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SportsFactory centralizes athletic tweets for non-Twitter users

Nic Stelter loves keeping with his favorite athletes and sports teams through Twitter, but he is not the biggest fan of the social media site. That prompted him to launch SportsFactory in Ann Arbor.

The startup creates a web app that aggregates tweets from the users favorites athletes and teams. So if you are a diehard University of Michigan fan, you can use SportsFactory to collect the tweets about the university’s athletic department, athletes and recruiting efforts instead of sorting it all out on your own Twitter handle. The web app makes the tweets look like they do on Twitter so the user gets an authentic experience. (Check out a video, created by Ann Arbor-based Media Academica, describing the service here.)

"I wanted to make something non-Twitter users can use to read tweets," Stelter says. He adds, "we have tried to make the experience as much like Twitter as possible."

Stelter leveraged the services of Tech Brewery-based Alpha Jango to build the web app. He plans to release a mobile app for Apple and Android products later this year.

"It's going to be a slow climb but people really like it so far," Stetler says.

Source: Nic Stelter, founder of SportsFactory
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

CoFoundersLab, U-M partner to create Michigan Founder Finder

A new way to connect entrepreneurs and technical experts to help create more startups has arrived at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

The Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies partnered with CoFoundersLab to build a co-founder matching portal called Michigan Founder Finder. The online matching platform helps the entrepreneurial communities of the University of Michigan, great Ann Arbor area and beyond with the right people to push their new business venture forward.

"They don't need to reinvent the wheel," says Michael Hughes, vice president of community development of CoFoundersLab. "They can connect entrepreneurs across schools on their own campus. It can also help students and alumni connect with another person who might not have anything to do with the university."

CoFoundersLab, which is based in Maryland, specializes in making online portals that help entrepreneurs make connections with a variety of people they need to get their startup off the ground. Each portal specializes in a specific metropolitan area or, in U-M's case, a university community. Think of it as a dating site for entrepreneurs looking for co-founders.

The Michigan Founder Finder is open to current students, alumni, faculty and staff at U-M.

"We want thousands of people," Hughes says. "It's for University of Michigan students and alumni, the greater U-M community."

CoFoundersLab will be also host a matchup event in downtown Detroit at 6:30 p.m. on Mar 19 in the Grand Circus space in the Broderick Tower. For information, click here.

Source: Michael Hughes, vice president of community development of CoFoundersLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Startgrid platform looks to complement Ann Arbor SPARK

Another organization aimed at growing southeast Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem made its debut last week. It might seem like Startgrid is set up to duplicate the region’s numerous efforts to grow its economy, but actually it’s aim is to do the opposite.

Startgrid plans to complement the region's existing assets in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, working cooperatively with local economic accelerators like Ann Arbor SPARK and the University of Michigan to make startup building a more seamless process.

"It's the unique combination of the whole that will make the whole complete," says Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative, which is helping fund the launch of Startgrid.

Startgrid icomes courtesy the Detriot Regional Chamber and is an online portal that enables entrepreneurs to create a collaboration page that fleshes out their idea or business plan. The users can incrementally expand their page to their circle of friends, mentors and industry experts throughout Metro Detroit. The idea is to create an environment where people help each build their business in southeast Michigan.

Startgrid wants to fill those gaps to accelerate the formation and growth of local businesses. To watch a video about what Startgrid is about, click here.

Source: Peter Gardner, founder & CEO of Startgrid, and Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Swift Biosciences leverages VC for multiple hires

Venture capital and hiring helped make for a big year at Swift Biosciences.

When we last checked in at the life sciences startup in early 2013, it had just secured a $750,000 investment in its Series A. Since then it secured $7 million more in a Series B round of venture capital and hired seven people.

"We just hired three people this month," says David Olson, CEO of Swift Biosciences. The hires over the last year have been in the Ann Arbor-based startup’s R&D and commercial groups. Olson adds, "That funding (the Series B) is directly related to the three hires we made this month. We’re looking to expand, specifically in our commercial group."

The 4-year-old company is developing molecular biology reagents for research and diagnostic applications that provide new ways to examine disease-related genes. This genomic sequencing technology is expected to help researchers analyze samples faster, at a higher volume, and at a lower price per sample. It has raised $13.15 million to further the development of this technology platform.

Swift Biosciences launched its first two products last year and is set to launch its third product next week. The new product is a sample prep test kit that can work with damaged and small samples.

"It can do everything," Olson says. "It has a lot of capabilities."

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

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

Q LTD recruits intern, adds Portlandian to staff

QLTD made a couple of solid hires in the last year, one from within and another from across the country.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based firm, it calls Kerrytown home, hired one of its interns recently, expanding the company’s staff to 13 employees. The 30-plus-year-old firm also recruited a web designer from Portland to join its team earlier last year.

"She found us online and was intrigued," says Paul Koch, creative strategist at Q LTD. "It was a good hire. She was just a good fit."

Q LTD specializes in corporate branding and building an online presence for businesses. Some of its recent projects include designing the online presence of TOA Wellness, a handheld workout device that debuted at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It also redesigned the branding and built the web presence for the American Concrete Institute, which hadn't undergone a rebranding in about half a century.

"We want to continue to grow and do good work for our clients," Koch says. "We also want to grow the work we do with Q Gmbh."

Q Gmbh is a design firm based in Germany. Q LTD has been doing work with the Q Gmbh for years and it has grown that workload over in recent years.

Source: Paul Koch, creative strategist at Q LTD
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AlertWatch scores FDA clearance for healthcare tech

The Food & Drug Administration recently gave a big green light to AlertWatch, which will get the Ann Arbor-based startup on the trial to cash-flow positive.

AlertWatch is developing patient-monitoring software to hospitals. The platform helps anesthesiologists monitor patients in the operating room, aggregating data from physiological monitors, anesthesia records, lab results and medical history to produce a dynamic real-time display of a patient's condition. The software determines whether things are normal, marginal or abnormal. The FDA gave it clearance earlier this month.

"If we didn't get that we'd be in in a pretty tricky situation," says Justin Adams, CEO of AlertWatch. "It is the major milestone for our product."

The 2-year-old startup has doubled its staff to four employees over the last year, hiring a developer and a technical writer. AlertWatch’s technology is currently being used in three pilot programs, including one that has analyzed more than 17,000 surgeries at the University of Michigan Health System.

"We're starting to get the word out and get some installs going," Adams says. "We're starting to create some revenue."

Source: Justin Adams, CEO of AlertWatch
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Media Academica establishes itself with local video work

When Shannon Kohlitz launched Media Academica in Ann Arbor, she was looking to take advantage of the growing demand for video work. It is turning out about as well as she could have hoped for.

"It did better than I had hoped," Kohlitz says. "We kept busy with mostly technology work."

The downtown Ann Arbor-based firm specializes in web animation and other sorts of online video work. Kohlitz has watched her firm’s revenue jump 25 percent over the last year thanks to work from the likes of Rave Computer, Ingeniose and XanEdu. Media Academica also did the kickstarter video for TurtleCell.

"I kept getting more, more clients," Kohlitz says. "I would love to be a vendor with advertising agencies."

Media Academica is getting ready to release two online videos for Rave Computer later this winter. Kohlitz hopes to add her first employee later this year as the work for her firm continues to pile up.

Source: Shannon Kohlitz, owner of Media Academica
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Grand Angels expand investment reach into Ann Arbor

Grand Angels has been spreading its wings across Michigan, making investments across the Great Lakes State including in Ann Arbor.

That's a significant step for the Grand Rapids-based angel investment group. Angel investors are high-net-worth individuals (think millionaires) who invest in early stage startups. The Grand Angels started a decade ago with the idea of investing in those startups in the Grand Rapids area. It quickly realized that opening up that area meant more opportunities to invest.

"We said we will look at deals anywhere in Michigan as long as it looks like a good deal," says Jody Vanderwel, president of Grand Angels. "That opened up the pipeline quite a bit."

One of those deals is in Local Orbit. The Ann Arbor-based startup is developing software that helps connect food producers (think farmers, co-ops and farmers markets) with grocers, restaurants and other eateries.

Local Orbit's online marketplaces are active across a dozen states. That enabled local farmers' sales through Local Orbit to grown 300 percent between 2012 to 2013. Local Orbit is leveraging its investment from Grand Angels to expand its targeted regions.

Source: Jody Vanderwel, president of Grand Angels
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Michigan Business Challenge sends 113K to student startups

A wide variety of student-led startups scored thousands of dollars in seed capital at the most-recent Michigan Business Challenge.

The annual business-plan competition at the University of Michigan awarded $113,000 from the Michigan Business Challenge and Dare to Dream grant program. The competition awarded money to 16 teams that ranged from $200 to teams that made it past round one to $20,000 for the top placer. Among the winners were clock generator technology for the microprocessor market and a workout water bottle that can be turned inside out so it can be washed.

"When you have that kind of diversity of really smart people all in one place it is unusual if you don’t see that sort of breadth of diversity when these competitions come up," says Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, which organized the competition.

Among the top winners are:

Movellus Circuits won the Pryor-Hale Award for Best Business (worth $20,000) for its patent-pending clock generator technology for the microprocessor market.

Flipsi won the Pryor-Hale runner-up award for best business ($10,000) and the marketing award ($2,500). Flipsi is creating a reusable drinking bottle that flips completely inside out to facilitate easier cleaning.

A group of three U-M graduate students studying engineering ands business won the Erb Institute award for Sustainability ($7,500). The trio is developing an energy system that installs heavy-duty power electronics and battery storage units in commercial buildings for fast-charging services to electric vehicle drivers.

MyDermPortal won the Outstanding Presentation award ($2,000) and the Marketing award ($2,500) for its web-based app for dermatologists to provide follow-up treatment via the Internet for the most common diagnoses in significantly less time than an in-person visit.

Lab Compass won the Most Successful Undergraduate Team award ($2,500) for its cloud-based software enabling more efficient collection, storage and sharing of sensitive healthcare data used in medical research.

Nodify won the Best Written Plan award ($2,000) for its mobile apps that automatically refine a user’s professional network into a manageable group of important contacts and suggests relevant reasons to stay in touch.

"The ones that did emerge at the tip of the heap are the one that showed the most promise," Thornhill says.

Source: Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Seelio continues to expand software platform across U.S.

Seelio is starting to grow beyond its humble beginnings in Ann Arbor. The software startup's digital portfolio platform for college students is appearing at more and more universities across the U.S.

Seelio is developing a software platform that allows college students to showcase their portfolio of work. The software enables the students to document how college projects came to fruition and use that to get a start in the professional world, such as for job interviews. Seelio’s software is actively being used at seven universities across the U.S., including the universities of Michigan, Toledo and Texas, among others.

"We have a very strong pipeline of universities," says Moses Lee, CEO of Seelio.

That growth has allowed Seelio to grow in a number of different ways. It raised a $1.5 million seed round last year. It also hired six people (mostly in sales and customer service), expanding its staff to 12 employees. It also moved to new space at Ann Arbor SPARK’s Central Business Incubator in downtown Ann Arbor.

Seelio is looking to continue to grow its product use in more universities across North America. It currently has string footholds in the Midwest, East Coast and South, but would like to partner with more institutions of higher learning in other regions of the country in 2014.

"It's all about growth," Lee says. "We want to provide stellar outcomes and services to university students."

Source: Moses Lee, CEO of Seelio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

G2 Consulting Group plans to open up office in Ann Arbor

G2 Consulting Group is opening up a new office in Ann Arbor, which is bringing a handful of new hires to Tree Town.

The Troy-based firm provides environmental and geotechnical engineering services in the construction industry. It has an office in Chicago and is opening up the new office in Ann Arbor to accommodate its double-digit revenue growth. The new office has a staff of six people and ambitions to grow further.

"We are going to hire a couple more people for that office," says Noel Hargrave, co-founder & principal of G2 Consulting Group. He adds there are two engineering jobs currently open.

The 20-year-old firm has experienced significant growth in the last two year, spiking its revenues by 20 percent in 2012 and 31 percent last year. Part of that expanded work comes from the University of Michigan and Washtenaw County. G2 Consulting Group is opening a lab for soils and materials work in its Ann Arbor office to accommodate that work.

G2 Consulting Group does work across the U.S., operating in 29 states. Hargrave says the business has grown with the upswing in economy because it’s true to its word when it’s time to deliver.

"We do what we say we're going to do and we do it on a timely basis," Hargrave says. "In construction you can't be the person holding up the project."

Source: Noel Hargrave, co-founder & principal of G2 Consulting Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Qstride expands into Ann Arbor with downtown space

Qstride is expanding its physical presence across the U.S. and the Troy-based firm has its eyes on Ann Arbor.

The software company, which already has a growing office in downtown Detroit, is opening a another office in downtown Ann Arbor and Virginia this winter. The Ann Arbor office has one person right now, but the leadership at Qstride expects that head count to grow.

"We have local people in these locations," says Shane Gianino, CEO of Qstride. "These are hotbeds for new technology."

The 20-month-old firm specializes in analytics and business intelligence software. Qstride has watched its revenue jump 135 percent over the last year, allowing it to expand its staff to 22 people. It has clients across the U.S. including in New York, California, Arizona and Ohio.

Gianino says there are a couple of reasons why Qstride choose Ann Arbor for its newest location. The biggest reason is its proximity to the University of Michigan.

"There is a lot of talent at the University of Michigan," Gianino says. "We need software engineers. Our lead data scientists is out of Ann Arbor and is in charge of that office."

Source: Shane Gianino, CEO of Qstride
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U-M students create new mobile startup, Tag Contacts

What do you do when you want to launch a new economy startup? Find a new economy pain in the butt and begin working on a solution. It also helps if you can have a tech titan give you a shout out to get things started.

That's what's going on with Tag Contacts. The startup is the brainchild of two University of Michigan undergrads who want to build a better contacts apps for smartphones. The startup also managed to get a bump in interest when Twitter CEO Dick Costolo took notice of Tag Contacts and told the world.

"We're trying to go back to basics," says Chris O'Neil, co-founder of Tag Contacts. "Tag is for play tag on the playground. We’re trying to make it as simple as possible."

O'Neil, who is also president of MPowered, and Billy Irwin are juniors at U-M studying computer science. They became frustrated with a million and one annoyances with traditional contact lists on their smartphones, so they started reinventing the technology. That meant launching Tag Contacts, which is now composed of a team of five people, last October.

Tag Contacts technology, which is in private Beta, aims to make using the contacts list on a smartphone simpler and more intuitive. For instance, it allows users to sort contacts by which ones were recently entered. It also differentiates between contacts found on social media and in real life.

"The people you call and text aren’t necessarily the people you interact with on social media," O'Neil says. "We want to get you through to the people you want to call."

Tag Contacts caught Costolo's eye last week. The Twitter CEO, also a U-M alum, began following Tag Contacts and tweeted the startup, which brought about a world of attention. The startup is now pulling allnighters to get its technology into Apple's App Store by March.

Source: Chris O'Neil, co-founder of Tag Contacts
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U-M startup takes top prize at Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize

GENOMENON, a startup founded by University of Michigan students, walked away with the top prize at the Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize last week. The win allows the healthcare software startup to pocket $40,000 in seed capital.

GENOMENON's technology is the product of three U-M pathologists. The trio is developing software focused on improving cancer diagnosis and treatment. The company won the top prize at the event and the competition’s health category.

This is the fifth year for the competition, which has changed names and pivoted its focus a couple of times. The Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize is a three-month program that helps innovators find the market for their products. It is organized by U-M's Center for Entrepreneurship and offers $100,000 in seed capital for student-led startups.

Startups from across Michigan’s colleges are eligible to compete. This year it fielded 81 student teams from 16 colleges. Twenty three of those teams made the semifinals and five of those teams walked away with seed capital prizes.

"It's about talent retention through Michigan-based ventures," says Amy Klinke, associate director at University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship. "For us it's a win that these students stay in the state to lead these ventures."

The Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize got its start as a business plan competition at the University of Michigan. It then pivoted to become the Michigan Clean Energy Competition and expanded its reach to include participants from across the Great Lakes State. This year it opened up the competition even further to invite participants from a number of different new economy sectors, such as software.

Source: Amy Klinke, associate director at University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Thomson-Shore acquires PublishNext, Seattle Book Co

Thomson-Shore has acquired PublishNext and its subsidiary Seattle Book Company in an effort for the Dexter-based firm to broaden its publishing platform.

"It is something we have been wanting to do for sometime now," says Kevin Spall, president of Thomson-Shore.

The 40-year-old company, which is 100-percent employee owned, operates as a full-service book publishing, production, and distribution company. It employs 200 people and a couple of summer interns. The firm has hired 10 people (mainly in production and manufacturing) over the last year. It is also looking to hire two more people in sales and customer service.

PublishNext enables authors or small publishing houses to print their tomes or create an eBook. The Seattle Book Company has distribution channels in new markets that Thomson-Shore desires. Thomson-Shore’s acquired the two entities so it can create a broader publishing and distribution platform that allows it to fill the gaps it has with its customers.

"It was a really good fit from a market-fit and customer-service standpoint," Spall says.

He adds that Thomson-Shore has been looking to make an acquisition like this for the last 18 months and passed on a few other opportunities because they didn't fit Thomson-Shore's goals of supplying high-quality products and services.

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

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