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Hines Industries hires 5 engineers on 30% growth

The last two years have been pretty kind to Hines Industries.

The Ann Arbor-based manufacturing tech firm’s revenue has spiked 30 percent in each of the last two years. That has enabled it to hire five new people (engineers) over the last year, expanding its staff to about 40 people.

"We have had an increase in the automotive section," says Dawn Hines, CEO of Hines Industries. "That is because the automotive sector was ordering less in 2010 and 2011."

Hines Industries makes balancing equipment for manufacturers. Its standard dynamic balancing machine models and specialized balanced configurations for the automotive industry that improves manufacturing process efficiency.

Hines points out that her company has invested in its own operations, including a new IT system, an improved website, and a better customer communication systems. She credits the rebounding economy and surging auto industry with the recent growth spike, but expects it to level out to low-double-digit growth in the next couple of years.

"We think we will be growing something like 15 percent per year," Hines says. "We expected to do more business with existing customers and more business internationally."

Source: Dawn Hines, CEO of Hines Industries
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

TECAT Performance Systems triples revenue since 2012

There is a lot of new over at TECAT Performance Systems. The Ann Arbor-based startup has some new staff, new markets for its principal product to explore, and a new name.

The 2-year-old firm, which spun out of TECAT Engineering, changed its name to TECAT Performance Systems this summer. It also hired some new staff, including a new marketing person and CEO. The team of less than 10 people has been focused on growing the company’s revenue. It has added to its customer base and has tripled its revenue since 2012.

"This year we have already exceeded last year's revenue," says Don Keating, vice president of business development for TECAT Performance Systems. "We have some exciting things in the pipeline for the rest of the year."

TECAT Performance Systems is commercializing wireless sensor technology that collect environmental, motion and mechanical information and stream it wirelessly to a central control unit. These sensors, designed to be used in confined spaces, monitor and record live torque data from any rotating shaft. The company is now exploring options on using the technology to measure other things in other industries, such as defense.

"The product itself has evolved so it can do multiple functions besides just measure torque," Keating says.

In the meantime, TECAT Performance Systems is continuing to refine its sensor technologies with an eye for mass producing them on a much larger scale. However, such a increase in productivity is still a year or two away.

"We're in the very early stages of those discussions," Keating says.

Source: Don Keating, vice president of business development for TECAT Performance Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Mahindra GenZe expands Ann Arbor operations, plans to hire

Mahindra GenZe opened a technical center in Ann Arbor a little more than a year ago, creating a couple dozen white collar jobs. Now the Indian-based scooter manufacturer is opening a manufacturing facility and looking to hire couple dozen blue collar workers.

"We will begin hiring for those soon," says Terence Duncan, head of consumer engagement for Mahindra GenZe.

The division of the multinational company Mahindra and Mahindra is designing and manufacturing a scooter, and is choosing to do so in the Ann Arbor area. It opened its engineering and design center in Ann Arbor and has hired 26 people for it over the last year.

Mahindra GenZe plans to invest up to $2 million in its manufacturing facility, a move that is expected to create 34 new jobs over the next year. Duncan expects that work to begin this spring and go through the summer and early fall.

"We should be up and running, shipping our product by late fall," Duncan says.

Location turned out to be a big factor in Mahindra GenZe’s decision to locate in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor SPARK helped make the deal happen, highlighting the area's strengths and strategic location, among other qualities.

"All of the suppliers we needed are in southeast Michigan and northwestern Ohio," Duncan says. "It's just a great location."

Source: Terence Duncan, head of consumer engagement for Mahindra GenZe
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

SimuQuest expands as it leverages work with Ford

SimuQuest is accelerating its growth and the Ann Arbor-based company can thank a few major clients like Ford for it.

SimuQuest specializes in software and data management services. It has been working on its UniPhi for Ford for several years now, launching it earlier this year. UniPhi is a model-based development tool for centralized data management. It moves everything to the cloud and helps streamline the data management and analysis process for the user.

"This really changes the game for them," says John Mills, president & CEO of SimuQuest.

Another software platform SimuQuest is bringing to market is QuantiPhi, a chip configuration and driver integration tool. The tool provides a full complement of configurable low-level drivers that guides the user through the intricacies of successfully configuring the chip and driver settings.

Developing these platforms has prompted SimuQuest to hire two people in the last year. It has added a business development professional and an engineer to round its staff of eight people. It is also looking to add summer interns.

"We're expecting a pretty major growth in the company," Mills says. "There are no guarantees but I would be really surprised if we don’t double our revenue in the next year."

Source: John Mills, president & CEO of SimuQuest
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Current Motor Co reaching for profitability in 2014

Current Motor Co is turning into the little electric scoot company that could as it continues to expand its sales domestically and overseas.

"We're a little company but we're growing and exporting," says Lauren Flanagan, executive chair of Current Motor Co.

The Ann Arbor-based company makes electric scooter that can do everything that regular gas-powered scooters can do without the air pollution. Current Motor Co is aiming to sell its scooters in South America, think Brazil, where congestion is heavy and smog is thick because of it.

Current Motor Co continues to aggressively pursue this market and Flanagan expects to hit profitability this year thanks to increasing sales. "We came into this year with some additional contracts," Flanagan says. "We know we're going to have great growth this year."

Current Motor Co has expanded its staff to 10 full-time employees and half a dozen part-timers. It is also hiring interns this summer. The company has hired four people over the last year, including a new vice president of fleet sales.

Bob Mossing previously serves as business and fleet manager for Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office where he oversaw a $50 million budget. Mossing was also nominated as 2011 Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year, and Received Honorable Mentions as one of 2011 100 Top Fleets of North America, and in 2013 as one of the Top Government Green Fleets.

"He's a great guy," 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.

Carcode SMS helps create conversation at car dealerships

A new tech startup is helping automotive dealerships spark more conversations with potential customers.

Carcode SMS has come up with a website plugin that allows consumers to text automotive dealership staff and inquire about a specific car. The software assigns local cell phone numbers to dealerships so mobile shoppers can text them and provides the dealership with an app that allows staff to respond and manage conversations in a compliant environment.

"We can keep track of all of the text conversations with that app," says Steve Schwartz, co-founder of Carcode SMS.

Carcode SMS also has a feature enabling the consumer to end the conversation whenever he or she wants to and not have to worry about follow-ups from salesmen. The Ann Arbor-based startup that calls Tech Brewery home recently won the 2014 Edmund Hackomotive contest last month.

The three-person Carcode SMS team has completed the initial development of the software and is testing it out at an automotive dealership. "We are currently talking to other dealerships," Schwartz says.

Source: Steve Schwartz, co-founder of Carcode SMS
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sakti3 expands staff in Ann Arbor with new hires

Clean-tech startup Sakti3 is starting to see some promising results for its solid-state battery technology.

The Ann Arbor-based startup Sakti3 spun out of the University of Michigan six years ago. It is developing new lithium ion battery technology that it claims offers double the energy density of today’s commercial cells at half the price

"We have demonstrated some impressive numbers when it comes to energy density in battery cells," says Ann Marie Sastry, president & CEO of Sakti3. She adds, "our results so far are very promising."

Sakti3's technology is manufactured using existing, scaled platforms that offer an easy path to large-scale production, in a single, integrated, manufacturing line. "We use only scalable processes on cheap equipment," Sastry says. "It won't break the bank."

Sastry says her firm has "hired a few people" for “high-end tech positions” in the last year. Sakti3 now employs "less than 24 people," Sastry says. She declined to provide specifics.

Sakti3 has raked in millions of venture capital, including a $4.2 million investment from GM Ventures, the VC arm of General Motors, and Japan-based Itochu Technology Ventures in 2010. Sakti3 has raised $30 million in venture capital in total.

Source: Ann Marie Sastry, president & CEO of Sakti3
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Sight Machine hires 6 at Ann Arbor's Maker Works

The team behind Sight Machine saw an opportunity when it noticed that  most cutting edge manufacturing inspection technology ran on 1990s-era software.

The Ann Arbor-based startup, which calls Maker Works home, decided to bring that software up to date (and speed) with its new inspection technology.

"We wanted to make a product that filled the inspection service but took advantage of modern software," says Nathan Oostendrop, chief product officer of Sight Machine.

The 3-year-old company began selling its first products a year ago. That technology could do everything from measure tool integrity to whether a certain finish was added to a product as it rumbled down the line.

"As we have done more we have solidified how we do things," Oostendrop says.

That experience has allowed Sight Machine to add six new employees. The new positions include graphic design, product management and software developers. The firm currently employs 15 people.

Sight Machine has focused on manufacturing in the automotive sector but its leadership is looking to expand its reach in 2014.

"I'd like to branch out beyond automotive, like medical devices or alternative energy," Oostendrop says.

Source: Nathan Oostendrop, chief product officer of Sight Machine
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Clean-tech startup picoSpray lines up potential customers

Clean-tech startup picoSpray is putting together a lengthy list of customers for its small-engine technology and is well on its way to proving the viability of its concept.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up's technology is basically a low-cost electronic fuel injection system for small engines. The product will help make small engines (think lawn mowers or chainsaws or go-carts) more energy efficient and help reduce their emissions. Check out a video on the technology here. The technology can reduce fuel consumption by 10-15 percent, depending on the type of engine, calibration, and the speed it runs at.

"For different customers there are different valuations," says Lihang Nong, founder of picoSpray.

He adds that picoSpray has already proven the concept behind its technology to one large manufacturer of small engines. He declined to identify the firm. He did say that his firm continues to test its technology in 2014 and is lining up potential customers.

The startup is one year away from commercializing its technology. It is currently working to raise some seed capital to help push the commercialization process forward faster.

"We're in the process of raising a seed round in the area of $1 million," Nong says. "We plan to prove the technology in 2014."

Nong and his team of seven people are all recent engineering graduates of the University of Michigan. They started working on picoSpray at a business plan competition. It eventually moved into the TechArb, a startup incubator for U-M students in downtown Ann Arbor, and landed a microloan from the Michigan Microloan Fund last year. It is now working independently of the University of Michigan.

Source: Lihang Nong, founder of picoSpray
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Silicon Valley's NVIDIA opens tech center in Ann Arbor

NVIDIA, a Silicon Valley-based corporation, is opening a technology center in Ann Arbor so it can maximize its proximity to Michigan's automotive and technology centers.

NVIDIA's Ann Arbor office will focus on software technology in the automotive industry, such as navigation and infotainment applications. The new space will provide the company access to the automotive hub in Metro Detroit while also putting it next door to the plethora of tech start-ups in Ann Arbor.

"We're focused on bringing more innovation to the automotive industry," says Danny Shapiro, director of automotive for NVIDIA. He adds that his firm sees Ann Arbor as "a hub where a lot of technology innovation is taking place."

The firm's Ann Arbor office currently has six people. Shapiro expects that number to climb as significantly within the next year. The staff will include both hardware and software engineers, business development professionals and marketeers.

"We will be 20 strong (in the near future)," Shapiro says.

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

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

TECAT Sensors makes new CEO key part of growth plan

Fresh leadership is helping guide TECAT Performance Sensors in a new direction. The Ann Arbor-based start-up has hired two executives over the last year, including a new CEO.

The new leadership has allowed the nearly 2-year-old company to refocus its efforts and improve its sales. Revenues for the company are up 10 percent mainly on the strength of word-of-mouth references. The firm's leadership expects those numbers to improve.

"We expect the second half of this year to be stronger than the second half of last year," says Don Keating, vice president of business development for TECAT Performance Sensors.

TECAT Performance Sensors, a spin-off of TECAT Engineering, is developing wireless sensor technology. These sensors gather environmental, motion and mechanical information then wirelessly send these parameters to a central control unit or direct to a control or viewing device. Its sensors, WISE and POINT Telemetry Systems, allow for transmission, monitoring and recording of live torque data and more from any rotating shaft. It especially designed to be used in confined spaces.

TECAT Performance Sensors currently employs six people and the occasional intern. Keating expects those numbers to go up as sales rise, which he projects to increase by 25-30 percent over the next year.

Source: Don Keating, vice president of business development for TECAT Performance Sensors
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Current Motor Co. finds success in fleet electric scooter sales

Current Motor Co's business plan has focused on expanding its sales of electric scooters into South America, where the vehicles are popular. That plan is starting to gain traction this summer with the beginning of the company's first fleet sales.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up manufactures an electric scooter that provides the same sort of mobility and capability as regular gas-powered scooters, but with a much smaller carbon footprint. Many of the two-stroke gas engines of the millions of scooters in South American countries like Brazil produce a lot of air pollution. That isn't an issue with Current Motor Co's electric scooters and solar-power charging stations.

"It's actually a very practical fleet addition," says Lauren Flanagan, executive chair & interim CEO of Current Motor Co. "It's very popular, particularly with mobile, solar-powered charging stations."

Flanagan says the company is in the midst of completing its first fleet sales in Brazil this spring and expects to complete more by the end of the year. It is also looking at making similar fleet sales in the U.S. as it attempts to hit the break-even point of selling 500 scooters within the next year.

"We have a very lean model so we think that is possible," Flanagan says.

Current Motor Co and its team of a dozen people closed on a Series A round of financing worth $2.4 million last year. Flanagan expects to begin fundraising for a Series B round worth somewhere between $5 million and $10 million early next year. The company is currently looking to hire a director of fleet sales and a couple of software engineers to develop mobile apps for its scooters.

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

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

Arotech defense firm hires 40, doubles Ann Arbor space

Arotech is growing its staff and footprint in Ann Arbor, doubling its commercial space with another 40,000 square feet and hiring 40 people over the last year.

That growth is coming from the Ann Arbor-based defense firm's training and simulation division. That division, which employs 168 people, has watched its revenue jump 39 percent last year and expects another healthy year in 2013.

Spearheading that growth are a couple of large contracts with the U.S. military. The largest is providing a simulation suite to the U.S. Army that helps soldiers train to find and disarm improvised explosive devices, commonly known as IEDs. The suite helps teach soldiers how to use equipment that finds and disarms IEDs, along with the vehicles that protect the disarming operation.

"We're in the process of delivering our 15th suite out of 28," says Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech's training and simulation division. "We're delivering one per month."

Arotech's training and simulation division has also enjoyed more business from the law enforcement and homeland security sectors. It has a contract with the U.S. Airforce to provide simulation technology to train soldiers how to operate mid-flight refueling booms and several contracts with municipal law enforcement agencies for training and use-of-force simulation.

Source: Kurt Flosky, executive vice president of Arotech
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Carcode.me evolves to become car-dealer-sales tool

Carcode.me is one of those start-ups that hits its stride after it has evolved a little.

The Ann Arbor-based start-up that calls the Tech Brewery home cut its teeth providing QR code technology to automotive dealerships. The idea was that providing QR codes would allow shoppers to access key info about the vehicles on the lot, such as make and model, while the dealership was closed.

"We found that the sales staff was using it to pull up information get it to the customer," says Nick Gorton, co-founder & CEO of Carcode.me.

"We realized our target market wasn't the customer but the sales people who can use it as a tool," says Steve Schwartz, co-founder & CTO of Carcode.me.

The 2-year-old start-up now has its technology in 150 automotive dealerships across 13 states, which pay for it on the software as a service model. That growth has allowed the company to add one new team member (a software developer), expanding its team to three people. The company is also looking at raising a seed capital round to fund a marketing campaign later this year.

Source: Steve Schwartz, co-founder & CTO of Carcode.me and Nick Gorton, co-founder & CEO of Carcode.me
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Spork's mobile app LeaseCrunch begins to gain traction

A couple of tech entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor have teamed up to create Spork, a mobile app start-up who's first offering is starting to gain traction.

Spork release LeaseCrunch about a year ago with little fanfare and even less marketing. The mileage-monitoring app for leased cars has enjoyed a slowly growing following since. It has about 400 users and is still being actively bought in the iTunes store. Jordan Brown and Ross Johnson, Eastern Michigan University grads and Spork's co-founders, plan to ramp up the visibility through viral marketing this year.

"It has done a lot better than I expected without advertising," Brown says. "People are just sort of stumbling upon it."

LeaseCrunch helps drivers keep track of their leased vehicle's mileage to prevent overage charges. Through a few simple setup questions and periodic odometer mileage updates, the application calculates where the user stands in the life of their lease and projects where they will be when it's time to turn the vehicle in.

"I wanted something with a graphical representation and projections instead of just a do-it-yourself spreadsheet thing," Brown says.

Source: Jordan Brown, co-founder of Spork
Writer: Jon Zemke

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