curriculum last fall, launched its first app last year. The Spartan app focused on helping new students adjust to life at Michigan State University and had 12,000 iPhone users. This fall it plans to expand its newly redesigned app to include Central Michigan University and the University of Michigan.

Source: Daniel Kerbel, CEO of Guidesmob
Writer: Jon Zemke

Two Detroit startups score Adams Entrepreneurship fellows

Scoring an spot in the Adams Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program is no easy task. The nonprofit provides talented young people/aspiring entrepreneurs with a job in the ground floor of a startup, a $60,000 living stipend and the chance to break into Metro Detroit's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The only thing that might be more difficult than earning one of those fellowships is landing one of those fellows for your startup. Only a handful of those fellowships are awarded each year. Detroit-based startups landed half of the four Adams Fellows this year.

Stik, a social media startup that calls the [email protected] Building home, and ENT Biosystems, a downtown-based life sciences firm, both landed a fellow. The other two went to startups based in the suburbs. The Adams Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program is based out of Automation Alley in Troy but tries to send its fellows to a number of different locales across the region.

"We would like to reach out to more places," says Terry Cross, managing director of the Adams Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program. "It needs to be done. Those county barriers need to come down."

Adams Fellows make a two-year commitment to work at an up-and-coming startup in Metro Detroit. They are normally one of the company's first employees so the fellows receive a living stipend to support themselves and their families during that time. The fellows often have advanced degrees and a background in business or an aspiration to translate their career focus into a business venture.

Source: Terry Cross, managing director of the Adams Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program
Writer: Jon Zemke

URC report highlights need for talent retention

Talent retention is one of Michigan's traditional economic development goals. A new report from the University Research Corridor drives home the importance of that goal.

The recently released report shows that 19 percent of graduates from Michigan's three research universities (University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) go onto start a business.

"It was a larger number than we thought," says Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor, a non-profit advocate for Michigan's three research universities. "We were hopeful it would be 10 percent. Nearly 20 percent is pretty significant."

The rate of those graduates from the mid '90s to today that pursue entrepreneurship is about twice the national average of college graduates. More than half of those businesses are in fields different than the graduates' degree.

The good news is that nearly half of those companies are based in Michigan. Also, the success rate of those business hovers around 70 percent, which is significantly higher than the national average of 45 percent.

"It shows the education they are receiving at these institutions is broad," Mason says. "It helps them start companies and do amazing things."

Source: Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor
Writer: Jon Zemke

AlertWatch raises $1M as it preps for Series A round

AlertWatch has set some high hopes for its first round of venture capital. The Ann Arbor-based start-up has raised $1 million in seed capital and plans to formally close on its Series A round in 2014.

The 1-year-old star-up is a University of Michigan spinout and calls the Venture Accelerator at the university's North Campus Research Complex home. Its first year has focused on pushing forward the development of its patient-monitoring technology and turning its team of three people's work into full-time jobs.

"A lot of it was just the blocking and tackling of getting a company off the ground," says Justin Adams, CEO of AlertWatch.

AlertWatch's technology is a secondary patient monitor for hospital operating rooms. It aggregates data from multiple networks and hospital IT systems and displays them at a central location. It is currently being used in three pilot projects. Adams hopes to have its intensive care unit product ready for commercialization and to be piloting an emergency room product by early 2014.

"We'd like to be in five hospitals and have a term sheet for a Series A round," Adams says.

Source: Justin Adams, CEO of AlertWatch
Writer: Jon Zemke
617 higher education Articles | Page: | Show All
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