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SimuQuest expands as it leverages work with Ford

SimuQuest is accelerating its growth and the Ann Arbor-based company can thank a few major clients like Ford for it.

SimuQuest specializes in software and data management services. It has been working on its UniPhi for Ford for several years now, launching it earlier this year. UniPhi is a model-based development tool for centralized data management. It moves everything to the cloud and helps streamline the data management and analysis process for the user.

"This really changes the game for them," says John Mills, president & CEO of SimuQuest.

Another software platform SimuQuest is bringing to market is QuantiPhi, a chip configuration and driver integration tool. The tool provides a full complement of configurable low-level drivers that guides the user through the intricacies of successfully configuring the chip and driver settings.

Developing these platforms has prompted SimuQuest to hire two people in the last year. It has added a business development professional and an engineer to round its staff of eight people. It is also looking to add summer interns.

"We're expecting a pretty major growth in the company," Mills says. "There are no guarantees but I would be really surprised if we don’t double our revenue in the next year."

Source: John Mills, president & CEO of SimuQuest
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Damian Farrell Design Group adds to staff in Ann Arbor

Damian Farrell Design Group is riding the rebound of the architecture sector as the company attract more and more projects.

The Ann Arbor-based firm has experienced an increase in both commercial and residential projects, spiking its revenue by 20 percent The commercial projects have trended toward new construction while the residential projects are more renovations.

"It's all local right now," says Damian Farrell, owner of Damian Farrell Design Group. "We have one project in Pennsylvania but otherwise it’s all local."

That has allowed Damian Farrell Design Group to make a new hire over the last year. The new studio manager brings the firm's staff to four employees and one intern. Farrell expects his company to continue growing as more and more projects come up in 2014.

"People are getting more confident," Farrell says. "Money is a little bit more available right now."

Source: Damian Farrell, owner of Damian Farrell Design Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PWB Marketing Communications keeps growth streak going

PWB Marketing Communications isn't measuring its growth over the last year in terms of new hires. It is looking at how much it has built out its network of partners and independent contractors.

"I'm cautious about that (hiring)," says Sean Hickey, COO of PWB Marketing Communications. "We have a core group of (six) people that are pretty flexible and knowledgeable."

The Ann Arbor-based firm now has a dependable stable of contractors it can tap for the growing number of projects its handling. The network of partners handles everything from market research to salesforce automation. The network allows PWB Marketing Communications to stay flexible and ready to take on more work.

"The nature of what clients want us to do is evolving," Hickey says. "I want to be able to say yes to that."

Hickey adds that most of the firm's work has turned digital over the last few years. It's reached the point that customers that want brochures only want them for emerging markets. They don't even take them to make pitches in the First World.

"Even the traditional work is done with an eye toward digital," Hickey says. "We don't do six-page brochures anymore because how are you going to fit six pages into a PDF?"

Source: Sean Hickey, COO of PWB Marketing Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Avegant raises $1.9M in investment, $1.5M in crowdfunding

Most startups are excited to have seven figures worth of seed capital coming in. Avegant has managed to score two in its first year.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup has raised $1.9 million in a Seed Round. It also raised $1.5 million from a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year. And all of these people willing to throw money at the company can’t wait to see its night-vision technology.

"We smashed our (crowdfunding) goal (of $250,000) in a matter of three hours," says Edward Tang, CEO of Avegant.

Avegant co-founders Tang and Allan Evans met at the University of Michigan. They were approached by military contractors about creating better night-vision equipment for military drivers during wartime. Soldiers were experiencing better results using thermal night vision while driving. The problem was the display was in their vehicle’s dash instead of over their eyes.

Tang and Evans found that the computer screen and eye fatigue often downgraded the viewing quality. In response they created a night-vision goggle that projected the image directly on the users eye, providing a big step forward in picture quality.

"It was a higher picture quality that I had ever seen before," Tang says.

Avegant's team of 11 employees and one intern has created three different evolutions of the prototype since landing the $1.9 million in a Seed Round last August. The Michigan Angel Fund, an angel investment group, led that investment round. Tang expects to ship the first commercial units of the night-vision goggles before the end of the year.

"We're considering doing pre-orders on the website," Tang says. "It's going really well."

Source: Edward Tang, CEO of Avegant
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Saline Lectronics hires 18 on surging business

A number of key numbers are spiking at Saline Lectronics. Think revenue and staffing levels.

The Saline-based electronics manufacturer has watched its revenue rise 30 percent over the last year. It is coming off a record first quarter so far this year and it is set to exceed its revenue growth this year.

"We have experienced a lot of continued growth with our existing customers," says Davina McDonnell, director of marketing for Saline Lectronics.

Saline Lectronics does circuit board manufacturing and most other manufacturing functions in the electronic field. Some of its larger customers include the likes of Boeing and NASA. The growing business from them has allowed the 12-year-old company to hire 18 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 162 employees. It currently has three open positions for technicians and account managers.

"We're definitely on track to continue our hiring streak, and keep training new staff," McDonnell says. She expects Saline Lectronics to hire up to another 20 people this year.

Source: Davina McDonnell, director of marketing for Saline Lectronics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

University of Michigan, Virginia profs team up to create PsiKick

Professors from the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia have spun out technology from their respective universities to create a new venture-backed startup, PsiKick.

Startups pulling technologies from a number of different universities isn't unheard of. However, fledgling companies taking technology from premier research institutions doesn’t happen often.

"It might be more rare that it's this equal (the standing of the research universities supplying the technology)," says Mark Maynard, marketing manager for the Office of Technology Transfer at the University of Michigan. He adds that the contribution of each university's technology is "pretty right down the middle."

David Wentzloff and Benton Calhoun met while attending graduate school at MIT. After graduate school they went back to their respective alma maters to start teaching careers. Wentzloff is an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at U-M and Calhoun is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UVa.

The friends came together in 2012 to launch PsiKick, which now has offices in Ann Arbor and Virginia. PsiKick is developing an ultra-low-power wireless sensor that is capable of operating on 1/100th to 1/1000th of the power budget of other low-power integrated circuit platforms. That enables the chip to be powered without the help of a battery, instead relying on vibration, thermal gradients, solar, radio frequency or piezo actuation for energy sources.

PsiKick's chip conducted continuous EKG monitoring and detection of atrial fibrillation. Wireless updates each second were sent by radio, all operating continuously and powered by body heat using a small thermoelectric generator on a body with no battery at all in the system. The lack of a battery means the chip can be used in a number of harsh environments.

"The implications could be enormous for several industries," Maynard says.

PsiKick recently closed on a Series A round of funding to help further develop the technology. The investment was led by New Enterprise Associates. Other investors include MINTS, a U-M venture fund, and Osage University Partners.

Source: Mark Maynard, marketing manager for the Office of Tech Transfer at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Stout Systems rounds out big growth year with more hires

2013 turned out to be a banner year for Stout Systems as the technology consulting and staffing firm hit records for revenue and expanded its staff numbers.

"Last year was our best year ever in terms of revenue," says John W. Stout, CEO of Stout Systems. "That includes our best quarter ever."

Stout Systems specializes in providing consulting services in the software and IT sectors, along with staffing services for those places. The 21-year-old company helped fill 48 positions in other firms over the last year. Stout expects to repeat that stat again in 2014.

"We'd like to stay consistent at that 40-50 level of workers each year," Stout says.  "That is a good level for us."

That spike in business has allowed the company to has hired two people to its core team, specifically two senior business analysts. It expects to continue adding to that core team to keep up with its revenue increases.

"We have had a lot of good referral business," Stout says.

Source: John W. Stout, CEO of Stout Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Velesco Pharma expands into Boston with new office

Velesco Pharma is expanding its physical presence, opening a new office in Boston to complement its existing facilities in Michigan.

The new Boston office is meant to bring the company closer to that region’s booming pharmaceutical industry. Velesco Pharma continues to grow its satellite office in Kalamazoo and headquarters in the Ann Arbor area. It recently hired three people, expanding its staff to 15 people.

"We continue to grow and have the bulk of our operations in southern Michigan," says Gerry Cox, COO of Velesco Pharma.

Velesco Pharma, wich calls the Ann Arbor SPARK-managed Michigan Life Science Innovation Center home, specializes in pharmaceutical consulting and laboratory services. It also operates a plant in Kalamazoo that makes dosage forms for clinical trials.

It registered 30 percent revenue growth last year and is well on its way to repeat that. Cox also expects to hire another 2-3 people before the end of the year to keep up with revenue growth.

"We are continuing the same growth rate in the first quarter of 2014," Cox says. "We have been concentrating on what we’re good at and growing that."

Source: Gerry Cox, COO of Velesco Pharma
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

ACA leads to increased business and staff for Clarity Quest Marketing

Clarity Quest Marketing is enjoying a banner year, and one thing stands out as a reason why: the Affordable Care Act.

"This year in Q1 we have had our best quarter ever in the company," says Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing. "We are on track to have our best revenue ever this year."

The Ann Arbor-based firm has traditionally served the marketing needs of tech firms over many of its 13 years. It started to take on more and more work from healthcare firms, such as Vocollect Health Systems, the Pittsburgh-based business is the maker of AccuNurse. A few years ago the company’s portfolio was split evenly between tech and healthcare firms. Now about 75 percent of Clarity Quest Marketing's clients are healthcare based.

"That whole industry is booming," Slocumb says. "A  lot of it is being done by the Affordable Care Act."

That has allowed Clarity Quest Marketing to hire two people (senior-level consultants) in the last year, expanding its staff to 17 employees and two interns. Slocumb expects to hire more as Clarity Quest Marketing increases its visibility in the healthcare sector.

"We're working a lot on visibility," Slocumb says. "We are working with a lot of thought leaders in this space."

Source: Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Pinoccio ships first orders of microcontroller technology

There is a saying about electronic startups that deal more in hardware than software and the difficulty of the task. One Ann Arbor-based venture is learning about that right now.

"The cliche is hardware is hard," says Sally Carson, co-founder & CEO of Pinoccio. "That's definitely true."

But it's far from impossible. That's something that Pinoccio is proving right now. The startup is shipping the first units of its wireless, web-ready microcontroller, which is about the size of your thumb. The technology comes equiped with WiFi, a LiPo battery and a built-in radio, which allows users to send commands to the microcontroller over the Internet from their laptop. Check out a video about it here.

Carson and Eric Jennings began developing this technology a little more than a year ago. They launched a crowdfunding campaign with a goal to raise $60,000. They raised $105,000, which allowed them to ship 2,500 microcontrollers to 700 funders. The recepeints are mostly makers and hobbyists, but with a few other notable exceptions.

"We are also finding interest in other product designers and people who want to use Pinoccio in their hardware," Carson says.

That success has allowed Pinoccio to expand its staff to eight people after adding six in the last year. The company, which uses the tagline "Building the Internet of things," plans to take more orders for its microcontroller this spring and ship them later this summer.

Source: Sally Carson, co-founder & CEO of Pinoccio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

XanEdu aims to hire 50 in Ann Arbor, invest $1M

XanEdu is consolidating its operations in Michigan and Kentucky into its Ann Arbor facility, a move that is expected to bring another 50 hires in the next five years.

"Ann Arbor is such a great place to live and work," says Dianne Michalek, vice president of marketing for XanEdu. "With the University of Michigan in our backyard we have great access to top talent."

XanEdu got its start as a traditionally publishing company in 1999 making educational materials for schools, such as course packs for colleges. It has expanded into digital realm in recent years, bringing those educational materials to mobvile devices, such as iPads, with an app. It currently employs 30 people in Ann Arbor.

XanEdu, with help from Ann Arbor SPARK, is investing $1 million toward expanding its operations in Ann Arbor. The new hires will be primarily in management, sales and IT positions. Michalek expects the new jobs will be created steadily over the next five years as the company grows.

"We are trying to expand our technology operations into new markets," Michalek says.

Source: Dianne Michalek, vice president of marketing for XanEdu
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DeepField doubles staff as initial product gains traction

DeepField launched its first product six months ago and the IT startup is gaining traction with its customers as it prepares to launch more products in the coming weeks.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup's software that enables large corporations to adapt to the ever changing world of the Internet's back-end IT infrastructure. The technology, which is being branded as Cloud Genome, automatically identifies, tracks, and disambiguates the structure of all cloud-based services. DeepField's big-data platform analyzes and correlates telemetry from routers, switches, DNS, and more, decoding all of the morass of information. The end result is more visibility into all facets of the user's IT network.

DeepField launched this technology six months ago. It is now deployed at 25 large networks around the world. The company estimates its software is deployed along 20 percent of all online consumer traffic. The 2-year-old company plans to launch new products during the spring and summer of this year.

"The initial offering solved some big problems for our customers," says Craig Labovitz, co-founder of DeepField. "We're diving much deeper now."

DeepField recently made the move from its original home in the Tech Brewery to bigger officers in downtown Ann Arbor above the Michigan Theater. It has also opened satellite offices in Colorado, Amsterdam and Washington, D.C. With that growth has brought a doubling of the company’s staff to just under 20 hires. Labovitz expects the company to hit a staff size of 25-30 people by the end of the year to keep up with demand.

"We're basically doubling each year," Labovitz says.

Source: Craig Labovitz, co-founder of DeepField
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Current Motor Co reaching for profitability in 2014

Current Motor Co is turning into the little electric scoot company that could as it continues to expand its sales domestically and overseas.

"We're a little company but we're growing and exporting," says Lauren Flanagan, executive chair of Current Motor Co.

The Ann Arbor-based company makes electric scooter that can do everything that regular gas-powered scooters can do without the air pollution. Current Motor Co is aiming to sell its scooters in South America, think Brazil, where congestion is heavy and smog is thick because of it.

Current Motor Co continues to aggressively pursue this market and Flanagan expects to hit profitability this year thanks to increasing sales. "We came into this year with some additional contracts," Flanagan says. "We know we're going to have great growth this year."

Current Motor Co has expanded its staff to 10 full-time employees and half a dozen part-timers. It is also hiring interns this summer. The company has hired four people over the last year, including a new vice president of fleet sales.

Bob Mossing previously serves as business and fleet manager for Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office where he oversaw a $50 million budget. Mossing was also nominated as 2011 Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year, and Received Honorable Mentions as one of 2011 100 Top Fleets of North America, and in 2013 as one of the Top Government Green Fleets.

"He's a great guy," Flanagan says.

Source: Lauren Flanagan, executive chair of Current Motor Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Whiplash expands footprint in Ann Arbor, San Francisco

Whiplash is growing its headcount in Ann Arbor and its footprint across America.

Whiplash is the merchandising arm of VGKids, handling logistics for its e-commerce activity. The 3-year-old company, which got its start in Ypsilanti but is now located in Ann Arbor, recently opened a new facility in San Francisco.

"That was a pretty big win for us," says James Marks, co-founder of Whiplash.

Whiplash pulled off the new facility last August by landing an anchor customer (BetaBrand) and then finding a building twice the square footage it would need to accommodate that client. The extra space is then taken up by business that is grown organically from within Whiplash. The facility now employs four people and Whiplash is looking at opening another in Los Angeles, New Jersey or Berlin.

Whiplash is also in the process of expanding its Ann Arbor location. The company has hired two people here, growing its Tree Town location to half a dozen employees. It is now building out that building to handle its growing workload.

"Originally we had half of the building we are in and then took all of the space," Marks says. "Now we're getting the building next door." He expects to complete the expansion by the end of this summer.

Source: James Marks, co-founder of Whiplash
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Hile Creative creates more work, jobs with biz model pivot

Hile Creative made a name for itself as Hile Design up until about nine months ago. That was when the Ann Arbor-based company pivoted its business plan away from project-oriented work and more toward branding, giving itself a new name in the process.

"Now we're more geared toward helping companies establish their brand," says Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative. "That was a good move for us."

The 30-year-old company has hired three people in the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen employees. It is looking at adding interns this summer.

The extra staff has allowed Hile Creative to capitalize on its growth. The firm has watched its animation work spike recently. Hile Creative handles all of its animation work internally so it means more and more work for the Ann Arbor-based creative agency.

"We're becoming increasingly visual as a people," Hile says. "If you can come up with creative concepts visually people will get it."

Source: Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

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