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HistoSonics adds 3 staff as it continues clinical trial

Clinical trials and venture capital. Those are major milestones the team at HistoSonics is working to hit before the end of this year.

The Ann Arbor-based life sciences startup is aiming to finish raising a Series B round of venture capital and finish its first clinical trial by the end of this year.

"Those are our two biggies," says Christine Gibbons, president & CEO of HistoSonics.

HistoSonics spun out of the University of Michigan four years ago. It's primary product is a medical device that uses tightly focused ultrasound pulses to treat prostate disease in a non-invasive manner with robotic precision. The technology helped inspire the company's name by combining histo (meaning tissue) and sonics (meaning sound waves).

HistoSonics has a team of 11 people after adding three new researchers over the last year. It is currently working on a completing a clinical study measuring the safety of their product. The startup is aiming to submit its technology to the FDA for approval in 2016.

HistoSonics also raised $11 million in Series A funding in 2009. It is seeking another $12 million to $15 million in a Series B round this year.

"We have gotten some interim funding from our investors so we haven't had to raise a Series B yet," Gibbons says. "We want to get that wrapped up by early fall."

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

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

DavaRay leans on Ann Arbor SPARK as it scales up

DavaRay is getting more than a little bit of help from its friends these days as the medical device startup taps into local entrepreneurial resources to grow.

"We have been focusing on utilizing the MEDC groups, like Ann Arbor SPARK," says David Arndt, co-founder of DavaRay.

DavaRay has an office at Ann Arbor SPARK’s Central Incubator in downtown Ann Arbor. The 7-year-old company also graduated from Ann Arbor SPARK's Entrepreneur Boot Camp and is leveraging the coaching resources at the business accelerator. That has allowed DavaRay to nearly triple is sales over the last year and add two people to its current team of 25. It's also looking to export its products overseas in earnest later this year.

DavaRay's principal product is the Nanobeam 940, a proprietary heat dissipation technology that uses light to stimulate the healing process. Specifically its monochromatic LED ray helps soothe chronic pain.

Arndt and his co-founder, David Anderson, launched the business not long after Arndt created a new way to help him cope with chronic back pay. He found relieve in infrared therapy and started making his own products after the company he was using went out of business.

Nanobeam 940 is being used in home healthcare and professional sports team, including by the Detroit Tigers. Check out a video of the Tigers Athletic Trainer talking about the Nanobeam 940 here.

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

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

FlockTAG sticks to growth plan as it expands across Midwest

FlockTAG, the consumer loyalty startup, is starting to scale it business model across the Midwest this year.

The 2-year-old startup is working to reinvent the customer loyalty programs with creating one centralizes card users can use at a number of different retailers. That way technology can keep tabs on the loyalty rewards the user accumulates at local businesses without them carrying around a different card for each business.

FlockTAG has grown into seven markets across the Midwest, including Columbus, Indianapolis and Champaign. It is working to expand into more metro areas this year, focusing on high-volume retail locations, such as coffee shops.

"We're doing our plan," says David Lin, co-founder & CEO of FlockTAG. "We're growing these direct sales and relationships with franchise groups."

FlockTAG has grown its average transactions per day at a location to 30. It’s users per location is now up to 1,100. Both numbers are up 20 percent over the last year.

"We have several locations where there are more than 200 transactions per day," Lin says.

Lin adds that FlockTAG has been able to drive up those numbers because his team (which stands at 15 people after making seven hires over the last year) has gotten better at its job. Specifically helping keep new stores using the FlockTAG software.

"It's about helping the vendors when they need it," Lin says. "When you bring on a vendor you need to help them so they understand the platform."

Source: David Lin, co-founder & CEO of FlockTAG
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Kentaro aims to help smokers quit with new project

Kentaro has made a name for itself over the last four years building websites and creating its own sites.

Last year it created a lead-generation service for real-estate professionals called Real Estate Esspresso. Today the Ann Arbor-based firm is working on a new site to help people quit smoking.

"We're looking to diversify into a few different industries," says Kentaro Roy, founder & president of Kentaro.

Kentaro is currently building out an online smoking cessation program called QuitSmokingCommunity.org.

"We felt there was a void in the market," Roy says. "All of the smoking cessation websites were outdated."

Kentaro still continues to build on its custom website work for its clientele. The firm is adding more customers in the real-estate and manufacturing sectors. It is also adding more work from law firms. That bump in work has allowed Kentaro to add a new web developer over the last year, expanding its staff to five people.

Source: Kentaro Roy, founder & president of Kentaro
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Pillar Tech moves downtown to accommodate growing staff

Pillar Technology Group is on the move in Ann Arbor and is hiring about as many people as it can find.

The Columbus-based technology firm specializes in software and consulting services. It customer base is spread across the Great Lakes region and features companies in a broad range of industries, such as automotive, financial, and telecommunications, among many others.

About a third of its workforce (45 people) is based in Ann Arbor. For a long time, the Ann Arbor office called Tech Brewery home but a recent spate of hires (15 software developers over last year) meant it had to find a bigger home quickly.

"It was a nice space but it was just too small," says Charles Fry, regional vice president of Pillar Technology Group. Tech Brewery has made a name for itself as a entrepreneurial collective for tech startups. Think a large collective of startup teams of six people or less.

Pillar Technology Group has just signed a lease to take the entire seventh floor (10,000 square feet) of the office building at 301 E Liberty St. The company expects to move into the space by this fall, at which point it should have filled a number of the 20 open positions it has right now.

"We will probably be at 50 or 60 people by the time we move in," Fry says. "As long as the economy doesn't do something stupid on us we could see being at 100 people over the next couple of years."

Pillar Technology Group also considered a number of other different locations for its new home. Some of them include offices outside of Ann Arbor, including Detroit.

"Our team really like Ann Arbor," Fry says. "Most of the people have made their life decisions to live in or near Ann Arbor."

Source: Charles Fry, regional vice president of Pillar Technology Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

All Media Network adds people to downtown Ann Arbor office

When All Media Network moved its Ann Arbor office from near the city's airport to a space above Cafe Felix on Main Street last fall it served both aesthetic and utilitarian purposes.

"We got a cool old space in an old building with high ceilings and big windows," says Zac Johnson, senior product manager of All Media Network.

The new office also worked out as the best commuting option for the startup’s Ann Arbor contingent. Of those five people (including two new hires in January), three of them live within walking or busing distance of the new office. The other two are driving distance but were able to snag convenient parking spaces. Most of the office utilizes Go Passes.

Cool factor, check. Utility factor, check.

"This is the place that fit us the best," Johnson says.

The Silicon Valley-based tech startup runs websites like AllMusic.com, which is a bit like the IMDB website for music. All Media Network’s Ann Arbor is currently working to launch an iOS mobile app for AllMusic.com. It is also working to help grow the company's website usership over the next year.

Source: Zac Johnson, senior product manager of All Media Network
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arbor Teas finds innovative ways to stand out, thrive

Arbor Teas is a family business, and it has many of the stereotypical traits of one. It started by a husband-and-wife teams, was built from scratch, and has grown to a staff of seven today. But it also has its distinctive features.

First off, it got its initial start because said wife of the team, Aubrey Lopatin, realized she didn’t want to be an architect anymore.

"One day she woke up and said, 'Why am I going to architecture school when this is not what I want to do?'" says Jeremy Lopatin, co-founder of Arbor Teas. He adds they got the first website for their business shortly after that through a trade. They agreed to paint the living room of a friend in exchange for him building that website.

"While we were priming and painting he was working on his computer, building our website," Jeremy Lopatin says.

That was 10 years ago. Today the Ann Arbor-based business specializes is selling a broad variety of organic-certified teas from around the world. It recently added teas from Kenya, Korea, and Hawaii.

"We are responding to an incredibly growing demand for home-grown (made in the U.S.) tea," Jeremy Lopatin says.

Arbor Teas has also made sure it limits it packaging and that its packaging is compostable. It went so far to create packaging for the tea that is backyard compostable so it minimizes its carbon footprint. Most other packaging for teas is only compostable in commercial operations.

"You can dig a hole in your backyard, put our package in it, and a month or two later it will be gone," Jeremy Lopatin says.

Source: Jeremy Lopatin, co-founder of Arbor Teas
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MyoAlert develops tech for early detection of cardiac problems

Tragedy inspired Kabir Maiga to launch MyoAlert, a startup that produces technology that helps people self-diagnose potential cardiac arrest.

A close friend of Maiga's died of a heart attack last year while at work. The friend had felt symptoms but didn’t seek medical help for a few hours, missing a crucial window to help save his life.

"He delayed three hours before calling for help," Maiga says. "That was the difference between life or death for him."

This February, Maiga (a masters of entrepreneurship student at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business) formed a team of four people to create MyoAlert. The TechArb-based startup is creating an undershirt with built-in sensors that can help people at risk of cardiac problems determine whether they are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or just everyday annoyances like heartburn.

"It gives people at high risk of a heart attack a tool they can use for detection," Maiga says.

MyoAlert has developed a pre-Alpha prototype of the technolog and is currently working on alpha prototypes. It has already raised a few thousand dollars from U-M's Center for Entrepreneurship and Ann Arbor SPARK to fund the initial development.

"Our hope is this July we will begin a clinical study," Maiga says.

Source: Kabir Maiga, founder of MyoAlert
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Energy Alliance Group of Michigan expands Ann Arbor office

Revenue at Energy Alliance Group of Michigan made a big leap forward in its first year. The Ann Arbor-based sustainability company launched early last year with $50,000 in revenue booked. Today it clocks more than $1 million in sales.

"It was a lot of work," says Scott Ringlein, founder & president of Energy Alliance Group of Michigan. "We went out there and publicize who we are and what we offer. I am also a huge networker."

Energy Alliance Group of Michigan is a division of the Energy Alliance Group of North America. The Michigan-based firm, it also has an office in Grand Rapids, focuses on helping companies and organizations find energy-efficient solutions through new technologies and practices. For instance, Energy Alliance Group of Michigan has formed a partnership with Novi-based Srinergy to provide solar energy installations.

Energy Alliance Group of Michigan currently has a staff of seven employees and eight independent contractors. It has hired four employees over the last year, including a director of corporate communications, a social media professional and two account managers. It is also looking to hire two more account managers.

Energy Alliance Group of Michigan has also extensively leveraged entry-level talent through its internship program. The firm has facilitated 15 interns through the last year, including five in the last year. Its interns have come from places like the University of Michigan and the Michigan Shifting Gears program.

Ringlein plans to continue cementing his company’s presence in Michigan over the next year. It has also started to take work outside of the Great Lakes State, which he hopes to do more of in the near future.

"We want to continue publicizing who we are and what we do," Ringlein says.

Source: Scott Ringlein, founder & president of Energy Alliance Group of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MGCS, Duo Security headline Ann Arbor entrepreneurial roundup

It's been a busy week for Ann Arbor's new economy. Here is a quick roundup of stories that appeared recently and a big event about to come back to Washtenaw County.

The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium makes it return for its 32nd-annual conference. The event will be held at the Marriott Resort at Eaglecrest in Ypsilanti on June 17-18th. The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium is known as the best of the midwest conferences when it comes to showcasing startups with high-growth potential. The list of companies presenting this year was just released and can be found here.

Duo Security plans to move to 123 N Ashley St. The tech startup that specializes in duel-factor authentication got its start in the Tech Brewery in 2009 before moving to its current office in Kerrytown. The company has been hiring at such a steady clip (it currently has nine openings that can be found here) that is needs to find a bigger home to accommodate the growth. It plans to take 14,000 square feet in downtown to make that happen.

Seelio, a startup launched by University of Michigan students, has been acquired by PlattForm, which is based in Kansas City. Ann Arbor-based Seelio is a service-based student portfolio solution for higher education institutions while PlattForm specializes in marketing and enrollment management for institutions of higher learning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ann Arbor SPARK, Washtenaw County, A2Y Chamber of Commerce, and New Zealand-based QLBS are launching the Virtual Business Advisor. The self-assessment tool assists entrepreneurs and early stage businesses work toward their next stage of growth. Virtual Business Advisor identifies the strengths and weakness of personal and company while benchmarking them against other companies in the region.

Writer: Jon Zemke

Mobile startup Larky closes on $1.76M Series A round

Larky, a discount mobile app startup, has secured $1.76 million in a Series A round of seed capital.

A mix of venture capitalists and angel investors have invested in the downtown Ann Arbor-based startup. Leading the round was North Coast Technology Investors. Also participating were the Michigan Angel Fund, the BlueWater Angels, and the Pure Michigan Venture Match. Larky raised an additional $650,000 in a seed round last year.

Larky's mobile app helps user maximize the discounts and savings available to them. So it a member of an alumni association can get 10 percent off on their car insurance by using a certain carrier, Larky’s app will them. The 2-year-old startup has already roped in a number of large clients, including the Detroit Regional Chamber and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

"The value for end users is still there," says Gregg Hammerman, co-founder of Larky. "The average Larky's still have nine discounts stored into one space."

Larky plans to use its new round of seed capital to continue to develop it’s technology and advance its marketing. It is also growing its team. The company employs eight people after hiring five staff in software development and sales over the last year. It is also looking to hire another two people.

"We need to get out to more of our customers and continue to evolve our product," Hammerman says.

Source: Gregg Hammerman, co-founder of Larky
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Aysling moves to former Borders HQ to accommodate growth

The digital publishing company currently known as Aysling has a brand new home in Ann Arbor.

The firm has taken 12,500 square feet in the former Borders headquarters, giving it more room to grow. Aysling has added half a dozen people over the last year, and another two in the last week, rounding out its staff to 32 employees. The new location for its headquarters is expected to accommodate that easily.

"We anticipate doubling in size over the next 12-24 months," says Patrick Becker, CEO of Aysling. "Possibly sooner than that."

The 9-year-old firm, formerly known as Aysling Digital Media Solutions, provides Adobe and WoodWing digital publishing software solutions and digital media production services for publishers, retailers, and corporations. Rebranding as just Aysling made sense from a streamlining point of view.

"We have grown well beyond digital media solutions," Becker says. "While rebranding we thought it made sense to drop it."

Becker adds that the company's growth has previously been constrained by the smallness of its previous offices. Its last space was 6,000 square feet. The former Borders headquarters has several hundred thousand square feet, which should provide plenty of room for Aysling to grow and stay in Ann Arbor.

"We feel like this is where we want to build our team," Becker says.

Source: Patrick Becker, CEO of Aysling
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

SAMSA moves into bigger office in downtown Ypsilanti

A little more than a year ago, tech firm SAMSA opened an office in downtown Ypsilanti. This spring it’s moving to bigger office at 7 S Washington to accommodate its growth.

The Saginaw-based software firm choose to open its southeast Michigan satellite office in Ypsilanti because of it offered a vibrant urban area at a low price point. It is also in a central location of the region’s tech hubs in Ann Arbor and downtown Detroit.

"I like Ypsilanti because it's strategically between Ann Arbor and Detroit," says Mike Stackhouse, president of SAMSA. "It just feels good."

The 25-year-old company employs 20 people, including two in Ypsilanti. It is currently looking to add two more software and computer technology professionals to its Ypsilanti office.

SAMSA is also looking to do more marketing in southeast Michigan to drum up more business for its software services. It will be aimed at more mid-sized clients as the company takes a measured approach to its future growth.

"We're already quite busy," Stackhouse says. "We're taking an approach where we’re not looking for fast growth at all costs."

Source: Mike Stackhouse, president of SAMSA
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

TurtleCell launches iPhone case with retractable headphones

Every time I take my cell phone out of my pocket, I usually have to untangle a small web of earbuds. It’s the type of frustrating process that makes me wonder why I even want to use earbuds to begin with.

The team at TurtleCell believes it has an answer to this problem. The Ann Arbor-based startup is launching a new product, a cell phone case with retractable earphones. It’s not the first time the fledgling startup has tried this. Last year is started floating the idea for the product, even launching an ill-fated crowd-funding campaign.

Then it went back to the drawing board. The actual drawing board. The three-man team redesigned their product, upgraded the headphones, streamlined its business approach. They created a cell phone case (for iPhone 5 and above) they are excited to use every time they take it out of their pocket.

"Every aspect has been improved," says Nick Turnbull, director of business development for TurtleCell.

TurtleCell started taking pre-orders for its first run of products this week. Buyers can get the product for $39.95 (which includes $10 off the full retail price) and expect to have it delivered in October. The company expects to make tens of thousands of its cell phone case in time for the holiday shopping season.

"It's somewhat up in the air but it will be more than 100,000," Turnbull says.

Making all this possible is a successful seed capital round. The company has raised $250,000 from angel investors, allowing it to bypass another crowd funding campaign and just move forward with production.

"We raised almost all of it over the last month," Turnbull says.

Source: Nick Turnbull, director of business development for TurtleCell
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

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.
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