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Clarity Quest Marketing scores best year ever in 2014

Clarity Quest Marketing is one of those companies that has steadily carved out its niche over 14 years of business. Now that it's matured, the company is really hitting its stride.

"We have become one of the biggest healthcare IT marketing firms in the nation," says Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing. "We just closed two deals in the last week."

The Ann Arbor-based firm has hired three people over the last year, including project managers. It now has a staff of 20 employees and one summer intern.

Powering that hiring has been more and more word-of-mouth work from healthcare IT firms. It has signed deals across the U.S., including with the Chronic Care Management out of Cleveland and eMedapps in Chicago. It's also doing work closer to home, handling marketing for Mountain Pass Solutions, a University of Michigan spin-out.

Deals like that cleared the way for 2014 to become Clarity Quest Marketing’s best year ever. Slocum is optimistic her firm’s reputation will lead to a repeat of 2014 because of the steady pipeline of work it has lined up for this year.

"This year we're on track for the same as last year," Slocumb says. "I'm hoping its going to be better."

Source: Christine Slocumb, president of Clarity Quest Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Swift Biosciences hires 4 as it debuts 2 new products

Swift Biosciences has launched two new products this month, releases the Ann Arbor-based company expects to help power its growth this year.

The 5-year-old life sciences startup makes tools for genomic research. It just released Accel-NGSTM Methyl-Seq DNA Library Kit. The new product utilizes AdaptaseTM technology, a unique molecular biology method that works with single-stranded DNA. The Adaptase technology enables next generation sequencing libraries to be made post-bisulfite treatment, allowing researchers to recover more of their input DNA and use a hundredfold less input material compared to other commercially available products.

"It's a way of examining the regulations of the genome, mostly what is on and what is off," says David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences. "What is active and what is not."

Swift Biosciences also recently launched its Accel-NGS Amplicon panels, which helps molecular biologists detect and screen clinically relevant mutations. The underlying technology enables hundreds of primer pairs to be amplified in a single tube. The panels can be used to target either contiguous coverage of a single gene, multiple loci throughout the genome, or a combination of both.

"It's a way of looking at a small number of important genes much faster and at a much lower expense than looking at the full genome," Olson says. "These genes can be the critical genes that impact our agriculture or oncology."

Swift Biosciences is also looking launching another new product or two before the end of this year (Olson declined to elaborate on them) along with a couple of new versions of is existing products. Its growing product portfolio has enabled the company to hire four people over the last year (technicians and sales & marketing professional), expanding its staff to 19 people.

"It would be fair to say we have grown 10-fold in the last year, customers and revenue," Olson says. "We hope to continue that pace this year."

Swift Bio Sciences has raised $13.15 million in venture capital, including a $7 million Series B it closed on earlier this year.

Source: David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Hile Creative grows revenue with long-term clients, adding staff

A pivot in the Hile Creative business model is paying dividends for the Ann Arbor-based firm a little more than a year after it was executed.

The digital advertising firm made a shift from project-based work to more comprehensive branding for long-term clients. The move paid off. The 30-year-old firm's revenue is up 10 percent and it's looking to hire two people to its staff of 12.

"Our sweet spot is to work with companies that need help defining themselves in their competitive space," says Dave Hile, founder & president of Hile Creative. "The question we always ask clients is why do you matter? Why would someone choose you over your competitors?"

Hile Creative grew by bringing on some more long-term clients, such as Venturi, a Traverse City-based maker of bathroom products. Hile Creative has also expanded its work with existing clients like Beaumont Hospital, Ann Arbor-based Heatspring, and the University of Michigan.

Hile Creative is looking to hire a graphic designer and web director now because it's aiming to do more video work for its clients. The company is betting more and more companies will turn to short videos to help them tell the stories about them and their products.

"More and more information, especially complex information, can be easily described through animation and videography," Hile says.

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

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

Armune BioScience set to double Ann Arbor lab size this year

Armune BioScience plans to double its staff at its Ann Arbor laboratory as revenues start coming in from its cancer blood test, Apifiny.

"We expect to add 3-4 more techs by September," David Esposito, president & CEO of Armune BioScience.

The Kalamazoo-based business landed a $2.5 million Series A financing round last year. That money allowed Armune BioScience to finish developing its innovative, non-PSA blood test to aid in the early detection of prostate cancer. It launched that blood test commercially last year.

"We want to be running 1,500 tests a month by the end of the year," Esposito says.

Armune BioScience currently employs six people and is looking to hire a couple of people right now to help meet the rising demand for Apifiny. It is also raising a $2.5 million Series B, which it hopes to close this summer.

"We feel volume will drive the need for more head count," Esposito says.

Source: David Esposito, president & CEO of Armune BioScience
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Michigan Angel Fund closes second fund worth $2.1 million

The Michigan Angel Fund has closed on its second fund worth $2.05 million. The firm specializes in making early stage investments in Michigan-based tech startups. Those investments usually range from $250,000 to $2 million.

The fund expects to make between eight to 10 investments over the next two years, mostly in startups too young for traditional venture capital investment.

"It is designed to fill that need as well for our tech startups," says Skip Simms, managing member of the Michigan Angel Fund, which is overseen by Ann Arbor SPARK.

The Michigan Angel Fund was also designed to introduce more high-net-worth individuals into angel investing. The fund launched three years ago with 72 members. The second fund has 62 members with more than half of the investors in the first fund.

"The investors come from all over the state and some outside of the state," Simms says. "Some of the investors in the first fund come from as many as four different states."

The first investment vehicle from the Michigan Angel Fund is fully invested. Some of the portfolio companies include Avegant, Arborlight, BioPhotonics Solutions, Eco-Fueling, Epsilon Imaging, Larky, stkr.it, and Varsity News Network.

Source: Skip Simms, managing member of the Michigan Angel Fund
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ghostly International enjoys biggest growth year to date

Ghostly International is enjoying the fruits of a highly successful year of business which came complete with rising record sales, new merchandising successes, and fresh partnership opportunities.

"We have had our biggest year to date," says Jeremy Peters, director of creative licensing & business affairs for Ghostly International.

Peters declined to detail the specifics of the ambient music label's success. However, he did say that Ghostly International has made a hire over the last year, expanding its staff to 10 employees and an intern. It’s also looking to make a hire in online merchandising.

Ghostly International launched out of Ann Arbor in 1999 and now calls the Tech Brewery home. It also has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Over the last year it profited from a wide variety of ventures, such as partnering with Warby Parker to create a Ghostly International brand of sunglasses. It also created the soundtrack for the Hohokum video game for PlayStation. It also released a new album for Tycho, Awake, last year.

"Sales have been pretty awesome on that," Peters says. "It's been one of our best sellers."

Peters expects Ghostly International to repeat those sorts of successes this year. He said some similar partnerships are in the pipeline for this year but declined to reveal what they are.

"Our level of growth has been consistent and heading upwards at a pretty decent tick," Peters says. "It's still organic and manageable."

Source: Jeremy Peters, director of creative licensing & business affairs for Ghostly International
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Orange Egg Advertising expands clientele, staff in Ann Arbor

Orange Egg Advertising has been expanding its customer base over the last year, a phenomenon the company's leadership attributes to the quality of its work.

"It's a quality thing, which translates into more revenue," says Amy Grambeau, director of Orange Egg Advertising.

The Ann Arbor-based company has made a name for itself over its 13 years working with the likes of Silver Maples Retirement Community in Chelsea, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, and Ann Arbor State Bank.

"They are keeping us busy," Grambeau says.

Orange Egg Advertising as also added a handful of new clients, such as  Dunning Toyota, and the Michigan Memorial Funeral Home. The work from those new accounts has allowed the company to increase its revenue by 25 percent and grow its core team to five people.

"We continue to grow," Grambeau says. "We are where we want to be."

Source: Amy Grambeau, director of Orange Egg Advertising
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

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.
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