Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
Our first project was brought in by Robert Cooper, one of our University of Michigan interns and a recent graduate in materials science engineering. He earned LEED Certification
and implemented the first LEED Gold Showroom, with JS Vig Construction
, one of the very best contractors in Ann Arbor, who also provided us with free temporary office space. We installed a state of the art lighting control system from a market leader (Encelium
), which allowed us to conduct live demonstrations that showcased live use of very sophisticated control applications.
Where did you find your first employee?
At the University of Michigan
. He was one of my early interns, who is now directing the Phase I development of our software as a service (SaaS) applications and wireless controls.
Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
Yes. Robert Cooper is now our director of product management and Riley Shanks, a graduate in neuroscience from U-M, who is doing a great job in the business development role, as manager of business development.
Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
I have turned everywhere and continue to do so. Although there are many programs that are nominally chartered to invest, and private venture capital groups that have received funding from the Michigan Economic Developmen Corp
targeting early stage companies, pre-revenue companies are very hard to fund. I have funded the company largely out of my pocket, with two exceptions.The first outside money came in the form the MEDC micro-loan program, which brought us $25,000. The second and largest investment, was provided by two private and qualified investors which was a combined $100,000. We are still looking for a private $250,000 chunk, that we can leverage through the pre-seed match funding, which would double the amount raised to $500,000.
Companies like ours are being acquired by larger companies at an amazing rate. Very few reach the five-year mark, without being courted absorbed at very high multiples.
What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
Everything. Ann Arbor has a very high energy (no pun intended) and sophisticated eco-system with second to none technology infrastructure.
If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
I would add an attractive and well designed public transportation hub, to lubricate the business interaction, between Ann Arbor and Chicago primarily. It would be much easier to go there on sales calls and come back the same day. This would bring more cash and opportunity to the city, to grow responsibly on.