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Yottabyte adds 5 to staff as it hits double-digit growth

Yottabyte is a 3-year-old software startup in transition, the type of transition it has been planning since its start.

"Now we're shifting from development to go-to-market," says Duane Tursi, principal of Yottabyte.

Yottabyte focuses on creating software that simplifies and automates IT infrastructure. Its two principal products, yStor and yCenter, specialize in different aspects of data storage. The yStor software creates an elastic and distributed storage platform that automatically adjusts when new resources are added. The system helps consolidate data storage functions.

The yCenter product creates a software-defined datacenter that enables the deployment of applications, the provision of virtual data center environments, and reconfiguring IT infrastructure in minutes. Yottabyte promotes it as an advanced software product for data centers. It is optimistic both of these systems will gain traction quickly in 2014.

"There is a readiness in the marketplace," Tursi says. "There is a consolidation going on in our space, so the rate at which our customers would adopt a non-name-brand product is pretty high."

To accommodate that, the Bloomfield Township-based firm has hired five people over the last year, including software programers and IT engineers. It currently employs a staff of 25 employees and one intern.

Source: Duane Tursi, principal of Yottabyte
Writer: Jon Zemke

ArborWind to begin wind turbine production in 2014

Dilip Nigam believes his company, ArborWind, is ready to take alternative energy to the next level with its wind turbine design.

What makes the Ann Arbor-based firm's product unique is its design. While traditional wind turbines look like pinwheels on steroids, ArborWind's wind turbine resembles the shape of a balloon. Where traditional wind turbines have a horizontal-axis design that must face into the wind, ArborWind's product operates on a vertical-access design that allows it to generate power regardless of which way the wind is blowing. Check a video explaining the technology here.
 
"We have the best wind turbine in the world," Nigam says. "We can't wait to get it into production."

The alternative energy firm and its core team of four people have already erected a prototype of the wind turbine in Marshall. "It has proven everything we wanted it to," Nigam says.

ArborWind is aiming to begin production of its wind turbines next year. It is targeting customers in rural areas, such as farmers looking for a green power source for irrigation pumps in fields far away from utility lines.

"We have gotten a lot of inquiries from around the world," Nigam says. "We want to focus on that market to start."

Source: Dilip Nigam, president & CEO of ArborWind
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor startups set growth curve at Accelerate Michigan

If the student competition at this fall's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is supposed to be a stepping stone to bigger prizes in the main event of the business plan competition, then startups from Ann Arbor are proving the theory true.

Accelerate Michigan got its start in 2010 as an event to provide access to seed capital, resources and investors to fledgling tech startups based in Michigan or those looking to move to the Great Lakes State. This year the organic growth of Michigan's startups started to show.

Covaron Advanced Materials won the student portion of Accelerate Michigan last year under the name Kymeira Advanced Materials, taking home $25,000 in seed capital. Last week the Ann Arbor-based company took second place in the overall competition, which comes with a $100,000 check. It was the most prominent example of a young, up-and-coming startup setting the growth curve at Accelerate Michigan.

Ann Arbor-based SkySpecs took third place (with a prize of $10,000) in last year's Accelerate Michigan student competition. The 1-year-old startup is developing aerial drones that use artificial intelligence to inspect infrastructure in dangerous locations, such as the blade of wind turbines.

This year it made the semifinals of the overall competition, going against older, more developed startups. Tom Brady, one of the startup’s co-founders, says "the competition is stiff" when talking about the other startups pitching at Accelerate Michigan. He and his co-founders felt much more confident about their pitch because of their previous experience in the student competition.

"If we had gone straight from an idea to the business plan competition we wouldn't have done well," says Danny Ellis, co-founder of SkySpecs.

Source: Tom Brady and Danny Ellis, co-founders of SkySpecs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sentinl aims to commercialize gun safety tech

Omer Kiyani has firsthand experience with the dangers of gun ownership. He was accidentally shot in the mouth as a child because a firearm had been left unsecured and in the open.

That experience is the primary inspiration for his TechTown-based startup, Sentinl. The 1-year-old firm, formerly Logiksync, is developing gun-safety technology that secures a loaded weapon while making is accessible for quick use.

"I got tired of reading in the news about how another child died from a gunshot," Kiyani says.

Kiyani, a gun owner, has served as a safety engineer for Bosch for nearly a decade. The finger-print technology allows the gun's owner to unlock the loaded weapon when he or she needs it. Kiyani envisions the Sentinl gunlock as a solution that walks the fine line between advocates of gun ownership and gun control.

"Even if you don't have a gun, your neighbor probably does," Kiyani says. "While his kids might be trained on how to act around guns, you might not."

Sentinl has developed an alpha prototype of its gunlock and is aiming to launch the product next summer. The startup made the semifinals of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition where it worked to raise seed capital for product development. Kiyani hopes to raise $500,000 in seed capital in the next few months.

Source: Omer Kiyani, founder & CEO of Sentinl
Writer: Jon Zemke

SkySpecs creates buzz around drone inspection tech

SkySpecs is aiming to commercialize its drone inspection technology next year and has reached a number of milestones toward achieving that goal.

The Ann Arbor-based startup is developing aerial drones that use artificial intelligence to inspect infrastructure in dangerous locations, such as the blade of wind turbines. They are not remote controlled so they wouldn’t require the user to be onsite to operate the vehicles.

The 1-year-old company's team of nine people have an operational prototype and have applied for one provisional patent for their technology. They have raised $470,000 in seed capital amnd hope to hit their target of $700,000 by the end of this year or early next year.

"The goal is to start a pilot project in quarter one of 2014," says Danny Ellis, co-founder of SkySpecs. "By quarter two, we hope to have it in our partners' hands without us being on site."

SkySpecs made the semifinals of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last week. The startup, which was launched by University of Michigan students, took third place in last year's Accelerate Michigan student competition. You can check out a video of its elevator pitch, here.

Source: Tom Brady and Danny Ellis, co-founders of SkySpecs
Writer: Jon Zemke

Metro Detroit startups score big at Accelerate Michigan

A number of Metro Detroit-based companies came away with prizes at last week's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

The annual business plan competition awards $1 million in prizes, including a $500,000 cash prize for first place, to promising tech startups either based in Michigan or looking to move to the Great Lakes State. Metro Detroit-based firms, particularly those from Ann Arbor, have done quite well in the downtown Detroit-based competition’s first four iterations.

"Silicon Valley is supposed to have all the answers," says Tony Scott, CIO of VMware and the keynote speaker at this year’s Accelerate Michigan. "It doesn't. And there are a lot of great ideas here in Michigan."

Among the winners from Metro Detroit are:

- Troy-based AutoBike, which won the Next Generation Manufacturing category and the $25,000 in seed capital that came with it. The company is making a bicycle with an automatic gear shifter and began making sales this year. "(That prize money) is going to go toward OEMs for production," says Sean Simpson, CEO of AutoBike.

- CureLauncher, which calls Bloomfield Hills home, won the Life Sciences category ($25,000) for its website that is working to become the Wikipedia of clinical trials for new drugs and treatments.

- ENT Biotech Solutions (Detroit) won the $25,000 that comes with taking first in the Medical Device category for its surgical tool.

- West Bloomfield-based WaveCraft is creating an amphibious aircraft that won the NextEnergy Transport & New Mobility and its $25,000 cash prize.

Among the Ann Arbor-based winners are:

- Covaron Advanced Materials, which took second place ($100,000) for its low temperature cure advanced ceramics technology.

- TurtleCell won the People's Choice award for $10,000 for its smartphone case that come with retractable earbuds.

- PlanReaction's building floor plans and furniture layouts software won the IT category and its $25,000 prize.

- Inmatech won the DTE Energy Alternative Energy category ($25,000) for its technology that incorporates supercapacitors to make batteries more energy efficient.

Source: Tony Scott, CIO of VMware and Sean Simpson, CEO of AutoBike
Writer: Jon Zemke

Loc Performance Products grows through diversification

The more industries it looks to enter into, Loc Performance Products is finding more work.

The Plymouth-based firm has built up its business with defense contracts since its start in 1971, manufacturing large CNC machined components and assemblies for military and industrial applications. The cutbacks in defense spending in recent years have forced Loc Performance Products to find more business in new places.

"We're building up our business with more commercial projects," says Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products. "We have a lot of new business in the mining and rail industries. We also have new business with hybrid municipal bus systems."

The work in those industries has allowed Loc Performance Products to maintain its size, hiring five people over the last year. It now has a staff of 185 employees and the occasional intern.

Dula points out it took a lot of work to branch out. In 2009, military contracts made up 90 percent of Loc Performance Products' bottom line. This year it’s 50 percent. Next year it is expected to be 40 percent, but the company would like to keep military work a major part of its core business while continuing to grow its commercial prospects.

"We would like to double our revenue over the next six years," Dula says.

Source: Wayne Dula, director of business development for Loc Performance Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ornicept expands team to 11 as it preps for launch

Earlier this year, Ornicept pivoted its business plan. As the year went by the downtown Ann Arbor-based startup has expanded that plan further.

The 1-year-old firm got its start developing bird monitoring technology for the likes of airports and wind turbine operators. It then shifted to creating a software platform that helps wildlife biologists collect and manage data. Now it does that and helps people do the same for infrastructure inspectors.

"We focus on the way people collect data,' says Justin Otani, co-founder of Ornicept. "The way people collect data for wildlife and infrastructure is very similar."

That software platform, GeoTraverse, is currently Beta testing with two large multi-national corporations that are serving as development partners. The paid pilot projects are expected to wrap up late this year and begin commercial sales in early 2014.

To make that happen, Ornicept has had to expand its team. It has hired eight people this year and now employs a team of 11 employees at Ann Arbor SPARK's Central Incubator in downtown Ann Arbor. Those new jobs include hires of software developers and business development professionals.

"Our current growth is pretty exciting as we continue to add more talent to the Ann Arbor area," says Russell Conard, co-founder of Ornicept.

Source: Russell Conard & Justin Otani, co-founders of Ornicept
Writer: Jon Zemke

Cayman Chemical grows in Ann Arbor with new hires

Cayman Chemical took a recent hit or two, but not of its own creation. Still, the Ann Arbor-based company has continued to grow and add to its staff.

The 33-year-old bio-tech firm provides researchers with bio-chemical tools. It has hired 19 people over the last year, including the creation of 11 new positions. Those hires include a broad range of professionals, such as IT workers, scientists and marketeers. The company now employs 218 people and had 21 interns this summer.

"We continue to invest in our facility and employees as we grow," says Christine Booher, vice president of human resources for Cayman Chemical.

That growth comes despite some hits from governmental tribulations, such as the sequester. That means Cayman Chemical has not been hiring as fast as it was last year, when it added 30 people. Recently it began filling out its newly acquired office buildings on the south side of Ann Arbor. Booher expects the two new buildings -Cayman Chemical controls four facilities- to accommodate the company’s growth for the next few years as they look to capitalize on 2014 growth prospects.

"We have seen a rebound slowly from some governmental issues," Booher says. "We are very optimistic and optimistic for our global growth."

Source: Christine Booher, vice president of human resources for Cayman Chemical
Writer: Jon Zemke

Are You a Human hires 3 as it begins lining up advertisers

Are You a Human is a startup based in downtown Detroit but expects to be known by advertisers around the world, sooner rather than later.

The [email protected] Building-based company makes software meant to eliminate CAPTCHA, the squiggly letters meant to authenticate human interaction online but is easily defeated. Are You a Human’s software, PayThru, uses small game to serve the same purpose. This game-based verification system is much harder for software bots to overcome.

PlayThru, which is now being broadly launched to advertisers, incorporates brand advertising in its online games as the way to commercialize the service. It has been working with a number of large consumer brands, such as Ford Fiesta, Xbox and Moosejaw.

"When we have a brand game, there is now drop-off in user experience," says Reid Tatoris, co-founder of Are You a Human. "They enjoy the branded game as much as non-branded game."

Tatoris adds that Are You a Human’s technology is now being used on 5,000 websites. The company, which recently opened a sales office in New York City, is now focusing on bringing on just as many clients.

"We want to grow that half of the business just as much as we have grown the first half," Tatoris says.

Are You a Human
currently employs eight people. It has hired three people over the last year, including two software developers and a sales professional.

Source: Reid Tatoris, co-founder of Are You a Human
Writer: Jon Zemke

New Billhighway CEO aims to flatten tech firm's structure

When Doug Gregory came on as the new CEO of Billhighway last summer, he had a simple plan: flatten the technology so it can grow faster.

The Troy-based company makes software that helps organizations allocate expenses for everything from dues to dinner costs. It got its start in Vince Thomas’ dorm room at Eastern Michigan University in the 1990s and has hit second stage through his leadership.

But that can only go so far sometimes. Gregory is now working to flatten the company’s leadership structure so employees can be empowered to improve Billhighway and come up with new ideas for the firm.

"We want to be a team-oriented organization," Gregory says. He explains this helps everyone employed at Billhighway determine the company’s direction and motivates them to give their jobs their best performance. "Play fearless," Gregory says. "Don't be afraid to make a mistake."

And that team is growing. Billhighway has hired eight people over the last year, mainly in sales and client services. The company has also developed a career-path program for its employees so their careers can evolve with the company. The firm now employs close to 50 people and two interns. It is also looking to add more interns soon.

Gregory adds that Billhighway has been notching double-digit revenue growth for several years now. It has grown about 200 percent cumulatively over the last five years.

Source: Doug Gregory, CEO of Billhighway
Writer: Jon Zemke

Badenoch turns ideas into intellectual property

Badenoch is a company that focuses on creating intellectual property. Or put more simply, creating new technology that pushes the envelope of how we live life today.

"We only work on things that don’t have requirements," says Scott Badenoch, CEO & owner of Badenoch. "We focus on the unknown. We work on the future."

The Southfield-based company, which also works through the Macomb-OU INCubator, got its start in 2005 and employs a core staff of four people. It also works with a large stable of independent contractors that is assembles for each project it takes on.

"We want to go out and get the very best and move on," Badenoch says.

One of its current projects is working on increasing the survivability in the military. In the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that means finding out a way to protect soldiers in vehicles in combat zones. to Badenoch that means helping redesign the architecture of the military vehicle to make it more protective.

"We have worked significantly on that," Badenoch says.

Source: Scott Badenoch, CEO & owner of Badenoch
Writer: Jon Zemke

Arborlight creates LED lights that mimic natural light

Miss sunshine on a cloudy day? Or perhaps in a room with no windows and wish you had a sunbeam? Arborlight thinks it has an solution for you.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up is creating a "daylight emulation systems," which is basically an LED light that does a convincing impression of a skylight. The light it emits mimics the color, a and temperature of natural sunlight, along with other subtle details. For instance, the technology has an algorithm that is connected to a weather forecast, allowing the LED to behave in the same way as the outside lighting.

"It looks, acts and feels like a real skylight," says Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight.

The start-up has developed a prototype at the University of Michigan North Campus Research Complex and is currently working on its first demonstration units. Arborlight has also assembled a team of five people and is in the process of bringing No. 6 onboard. The company has raised its first $500,000 in seed capital and is looking to raise a Series A next year.

"We expect to begin making sales in early 2014," Forbis says.

Source: Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ford and U-M team up to open battery lab

Developing the next generation of hybrid and electric battery for autos is tricky business. Innovations don't always square with nusiness needs. Ford and U-M are hoping to close that gap by joining forces.

Excerpt:

"The center, on the university's campus in Ann Arbor, will bring together battery makers, car companies and researchers who will test new batteries for prototype vehicles.

Ted Miller, who manages battery research at Ford, said the lab will be unique in the U.S. He said that labs currently testing new battery chemistries can't produce them in the amounts or formats needed for automotive research. And battery companies aren't always sure that what they're developing could be useful to the automotive industry."

Read the rest here.

IT firm Red Level Networks aims for staff of 50

Red Level Networks is riding a wave of growth coming from the industry-wide trend of demanding better IT services and a new partnership with computer-maker Dell.

The Novi-based company has hired 10 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 31 employees and the occasional summer intern. The new hires include engineers, technicians, help-desk support, sales associates and a COO.

"The demand for better services has helped propel our growth," says David King, president of Red Level Networks. He adds that many businesses cut back on IT during the recession. Now that the recovery is well underway, the demand for fast, reliable IT services has done nothing but climb.

Also helping fuel that is Red Level Networks' work with Dell. The 9-year-old IT firm is a channel partner with Dell. That partnership allows Red Level Networks to sell its services and other products directly to the end users of Dell products.

"We expect more business to come our way because of our partnership with Dell," King says.

King is optimistic that Red Level Networks will be able to cross the 50-employee threshold within the next year.

"We want to be that go-to company, so when people think of IT services they think about us," King says.

Source: David King, president of Red Level Networks
Writer: Jon Zemke
958 emerging technology Articles | Page: | Show All
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