Innovation & Job News

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Jet-setting firm Broadsword cultivates consulting work in backyard

When the economy went south, Broadsword branched out.

The tech consulting company had once relied on the local automotive and manufacturing industries, but added work with the federal government, specifically the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Today the Livonia-based firm company is looking to flesh out its local work.

Broadsword has watched its revenue jump 30 percent over the last year, mostly by expanding its customer base outside of Metro Detroit.

"It was mostly new customers," says Jeff Dalton, president of Broadsword. "We're starting to expand our work with our existing customers."

Broadsword specializes in leveraging Agile and Lean methods to drive up performance engineering using its AgileCMMI methodology and collaborative consulting and coaching solutions. Some of its clients include Rockwell Collins, NASA, Boeing, Chrysler, Compuware and L-3 Communications.

The company currently employs 10 people. It has hired two over the last year, including senior- and junior-level consultants. It it currently looking to hire two more consultants.

Source: Jeff Dalton, president of Broadsword
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Synergy System Solutions brings alternative energy to Michigan

Jerry Eden has worded in the energy industry for 20-plus years, including more than a dozen in an electricians union. In that time he has noticed Michigan seems to be lacking when it comes to keeping up with technological improvements.

"We seem to lag behind a little bit as far as technology advancement in Michigan," Eden says. "Sometimes a lot."

So he started to do something about it six months ago by starting Synergy System Solutions. The Royal Oak-based startup specializes in integrating new technology into everyday uses. More times than not that has to do with adding alternative energy to the mix.

That could mean adding solar arrays to light poles to help keep streetlights on more cost-effectively. Or adding alternative energy generators to machines that work in remote places, such as the blinking arrows that steer construction traffic in the right direction far away from the nearest electrical plug.

Eden has been working with a number of different alternative energy players in Metro Detroit, including the Green Team Coalition at the NextEnergy campus in Detroit's New Center neighborhood. He hopes these projects help create more jobs in Michigan. It has already led to the creation of a three-person staff at Synergy System Solutions.

"I want us to be at the forefront of Michigan’s disruptive technology," Eden says. "Doing things differently, but innovative."

Source: Jerry Eden, president of Synergy System Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Minority Business Access Fund aims to spread $100M across metro Detroit

The Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council is making $100 million in liquidity funding available to minority-owned businesses across Metro Detroit.

The Minority Business Access Fund is a loan vehicle for small- and medium-sized businesses in need of capital to get them through a revenue hiccup and set the stage for more growth. The $100 million is expected to have legs beyond its first year.

"If we're successful in getting $100 million out in the first year we will be able to get $100 million out there again in the second year," says Louis Green, president of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council.

The Minority Business Access Fund expects to make 75 to 100 loans in its first year. The recipients are expected to be all kinds of minority-owned companies, such as multi-million dollar automotive suppliers and family-owned businesses.

Liquidity financing often helps companies bridge the gap between filling and order and collecting the revenue if the customer can't pay on time. Liquidity financing often pays a critical role in enabling the borrower to pay its bills and make payroll. Minority-owned firms have long struggled with obtaining loans from traditional sources, such as banks.

Source: Louis Green, president of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council
Writer: Jon Zemke

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SE Michigan firms dominate Accelerate Michigan competition

Eleven startups took home cash prizes at last week's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and each one of them is based in southeast Michigan.

While Ann Arbor-based firms took home the lion's share of the winnings, companies based in Metro Detroit also won some of the category awards worth $25,000 apiece. Those winners included Wixom-based SurClean (Product and Service category), Plymouth-based Beet Analytics Technology (Manufacturing), and Detroit-based Inventev (Advanced Transportation).

Ann Arbor-based firms SkySpecs (drone technology) and Cribspot (online platform for off-campus housing) took the top two spots worth $500,000 and $100,000, respectively. Ann Arbor startups also took six of the nine category wins. More info on those here.

Accelerate Michigan is an annual business plan competition held in downtown Detroit. It aims to promote and grow the cream of the crop of startups based in Michigan or looking to move to the Great Lakes state. Its $1 million in prize money and services also serves as a motivational tool to push startups closer to investment and commercialization.

"It's a very good learning process," says David Wang, CEO of Beet Analytics Technology. "I have never prepared so much for a 10-minute pitch process."

Beet Analytics Technology provides diagnostic and analytical tools that accelerate problem solving in complex manufacturing and automation operations. Its software improves problem identification and reduces production downtime so the user can optimize productivity gains.

SurClean is developing a laser-based technology that replaces the harmful chemicals, media blasting, and other abrasives typically used in the removal of paint and other coatings from aircraft, vessels, and bridges undergoing maintenance. Its technology uses a laser beam to disintegrate and remove paint and other coatings like rust from substrate in a cost-effective, safe, energy-efficient and earth-friendly way.

Inventev is creating a hybrid-electric system for commercial trucks. The technology is a new transmission architecture that allows electric machines to operate other aspects of the trucks, such as the hydraulic lift. That way the truck's diesel engines don't need to idle while they dump their load.

Source: David Wang, CEO of Beet Analytics Technology
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Beet Analytics Technology scores win at Accelerate Michigan

Beet Analytics Technology was already on a significant growth spurt. Now it has a win at last week's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition to add to that momentum.

The Plymouth-based tech firm won the Manufacturing category of the Accelerate Michigan competition, putting $25,000 in seeding capital toward its growth plans. The 3-year-old manufacturing software startup plans to use the prize money toward further developing its platform and acquiring more hardware for it.

"We are prepared for another leap forward," says David Wang, CEO of Beet Analytics Technology. "We have had a lot of interest."

Beet Analytics Technology is developing diagnostic and analytical tools that accelerate problem solving in complex manufacturing and automation operations. Its software improves problem identification and reduces production downtime so the user can optimize productivity gains. The company has landed a couple of contracts with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from around the world and now claims to have landed contracts or is in talks to sign with half of the 10 largest OEMs in the world. It has hired seven people over the last year, expanding its staff to a dozen employees.

This activity led it to give the Accelerate Michigan competition a try this year. The annual business plan competition is Michigan's pre-eminent contest for startups, awarding $1 million in seed capital and services each year. The top prize is for $500,000. Wang and his team left the competition impressed with what they saw.

"I was amazed by how many quality entrepreneurs there are in Michigan," Wang says. "I was happy to meet all of them."

Source: David Wang, CEO of Beet Analytics Technology
Writer: Jon Zemke

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IT security firm VioPoint adds to staff in Auburn Hills

Every tech firm is looking to carve out its own niche in the digital landscape. VioPoint is using its new niche as a platform for its recent growth spurt.

The Auburn Hills-based tech firm specializes in cyber security and offers strategic consulting services on top of that. It has recently targeted its focus on providing an active digital defense for small-to-midsize companies.

"We realized there is a niche where there were all of these security breaches," says Kelsey Marsh, marketing coordinator for VioPoint. "Often they don't have the budget or don't realize they need security."

VioPoint steps in and offers a comprehensive solution of managed IT security services. What makes it attractive to small businesses is that since it's all inclusive it can be more affordable.

"It draws the costs down for our clients because we can create efficiencies and synergies," says Mike Pokas, vice president of consulting services for VioPoint.

The rising demand for those services has allowed VioPoint to grow, hiring four people in IT security consulting over the last year. It now employs a staff of 25. VioPoint is projecting a spike in revenue of 30-35 percent this year, and it's optimistic it can hit that number again in 2015.

"The bad guys aren't going away," Pokas says.

Source: Kelsey Marsh, marketing coordinator for VioPoint and Mike Pokas, vice president of consulting services for VioPoint
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Soothsayer Analytics launches out of Livonia

A new analytics startup is launching out of Livonia, and it's looking to start making a name for itself as the company that can translate the effectiveness of cutting-edge algorithms into everyday English.

Soothsayer Analytics likes to describe itself as a data science and machine-learning startup. It aims to use machine learning and statistical techniques to find hidden insights and patterns from complex and unstructured data.

The 3-month-old company currently has a core team of six employees and nine advisors, along with some help from overseas universities. It is also in the process of hiring another employee.

"We have some really respected people in a variety of different fields," says Christopher Dole, partner of Soothsayer Analytics. "We expect to do some really exciting work."

Some of the projects in the pipeline include a technology that will be able to forecast which college football players will make the transition to the NFL, and which team each individual player would do best with. It’s also working on a mathematical model that will help predict things like stroke or heart attack.

Soothsayer Analytics is hosting a conference at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 14. It will feature a two-hour presentation by Murthy Kolluru that aims to demystify data science. The idea is to provide business leaders with a deeper understanding of the subject by emphasizing intuition instead of the math behind some cutting-edge algorithms and concepts like machine learning.

The event will be held at 21000 W. 10 Mile Road in Southfield in Room M336. For information click here.

Source: Christopher Dole, partner of Soothsayer Analytics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Inteva continues to grow in Troy

Lots of companies like to call themselves global because they have an office in Europe or a sales employee in Asia. Inteva Products likes to call itself a global firm because it employs 11,500 people in 18 countries.

The automotive supplier specializes in everything from interior systems to engineering. It employs 300 people at its Troy headquarters after making a handful of new hires over the last year.

"There have been a number of hirings," says Karen Manardo, global director of marketing & communications for Inteva Products.

Inteva Products spun out of Delphi in 2008. It acquired Arvin Meritor in 2011, a move that essentially doubled its size.

"That was our biggest growth phase," Manardo says.

The company went from $1.2 billion in sales to $2.4 billion. It has since grown quickly, with its revenue edging up to about $2.8 billion.

"We have continued to grow, particularly in China," Manardo says. "That's our biggest growth area."

Source: Karen Manardo, global director of marketing & communications for Inteva Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Oakland University students build diabetes app, TypeOneTwo

A trio of Oakland University computer science majors placed at the MHacks hackathon in Ann Arbor with its diabetes mobile app.

Andrew Clissold, Steven Wiggins and Brandon Powell are the undergrads behind TypeOneTwo. The mobile app helps people who live with diabetes track and analyze their glucose and insulin levels.

"I have been wanting to make an app to help me better track my stuff," says Powell, who also lives with Type 1 diabetes.

The friends built out the app during the MHacks software programming competition at the University of Michigan earlier this fall. The 2-month-old startup placed in the top 10 after the 36-hour hackathon, and set the stage to further develop the app into a business.

"This was something that was fun for all of us and could help other people," Powell says. "It was really a blast. We had so much fun. We just sat down and programmed for 36 hours."

The trio behind TypeOneTwo plans to keep developing the app over this winter and launch it to the public in early 2015.

Source: Brandon Powell, co-founder of TypeOneTwo
Writer: Jon Zemke

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MyFastbraces opens new dental practice in Troy

A Saginaw-based dental practice is expanding its firm by bringing a new technology for braces to Michigan, and opening a Metro Detroit location.

Dentists Donald Sabourin and Joel Hayden first ran into Fastbraces, a technology that claims to give people braces to correct their teeth faster and cheaper, while at a conference in Texas a few years ago. They brought the technology to their practice last year, and immediately noticed its popularity.

"We thought we would do five or six cases a month," Sabourin says. "We ended up doing 27 or 28 cases a month. We were like, 'Holy cow!'"

This fall they are opening a satellite location called MyFastbraces in Troy on Big Beaver Road to serve Metro Detroit. Since introducing the technology last year, they have hired an additional seven people including four employees at the Troy office.

Fastbraces were developed by a dentist in Texas as a way to help people correct the path and straighten out crooked teeth faster than traditional braces. Traditional braces move the tooth first and allow the root to follow. Fastbraces moves the root and the tooth at the same time, realigning the root and crown simultaneously. Fastbraces claims to cut the time and money needed to correct the problems by as much as half.

"We like to say half the time and half the price but at twice the comfort," Sabourin says.

MyFastbraces is currently looking to hire two registered dental assistants.

Source: Donald Sabourin, co-owner of MyFastbraces
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Breast cancer survivor launches bio-tech startup, re-Contour

Julie Hyde-Edwards is a breast cancer survivor and an entrepreneur, and those two things are joined at the hip for her.

The Royal Oak resident was working as a graphic designer for a financial services firm when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lost her job midway through fighting her illness, and ended up going through a double mastectomy, which required removing large amounts of tissue from each breast.

But she survived. She innovated a new technology. And now she is working on commercializing it with her own startup, re-Contour.

"I was learning that there were stages of this that were problematic, so I tried to fix it myself," Hyde-Edwards says.

Re-Contour's technology is a type of surgical dressing that improves the aesthetic look of the breast and nipple, helping it avoid flattening and encourages healing after a mastectomy. The re-Contour dressing cover the breast mound, with no contact on the nipple area – providing a safe space around the newly created nipple and preventing clothes from applying pressure to it.

Mastectomies routinely leave large scars on the survivor, and nipple loss after the procedure is not uncommon. Many women struggle with the physical changes that occur after a mastectomy.

"It looks like someone took a machete and tried to cut you in half," Hyde-Edwards says. "It's pretty hard to look at."

Hyde-Edwards is currently working with Dr. Kenneth Shaheen, section head of plastic surgery at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, on commercializing the technology. Re-Contour received a patent for its dressing in April and it recently took first place in the Growth category (worth $13,900) at the Entrepreneur-YOU business and pitch plan competition at Walsh College in Troy.

Re-Contour has been working with a variety of local economic accelerators, such as TechTown in Detroit and the Macomb-OU INCubator in Sterling Heights, but isn't directly enrolled in any specific incubator program.

"We're hoping to produce this product within a year," Hyde-Edwards says.

Source: Julie Hyde-Edwards, founder & CEO of re-Contour
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Women-owned startups win big at Entrepreneur-YOU

More than $50,000 in seed capital and business-development services was awarded to nine local businesses as part of the Entrepreneur-YOU Business plan competition. The common denominator in all these ventures is they are all owned by women.

Walsh College hosted the Entrepreneur-YOU business plan and pitch competition with the help of the Michigan Women's FoundationInforum Michigan, and Fifth Third Bank. The annual competition, which dates to 2012, helps female entrepreneurs develop their business plans and firm the elevator pitches for their ventures. Each competition offers $50,000 to $75,000 in seed capital to the winners.

This year's winners in the Lifestyle category include: Tatiana Grant of Flash Delivery (1st place for $13,900), Shannon Byrne of Slow Jams Jam (2nd place for $9,400), and Yvette Rock of Live Coal Gallery (3rd place for $5,900). The Growth category winners include 1st place to Julie Hyde-Edwards of re-Contour (which is developing a nipple guard and mastectomy dressing), 2nd place to Julie Andreae of Secure Beginnings (developing a breathable crib mattress), and 3rd place to Adrienne Minerick for developing a blood-typing microdevice.

Grant, of Flash Delivery, plans to use the prize money to help improve the customer experience of its online grocery delivery service in Detroit. That includes making it more mobile friendly and building out a better online cart in time for the holiday season.

"We will be doing a big holiday push," Grant says.

Grant and her partner also picked up some important business lessons at the competition by running it past other succesful business women and practicing their elevator pitches.

"Less is more," Grant says about one of the lessons she learned at the competition. "And really know your stuff."

Source: Tatiana Grant, co-owner of Flash Delivery
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Siren PR doubles staffing on record revenue increase

Siren PR, the little public relations firm that could, is doing exactly that these days. And by that we mean adding staff.

The Royal Oak-based PR agency is looking to hire an account executive. More info on the opening here. That hire will mean the boutique public relations agency will have doubled the size of its staff over the last year with two new hires.

"We feel that this is the time for us to grow," says Adela Piper, co-founder of Siren PR. "We are growing. We have clients in the pipeline and we need more personnel to better serve them."

Piper and Lindsey Walenga launched Siren PR two years ago from their homes in Oakland County. Their first clients consisted mainly of nonprofits, such as OLSHA. Today the firm handles work for a broader range of organizations, businesses like Detroit Bikes, and schools like Pontiac Academy for Excellence. The company is projecting 36-percent revenue growth this year.

"We have already made more (revenue) this year than we did last year," Piper says. "We're right on track."

Source: Adela Piper, co-founder of Siren PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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AutoBike sells out of bikes, aims to take shifting product national

AutoBike made some significant sales of its first bicycle and automatic shifter this year.

The Troy-based bike startup sold out all 150 of its bicycles and is now looking at the possibility of selling its automatic shifting technology as a retrofit to a couple of large bike distributors. The idea is to find another way to get its shifting technology onto more bikes in 2015.

"We have prototypes with a couple of different companies," says Sean Simpson, president & CEO of AutoBike.

AutoBike got its start three years ago making an automatic shifter for bicycles. The idea is to create a smoother, more enjoyable ride for casual bicyclists who love the idea of a leisurely ride but don’t commute on a bike often.

"We're trying to sell it to your friend who hasn't ridden a bike in 30 years," Simpson says.

The 4-person startup raised $610,000 in seed capital last year, including the $25,000 prize at the 2013 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. It also helped install one of its automatic shifter retrokits on a bike for a veteran. The recipient is a double-arm amputee working with Project Mobility, one of the 19 programs of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Source: Sean Simpson, president & CEO of AutoBike
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Axis CrossMedia revenue growth prompts studio expansion

AxisCross Media got its start 15 years ago when another firm (C3 Communications) went under. Today the company has grown its staff and its space as it sprints to keep up with the rapidly changing digital landscape.

"Evolution is constant," says Matt Madill, director of web development for Axis CrossMedia. "We are constantly changing. ... Over the last three years we have done a lot more video work and incorporated it with e-publications."

Madill started working at the company a dozen years ago. He became a full partner in the company in 2009. He helped lead its current evolution to digital video production and e-publication work. As a result, the company grew nearly 10 percent over the last year.

"We have become more diverse in our customer base," Madill says, adding it has been doing more work with advertising agencies; before, its workload was dominated by manufacturing and automotive firms.

That prompted the Troy-based company to double the size of its photo studio. It is now 1,500 square feet, which is helping the company facilitate an increased workload more efficiently.

"It makes doing a lot of the stuff more convenient," Madill says.

Source: Matt Madill, director of web development for Axis CrossMedia
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at
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