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Human Element creates 3 jobs as it hits double-digit growth

Human Element has grown in a number of ways over the last year. It has watched its revenue spike by double-digits, its staff is on the rise, and its office expand by a few thousand square feet.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based e-commerce company (it specializes in the Magento e-commerce platform) has watched its revenue jump by 40 percent since 2011. That has allowed it to hire three people, a software engineer and project manager over the last year, and it's looking to add a software developer now to its team of 13 employees and six independent contractors.

"Growing that quickly has its challenges," says Ben Lorenz, managing partner of Human Element. "We're targeting 30 percent growth right now. We feel that is a manageable way to grow the team."

Which has prompted the 9-year-old company to expand its office. The company added 2,000 square feet earlier this year. Another addition of a few thousand square feet of office space seems like its in the card considering the company’s current growth curve.

"If we can stay on track of our growth plan we will need more space next year," Lorenz says.

He adds that a rebound in demand for e-commerce work, specifically the Magento platform, has driven the growth. Lorenz is quick to add that his company is controlling the growth because it takes a long timeline (typically closer to a year than just a few months) to get new hires up to speed with the rest of the team.

Another factor is Ann Arbor SPARK giving a Phase 4 grant to Human Element last year. The $12,000 grant helped the company form some strategic planning for its growth so it can lessen the learning the curve to getting bigger.

"SPARK has been helping us quite a bit," Lorenz says.

Source: Ben Lorenz, managing partner of Human Element
Writer: Jon Zemke

Eastern Market companies score $60K in grants to purchase equipment they need to grow

Eastern Market Corporation just scored $60,000 for further developing Michigan's largest open-air farmers market.

Charter One is giving $60,000 tin grants to growing companies in Eastern Market as part of its Growing Communities program. The 32 businesses that have received the grants are food-related ventures that are based in Metro Detroit and at least have a strong connection to Eastern Market. The money will help those businesses buy specific pieces of equipment that will help them grow their bottom lines.

"They need that one piece of equipment to speed up their production or to open a new sales opportunity," says Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp, the nonprofit that overseas the market and the surrounding historic district and helped disperse the grants.

Among the grant winners is Labrosse Farm in Detroit, which specializes in raising and selling heirloom tomato plants. Its grant will pay for a greenhouse that will assist with the production of the tomato plants. Trinosophes, a coffee shop and art space in Eastern Market, will use its grant to buy a double door commercial refrigerator. Mootown Ice Cream & Desert Shoppe in Eastern Market will use its grant for a mobile ice cream cart.

Carmody says these small improvements are part of a "wholistic approach" toward improving Eastern Market's overall entrepreneurial ecosystem. Charter One has operated its growing Communities program since 2012 and has awarded $360,000 in grants to small food-related businesses (mostly in Eastern Market) over that time.

Source: Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Thomson Reuters expands, to add 300 jobs over five years

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) approved a $2.4 million Michigan Business Development Programperformance-based grant for Thomson Reuters to grow its presence in the Ann Arbor area. Pittsfield Township to be exact. That supposedly means a few hundred new jobs.

Excerpt:

"Thomson Reuters worked with Ann Arbor SPARK to secure the MEDC incentives. Pittsfield Township will consider offering support of the project in the form of a property tax abatement, the release says."

Read the rest of the press release reportage here.
 

DeNovo Sciences secures $2M Series A investment round

DeNovo Sciences has closed on a Series A round of investment worth $2 million earlier this month, allowing the life sciences startup to start fundraising for a Series B in 2015.

"We are in very good shape (from a monetary standpoint)," says Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences.

The Plymouth-based startup, it calls the Michigan Life Sciences and Innovation Center home, got its start in Ypsilanti in 2011 developing a platform for early detection of cancer from blood samples. The idea is to create an less-invasive method than the traditionally painful route of biopsies. It won the top prize worth $500,000 in the 2012 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The Series A consists of all new money from angel investors and pre-seed funds.

DeNovo Sciences has developed a fully automated system to detect cancer, primarily breast and colon cancers. Two of those systems are currently in use in medical centers in the Middle East and Asia. The startup also has purchase orders for two more locations, including one in the U.S.

"We are actively engaged with more customers around the world," Handique says. "We hope to see more orders next year."

DeNovo Sciences has a staff of nine employees, nine independent contractors and one intern. It has hired three people over the last year, including software developers and clinical researchers.

Source: Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

Renovo Power Technology expands product lineup, staff

Renovo Power Technology has a growing staff to go with its expanding product portfolio in alternative energy.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company has doubled it staff with three hires in sales, marketing and government affairs. That employment growth is thanks to more sales from a wider variety of products.

Renovo Power Technology makes advanced inverters that help transition energy from solar panels to the electric grid. The transformerless inverter technology gets rid of the copper coils of traditional transformers and replaces them with electronics that are both more efficient and cheaper to manufacture. Normal five kilowatt inverters weigh 150 pounds. Renovo Power Technology's inverters are less than 60 pounds.

It recently launched a micro inverter that allows an inverter/solar panel ratio to be as low as 1/1. Often an inverter will service an array of solar panels that can number a dozen or more.

"It offers more flexibility when it comes to installations where shading might come into effect," says Shane LaHouse, managing partner of Renovo Power Technology. "It also allows for smaller installations."

Renovo Power Technology currently has its technology being used in two large installments in Michigan with a third being lined up in Traverse City. It also looking to use its technology in a 166-panel array on 416 W Huron in Ann Arbor next year. The company is also looking to land more orders from governments, such as municipalities, in 2015.

"Our primary focus is on the Midwest," LaHouse says.

Source: Shane LaHouse, managing partner of Renovo Power Technology
Writer: Jon Zemke

Seelio adds 14 people to downtown Ann Arbor office

Startups launched and grown in Ann Arbor can sometimes end up in new homes after they are acquired. That’s not the case with Seelio. The 3-year-old startup is doubling down on Tree Town with a small spike in hiring.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based higher education software startup has hired 14 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 22 employees and an intern. It is currently looking to hire four more people in software development, educational services, and a director of a university partnership development. Check out the openings here.

"We have been hiring at a rapid pace," says Emily Keller-Logan, director of marketing & communications for Seelio. "We have brought on a lot of talented people."

Seelio's platform enables college students to showcase their portfolio of work. The software documents how their college projects came to fruition and presents them for employers in job interviews. Check out a video about the platform here.

"We're providing student lifecycle portfolios to institutions so that students can begin preparing for their careers from orientation to graduation," Keller-Logan says.

Seelio raised a $1.5 million seed capital round in 2013. It was acquired by Kansas City-based PlattForm last summer.

Source: Emily Keller-Logan, director of marketing & communications for Seelio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Underground Printing leverages revenue spike for 52 hires

Underground Printing spent most of the last year building up the business infrastructure it had laid the groundwork for in previous years, and is starting to reap some significant rewards.

The Ann Arbor-based clothing printer is projecting that it will hit $16 million in revenues this year. That's up from $13.8 million last year, a jump of nearly 15 percent. As a result Underground Printing has hired 52 people in a wide variety of positions. It now has a staff of 190 people with 133 based in Ann Arbor.

"It (the new hires) are across the board," says Rishi Narayan, co-owner of Underground Printing. "The new employees are all over the company."

The 13-year-old company makes custom printed apparel, like t-shirts and embroidered clothing. It has 19 stores across North America, including four in Ann Arbor. It production facility is also in Ann Arbor.

Underground Printing opened a handful of new stores a few years ago. Since then it has focused on building up sales for those locations, along with its production capabilities. The firm has added two automatic presses and other parts of screen prep equipment.

"Our improvements have been focused on the backend," Narayan says.

Source: Rishi Narayan, co-owner of Underground Printing
Writer: Jon Zemke

TechTown’s AiirShare brings sharing economy to private planes

The sharing economy has made its way into most facets of everyday people's lives. Today, it's not uncommon to rent out your car for cab rides or a spare room for hotel stays. A TechTown-based startup now wants to take that concept airborne.

AiirShare brings sharing economy to aircraft and flying, helping people with private planes rent out empty seats to fliers. Those seats can range from single-engine Cessnas to private jets.

"I always loved aviation and always wanted something to do with it," says Joe Tuchman, co-founder & CEO of AiirShare.

Tuchman participated in TechTown’s DTX Launch program last summer. He said it gave him a lot of basic tools to get his startup off the ground, such as identifying customers and networking with other resources.

"That was a huge help," Tuchman says.

AiirShar's team of two people currently is working with a few dozens pilots flying out of Michigan. The flights go to nearby places, such as Indiana and Chicago. Tuchman hopes to reach further over the next year.

"I want to completely saturate Michigan with flights to Chicago and Indiana," Tuchman says.

Source: Joe Tuchman, co-founder & CEO of AiirShare
Writer: Jon Zemke

DC3‘s Creative Ventures looks for a few good service firms

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) is looking for a few young creative service firms for the latest cohort of fellows in its Creative Ventures Residency program.

The New Center-based organization specializes in helping grow the creative economy in Detroit, specifically in the Woodward corridor between downtown and New Center. This fall, the Creative Ventures Residency invites creative service firms (e.g. interior design and graphic design companies) to apply for the mentorship program.

"We felt we had the most to offer to design service providers," says Ellie Schneider, associate director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center.

The Creative Ventures Residency has been helping creative firms grow into stable companies that create jobs in the greater downtown Detroit area. It has incubated 45 early stage creative startups, creating 89 jobs and generating $2.1 million in revenues.

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center has reformed the program a little, shrinking its total length from 12 months to six months. It is also focusing on service-providing firms instead of startups. It is also looking for firms that are just beginning to establish themselves and want to move to the organization’s headquarters in New Center.

"We think they benefit much more from being based in our offices," Schneider says.

For information on applying, click here.

Source: Ellie Schneider, associate director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

Farmington Hills-based ReapSo launches 2.0 version of app

Mobile startup ReapSo is launching the 2.0 version of its brand-advocacy app this fall.

The Farmington Hills-based company’s platform connects fans with the brands. It encourages its users to "WIN. VOTE. SAVE." so they can win prizes, voice their opinion and save money. Check out a video on it here.

The new version is focused on making those connections on broadcast mediums.

"We have expanded the 2.0 version to go after TV and radio channels with enhanced digital strategies," says Bill Wildern, co-founder & CEO of ReapSo. He adds, "You can get audience pulse with immediate feedback. They can send that out via social media."

ReapSo has grown its staff to seven employees. It is focusing on establishing the 2.0 version of its app across the U.S. this year and next.

"We want to grow the value proposition," Wildern says.

Source: Bill Wildern, co-founder & CEO of ReapSo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Zingerman's co-founder weighs in on minimum wage

Paul Saginaw, co-founder and partner at Zingerman's blogs about his company's commitment to a thriveable wage for its employees.

Excerpt:

"I hear many in the restaurant industry say raising menu prices will result in customer loss and diminished profits, but I reject that and question the scale of those profit margins, wondering if the margins are maintained by shorting their employees. Customers have voted with their pocketbooks for locally sourced, organic, and free-range products. Now is a prime time to educate “voters” for ethical employment practices as well.

Many myths about the industry workforce and the minimum wage create a false reality and highly unproductive debate. The truth is that livable wages and profits are not mutually exclusive, and Zingerman’s are not the only businesses to know this and operate accordingly. RAISE, an alternative restaurant association, is aligning businesses across the nation to adopt “high road” labor practices. Zingerman’s Community of Businesses joined. I sense that there is public readiness to join this growing business leadership and leverage its consumer dollars to “vote” for raising standards for workers."

Read the rest here.
 

Simons Michelson Zieve moves into dynamic new space

Simons Michelson Zieve's new home is light years away from its old space in regards to openness and feel. Its old and new homes are also just a few blocks away from each other in Troy.

The 85-year-old advertising agency just moved into its new office at 1200 Kirts Boulevard, which measures out to 12,000 square feet. The space is actually a little smaller than its previous office but it doesn’t feel that way, with wraparound windows bringing in more natural light and multiple floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled meeting spaces.

"It just feels bigger," says Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve.

The new office is much more open, conforming to the modern creative class demands of connecting people by breaking them out of the physical office silos. Michelson's team worked in several individual offices at the old office but wanted a more collegial atmosphere in its new one.

"People would say you have all of these wonderful people here but I can't see them," Michelson says.

Simons Michelson Zieve has a staff of 47 employees and a couple of interns. It has hired three people over the last year and is looking to hire another three right now. The open jobs include junior-level account coordinators. More info on the openings here

Source: Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve
Writer: Jon Zemke

Customer Discovery Ninja platform helps gauge customer demand

Customer Discovery Ninja isn't Steven Sherman's first startup, but his first startup served as the inspiration for Customer Discovery Ninja.

The Ann Arborite spent a large part of last year trying to build up YouKnowWatt, a technology platform that brings real-time information to home energy audits with an eye for making more houses energy-efficient. That startup didn't pan out, but Sherman and his co-founder did stumble upon a market need when trying to determine their customer base.

They were doing customer research with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform when they realized the technology wasn’t doing everything they wanted. So they decided to make their own to facilitate more comprehensive interviews with potential customer.

"You're not pitching a solution," Sherman says. "You're trying to understand the core of their problem."

Customer Discovery Ninja is currently in private Beta with a handful of paying customers. The platform works to gauge customer demand for a new product. For now the new service is limiting its focus as it building up its platform.

"It's for general U.S. consumers," Sherman says. "You won't find an B2B on there."

Sherman and his partner would like to hire 100 paying customers (think businesses and entrepreneurs) paying $5 per interview by the end of this year.

Source: Steven Sherman, co-founder of Customer Discovery Ninja
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Detroit’s foodjunky spreads across U.S.


Last year, foodjunky was a startup trying to gain traction for its 21st century food ordering platform. It had big ambitions and a small customer base, mainly in downtown Detroit. This year, that customer base is much wider.

"In January, we were in one state," says Travis O Johnson, co-founder of foodjunky. "Now we're in nine states. We’ve been growing pretty rapidly."

The 1-year-old company's platform helps large groups make orders from restaurants, simplifying the error-prone process of one person relaying lots of food orders to another over a phone line. Check out this video of how foodjunky works: 



Foodjunky currently has a few hundred restaurants in its network, mainly in the Midwest and Texas.

"We will be hitting 1,000 pretty soon," Johnson says.

Foodjunky, which graduated from Bizdom last fall, has hired two people over the last year, and is currently looking to hire a software developer. The startup employs a staff of six people.

Those number could grow quickly as foodjunky gets ready to close on a seed round. It originally aimed for $250,000 but became over-committed. Johnson hopes to close on a bigger round later this year. He also hopes to hit $1 million in revenue next year.

"We should have a majority of the U.S. states covered," Johnson says.

Source: Travis O Johnson, co-founder of foodjunky
Writer: Jon Zemke

BoostUp grows staff to 6 people in M@dison Building

Finding the money for the down payment on a car or a home is never as easy as it sounds. It's a challenge one Detroit-based startup is turning into a business.

BoostUp provides an online platform that helps users to save up enough money for the down payment on the house or car of their dreams. The platform lets the user tell their family and friends about their goal through social media and gives them an option for people to donate toward that cause in the form of birthday or holiday gifts.

"We have recently put the emphasis on cars and homes," says John Morgan, founder & president of BoostUp. "We are focused on the downpayment phase."

The 1-year-old company spun out of Synergy Marketing Partners and was originally named Motozuma. It scored an angel investment from Detroit Venture Partners, which prompted it to move from Chicago to the M@dison Building. It is working with a number of large corporations, such as Hyundai and Quicken Loans.

BoostUp currently has 40,000 users. They spend about 4-6 months saving for vehicles and 6-12 months saving for homes. Morgan hopes to scale those numbers significantly over the next year hitting six-figures of users.

"We think a goal-based interface is important for consumers," Morgan says.

BoostUp currently employs a staff of six full-time employees and another three part-timers. It has hired four people over the last 12 months, including positions in marketing, sales and customer support.

Source: John Morgan, founder & president of BoostUp
Writer: Jon Zemke
2965 Articles | Page: | Show All
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