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U-M research pushes envelope of wearable technologies

Could monitoring chronic ailments be as simple as breathing? That seems like a distinct possibility thanks to new technology coming from the University of Michigan.

University researchers, working in conjunction with the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps program, are developing a wearable sensor that could provide continuous disease monitoring of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia or lung disease. The sensor, which is about the size of a finger nail, detects airborne chemicals either exhaled or released through the skin. It can be worn as a wired device.

Nitric oxide and oxygen are among the chemicals it can detect. Abnormal levels of either can serve as indicators for high blood pressure, anemia or lung disease. The sensor could also be used to detect hazardous chemical leaks, or provide data about air quality.

"This device has a broad range of applications," says Sherman Fan, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Michigan.

The sensor is currently still a test subject in a U-M lab, but the team of researchers hope to commercialize the technology in the not-too-distant future. Fan is developing the sensor with Zhaohui Zhong, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Girish Kulkarni, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering.

"I would say (commercialization of the chip is) probably 3-5 years down the road," Fan says.

Source: Sherman Fan, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dynamic Edge adds 11 new IT hires in Ann Arbor

Dynamic Edge growth has spiked over the last year. The Ann Arbor-based IT firm's revenue is up about 35 percent and it has hired 11 new people over the last 12 months, expanding the company’s staff to 49 employees and one intern.

Prompting that growth is the popularity of its Fixed IT program, which helps head off IT problems before they crash the system or even before they begin. Dynamic Edge has attracted a number of new customers, particularly in the healthcare sector.

"We see a number of opportunities coming from regulatory pressure and new HIPPA laws," says Bruce McCully, CEO of Dynamic Edge. "People are thinking twice about running that in-house."

Accounting firms are also flocking to Dynamic Edge's Fixed IT program. The regulatory pressure isn't as intense in that industry. In fact, McCully is not exactly sure what is driving CPAs to use his company’s platform.

"I'm not really sure why," McCully says. "It might be because the software they use is becoming more and more complicated."

Dynamic Edge has been on a growth streak like this for the last few years, but McCully wants to throttle back on some of that expansion this year and next. He would like to put more focus on refining the basics of Dynamic Edge’s business plan and execution of it.

"This year our theme has been sharpening the edge," McCully says. "We have put a lot of resources into improving delivery of our services to our customers."

Source: Bruce McCully, CEO of Dynamic Edge
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Park n Party's tailgating services start to go mainstream

Park n Party launched a couple of year’s ago with a novel idea, enabling tailgaters to reserve a parking spot online for University of Michigan home football games. The business has really started to gain traction since then.

"Last year what we saw is people definitely told their friends," says Jason Kapica, partner with Park n Party. "The pinnacle was last year’s Winter Classic hockey game. We sold 3,000 reservations. We sold every spot we had access to."

The big one-off events have proven as popular as the home football games. Park n Party has done well with annual events like Ann Arbor Art Fair and the Manchester United soccer game at Michigan Stadium. Park n Party has also been able to expand into South Bend, Indiana, for Notre Dame home football games and is eyeing Madison, Wisconsin, for University of Wisconsin football games.

"I'd really like to get to Columbus for Ohio State," Kapica says. "Madison is definitely something we're looking at for football."

Park n Party’s software allows people attending big events to reserve parking spots online, saving them the trouble of driving around searching for a place to park their car. The four-person team has refined the system so it covers more than 3,000 parking spots around Michigan Stadium. Those have proven popular with large groups of friends attending Michigan football games and corporate events.

"We get a lot of calls for large tailgate parties," Kapica says.

Source: Jason Kapica, partner of Park n Party
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

300 Decisions fills out Ann Arbor office with new employees

Last year 300 Decision spent a lot of its time opening up a new office in Chicago. This year the Ann Arbor-based relocation-service firm has spent most of its time filling out its two offices.

"We have stayed about as busy as you can be at those two locations," Helen Dennis, president of 300 Decisions.

The 2-year-old company has hired three people (project managers) over the last year. It now employs a staff of seven people, which serves the likes of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Rossetti (an architecture firm), the city of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and U.S. Cellular

"We are really busy and having a lot of fun helping our clients make difficult transitions," Dennis says.

That includes everything from internal communications at the client business to streamline the move to helping facilitate change management for the move. Dennis named the business 300 Decisions as a reference to her guesstimate of how many questions a company must ask itself when executing an office move.

This is Dennis's second relocation services business. Her first was acquired in 2006. This time she is taking a more measured approach to growth.

"I want to grow within reason," Dennis says. "By reason I mean growth that makes sense. I also want to stay involved in the culture of the company."

Source: Helen Dennis, president of 300 Decisions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

TorranceLearning grows revenue, profitability in Chelsea

TorranceLearning grew its revenue last year (by 20 percent) but the story that makes the 8-year-old business’s leadership smile is how net income spiked.

"Profitability went way up last year," says Megan Torrance, CEO of TorranceLearning.

That is due to a couple of different factors for the education company that got its start providing e-learning solutions. It won an award for an employee education project is did with Denso last year and has been pushing its boundaries by helping create a STEM education exhibit for elementary school students at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

"We're making interactive, personalized exhibits that track the education of students for teachers," Torrance says.

TorranceLearning is also renting out part of its workspace in the Clocktower in downtown Chelsea. The company created a brainstorming space that measures out to about 2,300 square feet. It has been renting it out to local corporations, like Johnson & Johnson and Trinity Health.

"We realized this space was too awesome to keep to ourselves," Torrance says.

That extra income has allowed the company to expand its staff. It has hired two people over the last year (e-learning developers) and now has a staff of 11 employees and one intern.

Source: Megan Torrance, CEO of TorranceLearning
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Inovo Group sees 30-50% revenue spike in each of last 3 years

The Inovo Group's growth rate is something to take notice of. The downtown Ann Arbor-based consulting firm has watched its revenue jump 30 percent to 50 percent in each of the last three years.

This last year the firm added four new clients. That work has enabled the innovation-consulting office to hire two people (analysts), expanding its staff to 13 employees and one intern.

"We are on a steady growth path," says Larry Schmitt, CEO of The Inovo Group.

The Inovo Group has made its way helping large corporations find new, more-efficient ways of doing things. That could range from finding new opportunities to discovering new technology for it to harness. The bottomline is The Inovo Group's clientele recognize that innovation is critical to their growth.

"When we get involved with a company we do it when they want to do something big," Schmitt says. "It's when they want to push their own boundaries."

The Inovo Group also made the moved to new office in January next to the Downtown Home & Garden. The 5-year-old company has now smoothly moved into the new space and used it to help grow its talent base.

"It has energized our environment," Schmitt says. "It's an attractive place for the people we want to recruit."

Source: Larry Schmitt, CEO of The Inovo Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

NVIDIA staffs up Ann Arbor office thanks to auto industry contracts

NVIDIA opened a technology center in Ann Arbor last year. The good news is the Silicon Valley-based tech firm has been hiring people (10 so far) for it. The better news is it still has plenty more hiring to do to hit its employment goal.

"It's designed to support up to 20 employees," says Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive for NVIDIA. "We're still staffing up. We’re about halfway there."

NVIDIA's Ann Arbor tech office specializes in making software for the automotive industry. Think navigation and infotainment applications. Ann Arbor turned out to be the perfect place for the company because of its proximity to Metro Detroit’s automotive base and Ann Arbor’s tech startup scene.

NVIDIA got its start making graphics for the video game industry in 1993. It eventually evolved into offering graphic solutions for a variety of sectors. It has been focused on automotive for about the last decade. It does work with the like of BMW, Audi, and Tesla. Shapiro estimated NVIDIA’s products are in 6.2 million cars today.

Source: Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive for NVIDIA
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Amplifinity keeps hiring, closes Series B, looks for bigger home

Amplifinity is gunning for the growth trifecta in downtown Ann Arbor this year. The tech startup has been steadily hiring over the last year, is close to locking down a multi-million-dollar round of venture capital investment, and is starting to look at options for a bigger headquarters.

"The size of our organization could easily double in the next year," says Eric Jacobson, president & CFO of Amplifinity.

The 6-year-old company's bread and butter is software that generates Internet referrals through social media called Advocacy Management Platform. The product allows people to advocate for brands by referring new prospects, endorsing products, and amplifying marketing messages.

Amplifinity has hired 12 people over the last year, including a former intern. The firm now has a staff of 37 employees and is looking to hire half a dozen more people, including software developers and client services professionals.

"We're looking for people who are really good at working with other people," Jacobson says.

Amplifinity is in the final stages of securing a Series B round of investment. Jacobson declined to say how much the round would amount to besides saying its worth several million dollars. Amplifinity raised a $3.5 million Series A in 2012.

"We have the capital to grow," Jacobson says. "We are acquiring new customers very rapidly."

The recent growth is also pushing Amplifinity toward the capacity of its office space in Ann Arbor. The firm is starting to explore options for newer and bigger offices in a broad range of locations, but Jacobson says the firm’s leadership has a preference on where it wants to end up.

"We really love Ann Arbor because it’s a wonderful, creative town," Jacobson says. "It has really smart people. It allows us to grow a company here as well as our competitors, which are primarily in Silicon Valley."

Source: Eric Jacobson, president & CFO of Amplifinity
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Nutshell goes on hiring spree with 12 new job openings

For the longest time, Nutshell was a tech startup with a handful of employees. For most of its first five years it was primarily software developers and other techies building out the company’s customer relationship management software platform.

That's changing this year. The downtown Ann Arbor-based software firm has hired three people so far (including one that started this week) growing its staff to a dozen employees. It is now looking to hire another dozen people in software, marketing, customer service, administration and design.

"Now we're filling out the ranks of the rest of the organization," says Joe Malcoun, CEO of Nutshell.

Nutshell's first years consisted of it developing its software and growing organically without any strategic marketing. It has already crossed the $1 million threshold for sales.

"The company has been growing pretty steadily since it launched its first product," Malcoun says.

That attracted the attention of some investors and it’s now closing on a Series A1, which is an extension of the original Series A round for its initial investors. The Series A1 is expected to come in at about $1 million, money that will allow the company to grow rapidly over the next couple of years.

"I'd like to see us doing $2.5 million a year in revenue by the end of 2015," Malcoun says.

Source: Joe Malcoun, CEO of Nutshell
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Carlisle/Wortman Associates turns interns into new hires

Carlisle/Wortman Associates has been doing a lot of hiring from within over the last year.

The civic planning firm has made three hires over the last year, all of which are planning professionals. Two of those three for their professional start at Carlisle/Wortman Associates.

"We were able to locate some pretty god talent through our internship program," says Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates. "We hired two of our interns."

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company provides consulting services to local municipalities looking to overhaul their zoning ordinances and master plans. It currently has a staff of 25 employees, three of which are working out of Carlisle/Wortman Associates' new Troy office that opened in May.

The new office is serving the growing Oakland County sector, which is helping lead the spiking demand for planning services for local municipalities. Carlisle points out a number of communities that have traditionally led the way for planning activities have been leading the charge over the last year.

"That is what has been keeping us quite busy," Carlisle says. "With that comes demand for updating master plans and zoning ordinances. That has increased our workload and allowed us to hire three more people."

Source: Dick Carlisle, president of Carlisle/Wortman Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Vaco adds jobs in Ann Arbor as it diversifies client base

Staffing firm Vaco has made three hires in Ann Arbor, expanding its internal staff in Tree Town to eight people.

The firm is also looking to add a couple of more internal resources (staffers) this year. "We're looking for additional recruiters that have a strong human resources and recruiting background," says Paul Bishop, managing partner with Vaco.

The national company provides staffing services for technical and executive professionals. It has a couple dozen offices across the U.S., including a Metro Detroit office that Vaco moved to Ann Arbor in 2011. Vaco established itself with its staffing services in the tech industry but has expanded into the likes of accounting and finance industries recently.

"As we have grown our business we have found it important to us to find more industries we can support," Bishop says.

Bishop adds the increase in industry diversity has created more work opportunities for the staffing candidates it offers to business. He notices that Vaco's clients utilize the diversity of the services more.

"It's creating value for our clients with human capital," Bishop says.

Source: Paul Bishop, managing partner with Vaco
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Blue Newt Software expands products and staff

Blue Newt Software is expanding its staff with more full-time employees thanks to a new addition to its business tool box.

The Ann Arbor-based software company, which calls Kerrytown home, has hired three engineers over the last year. That brings its staff to six fulltime employees and six independent contractors.

Blue Newt Software got its start in 3-D graphics and high-level visual graphic consulting. Recently is began producing its own software, including simulation technology for training and engineering that gamifies the experience.

"We have a bunch of things our work has expanded into," says Bob Kuehne, CEO of Blue Newt Software.

Part of that expansion is thanks to Kuehne’s acquisition of Renaissance Sciences last fall. The Arizona-based business specialized in producing simulation technology for the federal government. One of its largest customers is the U.S. Navy.

Kuehne is using the acquisition as an opportunity to further the reach of Blue Newt Software's products. So while the two companies aren't merged together, they do leverage different synergies to help each other grow.

"It has greatly expanded to bring more Blue Newt Software products to the market and expand our reach," Kuehne says.

Source: Bob Kuehne, CEO of Blue Newt Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Andy Ross Design fills out workload in Ann Arbor

Andy Ross and his wife, Amanda Ross, launched their own design firm a couple of years ago called Stunning Creative. The move was prompted by Amanda Ross' job loss and turned into an opportunity for the Ann Arbor couple to create their own business.

That lasted for a year or two until Amanda landed a new job. That left Andy with a company that just didn’t quite fit right anymore. So he started a new one this year called Andy Ross Design.

"I've been pretty busy," Andy Ross says. "I have done some work for some larger local clients like Aysling.  It's a newer client."

The design company has also been taking on more advertising agency work, including working with Lowe Campbell Ewald on its Cadillac account. Andy Ross says he has doubled his workload in the last year as more and more marketing firm take on an increased workload.

"A lot of it is I have put more effort into marketing the company," Andy Ross says. "Advertising budges have increased over the last year."

Source: Andy Ross, owner of Andy Ross Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Imetris adds staff as it eyes double-digit sales increase in 2014

Talent is a key word for Imetris when its hoping to achieve another key word: growth.

The Saline-based IT company has made a handful of replacement hires over the last year and it's currently looking to hire two more tech people.

"Local talent," says Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris. "That's what we're looking for."

Imetris currently offers tech services in IT and data management, specifically managing data storage area devices for large corporations. It has grown its staff to 110 people over its 17 years.

"We have been able to upgrade our talent and existing employees," Acharya says. "That's part of the reason clients come back to us."

Imetris grew its revenue about 6 percent last year through growing its workload with existing clients and adding a few new ones. That number was a bit of a disappointment for Acharya who aims for consistent double-digit revenue growth each year. To Acharya a lack of growth means a business isn’t moving forward. It’s why he expects Imetris to grow 15-20 percent this year.

"That's a reasonable number considering out overhead and increasing costs over time," Acharya says.

Source: Chandru Acharya, president of Imetris
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Phire Group hires 3 on slow and steady growth trajectory

Slow and steady doesn't just win the race. It also builds a successful company. That's Jim Hume's opinion.

The principal of Phire Group preaches deliberate and modest growth as the smart way to grow a company. It's been the secret sauce for his own full-service marketing firm.

"We have been fortunate to grow at a consistent, steady pace," Hume says. "That's unusual for marketing firms that are usually boom or bust."

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company takes a longterm approach with its clients and avoids churn and burn work. Treating its long-term clients well produces more referral work and increased workload with existing clients. For instance, it started doing project work with MASCO Cabinetry and is now its agency of record for some of its brands.

"That growth has been slow and steady over the years," Hume says.

That enabled Phire Group to hire three people over the last year, including positions in public relations, web development and strategy. It now has a staff of 20 employees and one intern. Hume plans to add a handful more people over the next year. All of it part of the company’s slow and steady growth plan.

Source: Jim Hume, principal of Phire Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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