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DeNovo Sciences raises $1.75M, aims for $6M Series A next year

DeNovo Sciences continues to hit its milestones again and again, raising seven figures worth of seed capital, growing its team, and pushing forward the development of its cancer warning system.

The Michigan Life Sciences and Innovation Center-based start-up has raised in excess of $1 million since winning the $500,000 first place prize at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last year.

"I was looking for $1 million," says Kalyan Handique, CEO of DeNovo Sciences. "I was happy to get $1.75 million from a network of angel investors and the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund and some grants."

DeNovo Sciences is developing a platform for early detection of cancer from blood as an alternative to painful biopsies. It got its start in Ypsilanti and has since moved to the Ann Arbor SPARK managed Michigan Life Sciences and Innovation Center in Plymouth. There it has grown to four full-time employees and eight part-time consultants. It is in the process of hiring a researcher now.

The company is also hitting some of its development milestones, successfully using its technology to capture cancer cells in the blood. Handique expects to begin commercializing the product next year and have the full product platform available by 2014. His team is also gearing up to raise $6 million in a Series A round next year and land some corporate partnerships.

"We're beginning to speak to corporate partners who would benefit from our technology," Handique says.

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

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

LookInTheAttic expands into new facility, plans to hire 8

LookInTheAttic is expanding its business into a new facility in Romulus and redeveloping its downtown Ypsilanti base into a design center for its growing business.

The 15-year-old company specializes in selling antique reproduction hardware and housewares. It also owns and operates Silver & Gold, an online jewelry store. It sells all of its products both at its downtown Ypsilanti storefront and online.

"Both of them are expanding," says John Coleman, CEO of LookInTheAttic. "I am amazed at how fast both are expanding."

This has allowed LookInTheAttic to hire four people over the last year, expanding its staff to 14 people and the occasional intern. It is also in the process of hiring eight new sales people.

The growth has also prompted the company to expand to a new 13,000-square-foot warehouse facility in Romulus. The downtown Ypsilanti space is being renovated into a design center for its home products.

"Basically, we're out of space," Coleman says. "We couldn't have any more products and we're trying to do develop a complete line of home solutions."

Source: John Coleman, CEO of LookInTheAttic
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Merit Network picks EMU for 1st Michigan Cyber Range

Merit Network has chosen Eastern Michigan University as its first site for its Michigan Cyber Range, a training platform that will help IT professionals find a cyber attack and nip it in the bud.

The Michigan Cyber Range will help prepare cybersecurity professionals for detecting, preventing, and thwarting cyber-attacks in a real-world setting. It will enable individuals and organizations to conduct live-fire exercises and simulations that will test the detection and reaction skills of participants in a variety of situations.

"Cyber security involves outthinking your adversary as a team," says Don Welch, president & CEO of Merit Network. "That range is there to help us outthink out adversaries as a team."

The Ann Arbor-based non-profit is collaborating with Eastern Michigan University to establish the initial site for the Michigan Cyber Range. Racks of equipment, located in the University's data center, will provide the computing power to the Range's cybersecurity educational, training, and testing programs. It will use EMU's Information Assurance program as well as state and regional cybersecurity courses taught by Merit.

Merit Network is currently fundraising for the effort. It is looking to raise $3 million by later this fall to make the Michigan Cyber Range come to life.

"We have some of the funding in and we're starting to build it," Welch says. "We're starting to hire people right now."

Source: Don Welch, president & CEO of Merit Network
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Meritful aims to help make student online presence presentable

Azarias Reda decided to combine two key aspects of his adult life when creating his new start-up, Meritful.

The PhD candidate in computer science at the University of Michigan once worked at LinkedIn and has spent a fair amount of his time in Ann Arbor teaching at local high schools. While teaching he noticed every one of his students produced some sort of online content, usually through social media outlets.

So last spring he began building a start-up that helped students in high school and college create a professional online presence that would make potential employers happy and their parents smile.

"We want to help high school students present themselves better on the web," Reda says. "That's our underlying goal."

The Ypsilanti-based start-up plans to conduct a private launch in mid August at a U-M summer camp and fully open up the site in the fall. Reda and his team of four people plan to focus on students in Michigan in the first year and then move onto a national presence in year two.

"We want Meritful to become the de facto location if you want to learn the merit of high school students," Reda says.

Source: Azarias Reda, founder of Meritful
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor biz pros promote entrepreneurship in Detroit

More and more business professionals from the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area are staking a claim in Detroit by working with programs that are helping spread entrepreneurship and technology across the Motor City.

The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (which is run by Eastern Michigan University Business Prof Richard King) is launching its new statewide New Venture program from Detroit. New Venture aims to help aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs establish their business through a 10-week course, which teaches the basics about opening a business, how to make sure the venture is viable and consulting with the entrepreneurs after they are up and running. It has already graduated its first two entrepreneurs.

"It's going to be offered in a number of locations," says Wendy Thomas, associate regional director for the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center.

Dave Koziol, founder of the downtown Ann Arbor-based mobile app firm Arbormoon Software, is the co-founder of Develop Detroit. The new initiative looks to help expand the mobile app workforce in the Motor City through a 12-week course that teaches the participants how to build their own mobile app. Develop Detroit is modeled after a similar program in Chicago called Code Academy.

Bruce McCully, CEO of Dynamic Edge, has been growing a technology club in the Detroit Institute of Technology. The institute is one of four schools from Detroit Public School's inside the former Cody High School on the city's west side. The Ann Arbor-based tech start-up's employees teach the students how to use cutting edge technology and how to make it work for them, such as applying for job or colleges.

Source: Wendy Thomas, associate regional director for the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arbor Brewing Co adds 7 to staff as it plans further expansions

Arbor Brewing Co is wrapping up one expansion project, has one in a holding pattern, and is keeping its eye on another.

The microbrewery is in the final stages of various green renovation projects to its downtown Ann Arbor-based brewpub (Arbor Brewing Co) and its Ypsilanti-based production facility (Corner Brewery), which include high-end sustainability upgrades, like solar panels. There are also plans to open a third brewpub in downtown Fenton, while continuing a franchise expansion in India.

All of this growth has added up to seven new jobs at Arbor Brewing Co, growing the entire operation's staff to 75 employees and three interns. The 17-year-old craft brewery's co-founders expect to hire another couple dozen more when their expansion plans come to fruition over the next year or two.

"We are anticipating a good year," says Rene Greff, who co-founded Arbor Brewing Co and Corner Brewery with her husband Matt Greff. "It really feels like we're pulling out of the recession."

Rene Greff adds the Fenton project "is a crazy opportunity" that wasn't on their radar until recently. She believes the Fenton brewpub will be online within the next year. At the same time the India franchise is in "a holding pattern" because of the country's complex bureaucracy and the uniqueness of the venture.

"It's a bureaucratically challenging place in the first place," Rene Greff says. "This is the first wave of brewpubs so no one there knows how to deal with this." She adds she is still hopeful the India brewpub will be able to launch later this year.

Source: Rene Greff, co-founder of Arbor Brewing Co and Corner Brewery
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Students from U-M and EMU team up on Warmilu start-up

Students from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University are working together on a start-up that is creating a non-electric thermal warming blanket for premature babies in developing countries called Warmilu.

The baby blanket under development at Warmilu, formerly MWrap, can help such babies retain or increase their body heat in order to improve their survival rate. The company quotes estimates that approximately 140 low-birth-weight infants from around the world die every hour from hypothermia-related causes. The blanket helps bridge the gap between the hospital and home-care in places where people live with few resources.

U-M students came up with the ideas and soon went to EMU's Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising program where EMU Prof Cathryn Amidei paired the U-M students with EMU students to create the prototype of the blanket.

"We took their ideas and made them what they wanted into an actual product," says Ana Maria Barge, an EMU student and prototype designer for Warmilu.

The half a dozen people working on Warmilu recently received a $5,750 from the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge to develop the idea. The Ann Arbor-based TechArb accelerator, which helps students with entrepreneurial ventures, provided office space, mentors and a $10,000 grant.

Source: Ana Maria Barge, prototype designer for Warmilu and Cathryn Amidei, professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising at Eastern Michigan University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Logic Solutions hires 20, acquires Quantum Compliance

Logic Solutions has acquired Quantum Compliance Systems, capping off a year of growth that has included 20 new hires for the software firm.

Based in Ann Arbor, Logic Solutions specializes in custom strategy and development of mobile and web applications. Quantum Compliance Systems, which calls Ypsilanti home, develops software that embeds sustainable environmental, health and safety practices into a company's daily operations. The two software companies have been partnering on projects for several years before this acquisition.

"Quantum offered a software product that was exceptional but needed some updating," says Angela Kujava, director of marketing for Logic Solutions. "They wanted a new web portal and a mobile app. We have worked with them for years before so it just made sense."

Logic Solutions employs 200 people around the world, including 40 at its Ann Arbor headquarters and another 10 across the U.S. It has brought on 20 new people to its team over the last year, including the five people at Quantum Compliance Systems who will be folded into the Ann Arbor office.

"We're hiring people almost every month," Kujava says. "The hiring we're doing in the U.S. is for leadership positions."

Source: Angela Kujava, director of marketing for Logic Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Tree Fort Bikes continues expansion in Ypsilanti

Tree Fort Bikes isn't just the little dream of a couple of guys who wanted to own a bike shop. The Ypsilanti-based business is growing into a sizable online retailer of bicycles, aggressively adding people and building out the company infrastructure.

"Over the past year there have been a lot of changes," says Dante Tucker, HR & logistics manager for Tree Fort Bikes. "Our shipping method has changed. We have developed a new training program."

That has allowed Tree Fort Bikes to almost double in size over the last year. And that's after it doubled in size the year before. Over the last 12 months, the company has hired nine people, expanding its staff to 17.

Driving all of this growth is the online sales of its bicycles. That has pushed not only its web sales numbers but also traffic through its retail store. The company is now looking at a new home to accommodate its expanding customer base while still maintaining its core mission of being a community bike ship.

"We're trying to be the bike shop that people can go to have their needs provided for," Tucker says.

Source: Dante Tucker, HR & logistics manager for Tree Fort Bikes
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

EMU prof licenses sustainable coating tech to Michigan firm

An Eastern Michigan University professor has developed a sustainable coating technology that can be applied to materials in various industries, such as automotive and construction.

Vijay Mannari, associate professor of polymers & coatings at EMU, and a group of researchers at EMU's Coatings Research Institute have developed sustainable polymers and coatings that use renewable, non-toxic sources. These coatings (think rust inhibitors) can be used industrial products within the automobile, aerospace, transportation, packaging and building industries.

"It's a huge market," Mannari says. "Anybody who uses structural aluminum uses these coatings."

The prize product, currently being licensed out to a Michigan-based company, is a chromate-free, anti-corrosive coating for metals that inhibits rust. Traditional coatings are based on hexavalent chromium, a proven carcinogen. Mannari's coating "doesn't have any harmful heavy metals, including chromium," he says.

Mannari and his team have received two grants worth $125,000 from the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to fund the commercialization of these coatings. The EMU research group is also partnering to develop these green coatings with Plascore, a Zeeland-based company known as a global manufacturer of honeycomb core and composite structures used in aerospace, marine, military, safety and transportation industries. It utilizes coatings on many of its products.

Source: Vijay Mannari, associate professor of polymers & coatings at Eastern Michigan University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

SchoolPictures.com adds 4 as it becomes National School Services

What was once SchoolPictures.com is now National School Services, a new name that better embodies the growing breadth of services offered from the Ypsilanti-based business.

The 6-year-old company got its start providing portraits of students, using a formula that allowed the school to create a new revenue while providing student photos. So far that formula has provided $3.5 million in new revenue for schools across the U.S. in the company's lifetime.

SchoolPictures.com
still exists as an arm of the newly rebranded National School Services. The company has expanded its offerings to include things like diplomas and class rings. "We're doing some different things, but all of our customers know what we do," says Skip Cerier, CEO of National School Services.

That has also allowed the firm to expand to 41 people and a couple of interns after hiring four people in the last year. This new hiring is being propelled by double-digit revenue growth, including 20 percent growth over the last two years.

"It [growth] has been pretty steady," Cerier says.

Source: Skip Cerier, CEO of National School Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

VGKids hires, executes on plans to stay in Ypsilanti no matter what

VGKids is an Ypsilanti company, and it's going to stay an Ypsilanti company. So sayeth its founder, James Marks, who means it enough to move out of state but keep his company in the city he has called home for more than a decade.

Marks and his wife (an Ypsilanti native) recently moved to Berkley, California, for a change of pace in life. They decided to keep VGKids in Ypsilanti with a local management team running the company's day-to-day operations. "VGKids will stay in Ypsilanti," Marks says. "There is no danger of it moving to California."

Which is a good thing because the 12-year-old company continues to grow. The firm recently hired one person, expanding its staff to 14 people. Marks expects his company to hire at least one more person this year. "We will keep growing slowly, and steadily," Marks says.

VGKids is a printing company specializing in things like t-shirts and cards. It has watched sales go up by 25 percent over the last year. It recently started a merchandising arm called Whiplash, which has grown so fast that it is looking to set up its own space in Ann Arbor soon.

"We're growing bigger," Marks says. "We're running out of physical space."

Source: James Marks, founder & creative director of VGKids
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

EMU licenses out wireless prosthetic tech to College Park Industries

Not all bio-technology advances in Michigan originate at the University of Michigan. One Eastern Michigan University professor has licensed his wireless sensor technology to a Frasher-based company.

The technology is called iPecs (Intelligent Prosthetic Endo-Skeletal Component) and is a wireless device that measures stress on artificial limbs. The sensor measures a patient's gait to determine what is happening to them and their prosthetic device while walking.

"We're always trying to measure things that are going on," says Frank Joseph Fedel, assistant professor of orthotics and prosthetics at Eastern Michigan University and one of the co-invetors of iPecs. "What is happening to this person while they're walking?"

Fedel licensed the technology to College Park Industries, which has been designing and manufacturing prosthetic feet for the worldwide market since 1988. Fedel has created his own start-ups before and dedicated more than a year of his life solely to getting them off the ground. He knew this would be more complicated and decided licensing it out made more sense than trying to go it alone.

"Our feet are complicated," Fedel says. "If you're going to make something that replicates it it's going to be complicated."

Source: Frank Joseph Fedel, assistant professor of orthotics and prosthetics at Eastern Michigan University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Beal, Inc. launches CityFARM to focus on urban agriculture

CityFARM, the latest start-up launched from Beal Inc., has a dual purpose: create more urban gardens and help alleviate hunger in Metro Detroit.

The Ann Arbor-based social entrepreneurial venture specializes in designing, building and maintaining urban gardens. The start-up has a couple of projects in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area and is aiming to have 25 under its belt by the end of the year.

"Organic urban gardening can make a real difference in communities, both in the environment and job development," says Lauren Maloney, farming genius & business manager for CityFARM.

CityFARM's first project is the Adams Street Farm, a demonstration garden in downtown Ypsilanti. CityFARM will install a new garden bed at the Adams Street Farm for every new client it adds this year. The garden will feature 2,000 square feet of growing space, which could allow for up to 6,000 pounds of food production.

"All of the food produced there will be donated to Food Gatherers," Maloney says.

CityFARM is a wholly owned subsidiary of Beal Inc and employs three people. Maloney is about to graduate from the University of Michigan this spring with a masters degree in conservation biology. CityFARM is offering urban farming internships for this spring and summer. For information, contact Maloney at lmaloney@WeAreCityFARM.com.

Source: Lauren Maloney, farming genius & business manager for CityFARM
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ypsilanti's ISSYS lands $1.5M NIH grant for pre-clinical studies

Integrated Sensing Systems has scored a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Health to help the company finish the pre-clinical work on its new technology, which wirelessly monitors the heart.

"It's the last stage of a very long process before you get to human trials," says Nader Najafi, president & CEO of Integrated Sensing Systems.

The Ypsilanti-based firm, commonly known as ISSYS, designs and develops microelectromechanical systems for medical and scientific sensing applications. Its latest piece of technology is an implant for the heart that allows medical professionals to wirelessly monitor the heart.

"So you can monitor the heart on demand even with home monitoring," Najafi says.

ISSYS, founded in 1995, has been working on this technology for 12 years. It has a staff of 30 and plans to add another 2-3 jobs this year. It will continue clinical trials of the technology for the next two years. After that, Najafi hopes to begin work on human trials, while also receiving FDA approval so it can begin sales.

Source: Nader Najafi, president & CEO of Integrated Sensing Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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