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Ghostly International leverages partnerships for growth

Ghostly International, the ambient music label, has taken advantage of its growth opportunities this year through a number of partnerships with other creative-based firms.

The Ann Arbor-based firm, it calls the Tech Brewery home, has hired one full-time employee and another part-timer over the last year. It currently has a staff of 11 employees across the company’s five divisions and in other cities, such as New York City and Los Angeles.

Driving the growth for the firm has been partnerships on a variety of projects. For instance, Ghostly International teamed up with Warby Parker to create a Ghostly International brand of sunglasses. You can check out a video about the partnership here.

Ghostly International is also partnering with Honeyslug Games to create the soundtrack for the Hohokum video game for PlayStation. The team at Honeyslug Games approached Ghostly International with a music playlist in mind for the video game and it turned out to be all Ghostly International songs.

"We will have an entire soundtrack for that surrounding the release," says Jeremy Peters, director of creative licensing & business affairs for Ghostly Songs, a division of Ghostly International. "They have been awesome to work with."

Ghostly International is also still releasing electronic music. It is release the new album for Tyco, Awake, this week. You can more information on the new album here, including its first single Spectre.

Source: Jeremy Peters, director of creative licensing & business affairs for Ghostly International
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

CareEvolution aims to hire 40 on strength of healthcare software sales

Change is the one consistent thing in healthcare today, and it's a trend that is playing into CareEvolution's favor.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company has hired about 20 people over the last year to keep up with the demand for its software platform. Most of those new hires were software developers and clinical analysts. The firm currently employs 60 people. It plans to add three interns this summer, along with a consistent stream of hires along the way.

"This year we intend to add 40 people," says Vik Kheterpal, principal of CareEvolution. "We're looking at 10 people per quarter." He adds that the company currently has 35 open positions, primarily for software developers, that it would fill right now if it could find the right candidates.

CareEvolution's software specializes in breaking down information silos in healthcare systems primarily by sharing of electronic medical records and information. The idea is to streamline patient care. As the healthcare industry has transitioned to put a bigger focus on efficiency, technology like CareEvolution’s software climbs.

"As that need is growing the demand for our product is growing," Kheterpal says. "We can't keep up."

CareEvolution's growth has been organic. It is projecting 80-percent revenue growth in 2014 based just on the business it has today. Kheterpal expects that number to climb as the year goes on.

"We have very robust growth," Kheterpal says. "We will be almost double our growth this year."

Source: Vik Kheterpal, principal of CareEvolution
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U-M Credit Union merges with EMU Credit Union

The credit unions at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University are now one institution after consummating a merger earlier this year.

Eastern Michigan University Credit Union officially became a part of University of Michigan Credit Union in January. EMU’s Credit Union will now be known as Eastern Michigan University Financial. U-M Credit Union will keep its branding. Members of both will now have full access to all of the newly combined credit union's branches in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Dearborn.

"It's not a growth strategy," says Jeff Schillag, vice president of marketing at University of Michigan Credit Union. "It's truly a collaboration."

The newly merged credit union will have $545 million in assets and 59,342 members. All of those members will have equal access to affordable financial services, mobile banking, and instant issue debit and credit cards.

Eastern Michigan University Financial will maintain its branch at 761 Jenness St. in Ypsilanti with its current staff. It will continue to employ its namesake university's brand in its name as a point of pride for the EMU community.

"We intend to keep the branding there to better serve that community," Schillag says.

Source: Jeff Schillag, vice president of marketing at University of Michigan Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Carcode SMS helps create conversation at car dealerships

A new tech startup is helping automotive dealerships spark more conversations with potential customers.

Carcode SMS has come up with a website plugin that allows consumers to text automotive dealership staff and inquire about a specific car. The software assigns local cell phone numbers to dealerships so mobile shoppers can text them and provides the dealership with an app that allows staff to respond and manage conversations in a compliant environment.

"We can keep track of all of the text conversations with that app," says Steve Schwartz, co-founder of Carcode SMS.

Carcode SMS also has a feature enabling the consumer to end the conversation whenever he or she wants to and not have to worry about follow-ups from salesmen. The Ann Arbor-based startup that calls Tech Brewery home recently won the 2014 Edmund Hackomotive contest last month.

The three-person Carcode SMS team has completed the initial development of the software and is testing it out at an automotive dealership. "We are currently talking to other dealerships," Schwartz says.

Source: Steve Schwartz, co-founder of Carcode SMS
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U-M students make fashion statement with OverTheFly belts

Andrew Jacob and Andre Najmolhoda went to high school in West Bloomfield and college in Ann Arbor together, so it’s not a surprise the two friend are starting their own company together.

The University of Michigan students launched a custom belt company called OverTheFly a year ago and are starting to make a fashion statement or two with it.

"We noticed there is always a trend in shoes, shirts and hats but never belts," says Andrew Jacob, co-founder of OverTheFly. "We want to start trends with belts."

OverTheFly offers plastic belts and buckles of different colors and styles, allowing buyers to customize their own belt with a few clicks of a computer mouse. The company describes its belts as "waterproof, durable, 100% recyclable, animal-friendly, and one size fits all."

"You can pretty much create your own belt," Jacob says. He adds, "We are also the first company we know of that created a belt with Detroit’s skyline on it."

OverTheFly's products can be bought online or at 17 stores in Michigan and Florida. Jacob and Najmolholda plan to continue finding more retail outlets for its belts and hope to scale across the U.S.

Source: Andrew Jacob, co-founder of OverTheFly
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Orange Egg Advertising works on PBS series, adds 4 new jobs

Orange Egg Advertising has been adding more clients and members to its team over the last year.

The Ann Arbor-based firm and its sister company, Hadrout in Ferndale, has grown by 25% and added four new positions, expanding its staff to half a dozen people.

"We keep adding interesting projects," says Amy Grambeau, director of Orange Egg Advertising.

Among those projects is the PBS station's series, Start Up. Orange Egg Advertising helped produce the first season that profiled entrepreneurs. It is now working on the second season for the show.

"There are some cool things coming out of southeast Michigan," Grambeau says.

Grambeau expects Orange Egg Advertising to expand in a similar fashion in 2014, powered by word-of-mouth referrals. "We just keep doing a good job for our clients," Grambeau says. "We keep on the cutting edge of technology for our clients."

Source: Amy Grambeau, director of Orange Egg Advertising
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Get Up and Go expands caffeinated food sales

Get Up and Go is on the move in Michigan, carving out space for its caffeinated goodies on store shelves across the Great Lakes State.

The Ann Arbor-based company makes a variety of baked goods infused with natural caffeine. The goodies include muffins, cookies, brownies and granola. Consumers can find Get Up and Go's wares in about a dozen stores in Ann Arbor, Lansing and a few supermarkets.

"We're just getting off the ground," says Chris Bogdan, CEO of Get Up and Go.

The one-year-old company started selling its baked goods in stores six months ago. Bogdan is currently a one-man-show, baking the goods in his home. He is working to move production to a food manufacturer so he can scale the concept into as many as 1,000 stores across Michigan this year.

"I am focusing on Michigan first, building it out and getting into specialty food stores," Bogdan says. "Specialty stores support a lot of Michigan-made products."

Source: Chris Bogdan, CEO of Get Up and Go
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Seed round enables Protean Payment to hire more staff

Protean Payment is starting to make a little noise in Ann Arbor's entrepreneurial ecosystem, attracting some venture capital investment and hiring several people.

The tech-payment startup has grown its staff to 10 employees. It has hired seven of those people over the last year. It is also looking to hire another five people and bring on some summer interns.

"We have been ramping up our engineering team," says Nick Bognar, communications manager for Protean Payment. "We have also brought on some operations personnel and a human resources person."

Protean Payment
is developing a skeleton key for the wallet. The technology, which it has named "Echo," combines all of the user's credit, debit, loyalty and ID cards into the Echo card. Echo comes equipped with a tiny computer that syncs with the user's mobile phone. The accompanying mobile app allows the user to convert Echo into the card of his or her choice, allowing them to swipe it as they would their normal credit card. The 2-year-old startup, which calls Kerrytown home, hopes to launch the technology in 2014.

"They will see some stuff come out later this year," Bognar says. "I can't say exactly when that will be."

Bognar also confirms that Protean Payment has landed some seed capital that is paying for the build out of the startup. He declines to say how much has been raised. Ann Arbor-based Resonant Venture Partners and Chicago-based Hyde Park Venture Partners both claim Protean Payment as a portfolio company.

Source: Nick Bognar, communications manager for Protean Payment
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MyFab5 pivots to combine online rankings with Instagram

MyFab5 got its start as a new way for people to review eateries and stores online. Now it’s pivoting to become an additional feature on Instagram.

"We're not trying to be Instagram," says Omeid Seirafi-Pour, co-founder & CEO of MyFab5. "We’re trying to be an added layer on Instagram."

MyFab5 allows its users to take pictures of their meals at restaurants and then rank their experience. The Ann Arbor-based startup has developed technology that allows users to rank their top five businesses in certain genres in local areas, their top five picks for Chinese restaurants in Ann Arbor, or five favorite places to grab a burrito.

"We have found that foodies love the pictures on Instagram and love our ranking system," Seirafi-Pour says.

The startup launched its ranking system last August and is currently being employed in major cities across the U.S. The startup has facilitated 18,000 rankings across the country so far.

"We're seeing the most activity in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Portland, New York and Austin,"  Seirafi-Pour says.

MyFab5 is currently made up of a team of four full-time employees and two part-timers. It also has a small group of marketing interns helping grow its Instagram following to 30,000 members.

Source: Omeid Seirafi-Pour, co-founder & CEO of MyFab5
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sakti3 expands staff in Ann Arbor with new hires

Clean-tech startup Sakti3 is starting to see some promising results for its solid-state battery technology.

The Ann Arbor-based startup Sakti3 spun out of the University of Michigan six years ago. It is developing new lithium ion battery technology that it claims offers double the energy density of today’s commercial cells at half the price

"We have demonstrated some impressive numbers when it comes to energy density in battery cells," says Ann Marie Sastry, president & CEO of Sakti3. She adds, "our results so far are very promising."

Sakti3's technology is manufactured using existing, scaled platforms that offer an easy path to large-scale production, in a single, integrated, manufacturing line. "We use only scalable processes on cheap equipment," Sastry says. "It won't break the bank."

Sastry says her firm has "hired a few people" for “high-end tech positions” in the last year. Sakti3 now employs "less than 24 people," Sastry says. She declined to provide specifics.

Sakti3 has raked in millions of venture capital, including a $4.2 million investment from GM Ventures, the VC arm of General Motors, and Japan-based Itochu Technology Ventures in 2010. Sakti3 has raised $30 million in venture capital in total.

Source: Ann Marie Sastry, president & CEO of Sakti3
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

SportsFactory centralizes athletic tweets for non-Twitter users

Nic Stelter loves keeping with his favorite athletes and sports teams through Twitter, but he is not the biggest fan of the social media site. That prompted him to launch SportsFactory in Ann Arbor.

The startup creates a web app that aggregates tweets from the users favorites athletes and teams. So if you are a diehard University of Michigan fan, you can use SportsFactory to collect the tweets about the university’s athletic department, athletes and recruiting efforts instead of sorting it all out on your own Twitter handle. The web app makes the tweets look like they do on Twitter so the user gets an authentic experience. (Check out a video, created by Ann Arbor-based Media Academica, describing the service here.)

"I wanted to make something non-Twitter users can use to read tweets," Stelter says. He adds, "we have tried to make the experience as much like Twitter as possible."

Stelter leveraged the services of Tech Brewery-based Alpha Jango to build the web app. He plans to release a mobile app for Apple and Android products later this year.

"It's going to be a slow climb but people really like it so far," Stetler says.

Source: Nic Stelter, founder of SportsFactory
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

CoFoundersLab, U-M partner to create Michigan Founder Finder

A new way to connect entrepreneurs and technical experts to help create more startups has arrived at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies partnered with CoFoundersLab to build a co-founder matching portal called Michigan Founder Finder. The online matching platform helps the entrepreneurial communities of the University of Michigan, great Ann Arbor area and beyond with the right people to push their new business venture forward.

"They don't need to reinvent the wheel," says Michael Hughes, vice president of community development of CoFoundersLab. "They can connect entrepreneurs across schools on their own campus. It can also help students and alumni connect with another person who might not have anything to do with the university."

CoFoundersLab, which is based in Maryland, specializes in making online portals that help entrepreneurs make connections with a variety of people they need to get their startup off the ground. Each portal specializes in a specific metropolitan area or, in U-M's case, a university community. Think of it as a dating site for entrepreneurs looking for co-founders.

The Michigan Founder Finder is open to current students, alumni, faculty and staff at U-M.

"We want thousands of people," Hughes says. "It's for University of Michigan students and alumni, the greater U-M community."

CoFoundersLab will be also host a matchup event in downtown Detroit at 6:30 p.m. on Mar 19 in the Grand Circus space in the Broderick Tower. For information, click here.

Source: Michael Hughes, vice president of community development of CoFoundersLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Startgrid platform looks to complement Ann Arbor SPARK

Another organization aimed at growing southeast Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem made its debut last week. It might seem like Startgrid is set up to duplicate the region’s numerous efforts to grow its economy, but actually it’s aim is to do the opposite.

Startgrid plans to complement the region's existing assets in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, working cooperatively with local economic accelerators like Ann Arbor SPARK and the University of Michigan to make startup building a more seamless process.

"It's the unique combination of the whole that will make the whole complete," says Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative, which is helping fund the launch of Startgrid.

Startgrid icomes courtesy the Detriot Regional Chamber and is an online portal that enables entrepreneurs to create a collaboration page that fleshes out their idea or business plan. The users can incrementally expand their page to their circle of friends, mentors and industry experts throughout Metro Detroit. The idea is to create an environment where people help each build their business in southeast Michigan.

Startgrid wants to fill those gaps to accelerate the formation and growth of local businesses. To watch a video about what Startgrid is about, click here.

Source: Peter Gardner, founder & CEO of Startgrid, and Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Swift Biosciences leverages VC for multiple hires

Venture capital and hiring helped make for a big year at Swift Biosciences.

When we last checked in at the life sciences startup in early 2013, it had just secured a $750,000 investment in its Series A. Since then it secured $7 million more in a Series B round of venture capital and hired seven people.

"We just hired three people this month," says David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences. The hires over the last year have been in the Ann Arbor-based startup’s R&D and commercial groups. Olson adds, "That funding (the Series B) is directly related to the three hires we made this month. We’re looking to expand, specifically in our commercial group."

The 4-year-old company is developing molecular biology reagents for research and diagnostic applications that provide new ways to examine disease-related genes. This genomic sequencing technology is expected to help researchers analyze samples faster, at a higher volume, and at a lower price per sample. It has raised $13.15 million to further the development of this technology platform.

Swift Biosciences launched its first two products last year and is set to launch its third product next week. The new product is a sample prep test kit that can work with damaged and small samples.

"It can do everything," Olson says. "It has a lot of capabilities."

Source: David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Q LTD recruits intern, adds Portlandian to staff

QLTD made a couple of solid hires in the last year, one from within and another from across the country.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based firm, it calls Kerrytown home, hired one of its interns recently, expanding the company’s staff to 13 employees. The 30-plus-year-old firm also recruited a web designer from Portland to join its team earlier last year.

"She found us online and was intrigued," says Paul Koch, creative strategist at Q LTD. "It was a good hire. She was just a good fit."

Q LTD specializes in corporate branding and building an online presence for businesses. Some of its recent projects include designing the online presence of TOA Wellness, a handheld workout device that debuted at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It also redesigned the branding and built the web presence for the American Concrete Institute, which hadn't undergone a rebranding in about half a century.

"We want to continue to grow and do good work for our clients," Koch says. "We also want to grow the work we do with Q Gmbh."

Q Gmbh is a design firm based in Germany. Q LTD has been doing work with the Q Gmbh for years and it has grown that workload over in recent years.

Source: Paul Koch, creative strategist at Q LTD
Writer: Jon Zemke

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