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Innovation & Job News

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InfoReady hires 7, looks to add a dozen more in Ann Arbor

InfoReady is celebrating its fifth anniversary this month, a milestone that carries a lot of weight with the startup's founder.

The Ann Arbor-based firm has doubled its revenue each year, notching 1,000 percent growth in that time frame. That growth streak doesn't look like it's going to end anytime soon.

"At least the next three years," says Bhushan Kulkarni, CEO of InfoReady.

Kulkarni is a serial entrepreneur in Ann Arbor, having launched and exited a handful of tech startups over the last couple of decades. InfoReady was spun off one of those firm, GDI Infotech. InfoReady's software streamlines the research and business-venture-building process for everything from obtaining grants to building new startups. It even helps match the user with the best sources of funding and talent.

"It matches you with the right data," Kulkarni says.

InfoReady raised a $2.5 million angel round last year. It is now looking to recapitalize later this year with a planned $5 million Series A.

InfoReady has also expanded its team over the last year, hiring seven people. It currently employes a staff of 25 employees and a couple of interns. It is also looking to hire a dozen people, primarily in sales and marketing.

Source: Bhushan Kulkarni, CEO of InfoReady
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

H3D expands camera tech to more nuclear plants around world

H3D has spent much of the last year becoming a global player, selling its camera technology internationally.

"We have sold our cameras to close to 20 nuclear power plants around the world," says Zhong He, chairman of H3D.

Zhong is also a professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the University of Michigan. He has been working on H3D’s camera technology since the late 1990s, spinning out the company four years ago.

H3D's Polaris H technology is a hand-held radiation camera that helps nuclear plant operators find potentially dangerous hot spots and leaky fuel rods with more speed and precision. It accomplishes this by laying a gamma-ray map over an image of a room, allowing it to pinpoint radiation sources.

H3D's has seen dramatic sales gains without a marketing budget. It also has landed two Department of Defense contracts. All of these wins are coming primarily through word-of-mouth advertising from the company's customers. The increased roster of clients has allowed the company to hire four people (engineers) over the last year, expanding its staff to nine people. It is also looking to hire another engineer if the right candidate comes around.

"We are financially quite sound," He says.

Source: Zhong He, chairman of H3D
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IROA Technologies signs key license agreement with University of Florida

IROA Technologies launched its first product last year, and the Ann Arbor-based startup has started to reap some of the rewards of that hard work.

The 5-year-old company has signed up a couple of dozen of clients and entered into a lucrative licensing agreement with the University of Florida for its metabolomic testing kits.

"That (the product roll out) went really well," says Felice de Jong, CEO of IROA Technologies. "We now have about 30 collaborators and groups using our product."

IROA Technologies got its started as NextGen Metabolomics in 2010. It changed its name to its current brand in 2013 and scored a $1 million Series A early last year. That money went toward the development of testing kits for yeast and bacteria, which can help identify key metabolites in the diagnosis of diseases, such as cancer.

IROA Technologies reached a big milestone last year when it signed its licensing agreement with the Southeast Center for Integrated Metabolomics at the University of Florida. The agreement proved to be a big bit of validation for the testing kits , attracting new customers.

"That has played a key strategic role with us," de Jong says.

IROA Technologies plans to continue to line up more customers this year in an effort to increase its revenue. It has also added a sales person to its core team of 10 people. The company is not planning on raising a Series B anytime soon.

"We have been doing well on the revenue front," de Jong says. "We can reinvest in the company."

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

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

Duo Security lands $30M from big-name investors, adds lots of jobs

Duo Security is making a lot of news this week. There is the new product launch, Duo Platform, that promises to be a more comprehensive online security solution. There are the new jobs created, a couple dozen easy. There are the new satellite offices, both domestic and international.

And then there is the money. A lot of money.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based tech startup just closed on a Series C worth $30 million. Redpoint Ventures led the round with participation by current investors Benchmark Capital, Google Ventures, Radar Partners, and True Ventures. That's a lot of big names from the Silicon Valley venture capital world.

The money will go toward expansion of the company in a number of different ways. First and foremost will be hiring. The company moved into its new, larger home at 123 N. Ashley earlier this year, crossing the 100-person employee mark about the same time. Duo Security currently has 30-some job openings, which can be found here.

"We are hiring across the board in every department," says Jon Oberheide, CTO of Duo Security.

Most of those jobs are in Ann Arbor. Some are elsewhere around the world. Duo Security has recently opened a California office and is in the process of opening a satellite office in London. That office is expected to play a key role in the company’s international expansion plans.

"We are expanding internationally for the first time," Oberheide says.

Duo Security has made a name for itself with its two-step verification software. The simple-yet-effective system that confirms the right person is accessing protected information with something as simple as a text message or push alert. The newest version of this is Duo Platform, a two-factor authentication solution that offers additional functionality, while keeping security easy and painless for the end-user. It offers a more comprehensive software platform that helps protect the path of access for everything from individuals to large businesses. Check out a video explaining it here.

"We want to build a platform that is easy enough to protect customers regardless of their level of sophistication," Oberheide says.

Source: Jon Oberheide, CTO of Duo Security
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arborlight scores $1.7M in seed capital for LED tech

Arborlight is looking to increase the firepower of its business this year, and the Ann Arbor-based startup has a lot of dry powder to commit to that effort. The LED light company just raised $1.7 million seed round led by the Michigan Angel Fund. That cash will go toward commercializing its LightWell and further its sales reach across the U.S.

"We have a lot of market pull right now," says Michael Forbis, CEO of Arborlight. "People are calling us from all over the country."

The University of Michigan spinout is developing a sun-light-like LED light for both residential and commercial buildings. Its "daylight emulation system" utilized an energy-efficient LED light that can imitate sunlight down to the color, temperature, and other subtle details. It even has the ability to mimic the sunlight exposure outside by tapping into the local weather forecast. Check out a video on it here.

The 5-year-old company currently employs five people and the occasional intern. It has hired two people over the last year and it is looking to hire two more in production positions right now. Arborlight also plans to pass the $1 million revenue milestone this year, and go well beyond it in in the near future.

"We think we can hit $4 million in a couple of years from now," Forbis says.

Source: Michael Forbis, CEO of Arborlight
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Thomson-Shore smooths out acquisition to grow

Acquisitions are normally heralded as happy things, win-win experiences for everyone involved. Thomson-Shore learned over the last year that is not always the case.

The Dexter-based book publisher acquired PublishNext and its subsidiary the Seattle Book Company last year in an effort to broaden its publishing platform. The idea seemed great on paper.

In reality it turned out to be rocky at first with old management from the company not fitting well with the new ownership. After a few months Thomson-Shore replaced that leadership and promoted one of the employees from within to manage it.

"Since then it has done quite well," says Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore. "It's growing very fast."

The 43-year-old company also rebranded PublishNext and the Seattle Book Company as Thomson-Shore Publishing Services and Thomson-Shore Distribution Services.

"It's an easier message," Spall says. "There was some confusion when customers would call."

Straightening all that out helped the company grow over the last year. It has hired six people, expanding its staff to 160 employees and the occasional intern. It’s also looking to hire another three people, primarily in manufacturing right now.

Source: Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Epsilon Imaging grows, looks to raise $5M in investment this summer

Epsilon Imaging is bringing in a lot of money these days - both revenues and seed capital. The Ann Arbor-based startup makes a software upgrade to cardiac ultrasound. It raised a $4.25 million in a Series B last year and is in the midst of raising another round of seed capital. The target for that raise: $5 million. The goal to get it done: this summer.

"The market window has opened for us," says Eric Sieczka, CEO of Epsilon Imaging.

The 7-year-old company develops and markets EchoInsight, a solution that improves the diagnostic accuracy of existing echo cardiograms by providing quantitative analytics and standardization of interpretation.

"Our product is applicable to the whole heart," Sieczka says.

The American Society of Echocardiography recently issued updated guidelines and recommendations for the use of quantification and strain imaging for echo cardiography, and the American Medical Association has approved a new current procedural terminology code for strain imaging. Sieczka believes these events will opens a market window for the rapid adoption of EchoInsight. It's currently used by a number of major institutions and hospitals around the world.

"We have a pretty good foothold in the U.S.," Sieczka says.

Epsilon Imagining currently has a staff of nine employees and an intern. It has hired a CFO over the last year and is looking to add another person (a software developer) right now.

Source: Eric Sieczka, CEO of Epsilon Imaging
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sakti3 leverages $20M Series C, including $15M from Dyson

Sakti3 has closed on a eight-figure Series C round of seed capital to help develop and commercialize its lithium ion battery technology.

The Ann Arbor-based startup closed on a $20 million Series C earlier this month. That investment includes a $15 million investment from Dyson, the vacuum cleaner company. Sakti3 now has a broad range of investors including General Motors and Khosla Ventures.

"We think this is a huge development for Sakti3," says Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3. "The Dyson partnership is critically important for our growth and first entry into the market."

Sakti3 spun out of the University of Michigan seven years ago looking to help lithium ion battery technology take a big step forward. Sakti3's technology claims to offer double the energy density of today’s commercial cells at half the price. It has been targeted for the automotive industry but Dyson sees potential in it for its handheld vacuum cleaners.

Sastry says her startup employs less than two dozen people and is hiring. She declined to say how many jobs it has open or how many people it has hired over the last year.

Source: Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Court Innovations aims to streamline court experience

Ever been stuck in a courthouse wading through the mundane and time-consuming process of challenging a traffic ticket? Court Innovations thinks it has an answer for that soul-crushing experience.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup has created a software platform that enables litigants to navigate the local court system online for things like civil infractions. The idea is to eliminate the need to stand in line at a court house when an issue can be resolved with the click of a mouse pad?

"We are moving from weeks and months (of time spent on small legal matters) to days," says MJ Cartwright, CEO of Court Innovations.

The fledgling startup spun out of the University of Michigan Law School a little more than a year ago with the help of $3 million in seed capital from the university's Third Century Initiative. It has since launched in three district courts in Ypsilanti, Highland Park and Bay City where it has been used by hundreds of litigants. Bay City started off using it for traffic court and civil infractions, but has since moved it to more areas.

"That's where they has the highest volumes of traffic," Cartwright says. "In Bay City we were able to expand it to the warrants, like failure to pay or show for a warrant."

The Court Innovations team (seven employees and five interns) is aiming to expand that even further to include people who are pleading down from low misdemeanors to civil infractions. It is also working to establish itself in more courtrooms across Michigan and the Midwest, a task Cartwright plans to begin fundraising for later this year.

"We'd like to be in a dozen courts in Michigan and hopefully one outside of Michigan," Cartwright says.

Source: MJ Cartwright, CEO of Court Innovations
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Trilogy Health Ventures expands into Oakland County

Trilogy Health Ventures continues to expand in Michigan's home healthcare market, but this time the growth is taking place a little closer to home.

The Ann Arbor-based firm owns a handful of franchises for the Right at Home In-Home Healthcare & Assistance brand, which provides home healthcare services for the elderly and injured people who need help but want to stay in their homes. It recently bought the franchise that covers western Oakland County.

"It's a huge opportunity with the aging demographic there," says Barry Paxton, president of Trilogy Health Ventures. "That is an affluent area where people would like to stay home for their finals years."

Trilogy Health Ventures has three other franchises across Michigan, including on in Mid Michigan (Bay City, Mt. Pleasant and Flint), the Ann Arbor-Jackson area, and the greater Grand Rapids region. The businesses have taken off over the last two years. It has quadrupled its revenue over the last year alone.

Trilogy Venture now employs 145 people, including 80 hires over the last year. Some of those hires are due to normal turnover in the workforce and a majority of the jobs created as for nurses and caregivers. Paxton expects his staff to hit 250 people by next year.

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

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

IncWell invests in automotive cyber security startup TowerSec

Cyber-security startup TowerSec has landed an investment from venture capital firm IncWell, helping bring its technology to the automotive industry.

"It's something we see scaling very quickly," Sophia Kahn, project manager for IncWell.

The Ann Arbor-based startup specializes in beefing up cyber security for automobiles. The idea is that as cars are becoming bigger targets for hackers now with the advent of infotainment and driverless automotive technologies. So not only could hackers steal a motorist’s identity while driving but even take control of the car.

"It's a growing concern with cars becoming more connected," Kahn says.

IncWell is a Birmingham-based venture capital firm that invests in technology startups. Some of its other investments include CureLauncher (a Bloomfield Hills-based startup that refers to itself as the Wikipedia of clinical trials) and iRule, a downtown Detroit-based home entertainment startup.

IncWell's investment in TowerSec was part of seed round for the startup. Kahn declined to say who led the seed round, who else participated in it, the total amount raised in the round, or the size of IncWell's investment.

Kahn also declined to detail much about TowerSec’s platform besides that it is designed as a business-to-business play aimed at commercial and fleet vehicles. She adds that TowerSec's platform is "integration ready" in its development but wouldn't explain further what that specifically meant.

Source: Sophia Kahn, project manager for IncWell
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

TLS Productions grows beyond core auto show biz

TLS Productions has been around 60 years, spending most of that time making a name for itself as the go-to firm for auto show lighting. Today it's working to be more than just that.

"We want to continue to serve the auto industry but we want to do more corporate events," says Carl Kedzierski, marketing manager for TLS Productions. "We recently did a gig with ESPN."

The Ann Arbor-based firm provides sales, rental, and production for the stage part of special events. It does this for all of the major auto shows, such as the North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit, and smaller events, such as theater productions.

An ownership change two years ago moved TLS Production's focus from auto show all the time to an effort to diversifying its clientele. The lion’s share of the company’s revenue still comes from auto shows, but its non-auto-show work has grown significantly over the last two years. It’s a trend the company hopes to expand over the next year.

"If lighting and audio can be applied to the event then we’re going for it," Kedzierski says.

TLS Production's employs a core staff of 17 employees and the occasional intern. It also has a stable of 30-45 freelancers it consistently leans on during its busy times. It is currently looking to hire 10 account executives across the U.S., including one in each the Ann Arbor-area and Metro Detroit markets.

Source: Carl Kedzierski, marketing manager for TLS Productions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

NewFoundry hits $1M in revenue as it adds more staff

NewFoundry's first two years have been anything but boring as the Ann Arbor-based software firm hits some significant revenue milestones and hires more staff.

"It's been pretty crazy," says Richard Chang, CEO of NewFoundry. "We have been working with a lot of organizations from big corporations to startups."

NewFoundry, which calls the north side of the city overlooking the Huron River home, hit $1 million in revenues in its second year. That enabled it to hire three people over the last year, expanding its staff to 15 employees and two summer interns. it is currently looking to hire six people in project management, mobile app development, and web development.

"We've just been completely swamped," Chang says. "We have more work than we need, which is why we are on a big hiring spree."

Prior to launching NewFoundry, Chang worked at Mobiata, a software startup that made travel apps before it was acquired by Expedia. He founded NewFoundry with an idea of making custom mobile apps and other software applications for clients along with its own apps. Last year it launched Ramblehook, a mobile app that helps better organize meetings by listing agenda items, presenters, and time allotted for each topic.

Chang would like to continue to diversify NewFoundry's revenue stream by creating more equity projects and apps to sell to consumers. He believes this will enable NewFoundry to continue on its current growth trend.

"Our goal is to double our revenue each year," Chang says.

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

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

Ann Arborís picoSpray locks down $1M Series A

PicoSpray, a startup creating technology to make small engines more energy efficient, has locked down a Series A worth $1 million, money the company plans to reinvest into its tech development.

"We are going to continue working with customers so we can adopt the technology to their needs and expand into new markets," says Lihang Nong, CEO and CTO of picoSpray.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up's technology aims to replace the carburetor in small engines with a low-cost electronic fuel injection system. Small engines for things like motorcycles, mopeds, and generators have a lot of room to create energy efficiency gains and cut pollution.

Automotive engines have already done this with fuel-injection technology but bringing that to small engines has proven cost-prohibitive. PicoSpray is completely redesign this part of the small engine with a fuel-injection system that can reduce fuel consumption by 10-15 percent and be installed at half the cost of current options. Check out a video on the technology here.

Nong declined to name the investors in the Series A but said the money is going toward the final development of the technology. It has also enabled picoSpray to hire two people (a technician and an engineer), expanding its staff to six employees. That team is currently testing its technology out with engine and motorcycle manufacturers.

"We're looking at how we can mass produce it," Nong says.

Source: Lihang Nong, CEO and CTO of picoSpray
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

TurtleCell begins selling iPhone case with retractable earbuds

TurtleCell is starting to sell the first wave of its iPhone case with retractable earphones this spring, and is gearing up to for its next big shipment of cases.

The Ann Arbor-based startup received its first shipment of cases (10,000 in total) and is marketing them for sale online and in retail stores. They are currently available in 25 Michigan-based Verizon stores. TurtleCell’s second cohort of iPhone cases (30,000) is in production and set to arrive later this year.

TurtleCell was launched three years ago by a handful of University of Michigan undergrads who were tired of constantly untangling their earbuds whenever they reached in their pocket for their iPhone. The answer was an iPhone case with retractable earbuds.

"It's a convenience product so you don't loose or tangle your earbuds," says Jeremy Lindlbauer, director of brand & marketing for TurtleCell. "It also protects your iPhone."

The team experimented with the concept for a little more than a year. Trying to build it out with a failed crowd funding campaign and other trial-and-error moves. They really started to gain traction when they entered the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The product won the People's Choice award two years running but more importantly was introduced to Auburn Hills-based consumer electronics company Digital Treasurers.

That gave TurtleCell the expertise and the seed capital it needed to more its product development forward smartly. Today it’s selling its cases for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S for $39.95. It plans to add iPhone 6 compatible cases later this year when its second production shipment arrives.

To keep up with that growth TurtleCell has expanded its staff to seven people, hiring four in the last year. Those new hires included designers and multimedia professionals. It is currently looking to add a couple more employees.

"We are always looking," Lindlbauer says. "We are usually looking for an electrical engineer. It depends on the fit."

Source: Jeremy Lindlbauer, director of brand & marketing for TurtleCell
Writer: Jon Zemke

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