Innovation & Job News

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Ann Arbor tech company TrueJob aims to eliminate online job-hunt headaches

Anybody who's been frustrated trying to use a clunky job-search website will appreciate the mission of TrueJob, an Ann Arbor-based company that has built a different kind of site to match employers with new employees.


Founder Scott Goci graduated from the University of Michigan in 2009, and says the combination of a tough economy and his impractical psychology degree led to difficulty finding a job. Job-seeking websites that hadn't changed much in 20 years didn't help the process.


"I tried Indeed and and a bunch of other sites, and they were all bad," Goci says. "An article at the time from TechCrunch noted that job websites were bad, and that was written in 2009. Even today, job sites haven't evolved in a long time."


Goci says a typical job-search site asks for information that doesn't actually help pinpoint the best job matches.


"They focus on locations and job titles, but that was not how I was searching for jobs, and I wanted to find something better," he says.


Goci wanted to create a job-search site that was based on analytics. It would give feedback to job seekers on how they could improve their chances and give information to companies about how potential employees conduct their career searches.


Goci spent a few years learning coding and systems administration and getting some startups off the ground before he felt ready to build a better job-search website. He met co-founder Mike Kling through the Ann Arbor Coffee House Coders meetup group and brought him on board to create TrueJob in 2015.


Goci compares the job site's technology to internet radio station Pandora. Like Pandora, Netflix, or other sites that tailor recommendations based on user feedback, TrueJob mines a user's profile and resume to suggest matches. It then allows users to give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to job matches, and the program uses that information to tailor better job recommendations for users.


TrueJob's most recent public success was partnering with Ann Arbor SPARK to revamp SPARK's free job portal.


Goci says that beyond helping job seekers figure out how to improve their resumes and applications and providing data to employers, TrueJob can provide analytics to economic development organizations like SPARK to help them spot employment trends in their area.


"Economic development organizations need to provide analytics to show their value to the communities they operate in," Goci says. He says SPARK staff noticed that their job portal got plenty of traffic, but not necessarily participation and engagement, and they wanted to know why.


"It was mostly a filtering problem," Goci says. "If users can start 'liking' jobs and getting better job recommendations, there will be more engagement. SPARK really wants to use these analytics to provide insight into how job seekers find jobs, how employers find employees, and a lot of other things it couldn't track before."


Goci says the technology is applicable to other areas such as industry associations.


"Say you have an airline with a union and they have a job board. They might want to see how membership in the union impacts how people are hired," he says.


Goci says that in the future he'd like to focus on working with other economic development organizations, from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to TechTown to entities outside Michigan's borders.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at
Mike Kling and Scott Goci photo courtesy of Scott Goci.

Ann Arbor's GDI Infotech celebrates 25 years in business

After two economic downturns, a major shift in corporate focus, and the spinoff of a successful second company, GDI Infotech will celebrate 25 years of growth in Ann Arbor this year.


Founder Bhushan Kulkarni grew up in India and moved to the United States to study engineering. After an internship at Ford Motor Co., Kulkarni moved to Ann Arbor and started two other companies before launching GDI Infotech (originally Global Dynamics Inc.) as an engineering consulting firm in 1993.


The company was thriving and adding employees, but the internet started changing the way companies managed data and promoted collaborative workflow, so GDI Infotech's emphasis shifted to software and information technology.


"But we never really left our engineering core, and now things have come full circle, and we're working on things like mobility and autonomous vehicles," Kulkarni says. "In the future, I think a lot of growth for GDI will come from skills associated with both IT software and engineering and advances happening around us in intelligent mobility."


While focusing on creating workflow automation and collaborative platforms at GDI, Kulkarni saw an opportunity to spin off a separate company, InfoReady, in 2010. Kulkarni says InfoReady grew out of observing several GDI customers' struggles with information overload. They needed to find information, act on it, and track actions to get results.


Kulkarni created a matchmaking algorithm platform at GDI and started applying it to different problems for a variety of clients, first helping universities match with appropriate grants.


"It just so happened that we had the University of Michigan in our backyard looking for ways to fast-track their grant cycle, attracting more grant revenue, and getting through the process of deciding what grants to apply to rapidly," Kulkarni says. "I thought if this 800-pound gorilla in Michigan has this need, how is the whole sector doing?"


InfoReady's second project was InfoReady Thrive, a platform that helps match college students with internships, fellowships, study-abroad programs, and other extracurricular learning opportunities.


Kulkarni's current focus is on running InfoReady, and he has left day-to-day operations of GDI Infotech to his "two lieutenants," his wife and business partner Swatee Kulkarni and technology solutions expert Madhuri Deshpande.


Kulkarni says he has learned many lessons through the ups and downs his companies have experienced.


"First there was the dot-com bubble bursting – that was just crazy," he says. "I think we were better prepared for our latest economic downturn, but it still hit us to some extent. But other than those two major downturns, we've been steadily growing 15 to 20 percent every year on average."


Kulkarni attributes his companies' successes to the "ecosystem of people" around him, saying he likes to surround himself with smart people who know more than he does.


"Living in this community is a great opportunity to connect with many folks that are passionate about the community, from Ann Arbor SPARK to the Ann Arbor Chamber," he says. "I meet a lot of great people who become my role models, and I've learned quite a bit from them."

This piece is part of a series highlighting local business growth in the Ann Arbor area. It is supported by Ann Arbor SPARK.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

Photos courtesy of Bhushan Kulkarni.

Three Ann Arbor firms named in "50 Michigan Companies to Watch" list

Ann Arbor's J Keller Properties, McCreadie Group, and Torrent Consulting were among the "50 Michigan Companies to Watch" honored during the 13th annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB) awards gala May 4 in Lansing.


Jennifer Deamud, executive director of MCSB and associate state director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center, says the awards ceremony is intended to be the Academy Awards for small business in Michigan.


MCSB launches a call for nominations in fall each year, and companies can nominate themselves or have their name put forth by a community member. Nominated companies are notified and encouraged to complete an awards application.


Winners must have between six and 99 employees and between $750,000 and $50 million in sales the year they apply. Applicants must show a history of sales and employee growth over the previous five years, and explain how they plan to grow their companies in the next few years.

"We're looking for a justification for why they are on a growth path," Deamud says. "Are they diversifying their product and service line? Are they expanding to new markets? Are they leveraging technology to streamline their processes? We also look at how the company engages with community and their employees, and at their workplace culture."


Representatives of Michigan entrepreneurial service organizations choose the winners in a two-round judging process. Deamud says MCSB tries to compile a diverse set of winners every year, and that shows in the recipients from Ann Arbor.


J Keller Properties is a property management group, McCreadie Group develops software for pharmacy schools and healthcare providers, and Torrent Consulting helps businesses figure out how to best use cloud computing and mobile technologies to serve customers.


Deamud says many people expect tech companies to dominate these types of awards, but that isn't the reality.


"As you see in Ann Arbor and in all 50 honorees, there is a nice diversity of industries represented," she says. "It goes to show that we're not looking for manufacturing or other specific industries, but just companies that are on a growth path. With just over 400 nominations this year, that shows that companies here in Michigan are on a growth path."

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at
Torrent Consulting and McCreadie Group photos courtesy of Michigan Celebrates Small Business. J Keller photo courtesy of J Keller Properties.

See which companies were recognized for up to a decade of 20% annual growth at FastTrack Awards

Ann Arbor SPARK has presented its annual FastTrack Awards to 18 area companies showing above-average growth, including software company Llamasoft, which has now received the award for 10 years in a row.


FastTrack Awards go to Washtenaw County companies that had certified revenue of at least $100,000 in one year followed by annual growth of 20 percent for the following three years.


Because the awards used to be part of a larger business event ("Deals of the Year") that has been discontinued, SPARK named 2016 and 2017 award winners at this year’s ceremony during SPARK's recent annual meeting.


SPARK president and CEO Paul Krutko says that while many of the awards went to high-tech companies, the winners span a variety of sectors, including real estate and property management, business consulting, and manufacturing.


"SPARK is oriented to a mission of supporting companies that are tech-based, particularly early-stage technologies, but our mandate from local government funders is that we also do traditional economic development with existing companies," Krutko says.


He adds that helping all kinds of businesses is important for growing the larger economy and making the region attractive in terms of personal and family life so that companies will want to locate here.


Krutko says Llamasoft's 10-year track record of success goes beyond revenue growth to include job growth, helping to concentrate IT talent in downtown Ann Arbor, and adding to the city’s tax base.


Other companies came close to matching Llamasoft's FastTrack winning streak. Ann Arbor’s Caelynx and Online Tech marked their ninth and eighth winning years, respectively. Krutko says Online Tech’s growth is due to the company's important role in supporting other tech companies with cloud servers, data management, disaster recovery, and offsite backup.


"Their growth is reflective of the larger growing economy here, the need for this kind of service," Krutko says. "Because they are approaching it in a way that is best in class, they have gained a lot of customers and market share."


Krutko says the companies that win these awards all have exemplary corporate culture, but their growth also shows that the Ann Arbor area is "a good environment for a company to thrive in."


"The fact that they can have this kind of growth in Ann Arbor means that the resources they need to be successful are available to them and they can maximize those resources," he says.


The complete list of FastTrack winners follows:


10-year award winner:



Nine-year award winner:



Eight-year award winner:

Online Tech


Five-year award winners:

Menlo Innovations

Oxford Property Management


Four-year award winners:

Human Element

InfoReady Corporation

McCreadie Group


Three-year award winner:

CEI Composite Materials


Two-year award winners:

Arbor Assays


J Keller Properties

Torrent Consulting


One-year award winners:

Ability to Engage, Inc.

Akervall Technologies, Inc.

DNA Software, Inc.

H3D, Inc.

UIS Holding


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

Photos by Doug Coombe.

Zingerman's Creamery cofounder to open cheese shop in Saline

John Loomis grew up thinking Velveeta and canned brie were the last word in cheese, but he's come a long way in his career as a professional cheese-maker. After 30 years of making cheese, including co-founding Zingerman's Creamery in Ann Arbor, Loomis and his wife Ruth will open their own cheese shop in Saline this summer.


Loomis recently signed a lease for the building at 98 N. Ann Arbor St. in Saline, formerly the home of Oxygen Plus. He hopes to be open for business in late June or early July.


The Cheese Shop of Saline will offer a variety of cheeses, along with accompaniments like cured meats, olive oil, bread, wine, and craft beer. Loomis also plans to offer cheese tasting classes and cheese-making workshops.


Loomis' connection to dairy goes back to his childhood. He grew up working jobs in Detroit's dairy industry but later moved away to Chicago to pursue work in theater and advertising.


"I celebrated the fact that I would never set foot in a dairy again," Loomis laughs.


After spending several years in Chicago, Loomis moved back to Michigan. He was living in Oakland County when his brother called him and asked if he was interested in starting up a creamery to produce artisanal cheeses.


"I thought it was a stupid idea," Loomis says. But his brother persisted, explaining how different small-scale artisan cheese-making is from the huge dairy plants Loomis had worked in as a youth.


Loomis and his brother went to Zingerman's in Ann Arbor to learn more about the world of cheese, and Loomis ended up sampling cheeses he'd "had no idea existed."


Loomis spent time visiting artisan cheese-makers around the U.S. but wasn't impressed. He went through a list of European cheese-makers, asking to be taken on as an apprentice, but most of them thought he was crazy.


Loomis lucked out when a crusty Englishman making cheese in Wales agreed to a two-week visit. Then those two weeks ended up turning into two years.


When he came back to the U.S., Loomis began a small raw milk cheese business, and Zingerman's was his biggest customer. After a few years, he, along with Zingerman's co-founders Ari Weinzweig Paul Saginaw, established Zingerman's Creamery, which became immediately popular with Ann Arbor-area residents.


Loomis says he learned a great deal about giving spectacular customer service through his time with Zingerman's, but ironically the creamery's success meant that Loomis was drawn away from the part of the business he liked the most: spreading the good word of good cheese.


Opening up his cheese shop in Saline will allow him to interact more closely with customers and work with his wife, he says.


One of his biggest goals for the cheese shop is to make sure nobody goes home with a cheese they don't like.


"I want to make sure everybody tastes before they buy," he says.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at


John and Ruth Loomis photo courtesy of the Loomis family.


98 N. Ann Arbor St. photo courtesy of Swisher Commercial.


Online Tech expands Midwestern reach with Kansas City acquisition

Online Tech, an Ann Arbor company providing cloud, backup, and disaster recovery services to a variety of clients, is reaching into new markets and diversifying its data centers with the April 19 acquisition of Kansas City, Mo.-based Echo Cloud.


The Ann Arbor company began talks about an acquisition in January but needed several weeks to walk Echo Cloud’s clients through the transition. Online Tech CEO Yan Ness says making the acquisition a seamless process for Echo Cloud’s clients was important.


Ness says the acquisition made sense for both sides for a number of reasons. Ness says the main advantage for Online Tech is that it gets access to a new market in the Kansas City area, as well as Echo Cloud's "robust" data management product.


The advantage for former Echo Cloud customers is that Online Tech has a much broader range of products to offer Kansas City clients, including data hosting that is compliant with health care and credit industry standards of security. Echo Cloud’s existing clients will now be able to access their accounts through Online Tech’s portal.


With the addition of Echo Cloud’s two Kansas City-area data centers, Online Tech now has seven data centers spread across Missouri, Indiana, and Michigan, and that geographical diversity is another big advantage.


"When you’re doing disaster recovery, companies want some distance between centers, so they’ll be on two different power systems and experiencing two different weather systems," Ness says.


Companies can store their data on one system in one of the company’s Great Lakes data centers and have a secondary system in Kansas City, or vice versa.


"When they’re located a good chunk of miles away from each other, there’s confidence that you can handle a lot of different kinds of disasters," Ness says.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

HOMES brewery opens, spotlighting sour beers and Asian street food

After multiple delays due to red tape and building renovations, HOMES Brewery will finally open for business on Ann Arbor's west side at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19.


"It’s pretty common for breweries to run into normal building code issues, plus we had to deal with licensing because we’re producing alcohol," says head brewer Nick Panchame.


The HOMES building at 2321 Jackson Ave. formerly housed the Culligan water company and a skate shop. Panchame, HOMES owner Tommy Kennedy, and a crew of workers have been renovating the space for just over a year.


Before deciding to start a brewery, Kennedy ran a home health care company with his brother. After coming up with the concept for HOMES (a popular mnemonic device for remembering the names of the five Great Lakes), Kennedy connected with Panchame through a brewing industry website. Sensing a great opportunity, Panchame moved to the Ann Arbor area to brew for HOMES.


Unlike Kennedy, who has switched careers, Panchame has always been interested in food and drink. He went to culinary school and interned at a brewery in New Jersey, served as assistant brewer at a brewpub in Manhattan, and then served as head brewer at Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City before coming to Ann Arbor.


HOMES is Ann Arbor's ninth brewery. Kennedy and Panchame plan to set themselves apart from the rest through a strong emphasis on community building as well as a focus on unique beers and unusual bar food.


For the food menu, the brewery has partnered with Noe Hang, head chef of Ann Arbor’s No Thai! Restaurant.


"Most breweries feature burgers, pub food, or pizza, but we’ll have an Asian street food menu," Panchame says.


Panchame believes his culinary background gives him an advantage when it comes to designing beer recipes. He plans to offer 10 different beers to start with, expanding taps as business picks up. HOMES will offer a variety of beers including a stout and a session ale, but the brewery will focus on sour beers and hoppy beers, he says.


"The barrel-aged sours take one to two years to be ready, so we have nothing like that on tap right now, but kettle sour beers are a much faster process, so we’ll have some of that on tap," he says. "They are tart, easy-drinking beers."


The community aspect of the brewery’s mission is already taking shape.


"We wanted to build this business to be a meeting place for people, where they can plan small charity events or start a dart league night," Panchame says. "We already have a road bike team that plans to meet here weekly."


Brewery hours are 4 p.m.-midnight Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday. The brewery is closed on Mondays.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

All images courtesy of HOMES Brewery.

Quantum Signal seeks test subjects for USDOT-funded driver education simulator

Drivers fresh out of training understand the mechanics of navigating in an automobile but don’t have the real-world experience that helps seasoned motorists avoid hazards. That’s where a new driving simulator called LookOut, developed by Saline-based Quantum Signal, comes in.


The company has developed the PC-based, game-like simulator with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Quantum Signal is collaborating with the USDOT’s Volpe Center on the project.


Quantum Signal has been in business about 17 years, providing technology-based solutions to problems ranging from autonomous robot navigation to improving car safety. The company has previously built a tactical driving simulator for the Secret Service, so LookOut is a natural extension of Quantum Signal's work.


Quantum Signal CEO Mitchell Rohde says the simulator helps prepare new drivers for common hazards – such as people or animals who may suddenly appear from behind a row of parked cars.


"Folks familiar with driving would be careful, knowing that parked cars could obscure their view. People who aren’t experienced won’t recognize that and will drive by at full speed," Rohde says.


Quantum Signal has spent about three years developing LookOut, and it’s now in the testing phase. Rohde said Quantum Signal will learn from the data obtained from study subjects and use those findings to improve the tool.


"Once we get a sufficient number of subjects to go through the experiment in the lab, we can measure whether people improve their hazard perception while using the tool," Rohde said. "If it’s shown to be really effective in the lab we will want to see if it will improve folks’ performance in the real world, but there are safety issues with that. So the more we can do virtually, the better off we’ll be."


Quantum Signal is currently recruiting drivers 16 to 18 years old and 65 to 75 years old. Subjects get a gift card for participating in testing, and those who refer someone for the experiment also get gift certificates, Rohde said. Anyone interested in participating may call (734) 890-6550 or email

This piece is part of a series highlighting local business growth in the Ann Arbor area. It is supported by Ann Arbor SPARK.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

All images courtesy of Quantum Signal.

Report: Ann Arbor still the center of Michigan's growing venture capital ecosystem

The Michigan Venture Capital Association’s (MVCA) 2017 research report has good news for entrepreneurs and investors alike, showing growth both in the number of venture-backed startups and the number of venture capital investment professionals working in the state.


MVCA is an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit whose membership includes 341 investment and entrepreneurship professionals from 95 different organizations. MVCA executive director Maureen Miller Brosnan says the most critical number in MVCA's 10th annual report is 141. That's the number of Michigan companies that venture capital firms backed in 2016, an increase of 48 percent over the past five years.


The report also shows that 54 startups received more than $222 million from Michigan venture capital firms last year, a 42 percent increase over the past five years. Brosnan says these continual increases show that Michigan has a vital, growing venture capital community, unlike other states where venture capital is shrinking.


She says venture firms in Michigan are backing startups in the sectors of information technology, life science, medical devices, and manufacturing.


"These are the types of investments in startups that produce some of the highest paying jobs in Michigan," Brosnan says.


And Ann Arbor is ground zero for many of those high-tech and life science startups.


"Ann Arbor continues to be the largest area for venture capital and startups throughout the state, with Detroit and Grand Rapids running neck and neck for second," Brosnan says. "Ann Arbor continues to lead the way, especially in healthcare and life sciences. A lot of that is coming out of the University of Michigan because they do a lot of research in that area. Their Office of Technology Transfer is very well connected with the venture capital and angel investor communities."


Brosnan says Michigan’s profile is so high in the U.S. venture capital community that for every dollar invested in startups by Michigan-based venture capital firms, $4.61 is attracted from out of state.


That’s a sign that Michigan venture investors are looked at as leaders in the field and experts on recognizing great ideas when they see them, Brosnan says.


"An investor from out of state feels more confident knowing there’s a Michigan partner at the table, and people are confident with the resources in Michigan to sustain growth in startups," she says.


The full 2017 report is available here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

All images courtesy of Michigan Venture Capital Association.

Trump policy prompts "unexpected" growth for Nexient's Ann Arbor office

After doubling its Pittsfield Township office space last year, California-based IT firm Nexient planned to add more than 100 new employees to its local staff of 250 by 2019. But thanks to multiple factors, including anticipated Trump administration policy changes, the company is poised to exceed that goal.


Nexient chief delivery officer Colin Chapman credits the software development firm's recent expansion into new sectors with "huge appetite for scale," new investments in strategic capabilities that help clients define what they want, and surging interest from clients wanting technology developed within the United States.


Part of that surge is spurred by a Trump administration review that will likely limit H-1B visas. The program is known for helping U.S. tech companies hire highly skilled foreign workers, but critics note the program's abuse by foreign outsourcing firms and U.S. companies looking to source cheap labor.


"The election has given us an unexpected jump in client interest on domestic sourcing versus offshoring – about double what we were seeing a year ago," Chapman says.


Still, Chapman's feelings are mixed. He says H-1B visas have helped Nexient fill at least one role that couldn't have been hired locally. The program also led to citizenship for a staff member – or "Technology Athlete," in Nexient's parlance – who now mentors new developers.


"This is an example of why these visas were created in the first place, and I’d hate to see Technology Athletes like him discouraged about their prospects," Chapman says.


Another factor in Nexient's growth is Ann Arbor itself. The firm is headquartered in Silicon Valley with a service delivery center in Kokomo, Ind., and a satellite office in Okemos. But Chapman says the firm's principal delivery center was established here for the Ann Arbor area's vibrant culture, proximity to "excellent universities," and talent pool of "lifelong learners."

"Ann Arbor is part of our recipe for scalability," he says. "We see it as a big competitive advantage over domestic sourcing companies in rural locations that just can’t offer the same amenities."
Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Ann Arbor Distilling Co. gins win national awards

Ann Arbor Distilling Co. has only been in business for a little over a year, but it's already making a name for itself at the national level.


The craft distillery took home a silver medal for its Arbor Winter Gin at the American Distilling Institute’s Annual Spirits Competition last week in Baltimore, where judges evaluated more than 800 spirits from independent distilleries around the world. The Winter Gin has also won previous awards in the San Diego Distilled Spirits Competition and the American Craft Spirits Awards.


Ann Arbor Distilling managing director Rob Cleveland credits the ingenuity of distiller John Britton with helping to set the young company's spirits apart.


"One of the reasons our gins have been so popular and won these awards is that we're really approaching it in a way that's fairly different from your typical gin," Cleveland says.


Taking a note from craft beer makers, Ann Arbor Distilling's gins are infused with a variety of botanicals meant to make drinkers "taste the season," the same way a Bell's Oberon makes people think of summer.


"We're thoughtful about how those botanicals are going to impact the drinker and really coming up with a different formula," Cleveland says.


For example, the newly released Arbor Spring Gin highlights hibiscus, while the Arbor Fall Gin (which took home an "Excellence in Packaging" award in last week's competition) might have cardamom notes.

In addition to gin, the distillery also makes vodka, rum, and coffee liqueurs, available at its Ann Arbor tasting room, which recently added live music on weekends and also hosts twice-monthly Moth StorySlam events. Ann Arbor Distilling Co. products are also now served in many area restaurants, and its vodka and Winter Gin are distributed statewide by Meijer.
Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Ann Arbor startups take top prizes in MSU business plan competition

Ann Arbor startups made a splash last week at Michigan State University (MSU) in the annual Greenlight Michigan business plan competition. Swim coaching app MySwimPro took the $40,000 grand prize, while eco-friendly animal feed producer Kulisha took the $6,500 first place award in the undergraduate category.


The business plan competition organized by MSU's entrepreneurship office, Spartan Innovations, is open to entrepreneurs from the entire state. The competition focuses on early-stage businesses, and applicants are required to have been in business for less than two years.


Prizes are sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the MSU Federal Credit Union.


Paul Jaques, director of community and student engagement for Spartan Innovations and co-creator of the Greenlight program, says the 2017 competition attracted 178 applicants, the most since the program was started. A panel of seven judges chose 22 finalists to make presentations at the March 29 competition.


"One thing we are looking for are companies that are going to go on to the next thing, that will use the investment to create jobs," Jaques says.


Jaques says MySwimPro won the top prize because judges believed the prize money would allow the company, which makes the top-ranked swim coaching app for Apple Watch, to "get to the next level."


"They have already won quite a few competitions in the area and around the country, and they were named the number one app on the Apple Watch," Jaques says. "They're looking to grow and to possibly be acquired by a larger company."


Kulisha won in the undergraduate category for having a truly unique concept that complements Michigan's vibrant craft beer industry, Jaques says. The company uses black soldier fly larvae to turn food waste into an eco-friendly animal feed.


"They are putting units outside craft beer places and having mealworms feeding on waste byproducts," Jaques says. "The way the team was put together and the way they presented their idea was great, and something the judges had never seen before."


Ann Arbor-based SAHI Cosmetics, which won the Michigan Business Challenge in February, was also a finalist in the Greenlight Michigan competition but didn't make the final cut.


Organizers say while there is a rivalry between East Lansing and Ann Arbor on the football field, the Greenlight Michigan competition is a chance to break down barriers and get people from communities all over Michigan shaking hands and making connections.


"There are amazing medical and technology developments coming out of Ann Arbor, but there are amazing things going on in the entire state, including Detroit and Lansing and Grand Rapids. Everybody has their own niche," Jaques says.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

Photo by John McGraw of John McGraw Photography.

First Capital Fund established to help Michigan's early-stage startups thrive

Young startups across Michigan will get a helping hand from a new multi-million-dollar fund managed by Invest Detroit Ventures and supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the New Economy Initiative (NEI).


The First Capital Fund's goal is to raise $4.2 million in two years and offer up to $150,000 in capital to tech companies in the earliest stages. MEDC has made an initial $2 million investment in the fund, which Invest Detroit aims to double by bringing private capital into the fund. NEI will support the fund with $800,000.


Adrian Ohmer, principal with Invest Detroit Ventures, says the fund does not require startups to bring along any additional financiers because funding for early-stage startups has become harder to find.


"Something we've observed in our seven years of existence is that a lot of the capital pegged as early stage has moved down the pipeline," Ohmer says. "Even angel investor groups only want to fund startups in the post-production phase."


Ohmer says awarding up to $150,000 to startups means they don’t have to spend months on the road, raising more capital from various investors, in order to move on to the next level and then do another road trip to raise even more funds a year later.


"We want to make sure they have enough money to meet certain milestones that we work with them to set in order to get them to a fundraising round that makes sense for them in their industry," Ohmer says.


While Invest Detroit is based in Detroit, it has always had a wider focus, Ohmer says.


"With the rebirth of Detroit, the city is certainly central to a lot of what we care about, but our team has always had a statewide focus," Ohmer says.


That focus includes Ann Arbor, which Ohmer calls a "hotbed for startups."


"Ann Arbor companies are more than likely going to be a prominent part of our fund," Ohmer says.


He notes that the fund hopes to engage a broad range of Michigan startups, including those in the Upper Peninsula.


"Companies from the Upper Peninsula have always come down to big events that the state hosts, like the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, so we're going to find ways to establish a presence there, though it might be mostly through web-based meetings," Ohmer says.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

Adrian Ohmer photo courtesy of Invest Detroit.

G2 Consulting to double office space, add staff in Ann Arbor

Three years after establishing its Ann Arbor office, Troy-based geotechnical engineering services firm G2 Consulting Group is doubling its space here and adding staff.


The geotechnical, geoenvironmental, and construction engineering services firm's work revolves primarily around testing soil, rock, and groundwater for building projects and developing solutions to the challenges the resulting data may present. G2 will move from a 2,700-square-foot space at 1590 Eisenhower Place to a 7,900-square-foot space at 1350 Eisenhower Place at the end of April.


"We're at a point in our old office that, even if we wanted to hire another engineer, technician, or scientist, we don't have a desk or chair to put them in," says Jason Stoops, the firm's Ann Arbor office manager. "We talked about whether we wanted to stay the same size and service the clients we're already working for or try to expand our client base. But if we want to expand, we need staff to do that."


Stoops says the new location has more space than the Ann Arbor office currently needs. However, the office is expecting to add at least four new staff members and warehouse some equipment on site, allowing Ann Arbor to be more of a full-service engineering firm instead of just a satellite office to the Troy headquarters.


G2 has worked on several major projects since opening in Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor office's first big project was the Arbor Hills shopping center on Washtenaw Avenue. The firm has since worked on Bank of Ann Arbor's headquarters renovation and the downtown Ann Arbor Residence Inn by Marriott.


Although the firm is headquartered just an hour's drive away, Stoops says G2 has worked hard to engage with the Ann Arbor community. A May open house for the new facility will feature Arbor Brewing Co. beverages and Zingerman's food.


"We're trying to create the feel that we're culturally in step with Ann Arbor," Stoops says.


Stoops raises the possibility that another three years might bring more exciting news for G2. The firm is currently considering opening another office in Ohio or western Michigan.


"We're hoping to take the success of our Ann Arbor office to other markets," Stoops says.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

Jason Stoops image courtesy of Jason Stoops.

Online Tech and Actifio partner to make long-term data storage cheaper, easier

Rapidly changing technology can make it difficult to retain and retrieve old files in useful formats, but a new partnership between Ann Arbor's Online Tech and Massachusetts IT company Actifio aims to address that challenge.


Some industries, such as the healthcare field, need records that can go back several years or even a decade. Retaining both the files and the quickly-outdated hardware and software needed to retrieve files that old can be challenging and expensive. Jason Yaeger, senior director of solutions architecture and security officer at Online Tech, says the partnership between Actifio and his company allows clients to recover up to 10 10-terabyte databases in under 10 minutes.

Online Tech runs five data centers and two cloud-computing infrastructures in the Midwest, and specializes in solutions for large businesses that need to keep backup or disaster recovery files. Actifio's OnVault software allows companies to retrieve large sets of data quickly and cheaply, and to eliminate the need for keeping duplicate sets of data.


"With this service, using Actifio's software, we're able to archive the information for whatever retention period (clients) want," Yaeger says. "If they want to stop using Online Tech, that data is then stored in a compressed native format and can be retrieved at any time with a free tool. They're not reliant on using our service or Actifio."


The partnership will also allow Online Tech to streamline customers' development practices. For instance, when building a website, a company will typically go through multiple stages from development to testing to quality assurance.


"You may end up with four copies of the same dataset that could amount to four or more terabytes of data," Yaeger says. "Because we can instantly recover data and virtualize datasets, you can delete that instance of the data, and then instantly mount it again during the next phase. It saves on having to save sprawling datasets from a development viewpoint."


Yaeger says the partnership with Actifio will play a key role in Online Tech's future. Clients' infrastructure costs continue to fall, so if Online Tech just kept providing the same services to the same clients, the company's revenue would stagnate and then drop. The company has managed to avoid that problem so far, showing steady growth in recent years.


"With the ever-decreasing cost of cloud infrastructure, companies like Online Tech need to increase the value to our clients by solving more of their technical and business challenges," Yaeger says. "The partnership with Actifio will help enable our growth."

This piece is part of a series highlighting local business growth in the Ann Arbor area. It is supported by Ann Arbor SPARK.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

Jason Yaeger photo courtesy of Online Tech.
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