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TLS Productions moves to new Ann Arbor location

TLS Productions has moved from Brighton to Ann Arbor, bringing 14 more jobs closer to the Washtenaw County seat.

The 60-year-old firm specializes in providing sales, rental, and production for the stage part of special events. For instance, it provides the lighting for everything from theater productions to automotive and trade shows. It employs 20 people in total, and is also looking to hire two more people.

"Ann Arbor is a fantastic hiring base," says Carl Kedzierski, director of marketing and new business development for TLS Productions. "We're hoping to get somebody local."

TLS Productions' new space in Ann Arbor is twice as big as its previous one in Brighton. It began the move in November and finished just before the end of last year.

"It took quite a while," Kedzierski says. "It was quite a production for us."

Source: Carl Kedzierski, director of marketing and new business development for TLS Productions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Trilogy Health Ventures expands with 60 new hires

Trilogy Health Ventures launched businesses in three areas in the last few years, expanding into pharmaceutical research, consulting and home healthcare. The Ann Arbor-based firm’s investment in latter of those sectors is paying off the most.

Trilogy Health Ventures owns three home healthcare businesses that provide home healthcare for senior citizens and other people in need across Michigan. Trilogy Ventures North handles cities like Bay City, Mt. Pleasant and Flint. Trilogy Ventures South covers Ann Arbor and Jackson. Trilogy Ventures West overseas Grand Rapids Kalamazoo and Hastings.

"These are really driving the hiring of new employees," says Barry Paxton, managing partner of Trilogy Health Ventures. "We have just been growing like crazy in the senior-care space. We're looking at subsequent investments in the business."

Those three businesses have hired 60 people over the last year, mostly nursing assistants and other types of home healthcare workers. Paxton expects to double that head-count over the next year.

Trilogy Health Ventures employs 70 people through all five of its businesses. It has two other businesses not associated with home healthcare. Pharma Form Solutions specializes in contract pharmaceutical research but has experienced flat revenues while hunting for new work. Paxton Holdings, a pharmaceutical consulting service, has experienced modest growth over the last year.

"It's a consistent revenue stream," Paxton says. "It's been going quite well."

Source: Barry Paxton, managing partner of Trilogy Health Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

NewFoundry app Ramblehook aims to streamline meetings

Ever been in a meeting and wonder where the time went? Wish you could take back that rambling story that sparked a side debate that ate up 30 extra minutes? NewFoundry thinks it has an answer for you.

The Ann Arbor-based firm, it's based just north of downtown overlooking the Huron River, just release Ramblehook, a mobile app that helps organizers take back control of meetings. It allows the user to list the agenda items, presenters, and time allotted for each topic.

"We're trying to reign in all of the side discussions that eat up meetings," says Richard Chang, partner & CEO of NewFoundry.

Chang is a alumnus of Mobiata, a software startup that made travel-oriented apps that was acquired by Expedia. He helped launched NewFoundry a year ago. Today it employs a dozen people who handle a variety of work ranging from mobile app development to industrial design.

NewFoundry's came up with the idea for Ramblehook to help keep its own internal meetings on track. It is currently working on a couple of other ideas for apps.

"We are looking at launching a few more apps in the next six months," Chang says.

Source: Richard Chang, partner & CEO of NewFoundry
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Draper Triangle Ventures plans to open Ann Arbor office

Draper Triangle Ventures sees an opportunity in Michigan so the Pittsburgh-based venture capital firm has its sights set on Ann Arbor.

The VC plans to make tech startups part of its newest investment fund and is opening satellite offices in Ann Arbor and downtown Detroit in order to be in the middle of Michigan’s most dynamic tech hubs.

"We'll be actively making investments," says Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures. "There is one that is pretty far along already that could be announced within the next couple of months."

Draper Triangle Ventures invests in early stage tech ventures. Think: software and IT startups. It is in the midst of raising a $100 million investment fund with commitments for three quarters of that amount.

Murray will be Draper Triangle Ventures' person on the ground in Michigan, manning the Ann Arbor and Detroit offices. Murray graduated from the University of Michigan with an MBA and serves as an advisor to the Wolverine Venture Fund at the Ross School of Business. He plans to make 1-2 investments in local startups each year. Those investments will be in the area of $1 million.

"Our model is quality over quantity," Murray says. "We tend to be selective."

Source: Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Visualization Network on track to double biz in 2014

Visualization Network has been around for five years making mobile apps, and the Ann Arbor-based company is now starting to hit its stride.

"Business is great," says Tom Crawford, owner & founder of Visualization Network. "Last year was the best year of the five years we have been doing this."

Visualization network makes custom apps and normal retail apps. Its custom and consulting work has doubled over the last year as the firm helps other businesses with strategic planning.

It also has its own apps for sale. They include Happy Hour Deals, which tells the user what the happy hour specials are at bars near them. It was launched on iPhone a year ago and for Andriod recently. It now covers bars all across southeast Michigan and other major cities in Michigan, like Grand Rapids and Grand Haven.

"It's starting to grow outside of Michigan," Crawford says, adding its is appearing in big cities like Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Crawford is looking to hire a sale professional now to help deal with the demand created by the app.

Another app is Return2Play. The app is used by coaches and athletes dealing with concussions. “If you have any symptom at all it tells you to take a step back,” Crawford says.

Visualization Network it core team of four people (it’s also looking for an intern) is currently fully booked for the first quarter of this year and nearly booked for the second quarter.

"If this continues this year we should double last year," Crawford says. "I don't see anything that indicates it will change."

Source: Tom Crawford, owner & founder of Visualization Network
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

3D Biomatrix expands product portfolio, sales

The University of Michigan spun out 3D Biomatrix three years ago but the bio-tech startup is starting to show some significant gains for its expanding product portfolio.

"We have a lot of repeat customers around the world," says Laura Schrader, CEO of 3D Biomatrix. "That's a good indicator of a viable product."

The Ann Arbor-based company, it calls U-M’s Venture Accelerator home, develops 3D cell culture Hanging Drop Plates for lab research in cancer treatments or stem cells. These plates allow cells to grow in 3D like they do in the body. Most current methods offer flat surfaces, similar to slides or petri dishes. The 96-well plates sell well for users using manual lab methods. The 384-well plates are growing in use as they work well with automated lab equipment, spiking sales for it and the firm’s revenues.

"We're not only adding new products to our portfolio but our products are becoming more widespread," Schrader says.

3D Biomatrix
and its team of four employees and the occasional intern are looking at expanding the startup’s product portfolio further with more testing equipment for personalized medicine uses.

"That's a space that has great possibilities," Schrader says.

Source: Laura Schrader, CEO of 3D Biomatrix
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Flagship Ventures invests in local startup, plans to do it again

Flagship Ventures opened an office in downtown Ann Arbor a year ago and it has already starting to make some moves.

The Massachusetts-based venture capital firm participated in a Series B round for Tangent Medical Technologies about a year ago. It co-led the $8.6 million round of investment with Arboretum Ventures.

Tangent Medical Technologies is developing its NovaCath Integrated IV Catheter System, which is designed to address IV therapy challenges including catheter stabilization, healthcare worker safety, tubing management and patient comfort. NovaCath's passive needle shielding technology and closed system design is meant to minimize risk of needlestick injuries and occupational exposure to blood to the lowest feasible extent. The startup is led by Jeff Williams who also served as the CEO of bio-tech startups HandyLab and Accuri Cytometers, which were both acquired.

"Tangent has a great team," says Mike Johnson, associate with Flagship Ventures. "Its IV catheter is a novel technology with FDA clearance."

Johnson is optimistic that Flagship Ventures will make another one or two similar investments this year.

"We're enthusiastic about the opportunities in Michigan," Johnson says. "We are evaluating a number of different companies."

Source: Mike Johnson, associate with Flagship Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

FarmLogs scores $4M in VC, looks to add 6 positions immediately

First FarmLogs developed its agriculture technology. Then the Ann Arbor-based startup landed the seed capital. Now the up-and-coming firm is starting to hire.

FarmLogs recently landed $4 million in venture capital. The Series A round was led by Drive Capital, a Columbus-based venture capital firm with roots in Silicon Valley VC titan Sequoia Capital. A couple of local investment organizations also participated in the round, including Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures and Detroit-based First Step Fund.

That cash infusion, along with a $1 million seed round it raised last year, has allowed FarmLogs to exponentially grow its staff. The firm has hired five people over the last year, hires that consisted of software engineers and designers. It now employs nine people and is looking to add interns this summer. FarmLogs is also in the process of trying to hire another six people, primarily software engineers.

"We will double the team this year," says Jesse Vollmar, CEO of FarmLogs.

FarmLogs makes online-based, farm-management software that enables farmers make better business decisions by providing real-time analytics and other strategic information. Vollmar and Brad Koch, who grew up in rural areas in Michigan's thumb region, came up with the idea in Silicon Valley's Y Combinator but moved the startup to Ann Arbor. The idea behind the move was to be closer to agriculture business while also calling an emerging tech hub like Ann Arbor home.

The startup has taken off in its first year since it launched its product. Today farms in each of the U.S. 50 states and 130 other countries are using it. Vollmar says that 5 percent of row-crop farms (think traditional crops like corn) in the U.S. are using FarmLogs big-data technology and that number is growing rapidly.

"It all boils down to delivering more value to our customers," Vollmar says.

Source: Jesse Vollmar, CEO of FarmLogs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Portal Architects leverages cloud tech to create 5 jobs

To the folks behind Portal Architects the cloud is a destination. But getting businesses and organizations to it is where the money is.

The Ann Arbor-based company’s software, SkySync, helps companies connect their IT to the cloud through a Windows app. That technology enables organizations to synchronize and move files across storage systems including most cloud storage services.

"It's right in our wheelhouse," says Mark Brazeau, co-founder of Portal Architects. "We saw the explosion of the cloud and we saw the need for companies to get to the cloud."

This isn't Brazeau's first trip to the tech startup rodeo. The serial entrepreneur has helped grow four software companies over the years. His last one, Blue Thread Technologies, was acquired by a venture capital firm. After that happened, he and his co-founders saw a golden opportunity in creating a startup that connects businesses to the cloud.

"It's in my nature I guess," Brazeau says.

Brazeau and his co-founders started Portal Architects two years ago. The launched SkySync last summer and have worked to flesh out the technology after that. Portal Architects has hired five people over the last year (primarily software developers) and is looking to hire another four today. The company currently employs 11 people and Brazeau expects to keep it up so his firm can keep up with the demand for SkySync.

"The market need for our product is there," Brazeau says.

Source: Mark Brazeau, co-founder of Portal Architects
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sight Machine hires 6 at Ann Arbor's Maker Works

The team behind Sight Machine saw an opportunity when it noticed that  most cutting edge manufacturing inspection technology ran on 1990s-era software.

The Ann Arbor-based startup, which calls Maker Works home, decided to bring that software up to date (and speed) with its new inspection technology.

"We wanted to make a product that filled the inspection service but took advantage of modern software," says Nathan Oostendrop, chief product officer of Sight Machine.

The 3-year-old company began selling its first products a year ago. That technology could do everything from measure tool integrity to whether a certain finish was added to a product as it rumbled down the line.

"As we have done more we have solidified how we do things," Oostendrop says.

That experience has allowed Sight Machine to add six new employees. The new positions include graphic design, product management and software developers. The firm currently employs 15 people.

Sight Machine has focused on manufacturing in the automotive sector but its leadership is looking to expand its reach in 2014.

"I'd like to branch out beyond automotive, like medical devices or alternative energy," Oostendrop says.

Source: Nathan Oostendrop, chief product officer of Sight Machine
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

1000 Tools brings sharing economy to pricey tools

The inspiration for 1000 Tools, a startup based on the idea of a sharing economy, came from an unlikely source: a Ford Probe.

Alan Mond used to own a Ford Probe. Like most other student-owned automobiles it eventually needed repairs. And like most college students, it made more financial sense for Mond to fix it himself than go to an auto repair shop. The only problem is he didn't have the tools he needed to do it.

"I could have bought the tools outright or I could have borrowed them from my friends but they didn't have all the tools I needed," Mond says. He adds that borrowing tools isn't a practice that strengthens friendships as much as it wears them thin.

So he came up with the idea of creating a website where people could put their expensive and niche tools up for rent. That became 1000 Tools about six months ago, when Mond teamed up with Julien Vanier (a software developer) to bring the idea to fruition.

1000 Tools is based on the idea of the sharing economy. Think Airbnb (where people can put homes or rooms up for rent online) but with tools. 1000 Tools and its team of three people have so far attracted 270 users who have put everything from a bread maker to an excavator up for rent online.

"We're going to grow it first in Ann Arbor and spread it to other cities," Mond says. "We'd like to have 1,000 tools by the end of the year."

Source: Alan Mond, co-founder & CEO of 1000 Tools
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MuniRent aims to help local cities share equipment

Alan Mond was on his way to Ann Arbor SPARK's Entrepreneurs Boot Camp when serendipity hit him. Actually, it drove by him.

Mond was working on growing his other startup, 1000 Tools, at the boot camp. 1000 Tools is based in the sharing economy where people who own expensive or niche tools can put them up as rentable online. Mond was trying to think of other market segments he could grow 1000 Tools when a municipal heavy truck rumbled by hauling a big piece of machinery.

"It just popped into my head," Mond says. "What about municipalities? They have a lot of unused equipment."

That’s how MuniRent got its start three months ago. The Ann Arbor-based startup helps local municipalities put their heavy or niche equipment up for rent to other nearby municipalities. Mond recently signed up the city of Milan to the service and is working on getting another 20 municipalities in the Ann Arbor area and Oakland County to sign on.

Mond points out that large cities like Ann Arbor often have a fleet of heavy construction equipment that spend large amounts of time sitting idle in work yards and warehouses. He adds that small municipalities often can’t afford to own a fleet of heavy equipment and have to rent it at a premium from traditional commercial rental houses.

"We thought why don't we fill the gap for these municipalities," Mond says. "The idea is to have every municipality in Michigan to have access to this large pool of equipment we have paid for as taxpayers."

Mond currently has one city signed up. He aims to have half a dozen using the service by July and 20 by the end of the year.

Source: Alan Mond, co-founder of MuniRent
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Anonymous incubator space quietly makes a name for itself

Mark Smith never intended to start a small business incubator focused on growing new economy startups. The idea is still foreign enough to him that he hasn’t even named the one he grew by accident over the last decade.

Smith ended up with an commercial building at 333 Parkland Plaza, just off Jackson Road on Ann Arbor's west side, after a bio-tech company he invested in went belly up in the early 2000s. Since an empty building is a rarely a profitable one, he did something about.

"We had extra space so we brought in other companies," Smith says.

Smith brought in biotech and medical device firms. He made the rental rate all-inclusive and kept overhead expenses low. He also offered mentoring and other professional services to help grow the firms. More importantly he brought together startups from the drug discovery, alternative energy and life sciences, among others, under the same roof to solve problems.

"We see people come together from totally different sectors and out of it comes solutions and new intellectual property," Smith says.

Today, seven companies occupy the 7,500-square-foot building and its wet- and dry-lab spaces. Some of those firms who have called it home and are currently doing business there include Evigia, ePack and AVAcore Technologies. Smith is looking at adding a couple of off-site facilities to help enable the startups to do small manufacturing and other functions. That’s take a priority over finding a name.

"We have been trying to keep a low-profile," Smith says. "Ann Arbor SPARK has been generous in sending people to us."

Source: Mark Smith, owner of 333 Parkland Plaza
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IT firm Systems in Motion hires 65, aims to hire 110 more

Systems in Motion is an IT services firm that doesn't do off-shoring. In fact, it doesn't even have an off-shore presence. The California-based company is focused on performing IT work in the good, old USA.

"The IT industry is starting to get focused on domestic sourcing," says Colin Chapman, vice president & general manager of Systems in Motion. "The easy stuff to take off shore has been taken off shore."

And Systems in Motion's growing delivery center in Ann Arbor is the main beneficiary. The satellite office opened in 2009 and has grown to a 200-person outfit with the help of Ann Arbor SPARK. A total of 300 people work at Systems in Motion.

The firm has hired 65 people in Ann Arbor over the last year for a broad range of positions, such as software engineers, data developers and project managers. It currently has 35 open jobs. The company expects to hire 150 overall in 2014, including 110 in Ann Arbor.

Systems in Motion specializes in application development, information management and testing services. It uses an Agile software development methodology, which makes the creation of software viable through a system of incremental improvements.

"We understand the industry well," Chapman says. "We're well-prepared to take advantage of the industry's growth overall."

Source: Colin Chapman, vice president & general manager of Systems in Motion
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Logic Solutions hires 6 as it builds out software products

Logic Solutions likes to find interns at the University of Michigan. The tech firm currently has four U-M student interns who are pursuing environmental and computer engineering degrees.

"My goal is to hire at least two of these interns," says Bruce Richardson, president of Logic Solutions.

That would go with the six people Logic Solutions has hired over the last year. Those hires include a senior-level technical architect, product manager and a marketing director. Logic Solutions is leveraging that new talent to continue the build out of its software.

The Ann Arbor-based firm makes custom software programs and mobile apps. It has also been working on developing its own software platforms, such as its Showcase mobile sales app for iPads. Richardson expects sales of that to gain significantly in 2014.

He also has some big expectations for its Quantum Compliance software platform. The software helps businesses implement and maintain compliance with Environmental Health & Safety standards. Logic Solutions acquired the company that created the Quantum Compliance software a couple of years ago and Richardson is looking for it to play a major part in Logic Solutions’ growth this year.

"We anticipate the revenue from that will triple in 2014," Richardson says. "If I am a betting man, I would bet that this is where the bulk of our growth will come from in 2014."

Source: Bruce Richardson, president of Logic Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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