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Software sales help propel Caelynx growth

Caelynx has grown its revenue at least 20 percent each year since it opened in 2005. Back then the engineering firm operated out of the founder’s house. Now it has $3 million in sales and a staff of 23 employees and the occasional intern. It has hired one person over the last year (a sales and marketing professional) and is looking to hire two mechanical engineers to keep its revenue growth in the double-digits.

"It's amazing that we have been able to keep that up," says Hans Steiner, director of business development for Caelynx.

The Ann Arbor-based firm specializes in engineering software to provide consulting services. Although the consulting services still make up the core of the business, Caelynx has found a lot of room to grow in selling the software platforms it employs. Software sales accounted for zero revenue two years ago. Now it's 25 percent of the company's bottom line and could reach 50 percent over the next year.

"That's really taking off," Steiner says. "It has become a bigger and bigger part of our revenue."

Caelynx recently was named as one of Ann Arbor SPARK's FastTrack companies, which means it has had revenue of at least $100,000 in 2009, with a verified annual growth of 20 percent for the following three years. It received the five-year FastTrack award for its continued growth.

Source: Hans Steiner, director of business development for Caelynx
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ornicept expands team to 11 as it preps for launch

Earlier this year, Ornicept pivoted its business plan. As the year went by the downtown Ann Arbor-based startup has expanded that plan further.

The 1-year-old firm got its start developing bird monitoring technology for the likes of airports and wind turbine operators. It then shifted to creating a software platform that helps wildlife biologists collect and manage data. Now it does that and helps people do the same for infrastructure inspectors.

"We focus on the way people collect data,' says Justin Otani, co-founder of Ornicept. "The way people collect data for wildlife and infrastructure is very similar."

That software platform, GeoTraverse, is currently Beta testing with two large multi-national corporations that are serving as development partners. The paid pilot projects are expected to wrap up late this year and begin commercial sales in early 2014.

To make that happen, Ornicept has had to expand its team. It has hired eight people this year and now employs a team of 11 employees at Ann Arbor SPARK's Central Incubator in downtown Ann Arbor. Those new jobs include hires of software developers and business development professionals.

"Our current growth is pretty exciting as we continue to add more talent to the Ann Arbor area," says Russell Conard, co-founder of Ornicept.

Source: Russell Conard & Justin Otani, co-founders of Ornicept
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Clean Energy Coalition expands market reach across Midwest

The Clean Energy Coalition got its start eight years ago looking to help bring more sustainability to southeast Michigan. Today it's services are spreading across the Midwest as the Ann Arbor-based non-profit continues to grow.

The organization got its start servicing Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit. It steadily grew to offer its broad range of sustainability-enhancement services across Michigan and now in other neighboring midwestern states.

"The organization is continuing to provide its services in more and more places," says Sean Reed, executive director of Clean Energy Coalition. "We're also doing more and more things."

The Clean Energy Coalition focuses on spreading green practices, such as improving fuel efficiency in local government automobile fleets and helping make homes more energy efficient. The non-profit has hired four people over the last year, including marketing professionals and project coordinators. It now has 25 employees and five interns.

Some of the projects it is working on for the next year include helping launch Ann Arbor Bike Share next spring. It is also working with the Clinton Global Initiative on its Home Energy Affordability Loan program by helping employees at local businesses, like Zingerman's, make their homes more energy efficient.

Source: Sean Reed, executive director of Clean Energy Coalition
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DeNovo Sciences preps to make first sales next year

DeNovo Sciences is in the final stages of commercializing its first products and is preparing to make it first sales soon.

The 3-year-old startup is developing a platform for early detection of cancer from blood as an alternative to painful biopsies. It has spent the last year going through clinical testing, primarily for its breast- and colon-cancer-detection products. It plans to debut two of its instruments later this fall at trade shows.

"We are really excited about it," says Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences. "We hope to start taking orders from them early next year."

DeNovo Sciences launched out of Ypsilanti and is now operating out of the Michigan Life Sciences and Innovation Center, which is managed by Ann Arbor SPARK, in Plymouth. It currently employs six full-time employees, eight part-timers and three summer interns. It has hired one person, an engineer, over the last year.

The startup took first place, which was worth $500,000 in seed capital, at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition two years ago. It has raised $1.75 million in seed capital from angel investors last year. It is currently looking to raise $6 million in a Series A round from venture capitalist next year.

"It's looking good," Handique says. "It's like what we planned."

Source: Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Underground Printing hires 55 as it grows nationally

Underground Printing has consolidated some of its gains over the last year and made some more inroads as part of its expansion plan.

The Ann Arbor-based business has watched its revenue jump by $2 million, or 17 percent, over the last year. It has added one new store in Oklahoma after opening four the year before that.

"Those stores have really come into their own," says Rishi Narayan, owner of Underground Printing. "That's where a lot of growth has come from."

Underground Printing specializes in making custom printed apparel, such as t-shirts and embroidered clothing. It has 19 stores across North America, including four in Ann Arbor. It also has one production facility in Ann Arbor.

The 12-year-old business employs 101 people after hiring 55 people over the last year. About 30 of those 55 hires are newly created positions. Narayan expects that hiring pace to continue over the next year or two as his firm keeps growing.

"We have plans to open between two and four stores within the next 12-18 months," Narayan says. "We expect our existing stores to dig in and grow, too."

Source: Rishi Narayan, owner of Underground Printing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

RheTech adds staff as it expands Whitmore Lake facility

RheTech is riding the wave of a growing economy and a resurgent automotive industry.

The Whitmore Lake-based plastics firm has hired a number of new employees in operations, accounting and customer service. A company spokesman described the number of new hires as “less than 15” but did say it now employs 200 people and a few interns companywide.

"Business is really good," says Kevin Seitz, vice president of sales & marketing for RheTech. "We have been growing."

Seitz says the company’s growth is being spurred by a combination of a rebounding economy and automotive industry, along with new sales of the firm’s newest product, RheVision. The green product is a fiber-reinforced polypropylene that replaces traditional minerals with renewable bio waste that are traditionally burned or buried.

RheTech has production facilities across the U.S. and two plants at Ann Arbor and Fowlerville. The 44-year-old company has added warehouse space and plant capacity between those two Michigan-based facilities to meet the rising demand for its products.

"We're optimistic about the future," Seitz says.

Source: Kevin Seitz, vice president of sales & marketing for RheTech
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Coval Fitness & Sports Performance grows staff to 4 in Ann Arbor

Mike Coval doesn't believe personal fitness has a one-size-fits-all solution. That's why his business, Coval Fitness & Sports Performance, treats each customer individually.

That means designing programs to help people lose weight, or gain strength to better compete athletically or build up endurance to overcome illness and injury so they can live an everyday life. It also means the Ann Arbor-based business isn't a sea of cardio and weight machines.

"We are much more specific to the individual and what their goal," Coval says. "We try to make it the Rolls Royce of personal training."

Coval Fitness & Sports Performance has used this philosophy to expand its client base and add staff. The company has hired four people over the last year, that includes a few replacement hires, so the 4-person firm can meet its demand.

Source: Mike Coval, owner of Coval Fitness & Sports Performance
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Student start-ups continue evolution at Accelerate Michigan

There will be some familiar start-up names in this year’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Not because it's the same entrepreneurs pushing the same ideas. It's because a number of former studentpreneurs are now pushing their start-ups as professionals.

A number of businesses that were launched from Michigan-based student housing are among the 51 semifinalists in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Among those are Covaron Advanced Materials (which won Accelerate Michigan's student competition last year under the name Kymeria Advance Materials), AutoBike (a product of U-M Ross School of Business grads), TurtleCell (founded by two U-M students) and SkySpecs (launched by four U-M students).

"We want to make sure we have a staircase of opportunities for students and their companies," says Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is in its fourth year. It has made a name for itself for awarding $1 million in prizes over the three-day business plan competition, including a $500,000 top prize for the top finisher. The prizes go to Michigan-based startups rooted in the new economy or startups that are looking to move to the Great Lakes State.

The competition is held annually in mid November. It was held at the University of Michigan its first two years and moved to downtown Detroit last year. This year's event will also be held in downtown Detroit on Nov 12-14, primarily at the Westin Book-Cadillac Hotel. For information, click here.

Source: Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Navitas Systems to create 125 jobs with $9.3M investment

Navitas Advanced Solutions Group, a subsidiary of Navitas Systems, plans to invest $9.3 million into a new facility to manufacture battery storage technology in Ann Arbor, creating 125 new jobs.

Navitas Systems, which is based in Illinois, bought the government contract business from A123 Systems early this year and spun it off into Navitas Advanced Solutions Group. The company has since hired half a dozen people and now has a staff of 37 employees and one intern. Those sorts of roots played a major role in decision to invest further in Ann Arbor.

"Twenty five of 37 people were already in Ann Arbor," says Les Alexander, general manager of Navitas Advances Solutions Group. "We already have an established presence here. We have been here since 1996 (when the company was called TJ Technologies)."

Navitas Advances Solutions Group is currently working on some military and commercial products that are expected to hit production in the latter half of 2014. That should trigger the hiring for this current investment.

"The bulk of that hiring (the 125 jobs) will be done in 2014 and 2015," Alexander says.

Navitas Systems received a $1 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. It will also receive a property tax abatement.

Source: Les Alexander, general manager of Navitas Advances Solutions Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Perich Advertising & Design adds 5 in Ann Arbor

Perich Advertising & Design has developed a couple of strong revenue streams in recent years.

It's a development that has allowed the downtown Ann Arbor-based company to hire five people over the last year. Those new hires have been mostly in client services and creative. The 26-year-old business now has a staff of 30 employees and two interns and expects to continue to keep up with its growth.

"For us it has been two things," says Ernie Perich, president/creative director of Perich Advertising & Design. "It's steady as she goes with our existing customers. We have also branched out to some business-to-business work."

Some of Perich's existing customers include Bank of Ann Arbor, Walsh College and the Detroit Institute of Arts. It has also taken on some new business-to-business work from Plex Systems, Summit Health and Altair, among others.

"It has been a good run for us," Perich says.

He credits that run partly to the longevity of the company's staff. It has 12 employees who have been with the company for at least a dozen years. It also has eight or nine that have been here for 20 years or more.

"We have a solid team of people who have been working here for a long time," Perich says. He adds that his company is also looking for creative talent, and that hiring the next graphic designer or art director is at the top of his to-do list.

"Hiring the next creative people here is the most important thing I do," Perich says.

Source: Ernie Perich, president/creative director of Perich Advertising & Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Wisely aims to leverage purchasing data

Wisely is looking for a few good consumers to help test out the Beta version of its new software that puts people reviews where their wallets are.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up takes data accumulated from purchases and uses that to show the popularity of a retail business. The idea is that fake reviews (both positive and negative) are posted all the time online on websites like Yelp. Wisely reveals the popularity of businesses and the items they sell by how often they are purchased creating a collection of reviews that are much harder to fake.

"We always thought purchasing data was interesting but it has never been democratized," says Mike Vichich, co-founder & CEO of Wisely. "Every other piece of information has been put under a microscope."

The 4-month-old start-up and its core team of five people take transaction data from consumers, which provides the basic ingredient for its secret software sauce. "We call it the first credible search engine for the physical world powered by transaction data," Vichich says. "Think credit card swipes."

Wisely is launching its public beta this week. It is looking for consumers to sign up to test out the software in Ann Arbor and New York City. For information on the beta test, click here. Vichich hopes to have 10,000 users in the Ann Arbor area by the end of the year. That would enable Wisely and his team to build out a merchant services program to help businesses maximize their sales.

"It's a better way for consumers and merchants to connect and establish relationships," Vichich says.

Source: Mike Vichich, co-founder & CEO of Wisely
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

YouKnowWatt brings tech to home energy audits

Ann Arbor-based YouKnowWatt is working on technology that helps bring real-time information to home energy audits and eventually make more houses energy efficient.

"We know that energy efficiency is something the U.S. can do now to improve our energy infrastructure and lessen our dependance on fossil fuels," says Steven Sherman, co-founder of YouKnowWatt.

The 6-month-old company is creating a digital portal that allows the people giving home energy audits more information so they can better engage and educate the homeowners. The portal will provide real-time energy consumption data, prior energy usage, and break down the numbers so homeowners can see where there energy dollars are going.

"It gives people more insight," Sherman says.

He also hopes it will enable them to make more informed decisions about what are the best options to making a building more energy efficient. It could potentially lay out a battle plan to retrofit a structure with better energy efficient features, such as when to install insulation or add alternative energy sources or simply replace an incandescent lightbulb with a CFL.

"It's a way to show how a home is performing and how a home audit can help it," Sherman says.

YouKnowWatt's team of four people (two full-time and two part-time) is preparing to launch a private beta with local contractors later this fall.

Source: Steven Sherman, co-founder of YouKnowWatt
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

All Out Fitness doubles staff at Avis Farms

Star Smith is always striving for self-improvement, which made sense because the owner of All Out Fitness has been a personal trainer for eight years.

That sort of drive got him started in physical fitness, led him to open his own business three years ago and double All Out Fitness’s staff over the last year. The Ann Arbor-based firm, it calls Avis Farms home, hired a personal trainer this year and has expanded its services to broad range of exercises, such as weight loss, strength training and sports performance.

"I try to stay well-rounded in most things," Smith says. "That helps me be the best all-around trainer I can be."

Smith started the business from scratch with just himself and few piece of work-out equipment. Now he has much more equipment, an employee and a growing client base that averages anywhere from 10-20 people a class. He says it's mostly from word-of-mouth referrals from clients and is quite proud of it.

"I would like to be locally known as one of the best studios in the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Metro Detroit area," Smith says.

Source: Star Smith, owner of All Out Fitness
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Cayman Chemical grows in Ann Arbor with new hires

Cayman Chemical took a recent hit or two, but not of its own creation. Still, the Ann Arbor-based company has continued to grow and add to its staff.

The 33-year-old bio-tech firm provides researchers with bio-chemical tools. It has hired 19 people over the last year, including the creation of 11 new positions. Those hires include a broad range of professionals, such as IT workers, scientists and marketeers. The company now employs 218 people and had 21 interns this summer.

"We continue to invest in our facility and employees as we grow," says Christine Booher, vice president of human resources for Cayman Chemical.

That growth comes despite some hits from governmental tribulations, such as the sequester. That means Cayman Chemical has not been hiring as fast as it was last year, when it added 30 people. Recently it began filling out its newly acquired office buildings on the south side of Ann Arbor. Booher expects the two new buildings -Cayman Chemical controls four facilities- to accommodate the company’s growth for the next few years as they look to capitalize on 2014 growth prospects.

"We have seen a rebound slowly from some governmental issues," Booher says. "We are very optimistic and optimistic for our global growth."

Source: Christine Booher, vice president of human resources for Cayman Chemical
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Universal Marketing Group plans to hire 150 in Ann Arbor

Universal Marketing Group is opening a new call center in Ann Arbor this month, an investment that is expected to created 150 new jobs much sooner rather than later.

"We're planning to have that staffed with 150 people by the end of the year," says Jason Birch, partner & CFO of Universal Marketing Group.

The 10-year-old company has grown at its Toledo headquarters each time it has needed to expand. This time it the company decided it needed a second location to help supplement its growth. Its founders spend a lot of time in Ann Arbor. They like its proximity to the company's headquarters and the depth of Tree Town's talent pool.

"We needed scalability and a community of Ann Arbor's size and diversity gives us that option," Birch says. He adds that all 150 jobs are open now and that they range from call center operators to supervisors to administrative. Interviewing for these jobs is expected to begin before the end of the month.

Universal Marketing Group will occupy the former Borders headquarters in a deal brokered with the help of Ann Arbor SPARK. It received $600,000 in incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp to make the $575,000 investment to create the call center. The project could expand to 400 new jobs by 2016.

Source: Jason Birch, partner & CFO of Universal Marketing Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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