Pontiac's tech scene just got a little more crowded this month with the move of three companies, LocalHop, Autostructure, and Cynerge into downtown, bringing in 12 tech employees with more hires pending.
"You can feel the growth that's going on in Pontiac," says Cynerge president and founder Matt Russell, who purchased the building at 31. N Saginaw. "And I think everybody's excited to be part of it."
31. N. Saginaw. Photo courtesy Zillow.The three firms, which were housed in downtown Birmingham, are now in the process of retrofitting and moving into the second and third floors of 31. N Saginaw. The basement of the building currently houses the Alleycat Cafe and a wine cellar. The first floor is currently vacant with tentative plans for a restaurant or deli in the future.
Russell founded Cynerge, an IT tech consulting firm, 13 years ago. He also co-founded Autostructure, a datacenter automation firm, in 2016 with partners Bryan Belanger and Paul Talbot.
But it's his third startup, LocalHop, also founded in 2016 with partners Jason Myers and Robert Bales, that's getting mainstream attention. "We were tired of searching online for places to go and things to do," says Russell. "So we decided to do something about it."
The idea for the company came about when Myers was looking for a beer festival in downtown Rochester. He lost track of the website and missed the event.
"He didn't know which weekend it was on. It's like, isn't there just one place where we can find stuff?" says Russell. "That's why we started it; it was basically just us trying to find stuff to do."
LocalHop allows event organizers to post community events to a single website and app, which users can then use to find out about things happening in their neighborhood.
"Our goal is to be at the local grassroots level, hopefully, the de facto place that everybody goes to find stuff going on," says Russell. "We aggregate that all into one place and organizations post it on there, so they are in full control of all the content."
Ultimately, LocalHop hopes to make it easier for organizations to promote and market events. The company plans to generate revenue through a calendar service, which will charge registration fees for users.
So far, Russell says 300 organizations have uploaded events to the app, and 3000 people have downloaded. The website receives about 5,000 hits per month. Heaviest participation so far has been in Detroit's northern suburbs and Kalamazoo. Russell hopes to expand to throughout Michigan and beyond
It will take some time and effort to create the office environment in Pontiac, but Russell is already in love with the turret views of downtown from the 1800s-era building (the turrets were added in the 1990s.)
"We're excited to be here, and we want to try to nurture whatever we can to try to continue growing Pontiac," says Russell. "It's the center of Oakland County. It's got a great location; it's got great infrastructure, it's got a great history. Instead of going up and then back down, let's just keep coming up. Right? And I think we've got the chance to do that."