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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.

Covaron Advanced Materials scores $550K in seed capital

Covaron Advanced Materials has locked down another $250,000 in seed capital, bringing the total for the downtown Ann Arbor-based start-up’s initial seed round to $550,000.

The $250,000 comes from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, which is run by Ann Arbor SPARK. It serves as matching funds for the $300,000 in venture capital it raised earlier this year, and is the precursor to the next round of funding the start-up plans to being raising soon.

“We expect we will be looking for A-round funding in the first quarter of next year,” says Dave Hatfield, CEO of Covaron Advanced Materials.

The 1-year-old start-up, formerly Kymeira, is developing a new chemistry for ceramics, which brings the benefits of existing advanced ceramics to new parts and markets. Vince Alessi, a University of Michigan graduate, developed the technology, which is in the final stages of commercialization. The seed capital will go toward finishing that process so it can start to make its first sales this fall.

“It (the seed capital) is going toward several things, like securing our intellectual property position, and replicating and validating the basic chemistry,” Hatfield says. “We are moving very rapidly to create the capability and the customers for the initial sales.”

Those initial sales will be in the mold, tool-and-dye industry. Covaron Advanced Materials' team of six people is also eyeing sales in the oil-and-gas industry further down the line.

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

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

Hile Creative adds 3 new hires as it rebrands itself

Hile Creative has made its share of business-plan pivots in its 29 years, making the switch from a design firm to an advertising agency, among others.

Now the Ann Arbor-based company rebranded itself again earlier this year, focusing on its strengths in branding and web development. It has also hired three people over the last year, expanding its team to 11 employees.

“I’m really happy to have a team now that I feel is the best we have had in our 29 years,” says Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative.

Some parts of Hile Creative are the same. It still does a lot of work with toy companies and local start-ups working with Ann Arbor SPARK. And some larger local bio-tech companies such as Esperion Therapeutics and Aastrom Biosciences are among its clientele. The firm also works with the University of Michigan.

“We love having an eclectic client base,” Hile says.

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

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

Interleaved Magnetic lands microloan for loudspeaker development

Interleaved Magnetic Products isn’t a start-up building a better mousetrap, but a much more efficient loudspeaker.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company that calls Ann Arbor SPARK’s incubator home is developing technology that should make loudspeakers more energy efficient by a magnitude of 10.

“The goal is to make the loudspeaker many times more efficient,” says Tom Heed, president of Interleaved Magnetic Products. “It’s maybe one-percent efficient now. We would like to get it up to 10-percent efficient.”

Heed has made a career as an audio engineer, working for the likes of Harman before striking out on his own. He started Interleaved Magnetic Products in late 2011 and just led a team of four employees and a couple of independent contractors to score a Michigan Microloan Fund microloan, which is usually worth about $50,000.

Interleaved Magnetic Products is currently prototyping its technology, using the microloan to buy parts for the newest version. Heed expects to have a Beta version ready by early next year and secure a round of seed funding not long after that.

Source: Tom Heed, president of Interleaved Magnetic Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HookLogic hires 10 in Ann Arbor, plans to hire 10-15 more

HookLogic continues to fill out its new office space in downtown Ann Arbor.

The tech firm moved into the former home of Leopold Brothers Brewery on South Main Street a little more than a year ago. The facility now houses a staff of 45 employees and half a dozen interns. HookLogic has hired 10 people in Ann Arbor over the last year and plans to hire another 10-15 over the next six months. It currently has openings for five positions, including software engineers and business development professionals.

"We're filling them as fast as we can," says Jonathan Opdyke, CEO of HookLogic. "It's a matter of getting qualified applicants."

HookLogic specializes in creating web-based software that deals with the delivery, management and measurement of customer incentives and promotional messaging for companies. "We have greatly expanded our client base to include a number of e-commerce sites," Opdyke says.

One of its newest products is its Retail Search Exchange software. The platform targets web-savvy shoppers who know how to turn traditional online advertising into easily ignored white noise. Retail Search Exchange allows customers to advertise their products on retail site search engines in a Google AdWords fashion. Check out a video explaining it here.

The platform launched in February and has signed up seven retailers. Opdyke says another 15 retailers are in the pipeline to sign on for the technology.

"It's growing very, very fast," Opdyke says.

Source: Jonathan Opdyke, CEO of HookLogic
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Coyote Logistics to open 125-person Ann Arbor office

Coyote Logistics is opening a new office in Ann Arbor, an investment worth $1.2 million that is expected to create up to 125 new jobs.

"Ann Arbor is an amazing place," says Jodi Navta, vice president of marketing & communications for Coyote Logistics. "There is an amazing school there in the University of Michigan. ... Ann Arbor is a town that fits in well with our culture and we think we will fit in well there."

The Chicago-based company specializes in providing third-party logistics and transportation services for North American shippers. The significant number of the company's employees are graduates from Michigan universities, including Navta and the company's CEO, both alumni from the University of Michigan.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp is providing Coyote Logistics a $1 million Michigan Business Development Program incentive to set up the facility. The City of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor SPARK are also expected to offer financial support to assist with recruitment efforts.

Coyote Logistics expects to finish the build out of its new office in Ann Arbor this fall. It will be staffed with transfers from its Chicago operations and new hires. The company expects to hit the 125 employee number within three years.

Source: Jodi Navta, vice president of marketing & communications for Coyote Logistics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

WorkForce Software doubles Ann Arbor office staff

WorkForce Software has hired six people for its downtown Ann Arbor office over the last year, doubling the size of its staff and prompting it to look for bigger digs.

"We are at capacity there right now," says Kevin Choksi, co-founder & CEO of WorkForce Software. "We're looking at expanding into more real-estate."

The Livonia-based tech firm specializes in management software for large employers. It opened an office in Ann Arbor a little more than a year ago so it could attract more software talent. The new office specialized only in software and has been a hit at the company ever since its opening, mainly because of its location in the center of the city.

"We wanted to give our employees the benefit of working downtown whether its access to the bus system or biking amenities," Choksi says. We want to give them the ability to go to the hot spots downtown. It's also easier to bring in interns downtown."

WorkForce Software has experienced significant growth overall in the last year, expanding its workforce to more than 300 people after making dozens of new hires. Driving this growth has been expansion of its sales by 50 percent, primarily through international business in places like Australia and Europe.

Source: Kevin Choksi, co-founder & CEO of WorkForce Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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