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Thumb Tied expands distracted driving app to new users, new markets

A Lansing-developed app that can prevent texting and driving is expanding across platforms and markets as people look to keep drivers focused on the road and not on their mobile devices.
 
Developed by PNP Technologies and Tucknologies, Thumb Tied senses when the user of a mobile device is driving and blocks incoming texts, calls, emails and other notifications. Drivers can still access up to three emergency contacts and 911. When the user is done driving, the app shuts down, allowing the smart phone user to see missed notifications and messages. And since the app works with Blue Tooth, drivers can use navigation features as long as commands are voice activated and hands-free.
 
"Parents love it," says Waylon Sanford who came up with the concept for Thumb Tied with his business partner Kevin Karpinski. "But my personal point in developing the app was to get the trust of teens."
 
Thumb Tied can be downloaded for free from Google Play for Android as well as the parent's pairing feature for a small fee. Sanford says the app averages about three to five downloads a day since its inception in 2013, and has been downloaded on all continents except for Antarctica.
 
PNP is currently working on a corporate package for fleet and company drivers, with a release slated for late summer 2015. Plans are also in the works to develop a version for the iPhone, as well an in-dash apps for new cars.
 
While marketing of Thumb Tied has been limited to Lansing and social media, PNP is working with Michigan Creative and LEAP to push the campaign down the I-96 corridor in 2015. Sanford and Karpinski are also networking with grassroots organizations like Focus Driven and People Against Distracted Driving to build awareness on the harms of distracted driving.
 
"Our new campaign is 'just drive'," says Sanford. "A lot of the messaging around distracted driving is based on scare tactics. Our hope is to take away the negatives and just focus on the pure positives of driving."
 
Source: Waylon Sanford, Chief Operating Officer, Thumb Tied
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Historic warehouse finds new life as meeting space for businesses and organizations

Businesses, executive boards and non-profits looking to strategize in an environment apart from the office or corporate meeting room will find a new space in Lansing expressly designed to inspire.
 
Beginning in February, David Seitz and Traci Riehl will open the doors to ThinkSpace—a repurposed warehouse that sets the tone for innovative thinking through flexible, edgy and comfortable meeting spaces.
 
"We've both used traditional external spaces a lot," says Seitz who has worked in the tech sector and public policy arena. "I ran into some really innovative spaces in Chicago and New York but not so much here in Michigan. Traci and I thought we'd start by building an amazing space that inspires people to come together."
 
The two co-founders scoured the commercial real estate market for months and happened upon the facility at 416 S. Cedar Street last summer. Located on the River Trail, the building emanated with potential, and had the post-industrial-forward-thinking vibe envisioned by the two experienced facilitators and meeting planners. 
 
Seitz and Riehl rolled up their sleeves and remodeled the interior to create what they say are ideal collaborative and one-on-one spaces for fostering creativity. The end result is a facility repurposed for the future—reflecting their mission to provide spaces where organizations can take old ideas and recreate them into something new.
 
"ThinkSpace is designed for creativity," says Riehl. "It sets the tone that you'll be undertaking a brand new experience."
 
Riehl and Seitz decked out the former 100-year-old storage facility with bright colors and flexible furnishings, accentuated the building's natural light, and provided "back door" access to the River Trail. Equipped with a kitchen, a loft, and various meeting spaces, the 2,000-square-foot facility can accommodate training sessions, strategy meetings, retreats and off-site sales pitches. Groups can also enlist professional facilitators and motivational speakers to guide meetings and sessions held within ThinkSpace.
 
"Our focus was to build a complete experience," says Seitz. "We're really excited to be doing this in Lansing. It's a chance for people to come here as a destination and to build a future for their own organization."  
 
ThinkSpace is planning a grand opening event for sometime in March.
 
Source: Traci Riehl and David Seitz, Co-founders, ThinkSpace
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea? Contact Ann Kammerer here.

Tripper's new Comedy Club keeps Lansing laughing

Steve Tripp has his mind set on giving Lansing something to laugh about.
 
That's why in early January the owner of Tripper's Sports Bar partitioned off underused space in his Frandor sports bar for a comedy club—one that he says can help fill the void when the long-standing Comedy Connxtions closed in April 2014.
 
"We're convinced there is still a market for comedy in this town," says Tripp. "And since we've wanted to broaden our demographic for a while and have this space we've never used, we thought the timing was perfect."
 
Tripp opened the Comedy Club inside Tripper's immediately after New Year's Day. The club will occupy 2,500 square feet and seat 180 people. Tripp says his 40-member staff have the option to pick up extra hours in the club, with Jacob Burkhart serving as the comedy manager. He plans to add more staff in the coming year as the club grows to satisfy Lansing's appetite for comedy.
 
The Comedy Club becomes Tripper's newest wheel, adding to the mainstays of sports, food and beverage, and charity fundraising. Having comedy in a separate, dedicated area, Tripp says, ensures that sports fans can enjoy sports and comedy fans can enjoy comedy—without any interference.
 
Shows run Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays. Thursdays are set-aside for college night and open mike, and weekends reserved for nationally recognized headliners and up-and-coming talent. Dinners, appetizers and full cocktail service are offered during show time.
 
"While we have national acts coming in, we're also giving up and coming comics a place where they can get up on stage and hone their skills," says Tripp. "We're looking to help develop new talent, and there's really no where to start out but in these types of venues."
 
Tripper's inaugural act featured comedian Shane Mauss, followed by Kris Shaw. Upcoming acts include Mike Stanley, Vince Morris, Grant Lyon, Spencer James, April Macie, and Dave Landau.
 
"These are comics who have worked the road and paid their dues," says Tripp. "We want to keep comedy going here and want comics to know they still have a place to go in Lansing."
 
Source: Steve Tripp, Owner, Tripper's Sports Bar
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
 
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Startup Weekend encourages manufacturing, business creation

Lansing’s first ever Maker Week will wrap up on Friday, October 10th but for some, the fun will be beginning. Maker Week was actually born as simply Startup Weekend, but so many organizations brought so much to the table that they extended what was meant to be a weekend to a week long event. 

When Maker Week ends, Startup Weekend begins. Teams will be instructed to come up with a brand new idea, they will pitch that idea, and the chosen teams will have 54 hours to take a project from the idea phase to a product. 

At the end of the weekend, one winner will be picked and that team will be given the resources, sponsorships and guidance needed to take their product to market. “By the end of this,” says Sara Parkinson of LEAP (one of the sponsors), “we expect to see actual prototypes and products.” Judging by the success of past participants in previous events like this, including one that turned into an international service, Sara says, “It’s not outrageous to think these ideas will turn into full-fledged companies.”

Through a partnership with LCC, teams will have access to the tools the trade students get to use, giving them the chance to manufacture their products. 

Source: Sara Parkinson, LEAP
Author: Allison Monroe, Innovation New Editor

College of Music endowment encourages MSU music students to become entrepreneurs

The Withrow Career Building Endowment in the College of Music, created by long time donors and supporters Jack and Dottie Withrow, is helping talented students gain the skills they will need no matter what type of career they pursue. Though, the intent, says David Rayl of the College of Music, “is to give them the chance to pursue non-traditional music careers that will enhance the community.” 

There are a wide range of goals surrounding the endowment and a major one is to help students develop an entrepreneurial mind set that will lead to valuable, art-related businesses within the community. “The presence of art in a community makes it more vibrant,” says Rayl. The purpose of this endowment is to show students there are a lot of ways to make a living and contribute to the community with a music degree. 

Funds from the endowment give support to a wide range of activities. A music business class teaches students how to put together a business plan, and guest speakers that come in from the community include successful alumni that have taken non-traditional paths. 

While many of the students will become performers or play in orchestras, they can’t be present in the community if they can’t make a living. This endowment helps them do just that. 

Source: David Rayl, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in Music
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 
 

Driver on Tap hiring drivers, aims to eliminate drunk driving

While some may compare Driver on Tap to Lansing's recent addition, Uber, they are more than simply a ride share program; they are trying to solve a dangerous and disturbing problem. Michigan has the highest number of DUI's per capita, Driver on Tap wants to help lower this number and eventually eliminate the problem. 

"There is absolutely no reason to drink and drive," says Founder Jose Ramirez, "especially when there are services like this." This service provides an option for those that don't want to drive, but don't want to leave their car behind. If you have been drinking and needs a ride, simply call Driver on Tap and they will get to you and drive you home in your own car. 
They are in the process of hiring and before they launch at the end of the month will have hired at least 10 drivers with the hope of eventually hiring 50-100. The hiring process could take a while though since, as Ramirez states "we have to be very comfortable with who we hire." 

Driver on Tap will launch on August  27th at The Hatching at Beggar's Banquet. "We will learn a lot in the first three months," says Ramirez, and then, "Ideally we will completely eliminate DUI's in the area." 

Source: Jose Ramirez, Founder
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 

Greenlight Bootcamp educates, prepares entrepreneurs

In two weeks the The Greenlight Entrepreneurial Boot Camp will help first-time entrepreneurs through the beginning stages of starting a business. A partnership between Spartan Innovations, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) and the MSU Innovation Center, this week-long course will provide all the research and instruction a startup could need in one central location.

Starting on August 18th, the boot camp serves multiple purposes within the startup community. Amber Shinn, Marketing Director for the MSU Innovation Center, says, "The more normalcy we can create around starting businesses and a community that is comfortable with taking business risks, the better for the community."  

It also helps keep entrepreneurs in the community. According to Paul Jaques, Director of Student & Community Engagement at Spartan Innovations, before this program, "we had to send people to Ann Arbor, Detroit, or out of state for similar programs." By offering these resources right in the community, Lansing can provide, " strong curriculum, and built-in integration into the local startup community and support."

In addition to creating a supportive community and hands-on help, the camp also gives these businesses a way to quickly assess the viability of their product or business instead of wasting valuable time and money. It also helps the successful ideas, like Poochie Bowl, quickly move into the hiring stage and contribute to the local economy.

Source: Amber Shin, Paul Jaques, MSU Innovation Center
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor

MEDC announces funds to support entrepreneurship, technology

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced the approval by the Michigan Strategic Fund of Entrepreneurial Service Provider Request for Proposals awards. These awards will, according to Paula Sorrel of the MEDC, go toward creating early stage technology companies and will also generate more than $15 million new investments in the state. "We are focused on creating a strong pipeline of companies," says Sorrel.

The funds are going toward entrepreneur services all across the state, and $500,000 is coming into Lansing through the Michigan State University Foundation and Spartan Innovations. The funds will be distributed over two years to help grow the GreenLight Business Model Competition. The last GreenLight Competition had nine universities compete, which according to Sorrel is an impressive number. She says it's the basis for a strong pipeline, a pipeline they hope to grow.

The MEDC tracked 30 new tech companies in the state last year, and the hope is that with these awards, that number will grow. "The tech sector is always evolving and we are trying to evolve with it," says Sorrel.

Other approved proposals came from programs such as, Invest Detroit, Ann Arbor SPARK, NextEnergy, BBC Entrepreneurial Training and Consulting, Inforum Center for Leadership, UofM Center for Entrepreneurship and the Michigan Venture Capital Association.

Source: Paula Sorrel, MEDC
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor 

The Hatching celebrates one year of supporting entrepreneurs

The Hatching, a pitch competition that allows entrepreneurs with a business idea to win money and grow their business, turns one-year-old today.

In its first year the competition has helped create 18 jobs and form 12 companies, companies that, according to Tony Willis of Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), may not have gotten their ideas heard otherwise.

The Hatching, a joint effort between Spartan Innovations and LEAP, is a monthly event and the winners of each session are given not only prize money but access to resources that can otherwise be pricey and difficult to obtain such as legal help (provided by Loomis Law) and marketing assistance (from Michigan Creative).

There have been many successes out of the Hatching, including the most televised success, Swaddle-mi-Billi, a wearable jaundice treatment for infants. The company was featured on a startup reality show on A&E and it has become a mainstream product. Other successes include, Eightfold Marketing, Go Green Trikes, Poochie Bowl, What's Mapnin' (who won the year-end Grand prize) and more. All of these companies are growing, hiring, and contributing to economic development in Lansing.  "All of these businesses saw a common problem, and solved it," says Willis, "They created a business that can revolutionize that area."

In their second year, LEAP and Spartan Innovations hope to double the numbers from the Hatching's first year. They hope to see more attendance, more submissions and more jobs.

Source: Tony Willis, Lansing Economic Area Partnership
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 
 
 

New Greater Lansing Food Bank program shares farm fresh vegetables, creates farmers

The Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB) has announced a program through the Lansing Roots farm program designed to fight hunger, create jobs, and help people provide for themselves and their community. The model, called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), is a weekly vegetable subscription that connects local farmers and food consumers. After one payment at the beginning the season, subscribers then receive a box of produce containing 10-15 different items, each week for 20 weeks.

The program also has a low income option, so that low income families have access to affordable, fresh produce. Subscriptions can also be paid for using SNAP/EBT and Double-Up Food Bucks.  According to Alex Bryan, the program manager, it's a great way to connect farmers to those that need food and cut out the middle man.

They are not only feeding families in need, but are also creating jobs by providing the tools, support and marketing components for those that want to farm but may not have the resources or funding to get started. The program provides 10 acres in Mason that was donated to charity as the land the farmers utilize. This two-fold approach is the GLFB's way of assuring there is enough food in the community. According to Bryan, "The biggest anti-hunger movement is economic development," and this program strives to contribute to that.

Source: Alex Bryan, Program Director
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovations News Editor
 

Poochie Bowl kicks off production, manufactured in Lansing

Poochie Bowl, the "eargonomically" designed food and water bowl made especially for dogs with long or furry ears, has officially kicked off production in Lansing. The dish keeps your pet's ears out of their water bowl, keeping them dry, clean and free of infection. It is being manufactured right here by the local Diamond Engineering. "We always knew we wanted to keep it in Lansing," says Vice President, Christopher Allen.

Poochie Bowl is currently on sale at Preuss Pets, Annabelle's Pet Station and at stores in Petosky and Grand Haven. They also offer online sales. They are excited to be in production after ten months and have plans to eventually expand nationally.

As they grow, and produce more bowls, they expect Diamond Engineering will have to add to their staff. Poochie Bowl themselves plans to add 2-3 jobs to their company within the next 3-6 months, most likely in the areas of shipping and office work.

You can also find Poochie Bowl on the road, traveling and promoting at events such as Lansing's 4th of July Parade. It may not be the way most companies promote, but it's working for them. "It's a unique way of doing things," says Allen, "But we're a unique company."

Source: Chris Allen, Poochie Bowl
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 

Turtle Cell, student startup, creates unique product

Michigan State University students have teamed up with students from the University of Michigan to produce a totally unique product.

Turtlecell is a cell phone case that solves the problem of constantly tangled, lost, or broken headphones by storing them right in the case. Its unique design allows the headphones to slide easily in and out for super simple storage.

Turtlecell opened for pre-orders last week and have already received hundreds of orders, even before advertising. They have already received 2 offers for retail sales and expect to be in at least 6,000 stores by Christmas.

Because of this growth, Turtlecell has recently hired an MSU Law Graduate and will be turning to the MSU Career Fair to search out more local talent. "We’ve found some really talented people," says Jeremy Lindlbauer, Director of Sales and Marketing, "and the goal is to grow. We want those really motivated students."

To get where they are, they've utilized many local resources such as The Hatch to provide help with funding, web design, packaging, and more.

With over 100,000 units expected to be produced in the next 3 months, Turtlecell's momentum is not slowing down. They also have plans to produce a case with a battery and eventually have a completely customizable, personal product.
 
Source: Jeremy Lindlbauer, Turtlecell
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor
 



520 entrepreneurship Articles | Page: | Show All
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