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Tangent Medical hires 7 as it commercializes technology

Tangent Medical began commercializing its new catheter technology this summer and the company is already starting to show some traction for it.

Earlier this month the Ann Arbor-based startup won a Gold Stevie Award in the Best New Product or Service for Health & Pharmaceuticals category and a Silver Stevie Award for Tech Innovation of the Year at the The 11th Annual American Business Awards in San Francisco. The awards came courtesy of the company’s NovaCath Integrated IV Catheter System.

"We have launched a new product that is being recognized both inside and outside of the industry as breakthrough technology," says Curtis Bloch, vice president of sales & marketing for Tangent Medical.

Bloch adds that catheter technology has been largely unchanged for about half a century. Tangent Medical describes its NovaCath Integrated IV Catheter System as "combine advanced catheter stabilization, passive needle encapsulation, tubing management and blood control." The idea is to better stabilize the catheter, improve safety for healthcare workers safety and make it more comfortable for patients. Its passive needle shielding technology and closed system design is meant to minimize risk of needlestick injuries.

Tangent Medical raised $8.6 million in a Series B round of venture capital last year. That money helped provided the final push toward commercialization. The 3-year-old company received its FDA clearance in June and began marketing NovaCath Integrated IV Catheter System shortly after. To make that possible it has beefed up its staff to 23 employees thanks to seven new hires over the last year.

"We went from company formation to commercialization within four years," Bloch says.

Source: Curtis Bloch, vice president of sales & marketing for Tangent Medical
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Meritful opens Austin office, focuses on landing clients

Meritful has opened an office in Austin, launched its college recruitment software this summer and is signing up its first clients.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up makes what it describes as "relationship management software designed specifically for hiring students" for companies that want to recruit hires from college campuses. The software helps its users organize teams, plan events, engage candidates and measure the success of recruiting efforts.

"We provide a set of tools and make it very easy for the users to manage this process," says Azarias Reda, CEO of Meritful.

The company launched its technology in May. It also won the Move Your Startup to Austin For Free contest at SXSW this spring. That allowed Meritful to open an office in Austin, but it is still headquartered in Ann Arbor.

"We're using that to build more of the company and product and land some new clients," Reda says.

Meritful is currently working with some big-name brands in Metro Detroit, including American Axel Manufacturing and DTE Energy. The 1-year-old start-up and its team of three people are helping those companies with their college recruiting. Meritful plans to spend the rest of the year improving its software and expanding its client list.

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

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

Q LTD adds to staff as it grows organically in Ann Arbor

Q LTD has enjoyed a sizable bit of growth so far this year, taking on a number of new projects and one new employee.

The Ann Arbor-based company has recently hired a web developer, expanding its team to 11 employees and one intern. The new hire, a University of Michigan alumni, got his start with the digital branding company as an independent contractor last year before coming on as a full-time employee last spring.

“He was just a good fit,” says Paul Koch, creative strategist for Q LTD. “He is very passionate about web design.”

Q LTD focuses on helping companies and non-profits with their online presence and corporate branding efforts. Some of its recent projects include helping Wayne State University Press design and develop its new website. It provided similar services for North Star Reach, an organization that provides a camp experience for children with chronic and life-threatening health problems.

The 31-year-old company also helped create a new identity and packaging for Aldea Coffee, a small, high-quality, fair trade roaster. It also is working with NuStep, a long-time client that is launching a newly designed recumbent cross trainer machine.

“Several of these are long-time clients that are busy doing new things,” Koch says. He adds, “the more good work we do the more work comes our way.”

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

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

Reconsider sets up local investment advisory firm

Angela Barbash has worked as a financial advisor for a decade. She saw the financial crash in 2008, the recession that followed and how it impacted middle-class investors. She saw how colleagues in her industry pushed their customers toward higher-priced products that were arguably not the best fit for their financial future.

She also saw the rise of social entrepreneurship and how a growing number of people wanted to invest in their local economies. She saw the market shifting a decided she wanted to get ahead of it with her own financial research firm, Reconsider.

"I saw all of this coalescing and launched Reconsider," Barbash says. She describes the Ypsilanti-based business as a "center for thought leadership, providing services that include research and education about community capital and social entrepreneurship, and investment readiness assessments for companies who are preparing to raise capital." It is also working on helping increase financial literacy with everyday people. The firm and its team of six people are also working to create more avenues for people to invest locally.

Reconsider also launched a sister company called Revalue. Barbash describes Revalue as "a registered investment advisory firm that provides investment advisory services to individuals and organizations who want to feel good about where they have chosen to invest their money."

Reconsider and Revalue recently landed financing from the Michigan Microloan Fund, which provides five-figure microloans to small startups. That money has helped the two companies pay for its legal, accounting, branding and IT needs.

"It's covering all of those expenses," Barbash says. "The legal bill was the biggest by far."

Source: Angela Barbash, CEO of Reconsider and Revalue
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor-based EatBlue.com launches mobile app

EatBlue got its start a decade ago and has since established itself as the go-to restaurant guide for University of Michigan students, staff and Ann Arbor residents.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company has now launched its own mobile app to better serve its customer base. The app is free for both iPhone and Andriod devices.

"We tried to emulate the experience a user has on their desktop," says Andrea Garcia, operations director for EatBlue. "It's like a restaurant guide for your phone."

EatBlue also allows users to order food from their favorite restaurants through its website and mobile app. Today 70 percent of its users browse the site for restaurant information. The other 30 percent place food orders. That last number is up from 5-10 percent.

"That's a very big increase," Garcia says.

EatBlue is owned by Baltimore-based Hungry Media. It hired Garcia about a year ago. She overseas a staff of 15 interns.

Source: Andrea Garcia, operations director for EatBlue
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

EXO Dynamics set to finish prototype early next year

EXO Dynamics is in the final stretch of commercializing its mechatronic back brace in Ann Arbor and hopes to begin commercializing it next year.

The 1-year-old company is working on an electro-mechanical back brace for medical professionals. The brace is to help patients prevent injury and lessen pain without reducing mobility.

"We're probably 4-5 months away from putting it all together," says Mushir Khwaja, chief commercial officer for EXO Dynamics.

The start-up launched out of the TechArb last year and has since transitioned its team of six employees and few summer interns to the Venture Accelerator in the university's North Campus Research Complex. The company is also in the process of bringing on a new CEO with experience commercializing bio-technology before the end of the year.

"We're hoping once we have that solidified we can make a better run at landing seed capital," Khwaja says.

EXO Dynamics has raised $90,000 in grants and convertible notes so far. That number includes financing from the Michigan Micrloan Fund it received earlier this fall.

Source: Mushir Khwaja, chief commercial officer for EXO Dynamics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Go Docs Go turns better patient care into 12-person firm

Kylyn Mead has worked as an attorney in health-care law for years, but now is turning her career and her new business toward one goal - better patient care.

“I love patients and patient care,” Mead says. She adds, “People always ask what do you want to do when you grow up? I always answered I wanted to help people and this is how I do it.”

Go Docs Go specializes in helping streamline the treatment process for people who require lengthy treatment of chronic conditions. The idea is to help prevent coughs from turning into pneumonia, which helps drive down health-care costs and enables the patients, who are often elderly and utilizing Medicare, to age in place in their homes. Go Docs Go accomplishes that by providing in-house service calls by nurses and doctors.

“A lot of treatable diseases aren’t treated because they can’t get see a doctor,” Mead says.

Go Docs Go has experienced rapid growth in its first year offering these services across southeast Michigan. It now employs a dozen people and the occasional summer intern. Mead expects her business to continue to grow as the population ages.

“That’s how we keep accelerating our growth,” 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.

Vis-A-Vis Spa hires 16 as it grows biz, location in Ann Arbor

Melissa Mueller spent the first year of her business, Vis-a-Vis Skin, Spa & Body Works, getting it established and setting the stage for growth. The second year, that growth took off in a big way.

The Ann Arbor-based firm has hired 16 people over the last year, expanding the company’s staff to 19 people. Mueller is now expanding her business’ physical footprint to accommodate hair and  nail technicians. She expects her staff to grow to 25 people within the next year.

“I didn’t know there was this much of a demand for a practitioner in Ann Arbor,” Mueller says. “It has really blown up in the last year.”

Vis-a-Vis Skin Spa & Body Works offers skin care, waxing and massage services. “We’re hoping to do a blow-out bar,” Mueller says, adding such services are a popular trend in major U.S. cities, such as New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Mueller has a background in wine sales, working as a sommelier and buyer for high-end win stores in Metro Detroit. She also worked as a solo practitioner in massage in the area before starting Vis-a-Vis Skin, Spa & Body Works two year ago. She credits her company’s focus on customer needs as one of the driving forces behind its growth.

“I feel my customer service background helps drive the demand,” Mueller says.

Source: Melissa Mueller, founder of Vis-a-Vis Skin Spa & Body Works
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Relium aims to balance growth with tech development

Eric Shapiro has been working on software development for a long time and has built the company, Relium, from that work. Now that the company is growing through its mobile app work Shapiro is trying to find the right balance between being an entrepreneur and a software author.

“Trying to find the balance of running the company and what I call doing actual work can be challenging,” Shapiro says. “I don’t want this to be a 500-person company.”

For the longest time the Ann Arbor-based firm was just Shapiro and one other independent contractor. It has grown to a staff of five employees and a few independent contractors in the last two years, including two new hires over the last year.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to have one or two more employees,” Shapiro says. “We have a lot of requests for Andriod software now.”

Relium does mobile work for some larger brands, including Weather Underground and Philips Electronics. It also does smaller projects with local clients, such as the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

“About half of our companies are local and half are from around the world that came to us through word-of-mouth,” Shapiro says.

Source: Eric Shapiro, president of Relium
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor's solartonic leverages microloan to expand sales

Ann Arbor-based solartonic plans to leverage a new microloan to help market its solar-power technology and begin work on developing a second-generation of its principal product.

Solartonic is commercializing solar panel technology that it hopes to take the industry beyond the panel-on-a-frame installations. The firm’s solarap systems is meant to work with outdoor energy-efficient lighting apparatus with a panel that raps around a street pole so it can collect solar energy throughout the day. It has installed its first sales in texas and is working to generate more sales across the U.S.

“We’re looking to sell more of that version,” says Brian Tell, managing partner of solartonic. “We’re also looking at building a 2.0 version that will include some smart-grid technology.”

A microloan from the Michigan Microloan Fund, which is managed by Ann Arbor SPARK, will help support the two-person startup’s sales and marketing efforts, which will include building out its website and attending trade shows. The size of the microloan wasn’t disclosed but amounts granted by the Michigan Microloan Fund usually average around $50,000.

Source: Brian Tell, managing partner of solartonic
Writer: Jon Zemk

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

Ilium Software turns early adoption of mobile app into growth

Software developers like to brag about being early adopters, often telling people they were designing mobile apps at the dawn of Apple’s App Store. Ken Morse has them beat by a decade.

The CEO of Ilium Software has been designing the early ancestors of mobile apps for the Windows platform since the 1990s.

“We started in 1997 doing apps for what was called Windows CE,” Morse says. “Over the years that morphed into Windows mobile. ... Back in those days the devices were PDAs. Then over time they took PDAs and added phone hardware to it. They they started putting the PDA into the phones.”

The Ann Arbor-based mobile app company now employs seven employees and handful of independent contractors after hiring one person over the last year. It has been doing a lot of work for the Andriod platform in recent years, riding the wave of increased usership of Andriod phones.

“It has been a real interesting 16 years to see how the technology evolved,” Morse says.

Source: Ken Morse, CEO of Ilium Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U-M MBA student finds traction with mobile startup, Photoful

Jeff Bargmann has been working in software for a little more than a decade and is now leveraging that experience with his own mobile start-up, Photoful.

The Ann Arbor-based company’s mobile app helps users exert more control over their photo albums by making things like tagging, browsing and organizing easier. It got its start as an attempt to create a better photo gallery app but Bargmann soon realized the back-end of the app is what made it popular.

“I figured out that the organizational aspect is what people were missing from their lives,” Bargmann says. “So I relaunched it as Photoful and it has been well-received.”

Bargmann is the one-man team behind Photoful. He is doing it as a side project while he is pursuing his MBA at the University of Michigan on a part-time basis. He expects to graduate in December with an MBA in strategy and entrepreneurship. Bargmann plans to keep developing the Photoful platform and see how far the startup will take him.

Source: Jeff Bargmann, founder & lead developer of Photoful
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Atomic Object acquires SRT Solutions, plans to expand staff

Atomic Object has acquired SRT Solutions for an undisclosed sum. The Grand Rapids-based software firm plans to not only retain SRT Solutions’ staff in downtown Ann Arbor but is looking to nearly double it over the next year as Atomic Object’s Ann Arbor office.

“You can’t underestimate how valuable a highly functioning, cohesive group of talented developers is right now in software,” says Carl Erickson, president of Atomic Object. He adds, “I expect we will have our first job offer (for the Ann Arbor office) out next week.”

SRT Solutions has become a household name in Ann Arbor’s tech circles since its founding in 1999, doing work for the likes of Domino’s Pizza, General Motors and the University of Michigan. The company’s co-founders, Bill Wagner and Dianne Marsh, will not be staying on and are choosing to pursue new opportunities. Wagner will continue to work from Ann Arbor for Pluralsight. Marsh has taken a job for Netflix. The former partners reached out to Erickson this spring about a potential acquisition because of the striking similarities between their company cultures that focus on innovation and staying ahead of the tech curve.

“This is a really good match because of Bill and Dianne’s employees and business practices,” Erickson says. “All of that lined up pretty well with Atomic Object.”

Erickson started Atomic Object in 2001 and has grown his company’s client list into a diverse collage of brand names, including Whirlpool, Gentex and Amway. Atomic Object has a staff of 45 employees and four summer interns, including about a dozen people in its recently opened downtown Detroit office.

SRT Solutions' downtown Ann Arbor office will now serve as Atomic Object’s Ann Arbor satellite office. The five employees at SRT Solutions will stay on. Erickson is actively recruiting for a number of software programming and design position and expects to hire another five people in Ann Arbor over the next year.

Source: Carl Erickson, president of Atomic Object; Bill Wagner co-founder of SRT Solutions; Dianne Marsh, co-founder of SRT Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

SRT Solutions co-founders execute smooth transition

Entrepreneurs often start businesses to try something new. But what do they do when that business becomes established and they want to walk through the next door in life? For Bill Wagner and Dianne Marsh, that meant finding a soft landing spot for not only themselves, but their business (SRT Solutions) and the people who work for it.

“It’s not like leaving a job,” Marsh says. “There is a responsibility there.”

The pair of seasoned software entrepreneurs made a call to a friend earlier this year and a few months later they were able to work out an acquisition of SRT Solutions to Grand Rapids-based Atomic Object. The software firm plans to keep on SRT Solutions’ staff (five employees) as the foundation of Atomic Object's new downtown Ann Arbor office. Marsh and Wagner are now going off to take on new opportunities.

“It has been a lot of fun but it’s definitely time to do something different,” Wagner says.

Wagner is going to start creating course content for Pluralsight and developing the Humanitarian Toolbox. The toolbox will be an open-source project that leverages software to help first responders better prepare for disasters.

“It’s creative software that has a very big, positive impact on the world,” Wagner says.

Marsh will become the director of engineering for cloud tools at Netflix in Silicon Valley. She had no intention of taking a corporate job when she started down this new path, but Netflix was able to make a convincing argument to do so thanks to the company’s innovative culture and flat management system.

“When I announced I was going to make a change a bunch of opportunities emerged,” Marsh says. “Netflix reached out to me.”

Wagner plans to stay in Ann Arbor, working remotely for his new employer. He also planned to stay involved in the local tech/entrepreneurial scene.

“It has a lot of potential,” Wagner says. “There are a lot of great ideas coming out of a lot of young companies. We need some more hits.”

Source: Dianne Marsh and Bill Wagner, co-founders of SRT Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Deque doubles Ann Arbor headcount, eyes bigger office space

Deque has doubled the size of its office in Ann Arbor over the last year and plans to keep hiring at that pace over the next year.

Deque creates software that helps make websites more accessible to people with disabilities. A growing number of companies are working to enhance their websites in this way to open up their products to bigger markets. That’s where Deque is carving out its niche.

“A billion pages are being developed everyday and most of them are inaccessible,” says Preety Kumar, founder & CEO of Deque.

The Virginia-based company’s CTO lives in Ann Arbor and works remotely from Tree Town. The start-up has steadily built up its presence in Michigan, at first with a few hires through the CTO and then by opening its development center in downtown Ann Arbor in 2010. Today the office has a staff of 12 employees, which is up from six a year ago. The company is currently looking to fill six more positions.

“We have many open positions for talented software developers,” Kumar says.

Deque’s decision to grow in Ann Arbor made sense because of its ability to recruit computer science graduates from the University of Michigan and otherwise draw from the region’s talent pool. Kumar calls the company’s presence a “natural fit” with the firm’s culture and choose to set up shop in downtown Ann Arbor because of its vibrancy.

“It’s just a more accessible location for people living in Ann Arbor and for graduates from the University of Michigan,” Kumar says. She says the company’s growth is pushing the limits on its 2,500-square-foot office, prompting it to look for a bigger space to accommodate its new hires.

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

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