| Follow Us:

Innovation & Job News

1756 Articles | Page: | Show All

Covaron Advanced Materials raises seven-figure Series A

Big changes have taken place at Covaron Advanced Materials over the last year. The Ann Arbor-based startup has brought in a new CEO, raised a seven-figure Series A, and consolidated its investor circle to one person.

Covaron Advanced Materials, formerly Kymeira Advanced Materials, is developing a new chemistry for ceramics. The new technology was developed by company founder Vince Alessi and co-founders Cam Smith and Reed Shick. The advanced ceramics formula makes ceramics a more affordable and streamlined option for a number of molds and durable goods, such as those used in the automotive sector.

"We are a game-changing technology for a lot of industries," says Michael Kraft, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials.

Which explains why it won the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in 2012. And then the main competition at Accelerate Michigan in 2013. It also raised a $300,000 seed round from a number of local venture capital organizations, like Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures and Invest Detroit's First Step Fund.

"We had a lot of help from the Ann Arbor SPARK Business Accelerator Fund," Kraft says.

Those investors are gone now. Kraft says a single investor he declined to name but described as a person who owns "a Michigan-based consortium of companies" bought out everyone else and provided the money for a Series A. Kraft declined to name the individual or the exact amount of the Series A besides saying it was in the "seven figures" and provide enough funding to grow the company for 24 months.

Kraft, a Michigan State University graduate, was recruited from California to serve as Covaron Advanced Materials' new CEO. He explains the plan is to focus on growing the company through targeted application development of its ceramics technology. The idea is to aim for a long-term growth cycle (similar to what life sciences startups go through) so it can maximize the use of its technology in several markets. Covaron Advanced Materials and its team of 10 people (all recently moved from independent contractors to full-time employees) plans to leverage the sole investor’s portfolio of firms to grow.

"We're in a consortium of companies that employs more than 1,000 people and has more than $150 million in capacity," Kraft says. "That gives you an idea of the support we have."

Kraft acknowledges this is a unique situation for a startup. There are no exit requirements or need to pump up artificial value or need to exit because a subset of the startup's investors needs to cash out. There is only the goal of growing a big business that could one day have its fingers in a lot of pies.

"We have choices," Kraft says. "We don't need to paint ourselves into a corner."

Source: Michael Kraft, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Coyote Logistics' Ann Arbor office spikes to 45 people

Last year Coyote Logistics made headlines with its plans to open up an office in Ann Arbor and create dozens of new jobs. This year the Chicago-based company is well on its way to meeting that goal.

Coyote Logistics has hired 45 people at its new office after opening it late last year. That puts it roughly a third of the way toward it goal of hiring 125 people in Ann Arbor over its first three years. The company is still moving toward that goal aggressively.

"We're going to hire 35 more people there over the rest of the year," says Jodi Navta, vice president of marketing & communications for Coyote Logistics. "It's a variety of positions."

Coyote Logistics provides third-party logistics and transportation services for North American shippers. While it's based out of state, many of the firm's employees have roots in Michigan. Navta and Coyote Logistics’ CEO, Jeff Silver, are University of Michigan graduates. Those connections, along with a $1 million Michigan Business Development Program incentive from the state of Michigan, sealed the deal to open the office. The company's leadership team hasn’t been disappointed so far.

"We're happy with the talent and we're happy with the number of people we have there," Navta says.

Source: Jodi Navta, vice president of marketing & communications for Coyote Logistics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Software firm Deque doubles staff in Ann Arbor

Deque's presence in Ann Arbor has been growing both organically and rapidly in the last year. The software firm has doubled its local staff, hiring 13 people. It now has 25 of its 80 employees based in Ann Arbor, which is up from six two years ago.

"People love Michigan," says Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque. "They keep wanting to relocate there."

Deque's software makes websites more accessible to people with disabilities. The idea is to tap into larger markets by making a digital process accessible to everyone. For instance, Deque's products and services make it easier for blind people to access popular websites. Check out more of Deque's accessibility success stories here.

The 15-year-old company has experienced a significant spike in the demand for its services over the last year. It was able to attract a dozen new customers in 2013. As of July, it has landed 21 new customers for this year. Among those new customers, many of them are in the financial services, e-commerce, education technology, and aviation sectors.

"Airlines are definitely warming up to it," Kumar says.

Which has led to a spike in growth in the Ann Arbor office. The Virginia-based company has had a presence in Ann Arbor for years. It’s CTO lives in Ann Arbor. Today it has 25 people in the office and Kumar expects that number to keep growing at an aggressive pace.

"We continue to add good people to the team," Kumar says. "Right now our biggest bottleneck is us. The pipeline is healthier than ever."

Source: Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Whole Brain Group moves to bigger office in Ann Arbor

The Whole Brain Group found a new home in Ann Arbor this summer.

The digital marketing firm moved from Tree Town's downtown to a new office near Briarwood Mall in May. The new space measures out to just under 5,000 square feet, which is double the size of its previous office.

"We were sitting on top of each other," says Marisa Smith, head brainiac at the The Whole Brain Group. "People were doing desk sharing or working from home. Our creative director was moving here from California so we needed a place to put everyone."

The 12-year-old company started off building websites and evolved into a full-service digital marketing firm. Among its offerings are consulting on inbound marketing and sales lead generation. Many of its new customers are gazelle firms that are growing fast. Smith has noticed they are looking for a more comprehensive help when they contract with The Whole Brain Group.

"I saw that these business owners not only needed marketing advice but business advice," Smith says. "We wanted to offer both things so we could be a one-stop shop."

And it's worked out for The Whole Brain Group so far. It's revenue is up 40 percent, allowing it to cross the $1 million threshold over the last year. It has also hired four people, expanding its staff to 13 employees.

Source: Marisa Smith, head brainiac at the The Whole Brain Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Mountain Labs streamlines medical research with software

Alex VanDerKolk is a graduate of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business but also a fan of medical research. The recent recipient of a BBA is leveraging both passions to launch his own startup, Mountain Labs.

"I have always been interested in the medical field," VanDerKolk says.

The Ann Arbor-based company is developing data collection software, called Symport, for medical research. The idea is to create a platform that is simple to use, HIPAA complaint, and smart enough to streamline what can often be the archaic world of the healthcare research.

VanDerKolk has firsthand experience of how archaic that healthcare research can become. The 20-something worked as a data analyst for the University of Michigan Health System for a few years before he graduated late last year. He was appalled at the 20 Century-style tools university researchers were using to conduct 21st Century research on multi-million-dollar projects for a multi-billion dollar research institution.

"It was just a very inefficient process," VanDerKolk says. "We saw a lot of very smart people spending a lot of their time doing very mundane managerial tasks."

That inspired him to launch Mountain Labs last April. He raised $200,000 in seed capital and put together a seven-person team to build the software platform (with the help of Atomic Object’s Ann Arbor office) this summer. The technology is now in private Beta being tested with a few different research teams at U-M.

"Now we're starting to add software developers and bring our developers back in house," VanDerKolk says.

Mountain Labs is aiming to conduct a true pilot phase with a University of Michigan research department this fall. It is also looking to raise a $750,000 Series A by January so it can start looking at doing pilots outside of U-M.

Source: Alex VanDerKolk, president of Mountain Labs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ilium Software grows with work on eWallet platform

Ilium Software's eWallet platform is driving growth for the Ann Arbor-based firm.

The technology stores and categorizes all of the various passwords for its user, enabling them to access their private information, financial instruments, and other important online functions. The software can be used from a desktop computer to a mobile device.

Sales of the eWallet platform have risen smartly over the last year with the Windows 8 version (a full-screen app) leading the way. Ilium Software has in turn spend most of its time improving eWallet, releasing a new iOS version and upgrading its security features. It's also looking at accessing Apple’s fingerprint technology for mobile device and Apple Pay.

"It's our product that has gone back to the beginning of the company in 1997," says Ken Morse, managing partner of Ilium Software.

Ilium Software has been making mobile apps before most people had even heard of the word, designing apps for PDAs and other forms of technology in the late 1990s. The firm's team of half a dozen employees (it hired someone about a year ago) and a handful of independent contractors are focused on making its software platforms like eWallet ready for the next big thing in software.

"We're in the process of seeing what we can do with this latest iOS version," Morse says.

Source: Ken Morse, managing partner of Ilium Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HookLogic looking to hire 25 in downtown Ann Arbor

Walk into the Ann Arbor office of HookLogic and chances are you'll see a lot of people. Walk in there a short time later and chances are you will see even more people.

The tech firm has been steadily hiring since it moved into the old Leopold Brothers Brewery on South Main Street two years ago. The company currently has 55 of its 125 employees in Ann Arbor. It also hosted another 10 summer interns earlier this year. Those numbers are expected to grow over the next year.

"We're in the middle of hiring," says Jonathan Opdyke, CEO of HookLogic. "We're adding about 35 people worldwide."

Most of those new hires are destined for Ann Arbor. The company has hired 10 people (mostly software professionals) over the last year and it looking to hire another 25 in Ann Arbor right now. When those positions are full the company will have filled out a majority of its space in the Ann Arbor office, but still have a significant amount of room to grow into.

"Ann Arbor continues to be our primary technology product office," Opdyke says. "It has just grown since we opened it."
 
HookLogic specializes in paid product listings on commerce sites. It partners with large retailers, online travel agencies, and automotive companies to give marketers direct access to bottom-of-funnel shoppers, as well as a clear view into resulting sales attribution. It works with a number of big companies, including Expedia and Target, along with a number of automotive companies. Opdyke sums up his company’s goal for future growth in one word.

"Bigger," Opdyke says. "We're doing a lot to grow our relationships. We work with a lot of auto manufacturers like Chrysler. We want to grow those relationships."

Source: Jonathan Opdyke, CEO of HookLogic
Writer Jon Zemke

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

Atomic Object doubles staff at downtown Ann Arbor office

A year ago, Atomic Object set up shop in downtown Ann Arbor with plans for some significant growth after acquiring a staple of the local software scene -  SRT Solutions. Today, the Grand Rapids-based software firm has followed through on those ambitions.

"We have doubled in size," says Darrell Hawley, co-managing partner-Ann Arbor of Atomic Object. "All of our designers and developers are really business. We're to the point now that we have to turn work down."

When Atomic Object acquired SRT Solutions it kept its staff based in downtown Ann Arbor. Since then Atomic Object has hired five people (one designer and four software developers), expanding its Ann Arbor staff to nine employees and one summer intern. It is also looking to hire one design and one software developer right now.

Atomic Object has found it easy to grow in Ann Arbor because of the concentration of software work in the area and the firm’s efforts to market its services.

"There is just an awful lot of software development going on in Ann Arbor right now," says Ann Marsan, co-managing partner-Ann Arbor of Atomic Object.

Source: Ann Marsan and Darrell Hawley, co-managing partners-Ann Arbor of Atomic Object
Writer Jon Zemke

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

EXO Dynamics gears up to test back-brace prototypes

EXO Dynamics is in the process of finishing the first commercially viable prototypes of its mechatronic back brace and begin testing on its first subjects this fall.

The Ann Arbor-based startup, it calls the Venture Accelerator in the University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex, received a $50,000 state grant to create four commercially viably prototypes. EXO Dynamics is at the end of that process.

"We will have that finished by next month," says Mushir Khwaja, chief commercial officers of EXO Dynamics. "We will do the final assembly here to put some finishing touches on it."

EXO Dynamics and its team of four employees and one summer intern is developing an electro-mechanical back brace for medical professionals. The brace will be able to be worn by physicians under their lead vests in operating rooms.

"We will field test them with physicians in the fall," Khwaja says.

EXO Dynamics has received a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, which means the startup expects to receive its patent for the back brace later this fall. The company also recently took second in the New Business Idea category of the Great Lakes Entrepreneur Quest business plan competition.

Khwaja plans to begin fundraising a seed capital round for EXO Dynamics later this year while field testing is going on. The company hopes to raise about $1 million in seed capital to commercialize its technology.

Source: Mushir Khwaja, chief commercial officers of EXO Dynamics
Writer Jon Zemke

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

Go Docs Go set to move to Chelsea to accommodate more staff

Go Docs Go is set to move to downtown Chelsea this fall in order to allow the growing home healthcare company room to accommodate its staff.

The Ann Arbor-based company plans to move to the historic Chelsea Clock Tower next month. The new office will triple the space available to the 2-year-old company, giving it room for its roster of ever-growing employees in a dynamic environment.

"It's a wonderful building with some great character and history," says Kylyn Mead, practice manager of Go Docs Go.

Go Docs Go streamlines the treatment process for people with chronic conditions. It focuses on providing home checkups by nurses and physicians to make sure small colds don't turn into pneumonia. The service helps reduce healthcare costs with its proactive approach that minimizes the time patients spend in a healthcare facility.

Go Docs Go has hired a dozen people over the last year, expanding its staff to 20 people. It is also looking to hire another five people. Those positions are primarily made up of physicians, nurses and clinical assistants. Part of the recipe for that growth is Go Docs Go’s new office in Indianapolis. The firm opened it last fall as the company expands it reach across the Midwest.

"It's a great market," Mead says. "We love doing patient care in the Midwest. We saw a need and decided to open an office there."

Go Docs Go has doubled its revenue over the last year as the demand for home healthcare spikes while the U.S. population gets older. That trend has made Mead optimistic about her firm's near-term growth prospects.

"We're on track to do that again," Mead says.

Source: Kylyn Mead, practice manager of Go Docs Go
Writer Jon Zemke

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

Hoola expands sales team across Midwest, staff in Chelsea

Hoola Jewelry's business model has passed the phase of gaining traction in the market and is now well on its way to picking up speed.

The Chelsea-based jewelry company relaunched itself a year ago, hiring sales reps across the Midwest. That is a far cry from the company’s roots of one woman peddling jewelry. Today, founder Laurie Gravelyn employs six people at its headquarters and 60 sales reps across the Midwest. And its looking to hire more people now.

"Our infrastructure is set up for growth," says Gravelyn. "That's why we need more reps."

Most of its 10 job openings are for sales reps but the firm is also looking for a regional sales director. That position is aimed at better organizing the growing company’s sales staff and adding more people to it.

Hoola Jewelry makes small, customizable kits of jewelry. For instance, users can add gemstones or precious metals to the hoop of an earring. The firm's sales reps are working to sell the kits at their own private parties. Company sales are up 185 percent over the same three-month period a year ago. Gravelyn expects sales to spike again as it adds more options to its kits, including gold options to the primarily silver-based line.

"It's a classic contemporary look that will that will add a lot to our line," Gravelyn says.

Source: Laurie Gravelyn, founder of Hoola Jewelry
Writer Jon Zemke

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

Relium relishes opportunity to stay boutique in software scene

Not every new economy entrepreneur has the desire to build the next software giant. Some, like Eric Shapiro, just want to keep programing cool technology.

The president of Relium has been writing code since the 1980s and launched the Ann Arbor-based software firm in 1987. For most of its life the company has just been Shapiro and an independent contractor or two. In the last few years he added a handful of employees but doesn’t see his company’s staff getting bigger than that.

"I'm a tech guy," Shapiro says. "I'm a programmer. When we scale up to five or so (employees) I become a manager instead of a programmer. I don't like that as much."

So Relium's staff stays at a handful of people. Last year it was five employees. Today it’s three. Maybe next year it will be four. Maybe. Whatever the number Shapirio's team is focused on keeping the company’s current client list happy and its custom software projects done on time.

"I'm vary wary of becoming the pointy-haired boss making technical decision that I don't understand well," Shapiro says. "I would miss being the guys who understands it all."

That means keeping up with the technology curve, which is practically a full-time job itself. But it's what Shapiro and his team like doing. They are currently working on the latest iteration of Weather Underground’s mobile app. To them that is more fun working on something a lot of people will see compared to making something from scratch that will have to fight with a lot of competition for visibility.

"It's just fun that everyone can use our app because it's a free app," Shapiro says.

Source: Eric Shapiro, president of Relium
Writer Jon Zemke

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

Rubicon Genomics hires 6, moves to bigger Ann Arbor space

Rubicon Genomics was hiring people left and right until it literally ran out of space to put the new employees earlier this year. That’s changing now that the life sciences firm moved last June.

"At that point we were in a hiring freeze because we didn't have the room," says Christine Haakenson, COO of Rubicon Genomics. "Now that we have a new facility we can hire again."

Rubicon Genomics moved to a 19,000-square-foot space on Venture Dr, which is nearly double the size of its previous home. That is more than enough space for its 26 employees and two interns. The company has hired six people over the last year and is in the process of hiring two more right now. Two more job openings are set to come up within the next few weeks. Haakenson expects the company to make 15 more hires by the end of the next year.

The 14-year-old company makes genomic library preparation kits for research and clinical applications. Its patented technology specializes in sample-specific nucleic acid library preparation products used in research and clinical testing. The firm got its start when a pair of University of Michigan professors found a way to bring human genetics laboratory knowledge to everyday medical applications. These molecular biology tools help facilitate gene-based research, drug development and diagnostics.

Sales of Rubicon Genomics's products are up 40 percent over the last year. The firm's sales have spiked in China and Europe, prompting it to make plans to expand into India, Mexico and Brazil.

"The whole market is growing and sales of our technology are growing," Haakenson says. "We are launching new products in the field."

Source: Christine Haakenson, COO of Rubicon Genomics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Everist Health manufactures in Michigan, organizing clinical trial

Everist Health, formerly Everist Genomics, is starting to hit its stride in sales of its cardiac-testing technology.

The Ann Arbor-based firm makes AngioDefender, which helps doctors measure the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. To put it simply, AngioDefender gives people medical information about their heart in an easy-to-understand way without the technical jargon. It will tell the user how old the heart is compared to its actual age. Check out a video on it here.

"You may be 45 but your heart age might be 55," says Randal Charlton, director of Everist Health.

Everist Health has hired six people around the world over the last year, bringing its staff to 12 full-time employees, 20 consultants, and the occasional intern. It is selling AngioDefender in India and is getting ready to penetrate the markets in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Canada.

"We are now in go-to market mode," Charlton says.

Everist Health is also working to get the green light in the U.S. from the FDA. It is in the midst of organizing a clinical trial and hopes to get approval from the FDA by next year.

"We expect to start it very soon," Charlton says. "Certainly before the end of the year."

Everist Health's original plan was to use contract manufacturers in India to produce AngioDefender. It has since changed its course and is now using a Michigan-based manufacturer it found with the help of MichBio.

"As we ramp up we will be creating more work for not only us but other Michigan companies," Charlton says.

Source: Randal Charlton, director of Everist Health
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Accio Energy preps for demo alternative energy project, fundraising

Accio Energy has gone about as far as it can go in the lab, prompting the alternative energy startup to begin making plans to build out a demonstration project and raise a multi-million-dollar seed round to make it happen.

Accio Energy's name was inspired by a spell in the Harry Potter books. The 6-year-old firm's aerovoltaic technology harnesses the electrokinetic energy of the wind. No turbine blades. No moving parts. Think of it as harvesting static electricity from the atmosphere.

"We've taken the concept and proven it in a lab," says Jen Baird, CEO of Accio Energy. "We're now at a level where the lab results show we have a very cost-effective product."

She says Accio Energy's technology is cost-competitive with off-shore wind turbines. The competitive advantage is that its technology can be floated out beyond the sight of people on the shore. Because it can be used like a buoy it doesn't need to be built into the ocean floor and can generate electricity without disturbing people.

Accio Energy is making plans to build a demonstration project for its technology early next year, possibly on the Gulf of Mexico. In the meantime it's getting ready to raise a $5 million seed round to fund that work. That can be a bit of a challenge for a startup that is both pre-revenue and pushing disruptive technology.

"We're wind energy with no turbines," Baird says. "That is hard for people to wrap their heads around."

Accio Energy is in the midst of hiring two people (a modeler and engineer) right now. The company currently has nine employees and the occasional intern. Baird expects that number to spike after Accio Energy closes on its latest seed round later this year.

"That will cause us to expand the team substantially," Baird says.

Accio Energy has raised $6 million since its launch. Baird points out that it has developed a new technology that has been issued six patents. She adds bringing new alternative energy technology to market can often cost nine figures.

"When you think how much we have done on $10 million to $11 million, it's amazing," Baird says.

Source: Jen Baird, CEO of Accio Energy
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
1756 Articles | Page: | Show All
Share this page
0
Email
Print
Signup for Email Alerts