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Bank of Ann Arbor takes on the big boys

While banks and bankers may not be the public's favorite folks in our age of controversial bail outs and investment instruments, The Bank of Ann Arbor is proving that a local institution can sometimes outperform a multi-national corporation.

Excerpt:

"In 2007, before the recession hit, the Bank of Ann Arbor was sixth in deposit market share with 8.04 percent in the city, with deposits of $329.8 million, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. KeyBank was No. 1 at 16.45 percent with deposits of $675.1 million.

As of June 30, 2013, the latest date for which data are available on the FDIC website, Chase was No. 1 at 17.3 percent with deposits of $901.6 million, while the Bank of Ann Arbor had climbed into second place at 12.38 percent and deposits of $646.2 million. "

Read the rest here.
 

TECAT Performance Systems triples revenue since 2012

There is a lot of new over at TECAT Performance Systems. The Ann Arbor-based startup has some new staff, new markets for its principal product to explore, and a new name.

The 2-year-old firm, which spun out of TECAT Engineering, changed its name to TECAT Performance Systems this summer. It also hired some new staff, including a new marketing person and CEO. The team of less than 10 people has been focused on growing the company’s revenue. It has added to its customer base and has tripled its revenue since 2012.

"This year we have already exceeded last year's revenue," says Don Keating, vice president of business development for TECAT Performance Systems. "We have some exciting things in the pipeline for the rest of the year."

TECAT Performance Systems is commercializing wireless sensor technology that collect environmental, motion and mechanical information and stream it wirelessly to a central control unit. These sensors, designed to be used in confined spaces, monitor and record live torque data from any rotating shaft. The company is now exploring options on using the technology to measure other things in other industries, such as defense.

"The product itself has evolved so it can do multiple functions besides just measure torque," Keating says.

In the meantime, TECAT Performance Systems is continuing to refine its sensor technologies with an eye for mass producing them on a much larger scale. However, such a increase in productivity is still a year or two away.

"We're in the very early stages of those discussions," Keating says.

Source: Don Keating, vice president of business development for TECAT Performance Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

Movellus Circuits launches fresh microprocessor technology

A lot of startups struggle to raise money to build prototypes of their technology. Movellus Circuits is flipping the script: it already has its prototypes in hand before any money has been raised.

"We have four working prototypes that prove the technology works," says Muhammad Faisal, CEO of Movellus Circuits.

Faisal graduated from the University of Michigan in April with a PhD in electrical engineering. He is commercializing his research at the university. That technology is a patent-pending clock generator for the microprocessor market. The 1-year-old startup is working to make sure its generators are quicker to design, smaller than competitors, offer higher performance, use lower power, provide more flexible, and while only being for sale at a fraction of the cost of existing solutions.

Movellus Circuits is currently working to line up its first customer to license the technology to. It is also looking at establishing a strategic partnership while gearing up to raise a seed capital round of $1 million later this fall.

"That will give us 18 months of runway," Faisal says.

Source: Muhammad Faisal, CEO of Movellus Circuits
Writer: Jon Zemke

Electronics manufacturer EDP Co. makes 3 hires in Livonia

Launching EDP Co. was an easy decision for Richard Bezerko. The electrical engineer has spent his career working in electronics. He also aspired to be his own boss, so when the opportunity to start his own electronics manufacturing company presented itself, "It was a natural thing for me to do," Bezerko says.

That was 32 years ago. Today the Livonia-based business employs 17 people after making three replacement hires over the last year. It has also landed a handful of new customers in that time. Those new customers include companies in the after-market electronics and medical technologies industries.

Most of the new work for EDP Co. has come from traditional sources, like word-of-mouth referrals, and newer ones, like search engine hits on the company’s website. Bezerko expects to add more customers over the next year.

"We're on a steady growth path," Bezerko says. "We're not trying to grow too fast."

Source: Richard Bezerko, president of EDP Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

MGCS, Duo Security headline Ann Arbor entrepreneurial roundup

It's been a busy week for Ann Arbor's new economy. Here is a quick roundup of stories that appeared recently and a big event about to come back to Washtenaw County.

The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium makes it return for its 32nd-annual conference. The event will be held at the Marriott Resort at Eaglecrest in Ypsilanti on June 17-18th. The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium is known as the best of the midwest conferences when it comes to showcasing startups with high-growth potential. The list of companies presenting this year was just released and can be found here.

Duo Security plans to move to 123 N Ashley St. The tech startup that specializes in duel-factor authentication got its start in the Tech Brewery in 2009 before moving to its current office in Kerrytown. The company has been hiring at such a steady clip (it currently has nine openings that can be found here) that is needs to find a bigger home to accommodate the growth. It plans to take 14,000 square feet in downtown to make that happen.

Seelio, a startup launched by University of Michigan students, has been acquired by PlattForm, which is based in Kansas City. Ann Arbor-based Seelio is a service-based student portfolio solution for higher education institutions while PlattForm specializes in marketing and enrollment management for institutions of higher learning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ann Arbor SPARK, Washtenaw County, A2Y Chamber of Commerce, and New Zealand-based QLBS are launching the Virtual Business Advisor. The self-assessment tool assists entrepreneurs and early stage businesses work toward their next stage of growth. Virtual Business Advisor identifies the strengths and weakness of personal and company while benchmarking them against other companies in the region.

Writer: Jon Zemke

123.net hires 10 people as it grows wireless business

123.net is hiring in Southfield, and with good reason.

The Internet/data center company has hired 10 people over the last year, including six people for its wireless Internet division. It’s in the process of adding summer interns right now, and the firm plans to hire more staff later this year. The reason?

"Demand," says Jim Hart, director of wireless operations for 123.net. "We don't add head count because it's speculative. We add people because there is a need."

The 17-year-old company has been hard at work expanding its tech center at its headquarters in Southfield. The 130,000-square-foot structure at 24700 Northwestern Highway just brought an extra 15,000 square feet of data center space online.

123.net wireless Internet product has led the company's recent growth spike. Hart explains the speed of that product's deployment has been second to none.

"There is a demand for it," Hart says. "People just want it."

123.net also has two interns on top of its staff of 40 employees. It is currently looking to add three more summer interns. The company plans to use its internship program as a talent pipeline for future employees.

"We're hoping to convert a couple of them as soon as their internships are complete," Hart says.

Source: Jim Hart, director of wireless operations for 123.net
Writer: Jon Zemke

Plex scores $50M in private-equity funding

Plex finds itself $50 million richer this summer after landing big financing investments from T. Rowe Price and Accel Partners.

The Troy-based company makes cloud-based ERP software for manufacturers. Plex describes its software platform as built from the plant floor up, enabling users to increase productivity and profitability at existing facilities by streamlining the manufacturing process.

The 19-year-old tech company was acquired in 2012 by Francisco Partners, a private-equity firm based in Silicon Valley. Plex also received a $30 million investment in 2012 from Accel Partners, a venture capital firm also located in Silicon Valley. The new $50 million capital infusion is considered an equity investment.

Plex plans to use its new round of seed capital to grow the sales and marketing efforts of its software platform. It is also planning to put some of that money into research and development of new technology.

"We have been working on a new user-interface over the last year," says Katy Teer, a corporate communications manager for Plex.

Plex has a staff of close to 400 employees and 20 interns. It has hired 156 people since January of last year. It also has 27 openings for everything from sales to senior technical writers right now. More information on those jobs is here.

"We're in an aggressive hiring plan right now," Teer says, adding she was employee No. 220 when she started at Plex two years ago. The firm expects to cross the 400-employee threshold later this year. "We're a really fast-growing tech company here in Metro Detroit."

Source: Katy Teer, corporate communications manager for Plex
Writer: Jon Zemke

Steel startup Detroit Materials spins out of Wayne State

A new startup spinning out of Wayne State University believes it can make a stronger steel that will have applications in a broad range of industries, including defense, infrastructure, and automotive.

Detroit Materials technology promises to create a high-quality steel that is both lighter and stronger than current options. The steel alloy is expected to help create efficiencies in areas like energy sustainability, pollution reduction, increased safety, and lower production costs.

"We're in the process of revalidating the technology so we can show that everything we say can happen in a lab can happen in a production facility," says Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials.

The technology was developed by a research team led by Wayne State University Engineering Profesor Susil Putatunda. The team focused on creating advanced materials with high-yield strength, fracture toughness, and ductility. A $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and $25,000 from the Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund got the technology to the point where it could be considered for commercialization.

Detroit Materials is also partaking in the New Economy Initiative's Technology Development Incubator Program, which opened the door for a licensing agreement and the creation of the startup last September. Detroit Materials is currently working from the Invest Detroit offices in the Renaissance Center while it looks for a permanent office in the greater downtown Detroit area.

Detroit Materials currently has a staff of two, including its CEO. Guillen worked as an entrepreneur-in-residence for the Detroit Technology Exchange. The company is also looking to hire two part-time engineers while it works to secure three pilot programs for its steel technology by the end of this year. It is also preparing to raise a Series A round of seed capital.

"Our goal is to raise a Series A within the next six months," Guillen says.

Source: Pedro Guillen, CEO of Detroit Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

Online Tech acquires new data center, renovates 2 more

Online Tech's data management empire took a big step forward this spring when the Ann Arbor-based company added its first data center outside of Michigan.

The 20-year-old company acquired a data center in Indianapolis, and is in the process of refurbishing two of its data centers in Flint and Westland. Online Tech got its start building out four data centers in Michigan, and has been targeting other Midwestern markets in recent years.

"We wanted to have a commanding presence in Michigan first, which was not easy to do," says Yan Ness, co-CEO of Online Tech.

The new Indianapolis data center is a purpose-built corporate facility that will deliver secure, compliant cloud and colocation services for healthcare, financial services, retail, and other companies in the region. Online Tech plans to make a total investment of $10 million in the facility and the surrounding Indianapolis metro area.

"It's a great business community," Ness says. "We love the people down there. There are a lot of healthcare and financial firms down there. We think what we have to offer is well-suited for them."

Online Tech is also renovating two of its data centers in Michigan, including a former Nextel data center is acquired in Westland. Both are set to come online by the end of the summer or early in the fall.

The expansion comes after Online Tech has gone on a bit of a hiring binge. The company has added 22 people over the last 18 months, expanding its staff to 52 employees. It also has four open positions in sales, marketing, and client services. Ness expects the hiring to continue as the company targets more Midwestern markets.

"We have about a dozen or so markets on our radar," Ness says. "We don't talk about what they are because lots of people are looking at the Midwestern white space."

Source: Yan Ness, co-CEO of Online Tech
Writer: Jon Zemke

Huron River Ventures builds startup ecosystem in Kerrytown

Huron River Ventures isn't just a venture capital firm looking to build a portfolio of startups and investors. It’s working to build its own little entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kerrytown.

The 4-year-old VC, which specializes in early stage investment, opened up its first office this spring in Kerrytown. It is sharing the space with a handful of other venture capital firms and a few startups, including Local Orbit and TurtleCell. The idea is to create a concentration of techies and investors in a cool space in one of Ann Arbor's most cosmopolitan neighborhoods.

"We wanted to see if we could create a little space with some critical mass," says Ryan Waddington, partner of Huron River Ventures. "We wanted to create a space where people could bump into each other more frequently."

Huron River Ventures renovated the old Ann Arbor Observer space on the 1st floor of the Market Place building at 303 Detroit St. Arboretum Ventures already occupies the third floor of the building. Huron River Ventures was also able to recruit the Ann Arbor offices of a number of VCs, including Draper Triangle, Cultivian Sandbox, Arsenal Venture Partners, and Detroit Innovate.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to build out a big office when you're a staff of one," Waddington says.

Huron River Ventures, which has a core staff of two people, closed on a $11 million investment fund (its first) in 2011. It has made 11 investments, has 10 portfolio companies, and has recorded one exit. It currently has one term sheet out for another investment and is looking to make three more investments by the end of this year.

Source: Ryan Waddington, partner of Huron River Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

Billhighway anticipates growth surge with new tech hires

Billhighway has some big expectations for its future growth, and it's already adding staff in anticipation of it.

The Troy-based firm, which describes itself as a “provider of cloud-based automation solutions for nonprofits” has hired five people over the last year, including positions in sales, business development and software development. It also has three open positions for software developers.

"The company is the product. We write everything (software code) ourselves," says Bob Anzivino, director of IT & security for Billhighway. "There is a lot of R&D work going on here so we need the help."

Billhighway got its start in 1999 as software that helps people divvy up expenses, such as dues or dinner costs. Today it helps non-profits and other organizations deal with their finances.

The company currently employs just under 50 people. Anzivino, who was recently promoted to his job, explains that it can be hard to pin down an exact number of staff because new hires mean staffing levels change fairly quickly. The reason why is to keep up with revenue growth and projected growth over the next year.

"We expect fairly meteoric growth in the next 12 months," Anzivino says. "That's good for us and our clients. We are preparing for that."

Source: Bob Anzivino, director of IT & security for Billhighway
Writer: Jon Zemke

EMU, U-M chosen for Google Community Leaders Program

EMU joins Wayne State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the University of Michigan for a Google-sponsored program that teaches search optimization and digital marketing experience to students in order to help them support local businesses.

Excerpt:

"Five Eastern Michigan University students have been accepted into Google's Community Leader's Program, a volunteer operation in which students help equip local small businesses and non-profits to compete in the digital age. The five EMU students, Mahdi Alkadib, Patrick Cotter, Joseph Wendl, Robert Larson, and Sean Tseng, will work with various local businesses and organizations throughout southeastern Michigan, introducing them to tactical Google tools like Google+, Google Apps, Google Analytics and Google AdWords."

Read the rest here.
 

Arotech hires 11 in Ann Arbor, looks to add another 5

Arotech's staff in Ann Arbor has been on the upswing in recent years and is continuing to trend skyward.

The Ann Arbor-based defense firm has grown its staff from 125 people at the end of 2012 to 136 employees a year later. Today it has a staff of 147 employees and a few interns, adding 11 jobs in engineering and technicians. It's also looking to hire another three engineers and two more technicians.

Arotech has enjoyed 20 percent year-over-year revenue growth since 2010, and the company's sales continue to spike. "We did hit a new high-water mark for revenues," says Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech's Training & Simulation Division.

Arotech provides simulation software to a number of defense and similar organizations, such as raining and use-of-force simulation for municipal law enforcement agencies. It has also completed 26 of the 28 sets of a suite of simulations for the U.S. Army that helps soldiers train to find and disarm improvised explosive devices. It also has started to deliver its first simulations products for a contract with the U.S. Air Force that trains soldiers how to operate mid-flight refueling booms.

"That is the first of 17 boom arm simulators to be delivered," Flosky says.

Source: Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech Training & Simulation Division
Writer: Jon Zemke

Automation Alley awards FIRST robotics scholarship

With the aid of scholarships, high school and college students are gearing up for careers in robotics, an A+ industry in Michigan.

Excerpt:

"Automation Alley, Michigan's largest technology business association, has selected Brett Opel, a senior from Clarkston High School, as its FIRST robotics scholarship recipient for 2014. The scholarship, supported by the Automation Alley Fund, was created to recognize high school seniors involved in FIRST robotics that are interested in pursuing a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) course of study at a Michigan college or university."

More here.
 

AlumaBridge brings lighter, sustainable solution to bridge repair

When a bridge collapses, hand-wringing and fear become the rule of the day. And yet attention to infrastructure never seems to be a priority until it’s too late. A new Ann Arbor-based startup is working to get ahead of that problem before the worst happens.

AlumaBridge uses aluminum as its principal material for prefabricated pieces of bridging in order to extend the life of aging bridges. 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.

"I would like to address some of the nation's most deficient structures,” says Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge. "It's a matter of getting the technology out there and commercializing it."

Osberg worked at Sopa Extrusions studying new ways to extend the life of the countries aging infrastructure. His work focused on aluminum bridge options and he spun out AlumaBridge last fall. The company is now working to install its first bridge in Quebec and is working on test panels for bridges in Florida. Check out a video describing AlumaBridge’s product and installation here.

"It mirrors the strength of concrete but is one fifth of the weight," Osberg says.

Stories of the country’s aging bridges have grown more numerous in recent years. Last year "an Associated Press analysis of 607,380 bridges in the most recent federal National Bridge Inventory showed that 65,605 were classified as "structurally deficient" and 20,808 as "fracture critical." Of those, 7,795 were both — a combination of red flags that experts say indicate significant disrepair and similar risk of collapse," according to a story in USA Today.

"This (AlumaBridge’s product) offers them an option," Osberg says. "It offers them a longer bridge life with a recyclable product."

Source: Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge
Writer: Jon Zemke
958 Emerging Technology Articles | Page: | Show All
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