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HistoSonics looks to add jobs as it preps for clinical trials

HistoSonics is getting ready to start clinical trials later this year, which will mark the beginning of the last product development phase for the Ann Arbor-based start-up.

The 3.5-year-old firm, a spin-off from the University of Michigan, is developing a medical device that uses tightly focused ultrasound pulses to treat prostate disease in a non-invasive manner with robotic precision. The company's name, HistoSonics, is a combination of histo (meaning tissue) and sonics (meaning sound waves).

HistoSonics recently finished its regulatory approval process and institutional board of review approval. It is now prepping to begin its first clinical study, which will take up to one year to complete.

"I expect we will have this done in the next month or so," says Christine Gibbons, president & COO of HistoSonics. She adds that the main clinical study after that will take two to three years to complete.

The company is currently looking to add two clinical research managers to its team of 10 employees and one intern. Making that possible is the $11 million in venture capital HistoSonices scored in 2009. It is in the process of raising a Series B round of seed capital. Gibbons hopes to land between $12 million and $15 million in the Series B.

Source: Christine Gibbons, president & COO of HistoSonics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DavaRay turns light into healing power for chronic pain

Cliché tells us that sunlight is one of the best weapons to make something better. One Ann Arbor-based start-up is turning those words of wisdom into a business.

DavaRay is developing a proprietary heat dissipation technology that uses light to stimulate the healing process. The technology uses a monochromatic LED ray to help soothe chronic pain. DavaRay claims that its Nanobeam 940 is used by a number of professional sports teams, including the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Pistons.

"It's really getting a lot of attention in the sports industry," says David Arndt, co-founder of DavaRay.

Arndt was inspired to start the business after suffering through chronic neck pain from a motorcycle accident. He found some relief in infrared therapy but the company that made the technology went out of the business, so the mechanical engineer decided to make his own product.

The 6-year-old company now employs seven people and a couple dozen independent contractors. It is currently working to raise seed capital so it can ramp up production and marketing. The company will present at next week's Michigan Growth Capital Symposium.

"We have gone from one guy with a sore neck from a motorcycle accident to treating thousands of patients with chronic pain," Arndt says. "We're taking it to the next level."

Source: David Arndt, co-founder of DavaRay
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

LLamasoft hires 60, shifts focus to profitability

Last year, LLamasoft scored $6 million in venture capital. Since then it has hired 60 people as it scales its logistical software products. This year the downtown Ann Arbor-based company is going to be all about consolidating those gains and focusing on maximizing profitability.

The 11-year-old company has grown its revenues by 70 percent over the last year and expects to do that again in 2013. All of that new business is coming from customers in a wide variety of industries, stretching from oil & gas to life sciences. LLamasoft's biggest customers are in the food & beverage and consumer goods industries.

"We're doing well across every industry," says Toby Brzoznowski, co-founder & executive vice president of LLamasoft.

LLamasoft now employs 150 people after hiring 60 in the last year. About 70 percent of those 150 are in its recently expanded downtown Ann Arbor office. The company now has offices in the United Kingdom, China, South America, Australia and Africa. Brzoznowski expects his staff to grow another 20 percent over the next year.

He chalks the slower growth in hiring up to the company's focus on maximizing profitability this year instead of revenue gains. The company is also getting set to release a number of new software products, including some that migrate more of the logistical work to the cloud and mobile platforms.

Source: Toby Brzoznowski, co-founder & executive vice president of LLamasoft
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arbor Brewing Co doubles production, caps India expansion

Arbor Brewing Co spent much of 2012 setting the stage for some significant growth both at home and abroad. This is the year the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti-based craft brewery begins to reap some of those gains.

The Ann Arbor-based company completed a $1 million eco-friendly expansion to its sister brewery, Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, last year. That gave the firm the room to double its capacity. Last year it sold 3,500 barrels of beer and is on pace to sell 5,000 barrels this year. Next year's target is 7,000 barrels.

Helping drive that growing demand is sales of its new award-winning IPA (Buzz Saw American IPA) and its takeoff of its strawberry blonde beer, Bollywood Blonde. Arbor Brewing Co is also doing a quarterly release of its Imperial Series, which includes a double IPA and an imperial pilsner. The brewery is also increasing production of its four-packs of barrel-aged sour beers.

"Some of our brands are really starting to take off," says Rene Greff, who co-founded Arbor Brewing Co with her husband, Matt Greff, in 1995.

Arbor Brewing Co's new India franchise is also gaining traction. The firm recently decided to open a franchise in Bangalore to fill the void in the practically non-existent craft brewing scene in India. After a year of trying to get the brewery off the ground, it is now up and running and gaining speed.

"It's doing fantastic," Matt Greff says. "We started serving beers in February and it's blowing away our expectations of sales and beers sold. It's absolutely nuts."

Arbor Brewing Co currently employs about 50 people in India and expects to begin searching for an American master brewer to work there full-time later this year. It is also exploring the idea of expanding to a few more locations in India in the next few years.

The company has a staff of 70 full-time employees and two interns between its downtown Ann Arbor brewpub and the Corner Brewery. It has hired five people between those two breweries over the last year, both for its kitchens and the breweries.

Source: Matt & Rene Greff, co-owners of Arbor Brewing Co and Corner Brewery
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Race car simulation firm Image Space capitalizes on steady growth

Apparently slow and steady does win the race, even for tech firms that make race car simulation software.

Image Space has made its mark as a video game development firm since 1992. Its principal product is the rFactor and rFactor2 systems, which allow users to build their own four-wheel vehicle and use it in a racing simulator. Slowly and steadily improving those platforms has allowed the downtown Ann Arbor-based company to continue its relentless growth in recent years.

"Our growth will be slow and steady," says Gjon Camaj, vice president of Image Space. "We only bring people in as we need them. Our growth has always been slow and steady."

Image Space now employs a staff of 20 people, a dozen of which work in downtown Ann Arbor. The rest work remotely. The firm hired one engineer six months ago and is in the process of hiring another engineer right now.

That expanding team will help to continue to grow the rFactor platforms, including its new rFactor Pro. Its new products are being used both by professional racing teams and by companies looking to provide a realistic game-playing experience.

"We have sold that to a number of racing organizations, including a number of Formula 1 teams,"  Camaj says. "We have also used that software in other ways and sold it to marketing companies."

Source: Gjon Camaj, vice president of Image Space
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Jolly Pumpkin doubles production staffing in Dexter

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is living up to its name this year, or at least the jolly and the artisan parts.

The Dexter-based craft brewery is quickly filling up its new production facility and watching sales go up at its restaurants in Ann Arbor and Traverse City. The 9-year-old firm has also been doing some collaborative brewing with Maui Brewing Co. The result is Sobrehumano Palena 'Olo, a red ale brewed with liliko'i and Michigan cherries.

"It's usually a lot of fun because you get to learn something from a different brewer," says Ron Jeffries, founder of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.

The brewery executed its move into a larger facility in February. Its 70,000 square feet of space (up from 10,000 square feet in its last location) has a 20,000 square-foot office that Jeffries is looking to turn into a pub later this year. It also has 50,000 square feet of production space that is helping quench the thirst for Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales' award-winning lineup.

"It's filling up alarmingly fast," Jeffries says. "We're going to have to figure something out next year."

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales produced 10,000 barrels of its brews last year and is on track to sell as many as 13,000 barrels this year. That number can keep going up because its new facility provides it with the capability of doubling production.

More production space has also allowed the brewery to double its production staffing to 15, after hiring seven people. It is currently looking to hire five more to do beer delivery, general labor and brewery work. The brewery also employs another 200 people at its restaurants, which have watched their sales increase significantly over the last year.

Source: Ron Jeffries, founder of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Wolverine State Brewing Co expands staff, adds rental hall in Ann Arbor

Wolverine State Brewing Co made a major expansion last year, both in its production facility and its tap room.

The Ann Arbor-based craft brewer that specializes in lagers added a rental hall to its tap room on West Stadium Boulevard in the old Big George's space. The Gulo Room, named after its signature pale ale lager, has proven quite popular for a broad range of local clientele.

"I have rented it out for baby showers and birthday parties," says E.T. Crowe, co-owner & marketing director of Wolverine State Brewing Co. "Groups seek it out and hold presentations there."

Wolverine State Brewing Co specializes in lagers, a light-specialty beer that often takes a month longer to brew than the average ale. The company got its start in 2006 contracting its brewing out to a larger brewery. It opened its current location on the west side of Ann Arbor in 2010, which currently houses its tap room and production facility.

The brewery installed three new fermentation vessels late last year, allowing the firm to up its production. It sold 1,100 barrels of lager last year and is on track to hit 1,500 barrels in 2013. The overall production numbers are lower than other breweries because lagers are more difficult to brew.

"Lager yeast moves slower and has to be much colder," Crowe says. "Our infrastructure has to be much more intense."

Wolverine State Brewing Co has hired three people over the last year, including a brewer, a brewery worker and a bartender. It now has a staff of 12 people and is looking to capitalize on its most recent gains.

"This was a huge leap to make inside of a year," Crowe says. "We are now sitting tight this year and catching up."

Source: E.T. Crowe, co-owner & marketing director of Wolverine State Brewing Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

NetWorks Group adds 3 jobs, looks to add 3 more

Ethical hacking is one of those terms that is both attention-grabbing and in some cases profitable, at least for one downtown Ann Arbor-based company.

NetWorks Group has enjoyed a significant surge in new business for its ethical hacking program. That section of the 15-year-old IT company has enjoyed double-digit growth over the last year and now makes up a quarter of the firm's bottom line.

"Our ethical hacking organization is designed to find those vulnerabilities (in an IT system) before they are exploited," says Steve Fuller, president of Networks Group.

The firm has also enjoyed double-digit growth in its managed services section, which makes up half of the company's revenue. That service is becoming more attractive because more and more organizations are looking for a comprehensive solution to their IT problems.

"A lot of places do a lot of project-based services," says Matthew Warner, creative director for NetWorks Group. "We make it easier to come in and handle all of it for you. You won't need to worry about any of it. This is becoming more alluring for organizations."

NetWorks Group has hired three people over the last year, expanding its staff to 18 employees and one intern. It is also looking to hire another three people right now, including a network engineer, security engineer and sales rep.

Source: Steve Fuller, president of Networks Group and Matthew Warner, creative director for NetWorks Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IROA Technologies scores $1M-plus in seed capital

IROA Technologies (formerly NextGen Metabolomics) has a new infusion of seed capital to go with its new name.

The Ann Arbor-based life sciences start-up recently landed a sizable Series A round of financing. Felice de Jong, the firm's CEO, declined to give a specific number of the amount beyond saying IROA Technologies closed a Series A worth "over $1 million." Bloomfield Hills-based O2 Investment Partners led the round with Ann Arbor SPARK and InvestDetroit also participating.

IROA Technologies is developing tools to identify key metabolites that can be used to diagnose diseases such as cancer in samples including blood and urine. The start-up's technology is unique because it can cut through the clutter of information from the analysis of blood or other bodily fluids and tissues to find the critical metabolites that relate to disease and  illness. That cuts the diagnosis time from hours to minutes.

"Our tools make it easier to measure all of the metabolites in a person or any organism," de Jong says.

IROA Technologies plans to use its new seed capital to continue development of its software, expand its sales and marketing and add to its team. The firm currently employs two people and is looking to hire two more now to push forward the commercialization of its technology.

"We're hoping that within the year we will be able to launch our products," de Jong says.

Source: Felice de Jong, CEO of IROA Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Retinal therapy developer ONL Therapeutics expands executive team

ONL Therapeutics is growing and the most visible sign of that is the expansion of its leadership team.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up recently hired a vice president of research and development, bringing its headcount to four employees and a few independent contractors. The 2-year-old firm recently completed its pharmacology study and is developing the plan and design for its clinical trials.

"We will complete the formulation of the product and manufacture the supplies to conduct the final, formal safety study and supplies for the clinical trial," says Raili Kerppola, CEO of ONL Therapeutics.

ONL Therapeutics is developing a new retinal therapy to help prevent retina detachment and blindness in some cases. It spun out of the University of Michigan's Kellogg Eye Center and is working with the university's Office of Technology Transfer.

ONL Therapeutics recently obtained an orphan drug designation because it treats a rare affliction. The designation is expected to help clear the path to the market. Kerppola expects the clinical trial for the therapy to begin next year. Commercialization is expected to take about five years.

Source: Raili Kerppola, CEO of ONL Therapeutics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Locavorious thrives on fresh frozen foods

Locavorious has enjoyed some solid growth in the last year and is preparing to staff up for the 2013 growing season with half a dozen new hires.

The Ann Arbor-based business preserves the produce created at local farms by freezing it in a community freezer. That food is then sold on a subscription basis so customers can capture local food at its peak freshness. More money stays in the local economy and less food is trucked in from the other side of the continent.

Locavorious' subscriptions were up 12 percent to 265 over the last year, and the 6-year-old firm's goal is to cross the 300 threshold by next spring. Last year it faciliated the sale of 14,000 pounds of food and it's looking to do even more this year by widening more channels to supply fresh local food to the Ann Arbor area.

"We are doing a lot more retail on top of our subscriptions," says Rena Basch, owner of Locavorious. The company became a Whole Foods-certified seller last year and the store near the Ann Arbor-Saline Road is carrying six of its products.

"I am talking to two other stores," Basch says. "We will hopefully put more products into our retail channel."

Basch also wants to expand Locavorious' coverage area beyond the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. The Plymouth area appears to be a likely candidate for expansion.

Source: Rena Basch, owner of Locavorious
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Environmentalist grows passion into Ann Arbor Seed Co.

Eric Kampe has a couple of passions and two are taking priority in his life right now. The Ann Arbor resident is an environmentalist and seed-saving enthusiast.

Seed savers will save and collect seeds for farming. The idea is to keep local ecosystems fresh and diverse through using local, organic and native seeds. That hobby got Kampe started on creating his own business, Ann Arbor Seed Co.

"I am very passionate about growing food in a healthy and organic way," Kampe says. "I am also passionate about seed saving."

Ann Arbor Seed Co. sells 10 varieties of fruits and vegetables, such as an heirloom tomato called Cherokee Purple and a sunflower called Tigers Eye. The 1-year-old business sells its seeds at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, Growing Hope in Ypsilanti and The Garden Mill in Chelsea. It recently sold out of its line of spinach seeds.

Kampe splits his time between the two full-time jobs of running Ann Arbor Seed Co. and driving a delivery truck. He hopes to make Ann Arbor Seed Co his only job by tripling or even quadrupling his product portfolio this year. It would allow him to follow his passion in agriculture and keep working his hands.

"It's a rewarding lifestyle," Kampe says.

Source: Eric Kampe, owner of Ann Arbor Seed Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DesignHub grows workload in Saline

DesignHub's steady growth curve is continuing in Saline as the design firm expands its revenue, client base and service offerings.

"It has been modest growth," says Chris Kochmanski, partner at DesignHub. "The way we have grown is by adding some signature clients and getting into some new things."

The 14-year-old website design firm has watched its revenue grow by five percent over the last year, taking on some new clients like Inmatech, a tech firm based in Ann Arbor. DesignHub is also working to become a one-stop shop for digital marketing for its clients, handling more work in mobile and designing several different versions of websites for its customers.

"We're seeing a lot of that," Kochmanski says. "We're working on things like that for a few people."

He estimates DesignHub has launched about a dozen new websites over the last year and is handling work for some big names, such as Ann Arbor SPARK and MASCO Cabinetry.

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

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

Covaron Advanced Materials lands $300K in seed capital

The winner of the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is now a venture-backed start-up, landing six figures in seed capital.

Covaron Advanced Materials (formerly Kymeira) scored $300,000 in a seed capital round, which was led by the Mercury Fund. The First Step Fund, Huron River Ventures and Two Seven Ventures are also participating in the round. The Ann Arbor-based firm is developing a new chemistry for ceramics, which brings the benefits of existing advanced ceramics to new parts and markets.

"It's going to help further the development of the technology and the intellectual property," says Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials. "It will also generate the initial sales in the mold and pattern market."

The 1-year-old business employs four people and a few independent contractors. The team consists of founder Vince Alessi, co-founders Cam Smith and Reed Shick, along with Hatfield. That team took home first place in the student division of last fall's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, a prize worth $25,000.

That prize usually goes to raw start-ups but Hatfield believes Covaron Advanced Materials' technology is far enough along that it can begin making sales in the molds and patterns market (think durable goods like those used by the automotive sector) this year. An expansion into the oil and gas industry and a Series A round of funding could also be in line next year.

"We're hoping to commercialize this as soon as possible," Hatfield says.

Source: Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arotech defense firm hires 40, doubles Ann Arbor space

Arotech is growing its staff and footprint in Ann Arbor, doubling its commercial space with another 40,000 square feet and hiring 40 people over the last year.

That growth is coming from the Ann Arbor-based defense firm's training and simulation division. That division, which employs 168 people, has watched its revenue jump 39 percent last year and expects another healthy year in 2013.

Spearheading that growth are a couple of large contracts with the U.S. military. The largest is providing a simulation suite to the U.S. Army that helps soldiers train to find and disarm improvised explosive devices, commonly known as IEDs. The suite helps teach soldiers how to use equipment that finds and disarms IEDs, along with the vehicles that protect the disarming operation.

"We're in the process of delivering our 15th suite out of 28," says Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech's training and simulation division. "We're delivering one per month."

Arotech's training and simulation division has also enjoyed more business from the law enforcement and homeland security sectors. It has a contract with the U.S. Airforce to provide simulation technology to train soldiers how to operate mid-flight refueling booms and several contracts with municipal law enforcement agencies for training and use-of-force simulation.

Source: Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech
Writer: Jon Zemke

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