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RedViking leverages workforce fitness to recruit talent

RedViking has been battling for engineering talent ever since the economy started to recover post-recession. 

"It was tough a couple of years ago and its tough today," says Randall "Randy" Brodzik, president of RedViking. "It's a very competitive market for talent."

The 32-year-old company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Superior Controls, builds testing systems for manufacturers in the automotive, defense, and aerospace industries. The testing systems, which often focus on power train systems, are precise and require extensive engineering. RedViking currently employs 200 people (mostly engineers) after hiring 30 over the last year.

The firm has achieved those numbers by doing everything from winning workplace awards to visiting local college career fairs to hosting open houses. Last year it hosted an open house where half of the attendees ended up getting an interview, and a handful of those were hired. RedViking hosted a similar open house earlier this week and is expecting even better results.

Such events not only allow RedViking to show off how it develops the careers of its employees, but also how it encourages them to improve their personal health. The company has its own wellness program run by an onsite wellness coordinator, as well as offers a variety of onsite fitness classes. The company sponsors a number of local rec league teams and has its own fitness center with its own rec fields.

The idea is to not only recruit top talent who want to make themselves better in a variety of ways, but retain them for the long term.

"The heart and soul of this organization is its employees," Brodzik says.

Source: Randall "Randy" Brodzik, president of RedViking
Writer: Jon Zemke

365 Retail Markets launches Verii, a new product line for snack sales

365 Retail Markets has made a name for itself by reinventing the vending machine market, and it's getting ready to push that envelope a little more this year with the launch of a new product, Verii.

The Troy-based startup makes self-checkout micromarkets, essentially replacing the vending machine in corporate campuses. Customers simply have to choose their snack from a cooler or shelf, self scan it, and then swipe a credit card to pay for it at what the company is branding NanoMarkets. No cashier. No fuss. Just a quick way to get the food they want and go.

365 Retail Markets' newest version of these NanoMarkets is Verii, an in-office snack station for companies with less than 150 employees. Verii's distinguishing feature is an easy-to-use mobile app that enables employee purchases, inventory tracking, and product re-ordering. It's all controlled by a company-designated administrator.

"We know the customers like this and prefer this method of commerce," says Joe Hessling, CEO of 365 Retail Markets. "We are just filling that need."

The company plans to focus on launching Verii this year. It had acquired two other firms last year to help supplement its growth, which was rapid. 365 Retail Markets grew its revenue by $7 million (45 percent) in 2015, bringing its annual revenue to $25 million. It also hired 25 people last year, expanding its staff to 104 employees.

"Last year we hired a person every 11 days," Hessling says. "There is always something going on."

Source: Joe Hessling, CEO of 365 Retail Markets
Writer: Jon Zemke

Service.com moves to Farmington Hills to work on contractor app

Service.com recently executed a move from downtown Detroit to Farmington Hills, setting the stage for what the tech firm expects will be exponential growth.

The 2-year-old startup, formerly known as Locqus, is working on a digital platform that streamlines the finding, hiring and paying of contractors. Think of it as a startup that is working to eliminate some of the biggest headaches that come with home improvements.

"We're trying to be the Uber and Paypal for the service industry," says Sandy Kronenberg, CEO of Service.com.

Service.com got its start in downtown Detroit as Locqus. Back then Kronenberg was trying to build its mobile app, Field Manage, into a platform that handles the back end needs of small businesses and contractors, such as managing time clocks, scheduling, inventory, etc. Kronenberg got some modest growth out of it but nothing to write home about.

"It just wasn’t growing any more than a lifestyle business," Kronenberg says. "It wasn't going to knock your socks off."

So he decided to pivot the business model to its current form and rebrand the firm to Service.com. At the time his team was co-working out of the Bizdom space in downtown Detroit. When that startup accelerator shut down late last year, Kronenberg needed to find a new home for his company. Downtown Detroit had become too expensive and inconvenient to set up shop for his firm, so he made the move to better offices in Farmington Hills earlier this month that will give his company room for future growth.

Service.com is currently testing its platform in Columbus, Ohio. Kronenberg and his team of 20 people (including half a dozen new hires over the last year) hope to launch in more markets, including Detroit, early this year. He has raised $3.5 million in a seed round to make it happen and is looking to raise a Series A later this year.

Source: Sandy Kronenberg, CEO of Service.com
Writer: Jon Zemke

Meet RF Connect, the company that builds wireless networks for America's busiest places

It's getting harder these days to find a place in the U.S. where RF Connect hasn't done work. The Farmington Hills-based company works on wireless networks for a number of large corporations and major places in the country, such as the Hyatt Center in downtown Chicago.

"We did the Minneapolis Airport," says Jeff Hipchen, executive vice president of RF Connect. "We also did a public safety system for the LBJ Tollway."

RF Connect specializes in designing and building wireless systems and services for large organizations across the country. Think putting up WiFi networks in heavy traffic areas, like hospitals, airports, college campuses, stadiums, and arenas. Some of its larger clients include Meijer, Dow, and Trinity Health Systems.

The uptick in work for RF Connect led to some double-digit revenue gains and additional hires. The 10-year-old company has hired a handful of people, expanding its staff to 50 employees and the occasional summer intern.

"We're growing at a rate of about 70 percent," Hipchen says. He adds that "we see continuing growth in the 40-50 percent range. It's a growing market."

Source: Jeff Hipchen, executive vice president of RF Connect
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Angel Fund hits 100 members, invests in local startups

Michigan Angel Fund is hitting some significant milestones over the last year with even bigger ambitions for 2016.

The Ann Arbor-based angel investor group has 100 members between its two investment funds. It finished 2015 by sending out $2.91 million in investments, of which $1.5 million was made in the fourth quarter of last year.

Among its investments include leading a $750,000 Series A in Detroit-based BoostUp, a first-of-its-kind social savings platform that helps people save for a down payment on their next car or home purchase. The Michigan Angel Fund also participated in angel rounds for Romulus-based Eco-Fueling, Detroit-based FoodJunky.com, and Ann Arbor-based Genomenon.

"We can do a couple more deals," says Skip Simms, managing member of Michigan Angel Fund. "We expect to be closing on them in the first quarter of this year."

The Michigan Angel Fund has raised two investment funds worth more than $4 million. Simms plans to begin raising a third fund within a few months.

The Michigan Angel Fund invests between $250,000 and $2,000,000 in early stage startups with an ability to scale their growth that are based in Michigan. As many as 400 startups apply for funding Michigan Angel Fund each year. About 80 percent of them come from Michigan-based business accelerators and the other 20 percent are through referrals and startups reaching out to the fund.

"Every one of the companies that we have invested in have benefited from services provided by local tech accelerators," Simms says.

Source: Skip Simms, managing member of the Michigan Angel Fund
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dyson acquires Ann Arbor's Sakti3 for $90M

It's the kind of acquisition many a startup hopes will come true: lithium-ion battery developer Sakti3 was bought by UK vacuum-maker Dyson to the tune of $90 million.

No plans have yet been announced for where the battery production facility will be based but Michigan is a possibility.


"The $90 million acquisition — first reported by business-news site Quartz — reflects a win for clean-tech investors in Sakti3, including General Motors and Khosla Ventures. Dyson itself had already invested $15 million in Sakti3.

The University of Michigan spinoff company's founder and CEO Ann Marie Sastry will lead development of her technology as an executive for Dyson."

Read the rest here.


Delphinus Medical Technologies scores $39.5M in Series C funding

Delphinus Medical Technologies has landed a $39.5 million Series C funding round, the largest ever for a medical device startup in Michigan.

The Plymouth-based, breast-cancer detection startup has been growing quickly since it spun out of Wayne State University in 2010. It has hired 10 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 40 people.

"We're adding people pretty rapidly," says Mark Forchette, president & CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies. "Soon we will be at 50-55 people."

Delphinus Medical Technologies principal technology is SoftVue, a whole breast ultrasound system that allows physicians to image the entire breast, including the chest wall. SoftVue incorporates a circular ultrasound transducer, presenting cross-sectional ultrasound slices through the entire volume of breast tissue. The multi-dimensional imaging captures not only reflected echoes in a 360-degree array, but also signals passing through the breast, depicting tissue characterization.

The expectation is the technology will do a number of things to help improve the detecting breast cancer process. Patients no longer have to go through a compression or other uncomfortable moments when using SoftVue. The platform is also expected to help doctors find breast cancer with more accuracy and eliminate more false positives.

"We will have the ability to help so many more women when they go in for a screening," Forchette says.

The $39.5 million Series C round was led by Farmington Hills-based Beringea. Other local investors include Ann Arbor-based Arboretum Ventures and North Coast Technology Investors. Venture Investors, Hopen Life Science Ventures, and Waycross Ventures also participated in the Series C.

Delphinus Medical Technologies will use the money to further the commercialization of SoftVue with a plan for launching it next year and doing a harder push in 2017.

It is planning to launch a large multi-site clinical study to support a PMA application for a supplemental screening indication for women with dense breasts later this year. Delphinus Medical Technologies will begin by prospectively imaging 10,000 women with SoftVue in eight centers across the country. The study will compare SoftVue to digital mammography, and demonstrate its effectiveness in finding cancers that are not seen with mammography, while reducing false positives, thereby reducing the need for follow-up testing

Source: Mark Forchette, president & CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

HistoSonics raises $3.5M as it pushes clinical trails forward

HistoSonics has closed on seven figures worth of seed capital over the last year as the Ann Arbor-based startup pushes forward the clinical trails of its biotechnology that treats prostate disease.

The 5-year-old company raised an $11 million Series A in 2009 and is in the process of raising a Series B. It raised $3.5 million in a couple of interim fundraising rounds over the last year as it preps to land an even bigger Series B.

"We're looking to do a much larger round next year," says Christine Gibbons, president & CEO of HistoSonics. "We're thinking the first quarter of 2016."

The University of Michigan spinout got its name by combining histo (meaning tissue) and sonics (meaning sound waves). The firm’s primary platform is a medical device that uses tightly focused ultrasound pulses to treat prostate disease in a non-invasive manner with robotic precision.

HistoSonics and its team of 15 people (four more than last year) is currently in the midst of its clinical trails, which it has completed enrollment in. It plans to expand that clinical trail in the next year and wrap it up by 2016. HistoSonics is also looking to add more applications for its platform over the next year, which it is looking for partners in the medical device world.

"This next round of financing we are looking for strategic partners and investors," Gibbons says.

Source: Christine Gibbons, president & CEO of HistoSonics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Secure Beginnings sees significant growth after 'Shark Tank' appearance

For its first five years, Secure Beginnings was a sleepy little company making breathable mattresses for infants with the intention of preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Then it went on TV.

Specifically, it went on "Shark Tank," a reality TV show on ABC that features entrepreneurs pitching the next great business idea to investors. Secure Beginnings appeared on the show in May and its visibility immediately took off.

"In the first day we had it up (a video describing its product), we had 2 million views," says Julie Andreae, founder and president of Secure Beginnings. "The growth just took off."

Detroit Riverfont-based company makes a mattress for babies 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.

Secure Beginnings is now three months behind on filling its orders thanks to the spike in demand from its turn on reality TV. The company went from making $40,000 a month selling its mattresses to $70,000 a month. It is now aiming for $80,000 a month and profitability.

Secure Beginnings is also now looking to add to its staff, which is has double to six people over the last year. It's also looking to hire three more people now to keep up with demand. The firm is also looking to expand its sales reach to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada this year.

"We have a lot of growing left to do," Andreae says.

Source: Julie Andreae, founder & president of Secure Beginnings
Writer: Jon Zemke

Loveland Technologies launches custom mapping platform, Site Control

For several years, Loveland Technologies has been a startup without a steady revenue stream, relying on custom projects creating digital tools to document property ownership in cities across the U.S. Now the downtown Detroit-based software firm is opening what it hopes will be a new pipeline of consistent business.

Loveland's newest product is Site Control, a software-as-a-service platform that enables users to open personal accounts within Loveland Technologies software and create their own custom maps. The company is offering two Site Control subscription levels: a scaled-back package costing $30 a month and more robust one at $1,000 per month. Loveland is targeting municipalities, neighborhood groups, real-estate developers, and researchers as its initial customers.

"We're trying to get on this track of many more people paying us less money," says Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder & CEO of Loveland Technologies. "We want to grow that pipeline."

The inspiration for Loveland hit Paffendorf and his friends a few years ago when they bought a vacant lot in Detroit and sold square inches of it online. That evolved into a software startup that mapped out every parcel for sale at the Wayne County Tax Auction. WhyDontWeOwnThis.com came online when Wayne County started selling tens of thousands of tax-foreclosed properties, mostly in Detroit, a few years ago.

Since then, Loveland Technologies has monetized its technology by doing custom projects, mapping out things like property ownership or property condition for municipalities. Its highest profile project was working on Motor City Mapping last year. It has since expanded to mapping out close to 500 counties across the U.S. (out of about 3,200 counties), including most of the country's major metropolitan areas. 

"Why would we stop at Detroit?" Paffendorf says. "This is an interesting way to view the world."

Loveland Technologies is also growing its team. It has doubled its employee base to 20 people over the last year and is bringing on two more people (Venture For America fellows) this fall. The company also landed an angel round of investment early last year worth a little more than $1 million from investors like the University of Michigan Social Venture Fund. The firm is funding its expansion with that cash and its own revenues.

Source: Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder & CEO of LOVELAND Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AlumaBridge's first aluminum bridges go up in Quebec, Florida

AlumaBridge's big claim to fame is creating a better bridge, made out of aluminum, which is lighter, stronger, and more durable than traditional options. Travelers should get their first chance to test it out later this summer.

The Ann Arbor-based company’s first bridge is being built in Quebec, Canada. AlumaBridge completed the fabrication of its bridge deck sections late last year. Those pieces are currently being constructed by the Quebec Ministry of Transportation.

"It should be open to traffic by the first week of August," says Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge.

The 1-year-old company uses aluminum as its principal material for prefabricated pieces of bridging. The idea is the specially fabricated aluminum pieces will extend the life of aging bridges much beyond the current standards for concrete. The aluminum bridge deck panels are made using friction stir welding and have a non-skid surface. They can easily be applied to the steel girders on existing bridges, giving many more years of service.

AlumaBridge is also working on a fabricating more bridge sections for a span in Florida. It delivered the first sections early this year and expects that project to come online later this year.

"We will have additional panels shipped in August," Osberg says. "They will be tested by the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida International University before they are installed."

AlumaBridge is currently working with Florida and Canada on more potential bridge projects. The company is also trying to make in-roads with the Michigan Department of Transportation, but the company’s most promising prospects appear to be north of the Great Lakes State.

"The city of Montreal also indicated that they have some projects in mind," Osberg says.

Source: Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge
Writer: Jon Zemke

Quantum Signal's spike in client growth leads to more hires

Three or four years ago was not the best time to talk about Quantum Signal's growth prospects. The Saline-based tech firm was in a lull and trying to figure out what was next. Today the company's leadership just needs to open its email to find more work.
"Every time I go into my email we have more and more demand for our services," says Mitch Rohde, co-founder & CEO of Quantum Signal.

The 15-year-old firm specializes in math-based engineering and custom product development. That can encompass everything from robotics work to helping develop new products for other businesses to creating simulation software. Rohde has noticed a spike in demand for a broad range of industries - especially medical products, automated vehicles and forensic work.

That has allowed Quantum to hire four people over the last year, expanding its staff to 30 employees and four interns. It is now looking to hire another six people, including software programmers, engineers, and managers to keep up with the needs of the firm's customers.

"It just seems like there is a lot of demand these days," Rohde says. "It just seems to have exploded in the last six months. I don't expect demand to go down."

Source: Mitch Rohde, co-founder & CEO of Quantum Signal
Writer: Jon Zemke

Parjana's pilot project on Belle Isle 'reboots Mother Nature' to naturally drain standing water

There are large swaths of mowed fields on Belle Isle that practically become swamps after a hard rain with ankle-deep muddy water pooling with nowhere to go. And then there is the small section of the island where all of the rain filters into the soil where it should go.

That approximately 24-acre section of Belle Isle near the old police station building is where Parjana Distribution is conducting a pilot program for its technology to channel rain water runoff away from sewer system and into the ground’s natural filtration system.

The downtown Detroit-based startup is commercializing a filtration technology that opens up the  earth’s natural ground filtration system to clean water. Underground aquifers fill because gravity takes rain water through the different layers of ground, filtering out contaminates, similar to how a Brita filter works. Parjana Distribution’s platform, Energy-Passive Groundwater Recharge Parjana, accelerates that filtration by utilizing water's properties of adhesion and cohesion.

"It's all about stabilizing the moisture levels so Mother Nature can accommodate the water when it rains," says Gregory McPartlin, co-founder and managing partner of Parjana Distribution. "All we’re doing is rebooting Mother Nature."

Parjana's platforms are currently being used in 150 sites around the world. The company just finished projects for the Mott Foundation at the Ruth Mott Gardens and is working toward doing the same at Midland Country Club for Dow. The projects would help rid both facilities of pooling rain water runoff.

"We provide open green space for people by ensuring it will be dry," McPartlin says.

Parjana Distribution’s team of 20 people (it has hired four people in the last year and is looking to add three more employees) is also working on the same sort of project at Belle Isle. It’s currently in search of a large strategic partner to expand its pilot project into something much bigger.

"Our next goal is to partner with a bank to do the entire island," McPartlin says.

"We're actually pretty darn close," McPartlin says.

Source: Gregory McPartlin, co-founder & managing partner of Parjana Distribution
Writer: Jon Zemke

TSRL pivots business model to become technology accelerator, grows staff

To say Therapeutic Systems Research Laboratories has been through a lot over the last year might be an understatement. The Ann Arbor-based life sciences firm lost its president and general manager, John Hilfiger, in April of last year. That led to the promotion of Elke Lipka as president of the company just at the time when it started to pivot its business model from drug development to technology accelerator.

"We are partnering intensely with academic institutions," Lipka says. "We are providing the wet lab space and drug development services."

...And more importantly showing its clients the way to non-dilutive seed capital. Therapeutic Systems Research Laboratories, commonly known as TSRL, uses an ongoing collaborative process that lets entrepreneurs leverage its expertise to obtain the data and non-dilutive funding necessary to develop and commercialize their technologies. In exchange, TSRL takes a fee and small equity stake in the company.

"Much smaller than a venture capital firm would take," Lipka says.

TSRL is focusing on companies that optimize treatment for infectious diseases, such as influenza, HSV, VZV, CMV, EBV, poxvirus, HPV, Adenovirus, and RNA viruses. It is currently working with a handful of partners, including one from the University of Michigan.

"Three are pretty active right now," Lipka says.

TSRL has hired two people over the last year, including a business development manager and a chemist. It is currently looking to hire a research scientist to add to its staff of 10 employees and one intern.

Source: Elke Lipka, president of Therapeutic Systems Research Laboratories
Writer: Jon Zemke

NEXTEP SYSTEMS scores patent for food service tech, adds staff in Troy

NEXTEP SYSTEMS recently received a patent for a foodservice technology that the company's leadership likes to say makes the user feel smarter when they use it.

"Most point-of-sale systems made me feel stupid," says Tommy Woycik, president of NEXTEP SYSTEMS. "I thought, 'Why can't an employee with a little training load a complex order into the system?'"

The 10-year-old company received a patent for its point-of-sale platform that utilizes what the firm is calling a wizard approach. Its menu flow and display only puts the options a user needs on the screen, streamlining the process and simplifying the menu flow so as to minimize the training necessary to use it.

NEXTEP SYSTEMS also makes self-ordering kiosks that allow customers to order their own food or coffee, grab a ticket, and wait for it to come up. It is used everywhere from restaurants to airports to casinos.

Sales of NEXTEP SYSTEMS platforms have steadily increased in recent years, resulting in a three-year, compound-annual growth rate of 36 percent.

"Every year we grow 30-40 percent," Woycik says.

That has enabled the Troy-based firm to continually add employees. It has a staff of 40 and four interns, hiring four people over the last year as software developers, sales professionals, and customer service representatives. NEXTEP is also looking to hire another four people.

With 1,500 installations in the U.S. and adding 150 over the next year, Woycik is optimistic that NEXTEP SYSTEMS will continue to hire and grow at its current rate.

"We're going after larger and larger customers," Woycik says. "We want to go after the largest clients with more than 100 locations."

Source: Tommy Woycik, president of NEXTEP SYSTEMS
Writer: Jon Zemke
958 emerging technology Articles | Page: | Show All
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