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Dataspace to grow its 1099 workforce

Local companies aren't just growing from hiring employees. Some are making moves by adding independent contractors (commonly called 1099 for their IRS code), such as Ann Arbor's Dataspace.

The downtown-based tech firm, founded in 1994, still has a staff of about 10 people. However, it has augmented its headcount by bringing on a couple of 1099 contractors over the last year. The firm expects to add another 2-5 independent contractors within the next year to help maintain its flexibility for new projects and revenue growth.

"I don't think 20 percent growth this year is out of the question," says Ben Taub, CEO of Dataspace.

Dataspace focuses on tabulating and interpretation of sales numbers and coming up with ways to take advantage of them. It's also working on business intelligence consulting, which is sees as a growing sector in tight economic times.

Source: Ben Taub, CEO of Dataspace
Writer: Jon Zemke

uRefer forecasts 100% revenue and staff growth

It takes three numbers to measure uRefer's year-over-year revenue growth, with double digit staffing increases expected next year.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up is on pace for 100 percent growth in 2010 and expects to double that in 2011. It has added four people this year; staffing levels now stand at 10 employees, four independent contractors, and two interns. It expects to add 10 more positions in 2011. Founder Richard Beedon expects to fuel the company both internally and with new seed capital.

"We will probably close a venture round in 2011," says Beedon.

The 3-year-old uRefer specializes in referrals. It originally helped companies to either set up referral programs or maximize existing ones. Today it has evolved its business model to what Beedon calls "advocate relationship management." The idea is to turn the customers, partners, and overall circles for uRefer's clients into their biggest advocates.

"Our approach is to convert these people into sales and marketing representatives for them," Beedon says.

Source: Richard Beedon, founder of uRefer
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ingenex Digital Marketing grows nationally, plans 50% staff increase

Ingenex Digital Marketing is keeping people busy these days, and it's harnessing Google to help make that happen.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based firm had been more of an Internet advertising and web development pure play in its first few years. In the last year or so, the 5-year-old firm has been basing its growth on search engine optimization and Google Adwords.

"We have been working closely with Google Ann Arbor," says Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing. "We're looking to grow as a national digital marketing firm."

Ingenex Digital Marketing employs six, plus three interns and three independent contractors. It has hired three people over the last year and expects to add another five more over the next 12 months. It is basing that growth on its increasingly national client roster.

Source: Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

Merit Network scores $69.6M grant to expand broadband in UP

When Merit Network counts the money from the grants it receives, it takes six zeros off the end to make the math easier. The Ann Arbor-based non-profit recently received a $69.6 million federal grant on top of the $33 million federal stimulus grant it received earlier this year.

The latest federal grant (thanks, federal stimulus) will pay for spreading high-speed Internet across Michigan's Upper Peninsula and much of its northern Lower Peninsula. That should add up to 1,000 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure across 29 counties. The idea is to help create more economic opportunity in these rural areas by increasing access to the Internet.

"We're trying to push this economic development into rural areas," says Elwood Downing, vice president of member relations & communications for Merit Network. "We're trying to create that economic benefit across the whole state."

The Ann Arbor-based non-profit manages high-bandwidth communication lines between the major universities in the Midwest, in cities like Ann Arbor, Chicago and Detroit. It has a staff of about 77 people and five interns from the likes of the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. It has hired at least 10 people in the last year and has four positions that are either being filled or are about to be filled.

"We're looking at a minimum of at least six new staff," Downing says. "At least one of them will be a remote commuter from the northern part of the state."

Source: Elwood Downing, vice president of member relations & communications for Merit Network
Writer: Jon Zemke

Local Orbit gets microloan; from harvest to table in hours

Local Orbit is shortening and strengthening local food chain.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based start-up created online software that helps consumers order fresh food directly from local producers. The experience is similar to shopping on Amazon, where the farmer drives the food to a local hub so the buyer can pick up, say, produce within hours of its harvest.

"I saw a lot of fundamental problems and challenges in the food chain," says Erika Block, founder and CEO of Local Orbit. "I saw a way to use interactive technology to solve some of those problems."

Block began cultivating the idea two years ago and really began putting it into practice in 2009. Today, the firm employs three people and creates work for another three independent contractors. She expects to hire 5-7 additional staffers within the next year.

The hiring will take place after Local Orbit finishes proving its concept at pilot sites in Ann Arbor, Richmond, and Brooklyn. The start-up also recently received a microloan from the Michigan Microloan Fund Program to help finish its pilot projects and begin expanding its concept across Michigan. It expects to add a fourth site in Michigan later this year, as part of an expansion plan to tailors its operations to the communities it serves.

"Every community has different needs when it comes to local food systems," Block says. "One size doesn't fit all."

Source: Erika Block, CEO and founder of Local Orbit
Writer: Jon Zemke

Switchback to add positions in Kerrytown

Switchback is growing in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown, thanks to new projects with name-brand technology firms.

The company has partnered with HealthMedia (Yes, that HealthMedia) to launch a website. It's also working with Weather Underground (the weather website jokingly named after the 1960s fringe group) on a joint project handling the national firm's Drupal work.

"In college I did a lot of work for them," says Mike Monan, co-founder and problem solver at Switchback. "Now they're in the same building. It was like, 'Hey, guys. How are you doing?' in the halls. Now we are managing their Drupal system for them."

Switchback recently hired two engineers and is in the market for a salesperson. That leaves its workforce at about 11 people. Monan expects to add at least one more engineer in the next year as the company continues to expand its customer base. It utilizes a Drupal programming platform to create software that helps businesses better manage their websites without needing IT departments or in-house experts.  

"We have seen increasing demand for the product," Monan says. "It's been a nice surprise."

Monan and Stephen Colson started Switchback not long after meeting at a local Drupal Users Group meeting in 2007. Switchback utilized local programs, such as Ann Arbor SPARK's Entrepreneur's Boot Camp, to help grow the company from the two partners working on their kitchen tables to one of downtown Ann Arbor's promising start-ups.

Source: Mike Monan, co-founder and problem solver with Switchback
Writer: Jon Zemke

Netflix of babywear founder is finalist for College Entrepreneur of the Year

Bebaroo is a unique start-up that bills itself as the NetFlix of used baby clothes, with a not-so-unique driving force. One of its founders is about to become a father.

Luis Calderon and Allen Kim became intrigued with the idea after Kim's aunt gave birth and bought a boatload of clothes and accessories that her baby outgrew in short order. The pair of University of Michigan students began researching the idea of selling these gently used baby clothes over the net. When Calderon's wife became pregnant, that lit a fire under the entrepreneurs to find an answer for the expensive proposition of raising a child.

"At first when you have the baby you get excited and buy all of this stuff," Calderon says. "Then you say, 'Holy crap! What am I doing?'"

The Ann Arbor-based firm is creating its pilot website and has 70 people who have already signed up to buy and sell baby clothes and other products on it. The 2-month-old start-up expects to grow to 2,000-3,000 users within a year and begin raising seed capital early next year. It expects to hire 10-20 people as it sets up a warehouse and logistical operations.

"We're off to the races," Calderon says.

Bebaroo is a catchy version of the word Bebary, which means 'To give nice things to children'. Kim is one of five finalists in the running to become Entrepreneur magazine's 2010 College Entrepreneur of the Year.

Source: Luis Calderon, co-founder of Bebaroo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's Buycentives enters auto incentive market

Conventional wisdom dictates that a company whose business model is based on automotive sales would not have done well over the last year or two. Buycentives is not that kind of firm.

"Even in the downturn we have gotten a lot of interest because our product allows them to spend their marketing dollars more effectively," says David Goldschmidt, co-founder of Buycentives.

The 1-year-old start-up housed in Ann Arbor SPARK's downtown incubator specializes in making sense of this big, bloated morass of incentives for both sellers and buyers. Its software lets automakers target small groups or even individual consumers with the right incentives, helping auto manufacturers eliminate inefficiencies in the buyer incentive pool.

Buycentives has spent the last year introducing its principal product to the market and is readying it for other types of Internet sales leads. The 3-person firm expects to hire a few sales people to facilitate its growth over the next year.

"We have made significant progress," Goldschmidt says. "We're gaining some traction with local car companies and dealership groups."

Source: David Goldschmidt, co-founder of Buycentives
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilanti's LookInTheAttic hires 2, looking for interns

LookInTheAttic is a small miracle in downtown Ypsilanti. Small because it's a small-but-growing business in the city's center; miracle because it's a small-but-growing business that is firmly rooted in the housing sector.

The store specializes in selling antique reproduction hardware and housewares both at its storefront and online where most of its sales (about 85 percent) are made. It also owns and operates Silver & Gold, an online jewelry store.

"Our sales are solid," says John Coleman, president of LookInTheAttic. "This July will be our best July ever."

The 13-year-old company has been able to hire two people over the last year, expanding its staff to 11, with three independent contractors. It's also looking for a few good interns. LookInTheAttic achieved this growth by continuing to expand its product base and finding smarter, leaner ways to manufacture those products. For instance, it found that the same brass plate can be used to create four different products, such as a push plate or a door knob. Coleman credits this mass customization idea to the likes of Dell Computers.

"It works a lot of different ways," Coleman says. "By doing it smartly like that we can reduce our inventory and use that to grow."

LookInTheAttic expects to continue to experience 10 percent revenue growth over the next few years. That should allow it to add another employee or two within the next year.

Source: John Coleman, president of LookInTheAttic
Writer: Jon Zemke

ICON Creative Technologies Group plans for 20% growth

ICON Creative Technologies Group is literally growing into its new home on the outskirts of downtown Ann Arbor, hiring four new people over the last year.

The interactive marketing agency moved to the former second home of the Ann Arbor Art Center last year. It now has a staff of 25 people and a handful of independent contractors focusing on Internet marketing for firms in the bio-tech, automotive, and service industries.

"We're doing well," says Rob Cleveland, CEO of ICON Creative Technologies Group. "The year is going pretty much as planned."

The 15-year-old company is focusing on a hybrid of 20 percent organic growth and mergers/acquisitions to expand its business over the next year.

"Our top priority is people in the business development field," Cleveland says.

Source: Rob Cleveland, CEO of ICON Creative Technologies Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's KnowledgeWatch locks down 1 of 3 microloans

KnowledgeWatch is one of three Michigan-based start-ups, and the only one from Washtenaw County, to secure funding from the latest round of the Michigan Microloan Fund Program .

The Ann Arbor-based firm received an undisclosed portion of the total $104,000 loan pool. The other two recipients are AWGET in Okemos and Bloomfield Hills-based uwemp. KnowledgeWatch plans to use the microloan to support commercialization of its automated online knowledge product.

"Our primary focus is on our sales launch right now," says Don Hogan, CEO of KnowledgeWatch. "We already have one customer. We have a product that works, so we're going into our launch mode right now."

KnowledgeWatch is developing software that aggregates, analyzes and sorts online content in a way that is similar to Google searches. Among its target market are assemblers of
trade publications or hobby sites (which number in the tens of thousands).

The firm has four employees and two interns. It hopes to add six more positions within the next year with the help of seed capital sources like the microloan.

The microloans provide funding for start-ups for product commercialization and business growth. The $1.5 million program will make anywhere from 2-4 loans of a few thousand dollars each per month in 2010. This equates to another 24-48 fledgling local businesses receiving financing during a time when capital for small businesses is almost non-existent.

Source: Ann Arbor SPARK and
Don Hogan, CEO of KnowledgeWatch
Writer: Jon Zemke

FamilyMint turns SPARK membership into GLEQ competition win

It's been a year since FamilyMint began teaching kids the value of money, but it wasn't until three months ago, when the start-up joined Ann Arbor SPARK's incubator in downtown Ann Arbor, that it really started to take off.

"The Ann Arbor office has everything we need," says Bob Masterson, president of FamilyMint. "Ann Arbor is very technologically oriented and we are a web-based firm."

FamilyMint provides an online money-management system for kids, with parents serving as the bank. With this system, children figure out what to do with their money and then go to mom and dad to make withdrawals. Masterson and his partner Jeff Eusebio came up with the idea when trying to teach the value of money to their own young children.

The business got its website up and running by the end of January. It just launched a premium version and expects to really start growing its user base this year. The company will add two positions later this year and possibly more later on.

FamilyMint recently won the New Business Idea competition at the Great Lakes Entrepreneurship Quest event earlier this year. That means $5,000 and the pride inherent in knowing it bested 80 other entrants.

Source: Bob Masterson, president of FamilyMint
Writer: Jon Zemke

ForeSee Results hires 40, plans to add 30-50 more

It's pretty easy to see that ForeSee Results is growing if you look in the right places, such as its increasing client list, expanding staff directory, and strategic plan for expansion.

The Ann Arbor-based company has added about 40 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 185 employees and a couple of interns. It expects to add another 30-50 employees within the next year.

"We're doing very well," says Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results. "We've been adding customers and employees. We're just growing."

ForeSee Results captures "voice of customer" feedback and uses it to measure customer satisfaction for the likes of Kohler, Citibank, and Ameriprise. It uses the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index to gauge the satisfaction of website visitors and pinpoint opportunities to improve the site.

Its client base has not only grown but diversified as the company has expanded its capabilities and product lines. Among those it serves are Eddie Bauer, OnStar, Research In Motion, and Meijer.

"Good product leads to good, satisfied customers who tell other people about you," Freed says. "Word of mouth helps."

That word of mouth is starting to really travel. The company plans to expand into the European market this year with a foothold in the United Kingdom. It will expand eastward from there, picking up new clients along the way.

Source: Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results
Writer: Jon Zemke

Barracuda Networks seeks 10 new staffers for Ann Arbor office

Barracuda Networks' goal is to employ 185 people at its Ann Arbor office by 2013. A year ahead of schedule, the California-based firm is just about halfway there.

As the result of a deal the company made with the state in 2008 to create nearly 200 Internet-based jobs for a $1.4 million tax credit, today it employs about 90 people in Ann Arbor. With 10 job openings to fill, the company is hosting a
career fair on Thursday at its offices on the near north side of Ann Arbor.

"We're hiring at least a person a week right now," says Sean Heiney, director of new product initiatives at Barracuda Networks. "We've had very aggressive growth year after year. We have to find the best talent, and Ann Arbor has turned into a major R&D center for us."

Barracuda Networks creates e-mail and Internet security applications. The research and development of those products is done in its Ann Arbor office, which is nearly full. The company is looking for fresh graduates with computer science degrees or web software developers, quality assurance engineers, IT staff, and tech support and sales staff. For information on the job openings, click here.

Source: Sean Heiney, director of new product initiatives at Barracuda Networks
Writer: Jon Zemke

Grand River to create 48 new jobs from $1.1M investment

Grand River plans to make a grand investment in the Ann Arbor area and create dozens of new high-tech jobs over the next few years, thanks to a new state tax credit.

The Ann Arbor-based e-commerce start-up announced a deal with the Michigan Economic Development Corp on Tuesday to invest $1.1 million in its expansion over the next five years. That is expected to lead to 48 new jobs over that time period, which should mean about 7-10 new openings each year.

"We're self-funded," says Scott Robertson, managing partner with Grand River. "The growth is coming from reinvesting the profits into developing our client base."

The 2-year-old firm focuses on the development of open-source e-commerce solutions for mid-market retailers, meaning it designs, develops, and maintains the websites for the likes of Gander Mountain, HoMedics, and the La Jolla Group.

Grand River
started with two people and has now grown to 12 staffers, two independent contractors, and an intern. It has made seven hires over the last year and continues to grow with the help of a small business administration loan, a new revolving line of credit, and a reputation that pays dividends.

"We did little marketing," Robertson says. "We really have excellent word of mouth from our existing clients."

Grand River looked at expanding in both Ann Arbor and Chicago. It worked with both Ann Arbor SPARK and state officials from the MEDC to land the $361,376 state tax break.

"They both did a very good job of helping us understand the benefits of growing here in Ann Arbor," Robertson says.

Source: Scott Robertson, managing partner with Grand River
Writer: Jon Zemke
180 Internet Articles | Page: | Show All
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