Innovation & Job News

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Armune Bioscience scores seed capital, grows Ann Arbor lab

Armune Bioscience recently landed $700,000 in seed capital and is looking to bring that number up to $2.5 million to complete its Series A round.

That money is going to go toward the commercialization of the 7-year-old company's cancer blood test, Apifiny, and the addition of more staff member. The company currently employs six people, two of which (both executive positions) were hired over the last year.

"We anticipate having several job openings in the second and third quarter of the year," says David Esposito, CEO of Armune Bioscience. "Four or so will be in our laboratory."

Armune Bioscience is developing an innovative, non-PSA blood test to aid in the early detection of prostate cancer. The startup plans to launch that blood test commercially later this year. The Kalamazoo-based company developed the product at its Ann Arbor lab where half of its staff works.

"We hope to have that on the market in the second quarter of this year," Esposito says.

Source: David Esposito, CEO of Armune Bioscience
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Michigan eLab investments find different ways to impact Ann Arbor

Michigan eLab is an investment firm launched a little more than two years ago with the idea of  bridging the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Michigan and Silicon Valley. It’s well on its way to do that with its first two investments.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based venture capital firm, founded by Silicon Valley investment veterans with Michigan roots, has invested in MobileForce (a Silicon Valley-based mobile app startup) and Akadeum Life Sciences (an Ann Arbor-based life sciences startup). Both investments are bringing jobs to Ann Arbor.

The $150,000 investment in Akadeum Life Sciences is helping the University of Michigan spinout develop its tissue testing preparation platform. The startup and its team of three people (it plans to add more later this year) has leveraged a number of local entrepreneurial initiative, such as U-M's I-Corps program and seed capital from Invest Detroit.

"Akadeum Life Sciences is a great example of a startup that has came out of the entrepreneurial ecosystem," says Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab.

MobileForce developing enterprise cloud and mobile software. It is working with VisionIT to build out it products and is looking to hire up to four people in Ann Arbor now.

"The goal is to get to 20 people in Ann Arbor," Neal says.

Michigan eLab currently employs five people. It has made two investments so far but plans to ramp up that pace in 2015 with three or four investments before the end of the year.

"We are hopeful we will make another one in the next couple months," Neal says.

Source: Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Saline-based Image Data Conversion hires 7 as it continues to grow

Image Data Conversion has been growing a lot since the economic recovery commenced a couple of years ago through both organic growth and acquisitions.

The Saline-based company specializes in digitizing documents. Think turning paperwork and microfilm into more readily accessible digital documents. That could be everything from newspapers to building permits.

"The business has been growing in the double digits since 2010," says Bob Palmerton, director of finance administration for Image Data Conversion. "There is a lot of paper out there."

The 4-year-old company has also been acquiring or launching new divisions in the last few years. It acquired Beam Film in 2012 and launched Reveal Digital in 2013. It has steadily consolidated it sales efforts since then.

That has allowed Image Data Conversion to hire seven new people over the last 18 months, expanding its staff to 65 employees. Of those, 55 are based in Saline. That number could jump again in the near future as the company considers acquiring more firms in the not-too-distant future.

"We keep a short list of potential candidates that would fit in well with the company," Palmerton says.

Source: Bob Palmerton, director of finance administration for Image Data Conversion
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Akadeum Life Sciences spins out of local entrepreneurial ecosystem

Akadeum Life Sciences just landed a six-figure seed capital round. The $150,000 raise was led by Ann Abror-based venture capital firm Michigan eLab.

"They are wicked smart entrepreneurs doing something really hard that will have a big impact on the world," says Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab. "Those three criteria are really important to us."

Akadeum Life Sciences is developing a platform that helps researchers prepare samples faster and more efficiently. It uses buoyant beads to improve cell isolation, allowing the targeting of cells in complex solutions using surface antigens.

The technology was spun out of the University of Michigan and the two-person startup leveraged a number of local entrepreneurial resources along the way, including U-M's I-Corps program and Invest Detroit. It is currently sharing space at Menlo Innovations office in downtown Ann Arbor, receiving mentorship from the company’s principals, like Richard Sheridan.

"We like their approach to solving problems and making products, which is customer-oriented," says Brandon McNaughton, co-founder & CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences.

The 9-month-old startup is rare in that already has customers. Eight researchers working on cancer research are paying for the technology and another half a dozen potential customers are in the pipeline.

"We want this in as many hands as we can possible get," says John Younger, co-founder & CSO of Akadeum Life Sciences.

Source: Brandon McNaughton, co-founder & CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences; John Younger, co-founder & CSO of Akadeum Life Sciences; Doug Neal, managing director of Michigan eLab
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Ann Arbor's Logic Quantum doubles staff, revenue in 2014

Logic Quantum spent 2014 nearly doubling its staff to keep with demand for its software services.

The 30-year-old firm has hired four people in data entry, sales and marketing. It now employs 10 people in Ann Arbor. It is also looking to hire a few sales people early this year.

Logic Quantum specializes in environmental health and science software. Its recent growth, which has allowed the company to double its revenue, has come from two primary sources. The company has been offering its software and services to small-and-medium-sized businesses to help to conform to OSHA regulations. It’s also helping firms convert chemical data sheets to a uniform format to meet regulations.

"We're trying to expand in that space," says Yiwei Chen, managing director of Logic Quantum.

That new work has allowed the firm to triple its customer base. Logic Quantum is gearing up to launch a new safety-and-risk software platform later this year that should allow it to grow even more.

"We're pretty confident we will be able to double our revenue again," Chen says.

Source: Yiwei Chen, managing director of Logic Quantum
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Selocial expands to 6 as it makes finals of Extreme Tech Challenge

Social media startup Selocial helped bolster its brand earlier this year at the Extreme Tech Challenge in Las Vegas.

The Ann Arbor-based company made the semi-finals of the business plan competition, earning an invite to do a live demo on the Monster Product stage of this year's Consumer Electronics Show. It beat out 2,000 other entries to score a Top 25 spot.

"This is really big," says David Baird, co-founder & CEO of Selocial. "I didn't expect it."

Baird likes to describe Selocial as an Instagram meets Spotify or Pandora. The company’s software allows users to make a "Selomix," which is a 15-minute visual playlist that combines the users preferred music with a photo. The company launched midway through 2014 and is still in Beta.

"We would love to come out of Beta in the next six months," Baird says. "We're looking at a couple of partners right now."

The 1-year-old startup has expanded its staff to six people. That team is currently working on enhancing the software platform by adding more features and plugins.

"Someone could listen to someone else's mix on Facebook without having to go to our site," Baird says.

Source: David Baird, co-founder & CEO of Selocial
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Agentjet carves out niche with high-end real-estate leads

Ever click on an online house listing, think you found the idea home, and call the real-estate agent only to learn it’s no longer on the market? Luke Petty and Eric Pointer, both local real-estate veterans, were quite familiar with the phenomenon and launched their own startup to combat it.

Agentjet is an online platform that provides high-quality real-estate listings with the best data available online. No more highs and lows of finding what my be the perfect home and then finding out someone else bought it. Check out a video describing the service here.

"You're not going to get any false data," says Hank Brown, CEO of Agentjet. "If a house says it’s for sale then it's for sale."

The Ann Arbor-based startup launched in 2012 and has grown to 11 people. It has hired four people over the last year, including Brown. It is now looking to add three more, including a customer service rep and a telephone sales professional. Agentjet currently has 500 real-estate agents utilizing its service.

"It has been growing very well," Brown says. "It was just about at break-even when they hired me back in August."

Agentjet is planning to undergo a large marketing push in 2015. The company has spent its first few years perfecting its software and plans to take the firm national this year.

"We're planning a major launch of the product in 2015 where we will expand our coverage area," Brown says.

Source: Hank Brown, CEO of Agentjet
Writer: Jon Zemke

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3D Biomatrix lands key patent for core technology

3D Biomatrix recently received a key patent for its research technology, a milestone that is setting the company up for more growth in 2015.

The patent is for the company's hangar system, which scientists use for life sciences research. The patent helps the company validate the uniqueness of its products and prevents knock offs from competitors.

"It's an important patent for us because it covers our core technology," says Laura Schrader, president & CEO of 3D Biomatrix.

The University of Michigan spin-out, it calls the Venture Accelerator home, makes 3D cell culture hanging drop plates for lab research in cancer treatments or stem cells. The plates allow cells to grow in 3 dimensions like they do in the body. Most current methods offer only flat surfaces.

The 96-well plates sell well for users using manual lab methods. The 384-well plates are growing in use as they work well with automated lab equipment. The company also makes transfer tools and assay kits.

Schrader says sales for 3D Biomatrix were up in 2014 but declined to say how much. It currently has 30 distributors and is looking to expand into new markets this year.

Source: Laura Schrader, president & CEO of 3D Biomatrix
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Inmatech adds staff after closing on $1.5M seed round

Energy startup Inmatech closed on a $1.5 million seed round this fall, capital the company plans to spend on further developing its battery technology. Atlanta-based SMS Investments XII led the round.

The 4-year-old University of Michigan spin out is developing advanced technology that greatly improves the performance of supercapacitors in batteries for electronics. The supercapacitors enable the batteries to improve the delivery of energy and increase energy density.

"It will be a power-storage device that will help batteries in range, run time and cycle life," says Saemin Choi, CTO of Inmatech. "It will also give low-temperature performance."

Inmatech is in the process of making alpha-versions of its technology for international evaluation. Choi expects his startup to begin work on the beta-version midway through 2015.

The Ann Arbor-based startup is expanding its team to further the development of its technology. The company currently employs five people after hiring a COO and materials scientist over the last year.

"We have two new hires coming in on Jan. 1st," Choi says. He adds the company expects to hire two more engineers and two more technicians over the next six months.

Source: Saemin Choi, CTO of Inmatech
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Swift Biosciences launches 2 products, preps to launch 3 more

Swift Biosciences has launched two new products over the last year, enabling the 4-year-old life sciences firm to add to its staff.

The Ann Arbor-based company is developing molecular biology reagents for research and diagnostic applications that provide new ways to examine disease-related genes. This genomic sequencing technology helps researchers analyze samples faster, at a higher volume, and at a lower price per sample.

Among its two new product lines are its Accel-NGS Amplicon panels, which help molecular biologists detect and screen clinically relevant mutations. Swift Biosciences also a new next generation sequencing sample preparation kit called Accel-NGS that is designed to accelerate sample preparation.

"It shows great differentiation over our competitors to allow people to glean more data from the sample," says Matthew Hymes, marketing manager for Swift Biosciences.

Swift Biosciences has raised $13.15 million in venture capital, including a $7 million Series B it closed on earlier this year. The company has hired five people over the last year, expanding its staff to 20 people. Those new hires include professionals in marketing, product development, bio-informatics. It is also looking to hire a commercial coordinator right now.

Swift Biosciences is also looking to launch three new products in 2015. Products that would expand on its Accel-NGS Amplicon panels, among other applications.

"We have more products in the pipeline to launch," Hymes says.

Source: Matthew Hymes, marketing manager for Swift Biosciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

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SimuQuest aims to double revenue within 2 years

SimuQuest spent 2014 laying the groundwork for 2015, inspiring The Ann Arbor-based software firm’s leadership to be optimistic about the coming year.

"We have goals to double our revenue over the next two years," John Mills, founder, president, and CEO of SimuQuest. "We have lots of good reasons to believe we can do that."

The 13-year-old firm specializes in software and data management services. It spend this last year launching two new platforms. It launched UniPhi for Ford earlier this year. The model-based development tool centralizes data management, moving everything to the cloud and streamlining the data management and analysis process for the user.

SimuQuest also launched QuantiPhi this year. The chip configuration and driver integration 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.

Mills and his leadership team are speaking to investors about the prospects to raise a seed round. That capital would help SimuQuest market and sell UniPhi and QuantiPhi, which Mills expects to help spike the company's revenue in 2015.

SimuQuest has also expanded its staff this year. The company has hired one person earlier this year and is looking to hire five people between sales and technical professionals. That expanded team is expected to help push sales and improve the company’s existing technologies and develop the next generations.

"It's pretty amazing," Mills says. "We are doing some things that could change the controls in software products and how they are developed."

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

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DeLong Construction rejects bad boss approach by creating new, growing firm

Matt DeLong has wanted to run his own company for a long time. But what pushed him to finally act on that desire wasn’t the stereotypical belief that he could build a better mousetrap or do the job better his way.

"Quite honestly it was bad bosses," DeLong says.

That led him to start DeLong Construction Services three years ago. The Chelsea-based building company specializes in constructing pole barn and has doubled in size over the last year, hiring two people and expanding its staff to three. The additions are part of DeLong’s effort to create a people-based firm.

"I try to make sure my guys are taken care of," DeLong says. "I want to make sure they can afford families and have nice things, too."

DeLong believes his company could have grown faster this year had he been able to find more help. The recent spike for skilled labor in the construction trades has made it difficult for DeLong to find enough qualified people to put together a second construction crew. He believes he will be able to do that next year.

"It's just a matter of finding the right group," DeLong says. "We're busy to the max. But we want to be busier."

Source: Matt DeLong, owner of DeLong Construction Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Ann Arbor’s solartonic scores win at Accelerate Michigan

Ann Arbor-based solartonic took home $25,000 in prize money from last month's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and plans to put that cash toward a seed capital raise it hopes to close on next year.

The 3-year-old startup won the Alternative Energy sub-category at Accelerate Michigan, which was sponsored by NextEnergy. That money is being put toward solartonic's seed round raise of $750,000. The money will also go toward helping the company market its solar technology.

"We have an international market we need to get a foothold in so it will help us," says Brian Tell, co-managing partner of solartonic.

The 3-year-old company is commercializing solar panel technology, which can wrap outdoor infrastructure like street lamps. The solar panels generate the power during the day so the lamps can produce light at night, especially infrastructure in remote areas.

"It's past proof of concept," Tell says. "It's just a question of refinement and getting some orders."

Solartonic currently employes 10 people.

Source: Brian Tell & Harry Giles, co-managing partners of solartonic
Writer: Jon Zemke

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FarmLogs scores $10M in Series B round from big-name investors

FarmLogs has landed $10 million in venture capital, seed money the Ann Arbor-based software startup plans to leverage for some significant growth in 2015.

The agricultural technology company latest injection of funding is a Series B round with existing investors Drive Capital, Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures, and Hyde Park Venture Partners participating. New investors in the Series B round include SV Angel and Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. FarmLogs has raised a combined $15 million in venture capital to date.

"We're a software company so most of that capital goes toward paying salaries for great people," says Jesse Vollmar, CEO of FarmLogs. "That's what we will continue to do."

The 2-year-old startup launched out of Y Combinator incubator in Silicon Valley and immediate moved to Ann Arbor. Its headquarters is now in Kerrytown. The company employs 22 people after hiring a dozen in 2014. It is currently looking to hire 21 more (more info on the openings here) and Vollmer expects his staff to hit more than 50 people next year.

"That's safe to say," Vollmar says. "We will have more than 50 people working for us."

FarmLogs platform modernizes farming, streamlining the process with software and applying data analytics to maximize yield production. It is currently serving farms in all 50 states and in 130 countries around the world. It currently has $12 billion worth of crops under management from its software.

Source: Jesse Vollmar, CEO of FarmLogs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Pillar Technology Group hires 30 software developers in Ann Arbor

Pillar Technology Group is about to become a company on the move. The software firm is in the process of moving its Ann Arbor office from the Tech Brewery to a new space in downtown Tree Town.

"They should be in there putting up drywall as we speak," says Charles Fry, executive vice president of global growth for Pillar Technology Group.

The 20-year-old company is moving to a 10,000-square-foot office at 301 E Liberty St in downtown Ann Arbor early next year. The company has called the Tech Brewery, a software entrepreneur collective located on the city’s north side, home for the last few years. However, a spate of rapid-fire hiring has prompted it to find a new space with more elbow room.

"We just outgrew it," Fry says. "It (Tech Brewery) is a great space. It has done great things for us. We have a holiday party next week and it will probably be standing-room only. We are just busting at the seams."

Pillar Technology Group provides software and consulting services for a broad range of industries in the Midwest, such as automotive, financial, insurance and telecommunications, among others. The company has hired 30 people (mostly software developers) in Ann Arbor in 2014, expanding its staff to 60 employees and two interns.

Pillar Technology Group is currently looking to hire as many as a dozen software engineers. It is looking for senior-level developers with a high-end skill set.

"We are always looking for the smartest software engineers we can find," Fry says.

Source: Charles Fry, executive vice president of global growth for Pillar Technology Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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