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Elegus Technologies develops advanced battery tech

A group of three Masters of Entrepreneurship students, one PhD student, and one professor from the University of Michigan believe they have come up with a better cell phone battery, or at least a piece of technology that will help these batteries last longer.

Elegus Technologies is commercializing a battery separator membrane that keeps battery electrodes from touching and short circuiting. It's thinner, less expensive, and more heat resistant than current option on the market. It's applications range from helping prolong cell phone battery life to jets to electric vehicles.

"We saw a lot of potential for growth not only with lithium-ion batteries but with other applications," says John Hennessy, co-founder of Elegus Technologies.

The team at Elegus Technologies has raised $23,000 in seed capital from grants and business plan competition wins. They hope to raise $150,000 by the end of summer. That money will help validate the technology. It is working on testing it through the rest of this year.

"Once we get that testing done we can get samples out to customers who are interested in it," Hennessy says.

Hennessy is one of three masters of entrepreneurship students at U-M’s Ross School of Business and a U-M PhD student who decided to take on the technology and turn it into a startup. Elegus Technologies was recently named the Entrepreneurs of the Year by the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship. Hennessy and his team are currently working with the professor at U-M that originally developed the technology.

"We thought it had the best potential out of all of them so we stuck with it," Hennessy says.

Source: John Hennessy, co-founder of Elegus Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PriceLocal aims to divert more Internet sales to local retailers

PriceLocal thinks has a way to help local retailers take back some of the sales they have lost to e-commerce over the last decade.

The Ann Arbor-based web service givers local stores the opportunity to match the online price for a product when shoppers are searching Amazon. The idea is to harness the momentum of the shop-local movement and pair it with savings consumers traditionally have only gotten online.

"Local stores have an advantage over Amazon no matter how many drones they say they are going to fly," says Matt Chosid, founder & CEO PriceLocal. "The local store can put a book in your hand today."

Chosid knows a thing or two about that. He worked on the litigation team at Borders from the 1990s until it closed. He saw the good years and bad ones. He saw how consumers increasingly used Borders as a showroom for their online purchases.

"They would take a book and say I can get this cheaper at Amazon," Chosid says. "They would walk out of the store and buy the book on Amazon. I am not saying that is the only reason for Borders' demise, but we didn’t have a response for that."

PriceLocal is that response. Chosid and the tech team at Alfa Jango created a web-browser plug-in that consumers can download at getpricelocal.com. Once its installed, shoppers can click on the PriceLocal button and send a price request to local stores to see if they will match it. If a local store has the item and can match the online price, shoppers get a coupon for the item at the Amazon price.

PriceLocal is launching with more than a dozen Ann Arbor retail partners. It has received requests from retailers ranging from Royal Oak to California.

Source: Matt Chosid, founder & CEO PriceLocal
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Huron River Ventures builds startup ecosystem in Kerrytown

Huron River Ventures isn't just a venture capital firm looking to build a portfolio of startups and investors. It’s working to build its own little entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kerrytown.

The 4-year-old VC, which specializes in early stage investment, opened up its first office this spring in Kerrytown. It is sharing the space with a handful of other venture capital firms and a few startups, including Local Orbit and TurtleCell. The idea is to create a concentration of techies and investors in a cool space in one of Ann Arbor's most cosmopolitan neighborhoods.

"We wanted to see if we could create a little space with some critical mass," says Ryan Waddington, partner of Huron River Ventures. "We wanted to create a space where people could bump into each other more frequently."

Huron River Ventures renovated the old Ann Arbor Observer space on the 1st floor of the Market Place building at 303 Detroit St. Arboretum Ventures already occupies the third floor of the building. Huron River Ventures was also able to recruit the Ann Arbor offices of a number of VCs, including Draper Triangle, Cultivian Sandbox, Arsenal Venture Partners, and Detroit Innovate.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to build out a big office when you're a staff of one," Waddington says.

Huron River Ventures, which has a core staff of two people, closed on a $11 million investment fund (its first) in 2011. It has made 11 investments, has 10 portfolio companies, and has recorded one exit. It currently has one term sheet out for another investment and is looking to make three more investments by the end of this year.

Source: Ryan Waddington, partner of Huron River Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Online Tech acquires new data center, renovates 2 more

Online Tech's data management empire took a big step forward this spring when the Ann Arbor-based company added its first data center outside of Michigan.

The 20-year-old company acquired a data center in Indianapolis, and is in the process of refurbishing two of its data centers in Flint and Westland. Online Tech got its start building out four data centers in Michigan, and has been targeting other Midwestern markets in recent years.

"We wanted to have a commanding presence in Michigan first, which was not easy to do," says Yan Ness, co-CEO of Online Tech.

The new Indianapolis data center is a purpose-built corporate facility that will deliver secure, compliant cloud and colocation services for healthcare, financial services, retail, and other companies in the region. Online Tech plans to make a total investment of $10 million in the facility and the surrounding Indianapolis metro area.

"It's a great business community," Ness says. "We love the people down there. There are a lot of healthcare and financial firms down there. We think what we have to offer is well-suited for them."

Online Tech is also renovating two of its data centers in Michigan, including a former Nextel data center is acquired in Westland. Both are set to come online by the end of the summer or early in the fall.

The expansion comes after Online Tech has gone on a bit of a hiring binge. The company has added 22 people over the last 18 months, expanding its staff to 52 employees. It also has four open positions in sales, marketing, and client services. Ness expects the hiring to continue as the company targets more Midwestern markets.

"We have about a dozen or so markets on our radar," Ness says. "We don't talk about what they are because lots of people are looking at the Midwestern white space."

Source: Yan Ness, co-CEO of Online Tech
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arotech hires 11 in Ann Arbor, looks to add another 5

Arotech's staff in Ann Arbor has been on the upswing in recent years and is continuing to trend skyward.

The Ann Arbor-based defense firm has grown its staff from 125 people at the end of 2012 to 136 employees a year later. Today it has a staff of 147 employees and a few interns, adding 11 jobs in engineering and technicians. It's also looking to hire another three engineers and two more technicians.

Arotech has enjoyed 20 percent year-over-year revenue growth since 2010, and the company's sales continue to spike. "We did hit a new high-water mark for revenues," says Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech's Training & Simulation Division.

Arotech provides simulation software to a number of defense and similar organizations, such as raining and use-of-force simulation for municipal law enforcement agencies. It has also completed 26 of the 28 sets of a suite of simulations for the U.S. Army that helps soldiers train to find and disarm improvised explosive devices. It also has started to deliver its first simulations products for a contract with the U.S. Air Force that trains soldiers how to operate mid-flight refueling booms.

"That is the first of 17 boom arm simulators to be delivered," Flosky says.

Source: Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech Training & Simulation Division
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ingenex Digital Marketing fills out new office above Arbor Brewing Co

Ingenex Digital Marketing moved into a bigger office in downtown Ann Arbor last summer, bringing a couple of local startups with it.

The digital marketing firm took over the second floor of the Arbor Brewing Co in July. The dramatically bigger office (about 4,000 square feet) was more than enough for its growing staff and a couple of local tech companies subleasing office space, including HealPay and 3.7 Designs.

"It allows us to have a really nice space and have people nearby we can collaborate with," says Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing.

The 8-year-old company now employes six employees and five summer interns from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. It has hired a content manager (a U-M grad) and a web designer over the last year.

Ingenex Digital Marketing specializes in inbound marketing, doing work for the likes of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan and helping launch and market a mobile app for Campus Commandos, a college-focused marketing firm. That has allowed Ingenex Digital Marketing to continue to grow its revenue, and Mehraban expects to push $1 million in sales.

"Our revenue is trending up, for sure," Mehraban says.

Source: Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HeatSpring expands office near Michigan Stadium

HeatSpring has grown its online educational business over the last year thanks to it forming some partnerships with other companies.

The Ann Arbor-based company, which is located next to Michigan Stadium, has signed partnerships with the likes of SolarPro Magazine to create classes oriented on their specialities. For instance, the class for SolarPro Magazine is on megawatt design.

"We went from having two to having 20," says Brian Hayden, president of HeatSpring.

That growth has allowed Heat Spring to hire a new employee, a student advocate, over the last year. It currently has a staff of four employees and is looking to hire a marketing manager.

Hayden wants to continue growing its online course offerings through similar partnerships. It is also aiming to raise an angel round of seed capital worth $1 million by October.

"We have some verbal commitments," Hayden says. "If we do all of that we will be winning."

Source: Brian Hayden, president of HeatSpring
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Language Link Institute helps improve English listening skills

Caroline Wojan has worked in the corporate language training sector for 20 years, and believes her business, Language Link Institute, has developed a way to help improve the listening skills of people who use English as a second language.

For years Wojan believed the ability for foreign nationals to learn to listen effectively to English speakers happened organically overtime. That often meant communications SNAFUs and embarrassed foreign business executives trying to keep up with what is said at important meetings.

"It [being able to listen and understand English] empowers them to feel more confident," Wojan says. "It also saves them time."

The Language Link Institute helps people either learn foreign languages or master English. Think executives from foreign companies for whom English is their second language. The Language Link Institute also offers tutoring services for students, and cultural and language training for foreign nationals in local businesses.

Wojan recently had an idea on how to help these foreign executives struggling to effectively understand English comprehend faster and more effectively. Wojan declines to elaborate on it, saying its a trade secret for her business, but says it has been effective for a broad number of her clients.

"This strategy has been effective even if it’s only practiced 1-2 hours a week," Wojan says. "It's kind of a process."

That has helped Wojan continue to grow the Language Link Institute. She has hired three language instructors in the last year and employs a staff of about a dozen people.

Source: Caroline Wojan, director of Language Link Institute
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U-M student-led FrostGear develops motorcycle helmet cooling tech

Zachary Hwang has been riding motorcycles for years. The temperature inside his helmet has, well, been less than comfortable.

"Heat has always been a big problem in the summer," Hwang says. "There is no air conditioning."

That inspired the University of Michigan student to launch his own startup, FrostGear. Hwang and two of his fellow Master of Entrepreneurship classmates have been working on a cooling technology for motorcycle helmets. The technology works because it cools the helmet, which in turn helps make the rest of the rider's body cool.

"We can make a smaller device that attaches to the helmet," Hwang says.

The TechArb-based startup is currently working on prototypes of its technology, leveraging resources from Ann Arbor SPARK and the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship. It has applied for a provisional patent for its technology.

"Ideally by December we will have a Beta product that we can take to trade shows," Hwang says.

Source: Zachary Hwang, CEO of FrostGear
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Mahindra GenZe expands Ann Arbor operations, plans to hire

Mahindra GenZe opened a technical center in Ann Arbor a little more than a year ago, creating a couple dozen white collar jobs. Now the Indian-based scooter manufacturer is opening a manufacturing facility and looking to hire couple dozen blue collar workers.

"We will begin hiring for those soon," says Terence Duncan, head of consumer engagement for Mahindra GenZe.

The division of the multinational company Mahindra and Mahindra is designing and manufacturing a scooter, and is choosing to do so in the Ann Arbor area. It opened its engineering and design center in Ann Arbor and has hired 26 people for it over the last year.

Mahindra GenZe plans to invest up to $2 million in its manufacturing facility, a move that is expected to create 34 new jobs over the next year. Duncan expects that work to begin this spring and go through the summer and early fall.

"We should be up and running, shipping our product by late fall," Duncan says.

Location turned out to be a big factor in Mahindra GenZe’s decision to locate in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor SPARK helped make the deal happen, highlighting the area's strengths and strategic location, among other qualities.

"All of the suppliers we needed are in southeast Michigan and northwestern Ohio," Duncan says. "It's just a great location."

Source: Terence Duncan, head of consumer engagement for Mahindra GenZe
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Logic Solutions expands Showcase Sales app platform, staff

Logic Solutions has enjoyed some significant success thanks to the growth of its products, such as Showcase Sales apps. Now the Ann Arbor-based tech firm is enjoying some awards as part of that success.

The Showcase Sales mobile platform was recently named Technology of the Year at Corp! DiSciTech Awards. Winners of the award are seen as leaders in the digital, technology, and science industries that push the boundaries of their fields through innovation and research.

The Showcase Sales app serves as a catalog, order, and file management system for sales and marketing professionals. Its content management system gives the user total control of their brand, including your product catalog, pricing, and sales collateral. The platform started out as a customized enterprise solution before moving to a SAAS system a year ago. It appeared in the Apple and Andriod app stores last fall.

"There is more functionality," says Angela Kujava, director of innovation at Logic Solutions. "It's more accessible to a broader audience."

Kujava adds that the app has proven popular to sales force with products that lack a little bit on the excitement side. Think manufacturers and industrial firms who have lots of literature about the technical side of their products.

"We would love to be known as one of the top (business-to-business) mobile apps for sales and marketing professionals," Kujava says. "But when we talk about the mission that drives us, we want companies to see Showcase as the trigger point for successfully increasing productivity through mobile technology."

Logic Solutions has hired about 10 people in Ann Arbor over the last year, primarily professionals in marketing and sales. The firm employs 50 people in Ann Arbor and 250 total around the world.

Source: Angela Kujava, director of innovation at Logic Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Qlovi doubles staff as it adds publishing partners

Qlovi is growing in both staff and clientele, as the Ann Arbor-based education startup gains traction after its first full year of operation.

"We have grown as a team and we reach more markets," says Harlyn Pacheco, CEO & co-founder of Qlovi. "We have 20 publishing partners and HarperCollins just came onboard."

Thats up from a half dozen publishing partners a year ago. A trio of University of Michigan graduates launched the startup nearly two years, focusing on creating a suite of literacy instruction and publishing platforms for the K-12 and digital publishing markets. The courses are digital and easy to access from mobile devices.

Qlovi has also been hosting more virtual Q+A sessions between classes and the authors to help create more a connection between the teachers and the students. “That allows us to create an on-going relationship with them,” Pacheco says.

The seven-person staff, up from three people as of September, is working to grow the reach of its product. That means more efforts to grow its clientele and increase the number of publishing partners.

"We want to reach more schools and more districts," Pacheco says. "Doing it in Michigan would be great."

Source: Harlyn Pacheco, CEO & co-founder of Qlovi
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AlumaBridge brings lighter, sustainable solution to bridge repair

When a bridge collapses, hand-wringing and fear become the rule of the day. And yet attention to infrastructure never seems to be a priority until it’s too late. A new Ann Arbor-based startup is working to get ahead of that problem before the worst happens.

AlumaBridge uses aluminum as its principal material for prefabricated pieces of bridging in order to extend the life of aging bridges. The aluminum bridge deck panels are made using friction stir welding and have a non-skid surface. They can easily be applied to the steel girders on existing bridges, giving many more years of service.

"I would like to address some of the nation's most deficient structures,” says Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge. "It's a matter of getting the technology out there and commercializing it."

Osberg worked at Sopa Extrusions studying new ways to extend the life of the countries aging infrastructure. His work focused on aluminum bridge options and he spun out AlumaBridge last fall. The company is now working to install its first bridge in Quebec and is working on test panels for bridges in Florida. Check out a video describing AlumaBridge’s product and installation here.

"It mirrors the strength of concrete but is one fifth of the weight," Osberg says.

Stories of the country’s aging bridges have grown more numerous in recent years. Last year "an Associated Press analysis of 607,380 bridges in the most recent federal National Bridge Inventory showed that 65,605 were classified as "structurally deficient" and 20,808 as "fracture critical." Of those, 7,795 were both — a combination of red flags that experts say indicate significant disrepair and similar risk of collapse," according to a story in USA Today.

"This (AlumaBridge’s product) offers them an option," Osberg says. "It offers them a longer bridge life with a recyclable product."

Source: Greg Osberg, president & CEO of AlumaBridge
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Blaze Medical Devices aims to begin commercialization in 2015

Blaze Medical Devices is so close to generating its first revenues it can taste them.

The Ann Arbor-based life sciences firm is developing a new technology that helps maximize existing blood supplies in medical uses. The 8-year-old startup is aiming to make its first sales early next year.

"Now we have a fully operational prototype, or a Alpha unit, done," says David Weaver, CEO of Blaze Medical Devices.

Blaze Medical Devices has developed blood transfusion technology that enables medical professionals to optimize blood banking and transfusions through testing. Its tests assess the quality of stored blood and its laboratory instruments help facilitate blood research.

"Our competition for the most part is the status quo," Weaver says. "First in first out, depending on age."

Blaze Medical Devices now employs a team of five people, including three co-founders and two researchers. It has added a new researcher over the last year. Weaver expects to receive initial UL approval for a research iteration of the technology by the end of this year, setting the stage for the company’s first sales in early 2015.

"We're forecasting sales in the first quarter of next year for the R&D device," Weaver says.

Source: David Weaver, CEO of Blaze Medical Devices
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Liquid Web aims to hire 20 for new downtown Ann Arbor office

Liquid Web is building out a new office in downtown Ann Arbor, which the Lansing-based web-hosting firm expects to fill with 20 people as soon as possible.

"As soon as we find qualified candidates we will be hiring them," says Cale Sauter, public relations specialist at Liquid Web.

The 17-year-old firm's new office consists of 4,000 square feet at 315 W Huron St, which is across the railroad tracks from the Ann Arbor YMCA. It is set to open by July. For information on the job openings, click here.

"We have been looking at Ann Arbor for quite a while," Sauter says. "It has grown as a tech hub. there is a lot of talent over there. We have a handful of employees who commute from there."

Liquid Web has opened an office in Pheonix and is opening another office in Europe this spring. The company has hired 75 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 404 employees. Most of the new hires and a vast majority of its staff (384) are based in Michigan.

"We are headquartered here and we will always be headquartered here," Sauter says. "This is where the bulk of our growth will be."

Source: Cale Sauter, public relations specialist at Liquid Web
Writer: Jon Zemke

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