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FarmLogs scores $10M in Series B round from big-name investors

FarmLogs has landed $10 million in venture capital, seed money the Ann Arbor-based software startup plans to leverage for some significant growth in 2015.

The agricultural technology company latest injection of funding is a Series B round with existing investors Drive Capital, Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures, and Hyde Park Venture Partners participating. New investors in the Series B round include SV Angel and Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. FarmLogs has raised a combined $15 million in venture capital to date.

"We're a software company so most of that capital goes toward paying salaries for great people," says Jesse Vollmar, CEO of FarmLogs. "That's what we will continue to do."

The 2-year-old startup launched out of Y Combinator incubator in Silicon Valley and immediate moved to Ann Arbor. Its headquarters is now in Kerrytown. The company employs 22 people after hiring a dozen in 2014. It is currently looking to hire 21 more (more info on the openings here) and Vollmer expects his staff to hit more than 50 people next year.

"That's safe to say," Vollmar says. "We will have more than 50 people working for us."

FarmLogs platform modernizes farming, streamlining the process with software and applying data analytics to maximize yield production. It is currently serving farms in all 50 states and in 130 countries around the world. It currently has $12 billion worth of crops under management from its software.

Source: Jesse Vollmar, CEO of FarmLogs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Swift Biosciences launches 2 products, preps to launch 3 more

Swift Biosciences has launched two new products over the last year, enabling the 4-year-old life sciences firm to add to its staff.

The Ann Arbor-based company is developing molecular biology reagents for research and diagnostic applications that provide new ways to examine disease-related genes. This genomic sequencing technology helps researchers analyze samples faster, at a higher volume, and at a lower price per sample.

Among its two new product lines are its Accel-NGS Amplicon panels, which help molecular biologists detect and screen clinically relevant mutations. Swift Biosciences also a new next generation sequencing sample preparation kit called Accel-NGS that is designed to accelerate sample preparation.

"It shows great differentiation over our competitors to allow people to glean more data from the sample," says Matthew Hymes, marketing manager for Swift Biosciences.

Swift Biosciences has raised $13.15 million in venture capital, including a $7 million Series B it closed on earlier this year. The company has hired five people over the last year, expanding its staff to 20 people. Those new hires include professionals in marketing, product development, bio-informatics. It is also looking to hire a commercial coordinator right now.

Swift Biosciences is also looking to launch three new products in 2015. Products that would expand on its Accel-NGS Amplicon panels, among other applications.

"We have more products in the pipeline to launch," Hymes says.

Source: Matthew Hymes, marketing manager for Swift Biosciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

Genisys Credit Union expands into Royal Oak with downtown branch

Genisys Credit Union is opening its 24-hour branch in downtown Royal Oak this week, bringing the Auburn Hills-based financial institutional closer to another part of its membership.

"We have wanted to be in Royal Oak for quite some time," says Tom Alter, CMO of Genisys Credit Union. "We have a lot of members who live in Royal Oak and the surrounding communities. We feel it is a thriving community."

The new branch is located at 530 N Main on the northern edge of downtown. Six new people will work at the branch.

The credit union has hired 78 people in 2014 and is currently looking to fill six open positions. It has just under 149,000 members, which is up 3.9 percent over the last year. It has made $300 million in consumer loans in 2014, which is also up 14 percent. The organization’s total assets are up 6 percent to $1.651 billion.

Genisys Credit Union doesn’t plan to open any new branches next year but is in the process of revamping some of its existing ones. It is upgrading its Oxford branch from a storefront to a free-standing building set to open in late January. It is also improving its Waterford branch.

"It's a small branch for us that we need to expand for our members and staff," Alter says.

Source: Tom Alter, CMO of Genisys Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

Former Hamtramck restaurateur, AKA the "revolving chef," goes on national cooking spree

Sometimes the chef changes as often as tonight's specials. It's good to see this culinary concept that became rooted in Detroit and Hamtramck way back when go national.


"Since our email filters were tightened up a few years ago, the number of entreaties I receive from Nigerians has dropped considerably.

One that made its way through came from a chef, Tunde Wey. He sought attention, not my bank account number.

Wey, 31, born in Lagos and living in Detroit for the last 14 years, co-founded a restaurant in Hamtramck, Mich., called (revolver) that rotates guest chefs every weekend.

Wey also cooked pop-up Nigerian dinners, based on the Yoruba and Igbo food of his youth.

After selling off his shares in (revolver), Wey began he called a haphazard cooking tour of the cities he had always dreamed of seeing."

More here

Virtuoso Design + Build expands staff to five, looks for own workspace

Mark Klimkowski graduated with a master's degree in architecture from the University of Detroit Mercy in 2009 and immediately went into one of the worst job markets for new graduates in generations. So instead of waiting or someone to give him a job, he created his own with Virtuoso Design + Build.

The downtown Detroit-based venture specializes in everything from interior design to construction build outs. Choosing the more active end of the built environment work was an easy choice for Klimkowski.

"I didn't want to sit at a desk all day," Klimkowski says. "I wanted to get my hands dirty."

Today Virtuoso Design + Build is keeping Klimkowski and several others busy. The company is an active participant in the building boom in downtown Detroit, handling design and build out work for Bedrock Real Estate Services, Hello Innovation and Crema, a new bakery set to open in Greektown.

"We have grown a lot in the last year," Klimkowski says. "I have four full-time employees now."

To accomodate its growth, the company is looking to find its own home that comes complete with a wood shop and office space. Klimkowski hopes to use it not only as a base for Virtuoso's project work, but also as a place to launch its own furniture line.

"We want to be in our own place with design and building space," Klimkowski says.

Source: Mark Klimkowski, owner of Virtuoso Design + Build
Writer: Jon Zemke

Secure Beginnings creates breathable mattress for infants

Sales are starting to gain traction for a breathable mattress for infants that a Detroit-based company is marketing to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Secure Beginnings, which calls Detroit's east riverfront district home, makes a baby mattress that is more like a trampoline than a normal mattress. It is made of a porous frame and bedding material that allows greater air circulation for both infants and toddlers. It contains no fiber-fill. The fabric the child sleeps on enables airflow to prevent harmful levels of carbon dioxide from building up near a baby’s head, even if the child is on its stomach.

"It's basically the same type of fabric you see on tennis shoes," says Julie Andreae, executive vice president of Secure Beginnings.

Andreae is one of the three co-founders who all had family or friends go through the traumatic experience of losing a child to SIDS.

"One is an industrial designer for Ford," Andreae says. "He basically designed it for his own children. We decided to redesign and make it more user-friendly."

Secure Beginnings now has three product lines, two of which were launched over the last year. The expansion has allowed annual sales to grow to $500,000. The company also expanded its core team to six people after adding two more employees. It is looking to hire two people now and add interns in January. The newly expanded team -- along with some new investors -- is aiming to help the company gain even more market traction in 2015.

"We hope to increase sales a lot more this year," Andreae says.

Source: Julie Andreae, executive vice president of Secure Beginnings
Writer: Jon Zemke

Inmatech adds staff after closing on $1.5M seed round

Energy startup Inmatech closed on a $1.5 million seed round this fall, capital the company plans to spend on further developing its battery technology. Atlanta-based SMS Investments XII led the round.

The 4-year-old University of Michigan spin out is developing advanced technology that greatly improves the performance of supercapacitors in batteries for electronics. The supercapacitors enable the batteries to improve the delivery of energy and increase energy density.

"It will be a power-storage device that will help batteries in range, run time and cycle life," says Saemin Choi, CTO of Inmatech. "It will also give low-temperature performance."

Inmatech is in the process of making alpha-versions of its technology for international evaluation. Choi expects his startup to begin work on the beta-version midway through 2015.

The Ann Arbor-based startup is expanding its team to further the development of its technology. The company currently employs five people after hiring a COO and materials scientist over the last year.

"We have two new hires coming in on Jan. 1st," Choi says. He adds the company expects to hire two more engineers and two more technicians over the next six months.

Source: Saemin Choi, CTO of Inmatech
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arborís solartonic scores win at Accelerate Michigan

Ann Arbor-based solartonic took home $25,000 in prize money from last month's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and plans to put that cash toward a seed capital raise it hopes to close on next year.

The 3-year-old startup won the Alternative Energy sub-category at Accelerate Michigan, which was sponsored by NextEnergy. That money is being put toward solartonic's seed round raise of $750,000. The money will also go toward helping the company market its solar technology.

"We have an international market we need to get a foothold in so it will help us," says Brian Tell, co-managing partner of solartonic.

The 3-year-old company is commercializing solar panel technology, which can wrap outdoor infrastructure like street lamps. The solar panels generate the power during the day so the lamps can produce light at night, especially infrastructure in remote areas.

"It's past proof of concept," Tell says. "It's just a question of refinement and getting some orders."

Solartonic currently employes 10 people.

Source: Brian Tell & Harry Giles, co-managing partners of solartonic
Writer: Jon Zemke

Lambert, Edwards & Associates leverages Detroit office to grow firm

Lambert, Edwards & Associates moved its Metro Detroit office to downtown Detroit two years ago, and now the public relations firm is starting to reap the benefits of the move.

The Grand Rapids-headquartered company has landed six new clients since making the move. Those new customers are mainly in the healthcare, financial, and automotive sectors. Among the new clients is Great Expressions Dental Centers, an Oakland County-based firm that is expanding south of 8 Mile Road. It wanted a PR firm with a presence in Detroit to help it grow in the Motor City.

"Being there is half of it," says Jeff Lambert, president and managing partner of Lambert, Edwards & Associates. "It's also what you are doing there."

Lambert, Edwards & Associates is growing in Detroit. The company has hired five people over the last year and currently is looking to fill two more postitions. The firm now employs 50 people, including 15 in its downtown Detroit office.

"We have hired four people in Detroit in the last 90 days," Lambert says.

Source: Jeff Lambert, president & managing partner of Lambert, Edwards & Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Macomb-OU INCubator awards $23K at pitch contest

The Macomb-OU INCubator just handed out $23,000 in seed capital and services at its first elevator pitch competition earlier this month.

The Sterling Heights-based small business accelerator gave the money to three local startups that participated in the first Macomb Pitch: A Competition for Small Businesses. The Macomb-OU INCubator received 50 applications for the competition and narrowed the field down to eight finalists.

The winners include LayStitch taking first place, which is worth $8,500, a year-long service package from Mac-OU INC and seven-and-a-half hours of consultation with Butzel Long. Second place ($1,500) went to re-Contour, a developer of breast reconstruction dressings. Third place ($500) went to Warmilu, which is developing a non-electric, blanket-warming technology for the geriatric community.

Both re-Contour and Warmilu also received a one-year lease for a Mac-OU INC cubicle, five hours of consultation with Butzel Long, and a two-hour, strategic planning session with Advicoach of Michigan. The money and the services will go toward product development, customer research, and marketing efforts for the startups.

"Those are the main things people are using them for," says Julie Gustafson, executive director of the Macomb-OU INCubator. "It's meant to help them move their company forward and launch their product."

The Macomb-OU INCubator plans to turn the Macomb Pitch competition into an annual event with a few smaller pitch competitions sprinkled in between.

Source: Julie Gustafson, executive director of the Macomb-OU INCubator
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Carbon Media Group adds 15 jobs, signs bull riding partnership

Carbon Media Group has inked a new partnership with the Professional Bull Riders, a deal that the online media startup hopes will bring its viewership together.

The Bingham Farms-based company helps coordinate advertising and content creation for more than 600 websites for fans of the outdoors, agriculture and action sports/events/activities. It has an extensive network of outdoor-related YouTube channels and its own CarbonTV outlet for online videos about the outdoors. The startup’s two primary audiences consist of fans of outdoors and rural activities along with fans of action sports like hunting, fishing, and skying.

"The Professional Bull Riders is a very elegant bridge between the two types of content we have," says Hyaat Chaudhry, CEO of Carbon Media Group.

YouTube made the introduction between the two organizations because Carbon Media Group is the second largest global sports network on YouTube. The Professional Bull Riders, which has roughly 20 million fans, was in the process of figuring out how best to develop its digital audience.

Carbon Media Group is on track to grow 35 percent in 2014, and Chaudhry expects to do that again next year. "That's roughly on track with our annual growth rate," he says.

The 7-year-old company has hired 15 people over the last year, including professionals in design, sales, account management, and executive leadership. It now has a staff of 62 employees and plans to bring on two interns this summer. It is looking to hire five people now, including staff accountants and marketers.

"We're always looking for good digital media sales people," Chaudhry says.

Source: Hyaat Chaudhry, CEO of Carbon Media Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Experience Factory to move to Monroe Avenue, Build Institute to Bagley Street

Over 12,000 people took one of D:hive's Detroit tours this year. That's up from 10,000 in 2013 and 8,000 in 2012. Since D:hive launched its Build Institute in 2012, over 400 people representing every Detroit ZIP code have graduated from the popular small business incubator, and many of those have gone on to start their own small businesses in the city.

Given these successes, it might come as a surprise to some that D:hive is disbanding this year, celebrating with a farewell party Dec. 18. at the D:hive storefront on Woodward Avenue. And actually, the end of D:hive is a good thing, a result of its success. The organization has so excelled at being a booster for Detroit tourism and small business that it is splitting into two separate entities.

The Build Institute is moving to the Repair the World office at 2701 Bagley St. in Mexicantown, where it will continue to offer its small business programming and classes. D:hive tours have been re-branded as the Detroit Experience Factory, or DXF, which will soon operate out of 123 Monroe Ave. That opening is Jan. 12.

Jeanette Pierce has been championing Detroit, at least in an official capacity, since 2006, when she started her first tour group, Inside Detroit. In 2008, that group moved into the now-familiar home of 1253 Woodward Ave., where it became the city's first ever brick-and-mortar welcome center. In 2012, it became a part of D:Hive. What was supposed to be a pop-up has lasted nearly seven years.

For Pierce, this whole experience has been about experimenting to find what works and what doesn't. No one knew what to expect when they started the Build Institute program and now it's become so successful that D:hive is splitting apart so each faction can concentrate on their own goals.

"We'll still work together," says Pierce. "We're like siblings moving out and on our own."

Source: Jeanette Pierce, Director of Community Relations at Detroit Experience Factory
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Coliant merges with Macomb Pitch winner LayStich

The winner of the Macomb Pitch: A Competition for Small Businesses at the Macomb-OU INCubator is off to a fast start in the aftermath.

LayStitch, which won the elevator pitch competition, is merging with Coliant. The two Macomb County-based startups specialize in fabric technology that helps warm the wearers.

"Some of the technologies in LayStitch processes have value in the heated clothing technology for Coliant," says Mark Lundquist, executive vice president of LayStitch.

For instance, Coliant is developing personal climate-control technology, i.e. Smart Clothing system, that works to keep users warm while riding motorcycles and other similar vehicles, like ATVs. LayStitch is developing a process of making carbon-fiber composites at a reduced cost.

The 19 employees between both companies will now work together, even though LayStitch will retain its brand identity and operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Coliant. The two startups have offices in Sterling Heights and Warren.

Source: Mark Lundquist, executive vice president of LayStitch
Writer: Jon Zemke

IT pro turns biz owner with Erickson & Associates, GEEPS.US

Hans Erickson's career is going well and he has a great job, but he wants an even better one. That's why the Grosse Pointe resident is launching two new businesses Erickson & Associates and GEEPS.US.

Erickson is the current CIO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, but he plans to step down from that position in January to pursue his two new enterprises full-time. His day job ended up serving as the inspiration for his first venture, GEEPS.US.

"Anybody in the IT field ends up at one time or another with someone asking them for help," Erickson says.

GEEPS.US is memory stick that everyday people can use to rescue data from a failing computer or use it to erase the memory of a computer at the end of its life. Erickson has been working on the product for two years and now has a patent pending on it. He is launching it early next year and hopes to have it on the shelves of major retailers before the end of 2015.

Erickson is also launching Erickson & Associates, a technology consulting firm. He hopes to use the skills he's sharpened over a few decades to help local small businesses find the best pieces of 21st century technology to make them more useful.

"This is an opportunity for me to help small businesses in and around Detroit to take advantage of the technology out there," Erickson says. "It's a great equalizer."

Erickson plans to run both enterprises out of downtown Detroit in 2015 and is currently looking for office space in the city's central business district.

Source: Hans Erickson, president of Erickson & Associations and GEEPS.US
Writer: Jon Zemke

Stuart Mechanical aims to hit $5.5M in revenue in 2015

Stuart Mechanical has made some big strides in revenue generation since its launch in 2011.

The Madison Heights-based HVAC firm has gone from zero revenue to in excess of $4 million in a few short years. It is now taking aim at crossing another big milestone.

"I'm going to be nipping at the heels of $5 million in 2014," says Ray Barnowske, vice president and manager of operations for Stuart Mechanical. "The growth has been tremendous."

He would like to see the company’s revenue hit between $5.5 million and $6 million in 2015. That seems possible since the firm has added a construction department and is taking on big projects like The Albert luxury apartment renovation in downtown Detroit.

Stuart Mechanical has also grown its staff significantly since its launch. The company started with 10 employees. Today it has 30 employees and the occasional intern. It has hired four people, such as service technicians, this year, and is looking to add a few more in early 2015.

"We're always looking," Barnowski says.

Source: Ray Barnowske, vice president & manager of operations for Stuart Mechanical
Writer: Jon Zemke
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