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Saline's Eco-Fueling hires 4, wins $25K at Accelerate Michigan

Eco-Fueling is racking up some smaller seed-capital checks but expects to land a large seed-capital round worth as much as $3 million next year.

"We have a few deals that are in the works that look promising," says Paul Chandler, CEO of Eco-Fueling.

The Saline-based start-up is developing combustion-optimization technology that will improve fuel consumption and emissions for diesel engines. It recently won the Advanced Transportation award at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last month. That was worth $25,000, which comes on top of a $25,000 microloan from the Michigan Microloan Fund and a $50,000 research grant from the state of Michigan.

"This gives us a little bit of a boost," Chandler says.

The company is using that money along with sales revenue and self-funding from Chandler to continue development of the technology. The plan is to use a seed-capital round of fundraising to accelerate the commercialization of the technology.

Eco-Fueling has hired four people over the last year, expanding its staff to five people. Chandler hopes to continue growth his team next year as it works to do a demonstration of the technology in vehicles.

Source: Paul Chandler, CEO of Eco-Fueling
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor start-ups score big at Accelerate Michigan

Start-ups from Ann Arbor and those with close ties to the college town did quite well at this year's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

The top three finishers in this year's business plan competition all hailed from cities outside of Washtenaw County but they all have roots in the Ann Arbor area. Algal Scientific and nanoMAG (the first and second place finishers) both got their start in Ann Arbor before moving to Plymouth and Livonia, respectively. They both still work extensively with Ann Arbor SPARK. East Lansing-based InPore Technologies (the third place finisher) is headed up by Gerry Roston, a serial entrepreneur that calls Saline home.

Steve LeBeau, president of nanoMAG, praised the folks at Ann Arbor SPARK and at Accelerate Michigan with preparing his start bio-tech firm to do so well at the competition and be ready to raise a significant amount of revenue. He expects his start-up will be able to leverage its $100,000 cash prize from Accelerate Michigan into a seven-figure angel round.

"In the middle of this (competition) you're a venture capital fund saying, 'Send me a packet about what's going on,'" LeBeau says. "And you have a 12-page packet (prepared and peer-reviewed as part of the competition) to send them."

Other top placers at the Accelerate Michigan calling Washtenaw County home include:

- Eco-Fueling, the Saline-based business won the advanced transportation prize worth $25,000 for its fuel-efficiency technology built for diesel engines.
- Ornicept, the Ann Arbor-based start-up won the alternative energy prize worth $25,000 for its technology that monitors bird activity so wind turbine developers can make informed decisions.
- Protean Payment, the Tech Brewery-based company won the products and services award worth $25,000 for its software that can combine every creditcard in a consumer's wallet into one card.

Source: Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and Steve LeBeau, president of nanoMAG
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IT staffing firm Imetris hires 33 people in Saline

Imetris has watched its revenue increase by roughly a third in each of the last four years, allowing the Saline-based company to grow from a staff of 25 to 100.

The IT staffing-firm has hired 33 people over the last year to accomodate its success, including eight people since January. Most of its growth is coming from the software and IT sectors, industries in need of new talent.

"It's all organic growth," says Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris. "We haven't done anything special besides focus on our business and do the right thing."

The 12-year-old firm recently moved from Ann Arbor to Saline while maintaining its head of steam, providing tech firms staffing services in North America, Europe and Asia. Acharya expects that to continue as the company sticks to its knitting and plans for another year of 30-35 percent growth.

"We are very much focused on growth right now," Acharya says.

Source: Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Saline-based DesignHub expands client list

DesignHub is growing in Saline, thanks to work from both new clients and past clients who have risen from the recession.

The 13-year-old design firm has watched business steadily grow since the recession's peak two years ago. It's revenues are up about 20 percent, allowing the company to give its five-person team a full plate and even more work for local freelance creatives. "We have been pretty consistently growing our revenue," says Chris Kochmanski, a partner with DesignHub.

Driving this growth is new work from new clients, such as Corner Health Center in downtown Ypsilanti. DesignHub is working on revamping the business' website and logo. DesignHub has also watched a number of clients that went dormant during the recession come back with new work. It is working on a direct mailing campaign for the Daycroft Montessori School and has launched a new website for the Center for Automotive Research, both in Ann Arbor.

"We're hoping the increase in business sustains itself and grows further," Kochmanski says.

He adds that the three partners behind DesignHub are most comfortable with the company as a boutique digital design business with a small staff tackling interesting projects. "We would like to grow steadily and add people slowly," Kochmanski says.

Source: Chris Kochmanski, partner with DesignHub
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PR firm Knight Writers grows in Saline

Years ago people used to tell Sherry Knight she should run her own consulting business, helping executives and leaders find their voice in the written word. That was 16 years ago, about the same time Knight decided to take a buy out from her job as head of communications at Ameritech and open Knight Writers.

The Saline-based business now employs three people and a few independent contractors after hiring another over the last year. Knight's team focuses on helping leaders improve their communication skills to become better leaders.

"Much of what I do is help leaders take what is in their head and their hearts and open that up," Knight says. "Great leaders are great communicators and we help them be that."

Knight has been helping a lot of people. She says Knight Writers hasn't has a down year in any of its 16 years, recession or no recession. The last two years have been especially kind, proving to be record years for growth. So much so that Knight has become quite selective in who she takes on as a client, sometimes turning away good work.

"At this point I am receiving one call per week from new clients," Knight says. "I am having to tell people I am booked because there is so much work."

Source: Sherry Knight, president of Knight Writers
Writer: Jon Zemke  

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

Saline's Eco-Fueling uses microloan to test fuel-efficiency prototype

Eco-Fueling recently received a microloan from the Michigan Microloan Fund. But instead of using that money to develop its product, it used the funds to further develop it.

The Saline-based start-up is commercializing a retrofit device for diesel engine vehicles that increases fuel economy while reducing emissions using an ethanol additive. The bottom-line is better fuel economy. The microloan paid for independent testing of the product, further proving its performance.

"We have independent results that show 10-12 percent better fuel economy," says Paul Chandler, CEO of Eco-Fueling. He adds that the independent testing has helped his company "enormously" when it comes cultivating a customer base.

Eco-Fueling and its team of three employees and stable of independent contractors are still in the pre-production phase of developing a prototype for their technology. The company recently added a couple of people to its team thanks to the microloan and hopes to begin selling its technology within the year.

"We will grow exponentially when we get to the need for manufacturing and installation," Chandler says.

Source: Paul Chandler, CEO of Eco-Fueling
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor start-ups dominate Accelerate Michigan semi-finals, again

The second annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition will take place later this fall, and Ann Arbor-based start-ups are setting the stage yet again, dominating the ranks of the semi-finals for the second straight year.

This year there are at least 23 start-ups that call Tree Town home, along with two from Ypsilanti, one from Saline and a handful more with ties to the University of Michigan. More than half of the 53 companies in the semi-finals are in Washtenaw County. A broad range of firms like past winner Accio Energy and up-and-comers like Denovo Sciences are represented. Ann Arbor start-ups also took half of the semifinal spots last year. Is anyone really surprised? Jacob Cohen isn't.

"I would expect it because of how robust the business plan circuit is in Ann Arbor," says Cohen, a Detroit-based venture capitalist. "It just goes to show you how important it is to provide structure and a path."

Cohen is a vice president of Detroit Venture Partners, an aggressive early stage venture capital firm that is trying to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in downtown Detroit robust enough to compare to Ann Arbor's. It's a task Cohen believes can be accomplished within a few years. Cohen is a U-M graduate who is six credit hours short of a dual graduate degree in business and law from U-M. He stopped short to take the job with Detroit Venture Partners. He also grew and exited his own start-up in Ann Arbor called Ugrub.com.

Cohen sings the praises of Ann Arbor's entrepreneurial support system and its depth. Services from Ann Arbor SPARK, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce and other local entrepreneurs are the backbone of building a successful start-up culture ripe with talent, investment and acquisitions. Paramount to all of that is U-M, he says, adding it goes a long way in putting Ann Arbor "years ahead of everybody else."

"Michigan has $1.3 billion in paid research," Cohen says. "U-M has a real research and venture capital community. You can't replace that."

Source: Jake Cohen, vice president of Detroit Venture Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor SPARK brokers Liebherr-Aerospace expansion in Saline

Ann Arbor SPARK has made its work practically synonymous with growing start-ups, but the business accelerator is doing more to grow other new economy segments of the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The latest example of that is the expansion of Liebherr-Aerospace's operations in Saline. The aerospace supplier is expanding its 100,000-square-foot facility by another 33,000 square feet for landing gear manufacturing. It's an expansion that will mean the hiring of 15-20 new people by next spring.

"We think there are more opportunities to work with companies in the area," says Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. "We want to build an aerospace cluster in this area."

The Ann Arbor area has a number of aerospace companies, mainly clustered around the Ann Arbor airport. This existing base, paired with the area's manufacturing capability, creates a viable opportunity for further growth in the industry.

Source: Paul Krutko, president & CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Saline-based DesignHub adds 10 new clients

When the economy tanked a few years ago, DesignHub didn't start to feel the pinch until early 2010. Since then the website-design company has landed more clients and done some high-profile work, particularly over the last year.

"The last year has been good," says Chris Kochmanski, partner at DesignHub. "We experienced a slowdown in the first half of 2010 but it has picked up steadily since then."

DesignHub has landed 10 new clients, including the likes of Ann Arbor's Tower Plaza and BioMedware, a bio-tech software consulting firm. That has allowed the Saline-based company to keep its staff of four employees and an independent contractor busy.

Kochmanski is cautiously optimistic about growth for the company over the next year, growth that might allow the company to expand its staff.

"We have a lot of new business proposals in the works," Kochmanski says.

Source: Chris Kochmanski, partner at DesignHub
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Saline's Latitude Learning to add interns, up to 20 jobs this year

Jeff Walter began to notice the economy turn as 2010 closed out. That's when businesses opened up their budgets and the sales at his company, Latitude Learning, took off.

"What we're seeing now is contracts close now where the interest began last year," says Walter, president of Latitude Learning. "After Labor Day, there was a marked increase in interest."

That interest has led to a number of new job opportunities at the Saline-based company. It currently has half a dozen openings right now in the business analyst and technical developer areas. Walter expects the company's staff to go from about 30
employees today to 50 by the end of the year. He is also in the process of recruiting some interns for this summer.

Driving all of this is Latitude Learning's software as a service learning management system. That SaaS system and its new pricing has led to six new clients and increased business from existing clients.

"Since the recession hit, we have really committed the organization to making the software as the lead product and getting it out there as SaaS," Walter says.

Source: Jeff Walter, president of Latitude Learning
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sensors plans for 10-20% growth, more hires

Sensors isn't your run-of-the-mill Washtenaw County small business specializing in new technology.

First off, the Saline-based firm is too old to be called a start-up since it was formed by five University of Michigan professors in 1969. Second, the then new "thermopile infrared detectors for a new state-of-the-art exhaust gas analyzer" it started out developing aren't that far off of the innovative gas analysis technology it develops for the transportation industry today.

What is different is its size. The company has grown to 80 people (mostly housed in Saline) and an office in Germany. Sensors has been impacted by the recent recession, growing a little here and holding its own there over the last few years, but now the company is set to grow in 2011.

"The business came back as the market got better," says Rob Wilson, vice president of marketing for Sensors.

Sensors recently made the semifinals for the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Wilson expects that success coupled with the launch of new products (he declined to elaborate on what they are) will help propel Sensors to 10-20 percent growth this year, along with adding two more jobs in Saline.

Source: Rob Wilson, vice president of marketing for Sensors
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor start-ups dominate Accelerate Michigan semi-finals

Ann Arbor-based start-ups are dominating the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, taking half of the 50 spaces in the semi-finals.

Elizabeth Parkinson, director of marking and public relations for Ann Arbor SPARK, says this sort of showing isn't an anomaly. Tree Town-based start-ups regularly take half of the cash from Michigan's statewide Pre-Seed Capital and Microloan funds.

"We used judges from across the state," says Parkinson. Ann Arbor SPARK is the lead organizer behind the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. "Everyone has three looks from three different judges. Everybody got a fair look."

And Ann Arbor firms shined through. On top of that another three startups are based in (Saline-based Sensors and Brighton-based Spinal Ventures) or have ties to (ShadePlex started in Ypsilanti) communities nearby. The list includes a number of firms that are well known for a variety of reasons, including Discera, which emerged as an issue in the recent gubernatorial race.

Among the companies are Accio Energy, Advanced Battery Control and POWERleap in alternative energy, along with Arbor Photonics and ePack in next generation manufacturing. The medical device companies include Compendia Bioscience, Epsilon Imaging, Hygieia, OcuSciences, Vir(Sn) and ImBio. The life science firms are FreeStride Therapeutics, Life Magnatics, NextGen Metabolomics, and RetroSense Theraputics. The rest include Current Motor Company (advanced transportation); ElectroDynamic Applications and Mayaterials (both in advanced materials); Evigia Systems and Pixel Velocity (both defense & homeland security); Ix Innovations and Monarch Antenna (both products and services); TherapyCharts, and Reveal Design (IT).

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is offering $1 million in prizes to start-ups in Michigan or planning to move to Michigan. The idea is to showcase the state's entrepreneurial ecosystem to a large audience of investors in town for the Big Chill hockey game at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 11.

Source: Elizabeth Parkinson, director of marking & public relations for Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Saline's JAC Products to add 87 jobs; diversifies into lithium ion batteries and solar panel racks

The diversification of JAC Products is a move that is allowing the Saline-based automotive supplier to add dozens of jobs.

The 43-year-old Tier 1 supplier recently received a $572,000 state tax credit over the next five years to help fund its expansion. The deal should mean another 87 jobs, thanks to a $6.2 million project. Most of those jobs will be created in the first few years of the tax credit, which was awarded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

JAC Products primarily makes automotive exterior parts, such as roof racks. It has recently expanded into manufacturing both lithium ion batteries and solar panel racks. The tax credit helped persuade the company to expand at its work spaces in Saline and Shelby Township instead of its plant in Georgia.

"It (the diversification) will help dampen the cycles in the auto industry," says Dan Smoke, CFO for JAC Products. "They call this a cyclical industry for a reason."

The new expansion will add 30,000 square feet to the company's Saline operations. That's where the bulk of its workforce is located. The company employs 412 people, with about 35 located at its Shelby Township plant and a few engineers in Pontiac.

Source: Dan Smoke, CFO for JAC Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

Quantum Signal invests $1.29M, plans 47 hires

Quantum Signal is sending all of the right messages these days - hiring half a dozen people, about to hire another 47, and making a $1.29 million investment in the Ann Arbor community.

The 10-year-old firm
recently added six people, rounding out its staff to 35 with another 2-3 interns. That's up from a headcount of just under 30 when we checked in with the company in January. The Ann Arbor-based firm plans to hire 9-10 people per year over the next five years so it can hit its target of 47 new employees in that same time period.

"We're very much in growth mode right now," says Mitch Rohde, COO of Quantum Signal. "We have a lot of projects in the pipeline so we have to expand our facilities. We're constantly understaffed."

Quantum Signal uses high-end engineering mathematics and algorithms to extract information from visual data. Think the type of software used in face-recognition devices. It also develops military training simulations and commercial video games under its Reactor Zero subsidiary. It took a lot of these algorithms from the likes of the University of Michigan.

"We wanted to take something out of the ivory tower and apply it worldwide," Rohde says.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp gave Quantum Signal a $206,083 tax credit over five years, helping it make the choice to expand in Michigan instead of Washington, D.C. The firm also plans to move to Saline as part of its expansion.

Source: Mitch Rohde, COO of Quantum Signal
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pair of Docs co-founder becomes CEO of Inpore Tech

Gerry Roston's plan for Pair of Docs is working quite well. The Saline-based entrepreneur has used the consulting firm to help secure a top executive position at up-and-coming firm Inpore Technologies.

Roston is now the CEO of the East Lansing-based
plastic polymers manufacturer. He is helping the Michigan State University spin-off finish its first round of angel investments this summer. He expects it to be fully operational and profitable within a year or two and to have 7-8 employees (there are now three) by the end of this year.

"That model is working very well now," Roston says.

Pair of Docs won't just fade away with Roston's exit. His partner in the Saline-based business will fill in as Roston focuses on Inpore Technologies.

Inpore Technologies makes a polymer additive to make plastics stronger and more flexible - no easy task. Its product is biodegradable, thereby shortening the time that automotive plastics spend in landfills to a few years rather than indefinitely. It also makes the plastic more fire retardant and non-toxic if it actually does burn.

"There are all sorts of neat opportunities with this product," Roston says.

Source: Gerry Roston, partner with Pair of Docs and CEO of Inpore Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke
48 Saline Articles | Page: | Show All
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