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Pixel Velocity scores $10M in Series B round

Pixel Velocity has landed $10 million in seed capital thanks to a Series B round of investment in the image processing and data analytics startup.

"They're really well-positioned in an area that combines data from sensors and data analytics," says Jonathan Murray, managing director of the Ann Arbor office of Draper Triangle Ventures, which also participated in Pixel Velocity’s Series B.

The Ann Arbor-based company creates sensor technology that helps provide safety, security and operational continuity solutions to commercial and government facilities. Its imagery and data analytic tools help protect users from accidental or natural threats, such as leaks, spills or intrusion. The company is planning to expand into the oil and gas market this year.

Money from the Series B will fund the Pixel Velocity’s revenue growth and expanding operations by adding more working capital to its bottom line. That money will help do everything from adding inventory to expanding its staff. The company has hired 10 people over the last year, including positions in executive management, software development, and hardware engineers. It currently employs 17 people and the occasional intern.

"We will also be doing some work on our branding," Grisham says.

Source: Heather Grisham, COO of Pixel Velocity, and Jonathan Murray, managing director of the Ann Arbor office of Draper Triangle Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Stout Systems takes aim at record growth year in Ann Arbor

Stout Systems has been riding a nice wave of success since the Great Recession hit, and it looks like the ride has yet to crest for the tech firm.

"If it keeps going this way for us it will be a record year for us," says John W. Stout, founder & president of Stout Systems. "It was already a record January for us."

The Ann Arbor-based company providing staffing and consulting services in the software and IT sectors. It's fourth quarter last year produced the best sales ever for the 22-year-old firm. That allowed it to add to its staff, including four hires in January and another one coming onboard this month. The firm currently employs 35 people, including a dozen that work at client sites.

"The area we have grown the most is our consulting business," Stout says. "It has really taken off in the last few years."

Stout Systems also recently won the Corp! Magazine's 2015 DiSciTech Award in the Science and Technology category for its innovative and cost effective project management system. The DiSciTech awards are presented to Michigan companies and educational organizations that are leading the way in science, technology and digital initiatives through innovation, research and applied science.

Source: John W. Stout, founder & president of Stout Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sales of Another Rinse’s recycled goods spread across U.S.

It didn't take much for Another Rinse's made-from-recycled-materials products to carve out their own little niche. The thing is, the Ann Arbor-based company’s never stopped carving.

The one-year-old company gives new life to old things by turning them into a refinished product with a new purpose. For instance, it turns old wooden golf clubs into bottle openers. And its sales have been growing exponentially since its launch. They can now be found in 37 states and three countries.

"Michigan is our top sales state followed by New York," says Michael Sydlowski, owner of Another Rinse. "We have been streamlining our sales online sales process."

Sydlowski worked in sales and marketing before launching Another Rinse out of his basement. At the time he wanted to find a new use for old golf clubs collecting dust there. He turned them into bottle openers and coat hooks. He added old wooden tennis rackets and baseball bats into the mix, along with turning old golf balls into corkscrews. Now he is looking to add reclaimed wood products to his lineup.

Another Rinse's products have recently shown up in consignment shops in Wisconsin and Indiana. The company’s products mostly end up being sold online. Sydlowski estimates 90 percent are either bought or gifted to men.

"I never thought the split would be that way," Sydlowski says.

Another Rinse is run by a core team of three people.

Source: Michael Sydlowski, owner of Another Rinse
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Draper Triangle’s Ann Arbor office spreads the seed capital

Draper Triangle Ventures opened its Michigan office in Ann Arbor a year ago, and the venture capital firm is off to a fast start.

The Pittsburgh-based firm has made investments in two Ann Arbor-based startups over the last year. The first was in Amplifinity, which makes referral software, in early 2014. Draper Triangle Ventures also recently sunk money into Pixel Velocity, a image processing and data analytics startup.

"A person can make and manage two investments per year," says Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures’ Ann Arbor office. "I'll make two investments this year, and Pixel Velocity is one of them."

Draper Triangle Ventures has more than $200 million under management across three funds. Its latest investment fund was set to raise more than $100 million. The venture capital firm invests in early stage tech ventures, such as software and IT startups.

Murray is Draper Triangle Ventures’ lone representative in Michigan. The firm has its main office in Ann Arbor and another satellite location in downtown Detroit. Murray expects to make one more investment in a local startup this year but that number could grow.

"I have a long list (of potential startups to invest in)," Murray says. "There are a lot of very good prospects on it. It could change from two investments to three investments if the right opportunity comes along."

Source: Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures’ Ann Arbor office
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor tech firms Aysling, Juggernaut merge

Tech firms Aysling and Juggernaut are merging, but the combination of the two companies isn't going to be difficult.

"We have shared the same office (they are both in the old Borders headquarters) for several years now," Emily Kania, director of marketing for Aysling.

Aysling, formerly known as Aysling Digital Media Solutions, sells and manages Adobe and WoodWing digital publishing software and digital media production services for publishers, retailers, and corporations. Juggernaut develops its own customer relationship management platform. Aysling will now sell and manage Juggernaut’s software.

The Ann Arbor-based companies are both connected through local angel investor David Fry. "He's invested heavily in both companies," Kania says.

Juggernaut's nine employees are now assimilated into Aysling's operations and will work under the Aysling brand. The company has a staff of 32 employees and one intern. It has hired seven people over the last year, mostly in software development, sales, and a new controller.

Source: Emily Kania, director of marketing for Aysling
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Betty Brigade refines business model, in hiring mode

Betty Brigade joined Goldman Sach's 10,000 Small Businesses program last summer, and it ended up having a profound impact on the concierge service's bottom line.

The Ann Arbor-based company’s sales are up 90 percent in both January and February, and are trending in a positive direction for the rest of the year.

"We have had tremendous sales growth when we are typically quiet," says Sharon McRill, president of Betty Brigade.

McRill started Betty Brigade in 2004 after being laid off at Borders. It now employs 10 people. It has hired three people over the last year and is looking to hire two more now.

That growth is largely thanks to the lessons McRill learned at the Goldman Sach's 10,000 Small Businesses program. She was able to cut $4,000 worth of monthly overhead from her business without laying anyone off or cutting salaries. One of the ways was downsizing the company's offices by half because the whole space wasn't being fully used.

"That really helped me clean up some areas that weren’t working and places we were spending money where it wasn't effective," McRill says.

It also helped the Betty Brigade attract more profitable work. For instance, it has been doing more work for trusts and banks at cleaning out houses and buildings.

Source: Sharon McRill, president of Betty Brigade
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

iVantage Group expands core team, moves into new home

Brighton-based iVantage Group has gone through a lot of changes over the last year. The 10-year-old staffing firm has moved into a bigger home (4,500-square-feet) and hired a new recruiter. The firm is looking to add three more recruiters and two sales professionals to the team. It has also made strategic investments in its technology infrastructure, allowing its recruiters to work more efficiently.

"We did all of this stuff without going into debt," says Juliet Shrader, president & CEO of iVantage Group.

The company specializes in staffing services for the IT, insurance and banking sectors, helping its clients find IT, engineering, finance and executive talent in the tech world. It was able to leverage its internal investments into a growing revenue, hitting nearly $10 million in revenue.

"We're doing business smarter," Shrader says.

Today iVantage Group employs a staff of 14 core team members and about 100 people in the field. Shrader expects to grow both numbers significantly in 2015.

"We're going to continue to add to those numbers," Shrader says.

Source: Juliet Shrader, president & CEO of iVantage Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Premier acquires U-M spinout Electric Field Solutions

Premier, a gas and electrical industries service company, has acquired Electric Field Solutions, a University of Michigan spinout specializing in electric field measurement and detection.

"The company that acquired us has been working with use for over a year," says Nilton Renno, co-founder & CEO of Electric Field Solutions. "The testing exceeded its expectations by far."

Renno, a University of Michigan professor of engineering, first developed Electric Field Solutions' principal technology to measure electric fields caused by dust storms on the surface of Mars. The Ann Arbor-based company, it calls the Venture Accelerator home, is developing the Charge Tracker, a sensor product that can identify stray voltage from a distance of more than 10 feet. That technology caught the attention of Premier, a unit of Houston-based Willbros Group, which acquired Electric Field Solutions for an undisclosed amount.

Electric Field Solutions employed a couple people and a few independent contractors. Renno is now going on to work on another startup that helps detect black ice and sends feedback to the braking system in vehicles. Why leave Electric Field Solutions and go onto a new venture?

"I have a full-time job," Renno says. "I think we went through three CEOs with the company. We didn't find the right person to direct the company. When the last CEO left I decided to sell the company."

Source: Nilton Renno, co-founder & CEO of Electric Field Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor State Bank continues growth streak, adds new hires

Ann Arbor State Bank is making significant strides forward with its bottom line and is expanding its product offerings... and staff.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based bank has made about 90 percent of its profits from commercial and mortgage lending. It is now adding private banking and leasing services to its portfolio. The leasing services would focus on commercial and equipment leases for businesses.

"It's a small piece but we hope it will become a big piece," says Peter Schork, president & CEO of Ann Arbor State Bank.

The 6-year-old bank has grown its staff, adding six new hires over the last year. It currently has a staff of 37 employees and one intern. Its new hires include professionals specializing in mortgage lending, private banking, and commercial leasing.

Ann Arbor State Bank has grown quite a bit over the last year, going from $205 million in total assets to $230 million in total assets by the end of 2014. Schork expects the community bank to make similar gains this year.

"We had a great year," Schork says. "A very profitable year."

Source: Peter Schork, president & CEO of Ann Arbor State Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Current Motor launches new product line, Mini-fleets-in-a-Box

Current Motor Co is launching a new product line this winter, expanding on its core offering of electric scooters.

The Ann Arbor-based company's Mini-fleet-in-a-Box product consists of four Current Motor Co’s new Nb Electric Cargo Motorcycles inside a shipping container that also acts as a solar charging station. That way the patent-pending product can be transported to remote locations with everything from a train to a helicopter. The standard Mini-fleet-in-a-Box comes in a standard 20-foot shipping container but can be made to fit a larger container as necessary.

"We can do a large one as well," says Lauren Flanagan, executive chair of Current Motor Co. "It's not a problem. I like to say they work outside of the box."

Current Motor Co is targeting customers that need self-supportive transportation options in remote locations, such as international mining and manufacturing companies. The 5-year-old firm has completely redesigned its electric scooter to create the Nb Electric Cargo Motorcycle, a 100-percent electric vehicle.

The Nb Electric Cargo Motorcycle is advertised as very low maintenance requirements because it has no belts, chains or gears. It has a top speed of 70 mph, and can go up to 50 miles per charge. The motorcycle’s frame has been made stronger to carry more cargo (a driver and substantial cargo or two passengers and light cargo) through the use of high-strength Niobium (Nb) micro-alloyed steel.

Current Motor Co's Nb Solar Charging Station can easily fit in a standard shipping container, allowing it to house four Nb Electric Cargo Motorcycles. The station can charge the bikes in five hours with its solar-powered 22-kilowatt-hour battery. The whole package starts retailing at $130,000 and can reach as much as $300,000 depending on the extras.

"It really depends on what you put on it," Flanagan says. She adds, "We build it out to fit that need."

Current Motor Co has hired five people over the last year. Those new jobs include business development professionals, technicians, engineers, and skilled labor. The company currently has a staff of 17 employees. That team is looking to start shipping the first orders of the firm’s Mini-fleet-in-a-Box this month.

"I think we’re going to have a very good year," Flanagan says.

Source: Lauren Flanagan, executive chair of Current Motor Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

3.7 Designs grows staff as its workload expands

Ann Arbor-based 3.7 Designs is looking at a growing bottom line, staff and office space all within the last 18 months.

The 10-year-old website development firm moved to a newer and bigger space above Arbor Brewing Co in downtown Ann Arbor in July 2013. It has also hired two people over the last year, expanding its team of five people. It is also in search of a front-end software developer right now.

"We have been really busy," says Ross Johnson, design strategist for 3.7 Designs. "A lot of our existing clients are doing more work. They have bigger budgets and more work. We have been picking up new clients as well."

Johnson adds that 3.7 Designs' clients have been asking for more comprehensive work over the last year. Before they were looking for more project-based work and now they are steadily updating sections of their website over time instead of doing it all at once.

"Every couple weeks we redesign another section and launch it," Johnson says.

Last year 3.7 Designs also released its own software platform focused on project management called Project Panorama. The company has been adding to the features of the platform as it continues to ramp up sales.

"That has been doing really well," Johnson says. "Better than expected."

Source: Ross Johnson, design strategist for 3.7 Designs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Q LTD adds new work, such as new website for The Ark

No joke: A longtime Ann Arbor institution and a local business that has been around the block a few times meet in a downtown bar. The result is a brighter 2015 for both.

Q LTD is working with The Ark, the renown performance venue, to redesign and revamp its online presence. The downtown Ann Arbor-based non-profit hasn't updated its website in more than a decade. The new website is now mobile friendly and includes more information about The Ark's well-known events, such as the Folk Festival.

"The Ark is heading into its 50th year this year and it's kicking off a capital campaign," says Christine Golus, managing director of Q LTD.

The 34-year-old firm has been doing more work in recent years and is looking to add to its staff. Q LTD currently has a staff of 12 employees and an intern. It’s looking to hire a software developer, too.

The Ann Arbor-based firm has taken on a wide variety of projects as of late. Those include work for the University of Michigan's Human Resources and SIGGRAPH, which is short for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques.

"We are feeling a definite uptick in projects and work," Golus says. "We are seeing an improvement in the economy."

Source: Christine Golus, managing director of Q LTD
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

GENOMENON leverages local startup support for success and growth

GENOMENON is one of those startups that local leaders get all warm and fuzzy about. The Ann Arbor-based company is a cross between life sciences and tech, and has a very promising future.

And then there are the startup resources that have been invested in its success. GENOMENON has leveraged just about every new economy startup program in southeast Michigan. It spun out of the University of Michigan, taking advantage of U-M's Office of Technology Transfer along the way. It has worked with Ann Arbor SPARK, the local small business development center, and the Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest initiative, among others.

"We have really maximized the resources in the Michigan startup community," says Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON.

GENOMENON is the product of three U-M pathologists, including Dr. Kiel. They are developing software focused on interpreting the mountains of data that come from genome sequencing. The end result could lead to things like improving cancer diagnosis and treatment. Think of it as data analytics for genome sequencing.

"We can produce the data really efficiently," Dr. Kiel says. "It's interpreting the data that is the problem."

GENOMENON is currently made up of seven people after launching last May. It is currently looking to hire a handful of software developers.

"We need boots on the ground, people who can code," Dr. Kiel says.

Source: Dr. Mark Kiel, co-founder & CEO of GENOMENON
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Visual Compass Web Design moves into bigger space in Ypsilanti's Depot Town

Visual Compass Web Design has always been an Ypsilanti-based tech firm. It was the first graduate of the Ann Arbor SPARK East Incubator in downtown Ypsitlanti. Its first stand-alone office was in downtown Ypsilanti. Its next move up was to Depot Town. Now the 6-year-old firm is taking over one of Depot Town's largest office spaces.

"After a year we basically filled the space (its previous office)," says Vince Chmielewski, president of Visual Compass Web Design, formerly VC Web Design. "We wanted to hire but didn’t know where to put them."

About the same time longtime Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti staple Fantasy Attic was closing its doors. Visual Compass Web Design took over the space, and moved right in last year. It now employs 10 people there and is looking to add interns this summer. It recently hired one photographer/UX designer and is looking to hire a software developer.

Visual Compass Web Design’s new home measures out to about 3,000 square feet. The company now has room for things like a dedicated photography studio, which occupies about a third of the square footage near the large historic windows.

"We have been trying to expand our video production services and this is a great space for that," Chmielewski says.

Visual Compass Web Design has doubled its revenue over the last year and is on pace to do it again. It has landed new clients, like Perfect Tacos, which owns 160 Taco Bell franchises. Visual Compass Web Design is also looking to add more work in graphic design and animation.

"We're trying to do a lot more mobile application development," Chmielewski says.

Source: Vince Chmielewski, president of Visual Compass Web Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Anonymous incubator set to grow 10 fold this winter

The anonymous incubator space at 333 Parkland Plaza is about to get much bigger as the owners begin to move to a new building that is much, much larger.

"We will essentially be 10 times bigger than we are today," says Mark Smith, co-owner of 333 Parkland Plaza.

Smith never intended to end up in the small business incubator game. He ended up with his current building just off Jackson Road in the early 2000s when a bio-tech company he invested in went under. Smith recruited young biotech and medical device firms to fill it, offering an all-inclusive rental rate with professional and mentoring services aimed at helping those startups grow.

It worked. The building has been full for years, and Smith has had to turn away prospective tenants because there is no room at the incubator. His current client list includes Evigia, ePack and AVAcore Technologies, which take up all of the 7,500 square feet.

Now Smith and his partners are in the process of closing on and moving into another commercial space nearby. The transition should be done by the of the first quarter or early second quarter. The 75,000-square-foot facility will include thousands of square feet of dry and wet labs. Smith plans to build in a co-working space, and add to the services offered with the likes of human resources, 3D printing and CAD software. Smith is looking to hire four people to operate the new facility with jobs ranging from facility management to IT.

"We are starting at 10 (companies occupying space in the new facility)," Smith says.

Those include all of the other firms currently at 333 Parkland Plaza and a few more. Smith can now accept applications for space in his incubator with the idea of having enough room to accommodate the requests. Smith plans to keep the facility at 333 Parkland Plaza and currently has a tenant lined up to take over the entire space.

Source: Mark Smith, co-owner & manager of 333 Parkland Plaza
Writer: Jon Zemke

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