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Ann Arbor startups score seed capital from Innovation Fund

A couple of Ann Arbor-based startups have taken the lion's share of seed funding from the initial round of the Innovation Fund Macomb Community College, Powered by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

MyFab5 and TurtleCell received the top awards, $100,000 each, from the Innovation Fund. The $100,000 investments are focused on helping push those startups toward large-scale funding.

"We're laying the foundation to accelerate our growth," says Omeid Seirafi-Pour, co-founder & CEO of MyFab5.

MyFab5's platform works through Instagram, allowing its users to take pictures of their meals at restaurants and then rank their experience. The 2-year-old company got its start allowing users to rank their top five businesses in certain genres in local areas, but transitioned to a photo-based version when it noticed its users liked using it with Instagram.

MyFab5 averages more than 300,000 users each month. That is more than double its user rate from last fall. MyFab5 users have shared over 1.25 million restaurant recommendations and photos. It now employs a staff of four and three interns.

The platform also streamlines social media marketing for restaurants, providing a dashboard that enables creation of custom marketing plans, analyzing audience, generating leads, creating and publishing social media posts, tracking and engaging fans, and creating analytics reports.

TurtleCell makes a smartphone case with retractable headphones so users can avoid tangled, broken or lost headphones.

The Innovation Fund made five investments overall in startups based in Metro Detroit. The total investment package from the came to $275,000. The $2.7 million fund focuses on stimulating economic development and job growth among promising Metro Detroit entrepreneurs and next-stage businesses with high-growth potential. Investments range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Source: Omeid Seirafi-Pour, co-founder & CEO of MyFab5
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Reveal Design Automation scores $50K from Zell Lurie Fund

Reveal Design Automation has scored a $50,000 investment from the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, a pre-seed investment fund from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

The money is the last infusion of seed capital the University of Michigan spin-out will received. The angel investments and federal grants total nearly $4 million that is going toward the development of the Reveal Design Automation's semiconductor chip design technology. The $50,000 will go toward helping the Ann Arbor-based company land more customers.

"We have a sales team now," says Zaher Andraus, president & CEO of Reveal Design Automation. "They also provide customer support."

Reveal Design Automation specializes in developing electronic design automation software. The software helps simplify the complicated semiconductor chip design that shortens the verification timeline and lets makers bring it to market faster.

The firm has already finished the Version 1 of its platform and has deployed it to a couple of initial customers in industries like telecommunications and automotive. It now has a team of 12 people after adding a couple over the last year.

"I want to make sure we have more customers," Andraus says. "I'd like to have as many Tier 1 customers are we can support and 20-30 employees."

Source: Zaher Andraus, president & CEO of Reveal Design Automation
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Three Leaf Ventures opens Midwest office in downtown Ann Arbor

Three Leaf Ventures is opening an Ann Arbor location to serve as the venture capital firm’s Midwestern office.

The Denver-based firm, an affiliate of The Broe Group, aims to invest in healthcare companies that specializes in everything from IT to genomics to consumer medical devices.

"We have already drummed up a lot of venture capital activity," says Sean Kearney, managing director of Three Leaf Ventures. "We believe a lot of deal flow will come from Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Michigan."

Three Leaf Ventures will lease space in Kerrytown. It's office will be staffed by Kearney who plans to move to Ann Arbor this summer. A couple of part-time staffers are expected to join him later this year.

The 3-year-old venture capital firm is stage agnostic when it comes to its investments, meaning it is willing to invest in either early, middle or late-stage startups. Three Leaf Ventures hasn’t made an investment in a Michigan-based startup yet but Kearney expects that to change before the end of the year because there are already a couple of good candidates in the pipeline.

"That (one investment this year) is a conservative goal," Kearney says.

Source: Sean Kearney, managing director of Three Leaf Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Huron River Ventures raises second fund worth $5M, local firms targeted for investment

Huron River Ventures is nearly done raising its second investment vehicle, a multi-million dollar fund the Ann Arbor-based venture capital firm plans to use to further invest in its portfolio of tech startups.

The 5-year-old firm raised a $11 million fund at its onset, which it used to make early stage investments into 15 startups like FarmLogs and cribspot. Many of them are based in Ann Arbor, including a few that it shares shares office space with in Kerrytown.

The second fund, the Huron River Venture Opportunity Fund, will focus on making follow-on investments into the best of the best of the firm’s portfolio of startups. It has already made a follow-on investment into FarmLogs.

"It's all for follow-on investment in our portfolio," says Ryan Waddington, partner with Huron River Ventures. "But only for companies that reach a certain size or hit certain milestones."

Huron River Ventures has executed a first close worth $3.5 million and expects to do a final close worth a combined $5 million by July.

"This is all private capital in the Opportunity Fund," Waddington says. "It's all individuals and family offices."

Huron River Ventures expects to make one more follow-on investment later this year and a handful more after that. The firm has also hired a new venture partner over the last year, expanding its staff to three people.

Source: Ryan Waddington, partner with Huron River Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Michigan Angel Fund closes second fund worth $2.1 million

The Michigan Angel Fund has closed on its second fund worth $2.05 million. The firm specializes in making early stage investments in Michigan-based tech startups. Those investments usually range from $250,000 to $2 million.

The fund expects to make between eight to 10 investments over the next two years, mostly in startups too young for traditional venture capital investment.

"It is designed to fill that need as well for our tech startups," says Skip Simms, managing member of the Michigan Angel Fund, which is overseen by Ann Arbor SPARK.

The Michigan Angel Fund was also designed to introduce more high-net-worth individuals into angel investing. The fund launched three years ago with 72 members. The second fund has 62 members with more than half of the investors in the first fund.

"The investors come from all over the state and some outside of the state," Simms says. "Some of the investors in the first fund come from as many as four different states."

The first investment vehicle from the Michigan Angel Fund is fully invested. Some of the portfolio companies include Avegant, Arborlight, BioPhotonics Solutions, Eco-Fueling, Epsilon Imaging, Larky, stkr.it, and Varsity News Network.

Source: Skip Simms, managing member of the Michigan Angel Fund
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

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.

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.

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.

Plymouth Ventures closes on 3rd investment fund worth $61M

Plymouth Ventures doesn't typically add partners to its team, and it's not for lack of qualified candidates. That changed this year for the Ann Arbor-based venture capital firm as it added a new partner and chief financial officer to go with its new $61 million investment vehicle.

"We get about 10 resumes a year from people who grew up in Michigan, went to Washington, D.C, or San Francisco, got married, had children, and want to come home," says Jeff Barry, partner with Plymouth Ventures. "We get 10 really good resumes each year. We usually send them along (to other investment firms) to get placed. This time we happened to be looking for someone."

Two new someones to be exact. Plymouth Ventures brought on Chris Frick as its CFO and Evan Ufer (grandson of University of Michigan broadcasting legend Bob Ufer) as a partner. Both are Michigan returnees from the coasts. Ufer, who is in his mid 30s with a young family, worked in private equity in New York City before coming back to Ann Arbor. Barry points out that Ufer and Frick's resumes stood out so much that the firm knew it had to hire both to help maintain the company's growth.

"We knew we were going to need some added horse power to deploy more capital," Barry says.

Plymouth Ventures closed on its third investment vehicle worth $61 million earlier this month. That’s up from its second fund from a few years ago that totaled $41 million. Plymouth Ventures invests in scalable tech companies in the Midwest and has $100 million under management today. The firm's average investment ranges between $2 million and $6 million.

The 11-year-old firm invested two thirds of its last investment fund in Michigan-based startups. Plymouth Ventures expects to invest about half of its new fund in Michigan-based companies. It has already made its first investment for the new fund earlier this year (Ohio-based Certified Security Solutions) and is on target to make a couple more before the end of the year.

"We're looking at a handful of great companies in the Great Lakes region," Barry says. "We expect to do 2 more (investments) before the end of the year."

Source: Jeff Barry, partner with Plymouth Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Augment Ventures makes 2 investments in lighting startups

Augment Ventures is off to a fast start for 2014, making two investments in clean-tech startups and laying the groundwork to make a couple more before the end of the year.

"Our portfolio is up to five startups right now," says Sonali Vijayavargiya, founder & managing director of Augment Ventures.

Vijayavargiya launched the venture capital firm out of Ann Arbor nearly three years ago. Augment Ventures specializes in making early investments in startups in the clean-tech/sustainability sector. Its most notable investment so far is in downtown Ann Arbor-based logistics tech firm LLamasoft in 2012.

Augment Ventures has made two investments so far this year. Both firms, Revolights and Lumenetix, are based in California. Lumenetix designs, manufactures and sells UL recognized color tunable LED light engines for fixture manufacturers. It is currently working with one of the Big 3 (Vijayavargiya declined to say which one) to integrate its products in the automotive sector. Revolights is working to bring new lighting solutions to bicyclists.

"They're trying to bring 360-degree visibility to commuter bikers," Vijayavargiya says. She adds, "we are very excited about both (startups)."

Augment Ventures has also added a couple of people to its team this year, expanding it to five people. That staff is working to nail down a couple more investments before the end of this year.

"We are actively doing due diligence with five opportunities," Vijayavargiya says. "Two of those firms are Michigan-based."

Source: Sonali Vijayavargiya, founder & managing director of Augment Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor SPARK scores $500K for Michigan Angel Fund

The Michigan Angel Fund has enjoyed so much success in its first year that organizers are coming out with a sequel in 2014.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp is giving Ann Arbor SPARK, which manages the Michigan Angel Fund, $500,000 for the continuation of the Michigan Angel Fund’s first investment vehicle and then some.

"This is allowing us to raise a second fund," says Skip Simms, manager of the Michigan Angel Fund and senior vice president of Ann Arbor SPARK. "The first fund is nearly all invested. It will allow us to continue investing in early stage technology companies across the state."

The Michigan Angel Fund is an angel-investment equity fund that specializes in early stage investments. It only invests in Michigan-based tech start-ups in the hopes of growing the Great Lakes State’s new economy.

It has 72 members and has made six investments in its first year. Those investments range from $100,000 to $250,000 and are part of seed rounds for startups looking to raise between $250,000 and $2 million. Its latest investment is in Larky, an Ann Arbor-based mobile app startup that just closed a $1.76 million Series A round.

"We will probably have a portfolio of 9-10 companies (by the end of the year)," Simms says.

Source: Skip Simms, manager of the Michigan Angel Fund and senior vice president of Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor-based AdAdapted raises $725,000 in seed round

AdAdapted has locked down $725,000 in seed capital to help it scale up its mobile advertising platform.

Among the investors were the University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, Belle Michigan, and Start Garden. The Ann Arbor-based startup plans to initially use part of the money to accelerate its hiring. The 2-year-old company currently employs six people after hiring three over the last year. It's currently looking to hire a software developer and sales professional. After that much of the money will be used to help get the word out about AdAdapted.

"We'll mostly be using it on sales and marketing after that," says Molly McFarland, co-founder & chief marketing officer of AdAdapted.

The startup's advertising platform connects advertisers with developers to create customized native ads in mobile apps. It strives to provide a simple interface so advertisers can find their best  audience. The idea is to do away with intrusive banner ads by replacing them with slicker native ads.

"We have clients right now," McFarland says. "The technology is up and running."

AdAdapted's technology is being used by some advertisers. The startup's staff is currently working to flesh out the platform and expand its client base.

Source: Molly McFarland, co-founder & chief marketing officer of AdAdapted
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Huron River Ventures builds startup ecosystem in Kerrytown

Huron River Ventures isn't just a venture capital firm looking to build a portfolio of startups and investors. It’s working to build its own little entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kerrytown.

The 4-year-old VC, which specializes in early stage investment, opened up its first office this spring in Kerrytown. It is sharing the space with a handful of other venture capital firms and a few startups, including Local Orbit and TurtleCell. The idea is to create a concentration of techies and investors in a cool space in one of Ann Arbor's most cosmopolitan neighborhoods.

"We wanted to see if we could create a little space with some critical mass," says Ryan Waddington, partner of Huron River Ventures. "We wanted to create a space where people could bump into each other more frequently."

Huron River Ventures renovated the old Ann Arbor Observer space on the 1st floor of the Market Place building at 303 Detroit St. Arboretum Ventures already occupies the third floor of the building. Huron River Ventures was also able to recruit the Ann Arbor offices of a number of VCs, including Draper Triangle, Cultivian Sandbox, Arsenal Venture Partners, and Detroit Innovate.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to build out a big office when you're a staff of one," Waddington says.

Huron River Ventures, which has a core staff of two people, closed on a $11 million investment fund (its first) in 2011. It has made 11 investments, has 10 portfolio companies, and has recorded one exit. It currently has one term sheet out for another investment and is looking to make three more investments by the end of this year.

Source: Ryan Waddington, partner of Huron River Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Avegant raises $1.9M in investment, $1.5M in crowdfunding

Most startups are excited to have seven figures worth of seed capital coming in. Avegant has managed to score two in its first year.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup has raised $1.9 million in a Seed Round. It also raised $1.5 million from a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year. And all of these people willing to throw money at the company can’t wait to see its night-vision technology.

"We smashed our (crowdfunding) goal (of $250,000) in a matter of three hours," says Edward Tang, CEO of Avegant.

Avegant co-founders Tang and Allan Evans met at the University of Michigan. They were approached by military contractors about creating better night-vision equipment for military drivers during wartime. Soldiers were experiencing better results using thermal night vision while driving. The problem was the display was in their vehicle’s dash instead of over their eyes.

Tang and Evans found that the computer screen and eye fatigue often downgraded the viewing quality. In response they created a night-vision goggle that projected the image directly on the users eye, providing a big step forward in picture quality.

"It was a higher picture quality that I had ever seen before," Tang says.

Avegant's team of 11 employees and one intern has created three different evolutions of the prototype since landing the $1.9 million in a Seed Round last August. The Michigan Angel Fund, an angel investment group, led that investment round. Tang expects to ship the first commercial units of the night-vision goggles before the end of the year.

"We're considering doing pre-orders on the website," Tang says. "It's going really well."

Source: Edward Tang, CEO of Avegant
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

North Coast Technology Investors start off year with big exit

One of Ann Arbor's venture capital staples officially scored a big exit early this year, and chances are you haven't heard about it.

NTT Communications
, a Tokyo-based multinational corporation, acquired Denver-based Virtela Technology Services for $525 million. The deal was finalized in January, and Ann Arbor-based North Coast Technology Investors was one of the early investors in Virtela Technology Services.

"These don't happen everyday," says Hugo Braun, partner with North Coast Technology Investors. "We're pretty excited about it."

The 15-year-old venture capital firm is currently in the midst of deploying its third investment fund worth $30 million. North Coast Technology Investors' team of three people have made nine investments from the fund and recorded two exits. The other exit was Ford's acquisition of Ferndale-based Livio last fall.

"We're still in investment mode," Braun says. "We have half of our money left in our fund. Some of it is committed to other investments but we think we will make a few more this year."

One of its most recent investments is in VNN, formerly Varsity News Network, which recently raised a $3 million Series A round. The Grand Rapids-based startup is pushing forward a collaborative effort between traditional and community sports journalists to provide media coverage for every high school sport. It took first place and $500,000 in seed capital in last fall’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

Source: Hugo Braun, partner with North Coast Technology Investors
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
299 Investment Articles | Page: | Show All
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