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Wright & Filippis expands leadership team with 3 new executives

The executive team at Wright & Filippis is shaking up and expanding from its headquarters in Rochester Hills.

The health-care firm, which specializes in prosthetics, has hired a new vice president of operations, a vice president of sales and a director of IT. Its vice president of facility operations is now the executive vice president of mergers & acquisition, and its former COO and CFO is now company president. The new executive team will oversee the company’s 625 employees, of which 500 are based in Metro Detroit.

"We're moving people so we can grow the company in different areas," says A.J. Filippis CEO & chairman of Wright & Filippis.

The 70-year-old firm has left some markets so it can grow into others. It exited several supply-based ventures, such as diabetic supplies. It is now focusing on prosthetics, orthotics, respiratory care services, and home medical equipment and supplies, complex seating rehabilitation and home accessibility systems.

Wright & Filippis is also in the process of acquiring some other business across the U.S. The firm recently acquired Carolina Orthotics & Prosthetics and is targeting a handful of other acquisitions.

"We have two more mergers and acquisitions we plan to execute in the next 60 days," Filippis says. He adds, "We're looking at other opportunities along the east coast to expand our product line."

Source: A.J. Filippis CEO & chairman of Wright & Filippis
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Software firm Coil Group adds 5 jobs in downtown Rochester

Coil Group is walking a tried-and-true line for software firms by trying to make the jump from custom-software development services to selling its own software products.

The downtown Rochester-based company has made a name for itself as a custom-software creation and consulting shop in its first year. During that time it also developed its own software platform that looks to bring analytics to sales forces.

And of course this all required more manpower. Coil Group has hired five people over the last year, mainly for user experience consultants and mobile software developer roles. It currently has a staff of six full-time employees and a handful of independent contractors. It is also looking to add 1-2 interns this summer. The firm also has job openings for one sales professional, one user experience consultant and two software developers.

"We're looking to hire another 10 people in the course of the next 12 months," says Jim Brown, CEO of Coil Group.

That staff is handling a growing workload of custom software and consulting work. Coil Group has continued to expand the number of clients in need of solutions. It is also looking to accelerate the development and sales of its new software platform called Stage.

Stage is a mobile app built for iPads. It enables the user to capture the actionable statistics from its sales staff. "As sales people go out into the field, this captures metrics," Brown says.

Source: Jim Brown, CEO of Coil Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Trent Design grows staff thanks to manufacturing website work

There is no denying that Trent Design is a new economy company. The marketing firm specializes in design, specifically website design. So it’s a little amusing that the biggest driver of its recent growth is an old economy sector, manufacturing.

Trent Design has handled the website designs/redesigns of a number of big-name manufacturers over the last year, including Brasco International. Trent Design is currently working on new websites for Pennsylvania Steel and Jac Products. The trend started when Eaton Steel first reached out to Trent Design to redesign its website a couple of years ago. That led to a number of Eaton Steel's sister firms and manufacturers it works with following suit.

"We have done several manufacturing sites, which has helped us get even more manufacturing website work," says Marilyn Trent, principal of Trent Design. "I feel manufacturing can use our help."

That has allowed the Rochester-based company to hire a new brand strategist over the last year. It now employs five full-time employees, three part-timers and the occasional intern. Many of these employees have stayed with the firm for many years after they hired in. "When I hire them, they stay with me," Trent says.

Trent Design also opened an office in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood a couple of years ago. Trent thinks she could add another person or two to her staff in the next year but still wants to keep her company small.

"I want to keep a boutique-size agency that does great work and provides great customer service," Trent says.

Source: Marilyn Trent, principal of Trent Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Software startup iziSurvey launches in Metro Detroit

A European-developed software startup is launching its U.S. operations of out Metro Detroit this winter.

Digital survey startup iziSurvey was first developed at Universum College in Kosovo when a political science professor (Ridvan Peshkopia) and a tech entrepreneur (Mergim Cahani) began talking about the cumbersome and error-prone current system of conducting polls and surveys in a largely paper-based world. They created iziSurvey with an idea of streamlining the surveying process by digitizing it.

"It's not only replacing paper and managing it more effectively overall, but it's adding some features," says Cahani, CEO of iziSurvey. "We can do it better and cheaper."

The startup created mobile software that allows companies to collect and analyze data, creating detailed reports on the information and making it easy to export that information to other sources. Check out a video about the technology here. The software has been used in Europe over the last few months.

The company is launching the North American arm of its company this week out of Rochester Hills. The startup has a team of nine people and is eyeing a move to downtown Detroit over the next couple of months. One of iziSurvey’s executives, Edi Demaj, has worked with tech startups in the M@dison Block and sees that as the right environment to grow the venture.

"We want to be part of Detroit and part of its tech community," says Edi Demaj, chief business development of iziSurvey.

Source: Mergim Cahani, CEO of iziSurvey and Edi Demaj, chief business development of iziSurvey
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Persis Consulting Co. adds 7 employees, creates crowd-sourcing software

Persis Consulting Co. got its start in 1999 as a tech consulting firm but is now moving into creating its own software.

Its first software platform is TracVisor, which is designed to collect, aggregate and leverage crowd-sourced data from a mobile device. Persis Consulting Co. has been working on the app for the last year and released its first public version earlier this summer. The company will be releasing custom demos of the platform to its customers later this year.

"The idea is to provide the ability to our customers to roll out an application and begin collecting information," says Mo Hariri, executive vice president of Persis Consulting Co.

The Rochester Hills-based firm has hired seven people over the last year, expanding its staff to 38 employees across the U.S. Thirty-two of those employees are based in Metro Detroit and are servicing primarily automotive-based customers. The firm is working to diversify its customer base as it keeps growing its local workforce.

"We're a Detroit-based company and we plan on growing in Detroit," Hariri says.

Source: Mo Hariri, executive vice president of Persis Consulting Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Nano Synthetics brings nano tech to metal cutting

Jim English saw the potential of introducing nanotechnology to the marketplace when he helped get mainstream America to buy Rain-X. Today he is trying to duplicate that success with his own company, Nano Synthetics.

The Troy-based start-up is incorporating nanotechnology into manufacturing, specifically the metal cutting process, with its Tool-X product. Tool-X is a nano fluid that is added to both water- and oil-base machine coolants to improve their ability to cut metals, increasing speeds and lengthening tool life.

"We're seeing tool-life increases of 200 percent to 300 percent," says English, president of Nano Synthetics.

The seven-person start-up has had Tool-X on the market for a little more than a year and its sales have increased every month. English expects sales to take off over the next year as more and more manufacturers start to accept its potential.

"We see it doubling or tripling in size," English says. "People are starting to understand that high-tech technology can be used in their industry."

Source: Jim English, president of Nano Synthetics
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

PGF Technology Group hires 8 in Rochester Hills

PGF Technology Group got its start in 1970 making wire harnesses and cables for the automotive industry. It grew and started thinking ahead of its competitors. The Rochester Hills-based firm acquired another firm in the early 2000s that allowed it to diversify its workload.

That decision before the automotive industry cratering proved essential not only to its survival but its continued growth. The company now has businesses in the automotive, electronics, medical devices and military sectors.
"It allows us a little more balance and flexibility when the market becomes volatile," says Andrew Haack, sales engineer of PGF Technology Group.

PGF Technology Group has recently invested about $1 million in new plant equipment as it works to expand. It has also hired eight people, expanding its workforce to 35 employees. Its sales have remained steady this year because the company is consolidating big gains it made the year before.

"Last year was the best year for sales in the company's history," Haack says.

Source: Andrew Haack, sales engineer of PGF Technology Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

OU INC-grad Advenovation adds 7 jobs

Advenovation is working to not only give vision to manufacturing robots, which is already a reality, but to make that vision more intuitive and similar to how humans see and interact with things.

Although the technology has taken off,  says Adil Shafi, president of Advenovation,  and "a lot of problems have been solved, there are a lot of problems with it that are left to solve." 

Technically, the 3-year-old start-up specializes in the design, integration and implementation of vision-guided robotic solutions. It recently graduated from the OU INC in Rochester Hills. It is now moving into a 5,000-square-foot facility in Rochester Hills so it can continue developing its technology.

While going through the OU INC, Advenovation expanded its customer base six-fold. GM Powertrain requested that the company write its global standards for the implementation of machine vision in 2011. It is also working on the Orion Spaceship's heat shield.

That has allowed Advenovation to grow its staff to 15 employees and three interns after hiring seven people in the last year. Shafi expects those staff numbers to continue to grow thanks to a projection of sales doubling or even tripling this year as the company's technology progresses.

"We continue to pioneer and innovate solutions," Shafi says.

Source: Adil Shafi, president of Advenovation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Metric-X capitalizes on move to Metro Detroit

Metric-X recently made the move from its former home in Ohio to Metro Detroit, and it's easy to deduce why if you listen to the tech company's leadership.

"It's a happening area," says Saad Shah, founder & president of Metric-X. "The companies are coming back and getting stronger. They are investing in their IT technology."

The 13-year-old company specializes in providing software and mobile solutions to other businesses. It moved to Troy last year and just executed a move to downtown Rochester to accommodate the company's growth. It currently employs a dozen people and looks to continue to expand.

Helping drive Metric-X's growth is its expansion into creating its own software, launching an add-on for Microsoft Excel last year. "We think there is a lot of potential for it," Shah says.

Source: Saad Shah, founder & president of Metric-X
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Berylline creates tricycle scooter for senior citizens

Cool is not one of the words that comes to mind when people think about the mini-scooters that seniors and people with disabilities use to get around. A Rochester Hills-based start-up thinks it has come up with the cool version of that scooter.

Berylline and its team of about a half-dozen people have created a new vehicle that looks like a scooter but with three wheels. Think of a modern scooter but with two wheels in the front with a wide wheel base and tires that don't lack for tread.

"The concept is proven," says Steve Sandstedt, a business advisor for Berylline. "It's really a cool product that provides more mobility for seniors."

The 1-year-old company has created a concept vehicle and is looking to start production by the end of this year. It is also looking to raise a seed capital round worth between $500,000 and $1 million this year to move the company forward. It recently received five figures' worth of financing from the Michigan Microloan Fund to help push its development forward and get it ready for an urban environment.

"This product provides an opportunity to have an alternative urban form of transportation," Sandstedt says.

Source: Steve Sandstedt, a business advisor for Berylline
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Metro Detroit firms score Michigan Microloan Fund financing

Three Metro Detroit firms have landed a couple of pieces in the latest round of financing disbursed by the Michigan Microloan Fund Program.

Ann Arbor SPARK
manages the Michigan Microloan Fund Program, which makes loans in the low five figures (organizers often decline to specify the size of each loan) to young start-ups looking for seed capital that are based in Michigan. That money is often used for things like prototype development or marketing. Eligible firms are often so new they are unlikely candidates for bank loans or angel investment or even steady revenues.

"These funds are reserved for pre-seed organizations," says Joe Licavoli, manager of capital programs for Ann Arbor SPARK.

The Michigan Microloan Fund Program recently made nine microloans worth $397,000. Most of those loans went to Ann Arbor-based firms because the program also has sub categories that are funded by the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County to invest in local firms in their municipalities. The three Metro Detroit start-ups to receive microloans include:

- Berylline, a Rochester Hills-based company, that is commercializing a specialized, three-wheeled hybrid scooter

- ENT Biotech Solutions, based in Grosse Pointe, is developing a handheld device used to simultaneously clean cut, cauterize and remove larger adenoid tissue portions

- EcoFuel Technologies, of Troy, which is working on technology that turns garbage plastic into diesel fuel

"We'll need a lot more money but (the microloan) did give us some help," says Swaminathan Ramesh, founder & president of EcoFuel Technologies.

Source: Joe Licavoli, manager of capital programs for Ann Arbor SPARK and Swaminathan Ramesh, founder & president of EcoFuel Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Allison & Taylor sees uptick in people looking to climb career ladder

Allison & Taylor is one of those intriguing companies to watch if you want some clues about what direction the economy is heading.

The Rochester-based firm checks the references for corporations and individuals. For instance, Allison & Taylor will check the past work references of people looking to land a new job. Since the recession hit a few years ago, it has been handling work for the newly unemployed.

Today it's a combination of that workset and people who are employed and looking to climb the next rung of the career ladder. Those people are often the types who have been employed at the same job during the recession and looking to make the next step up, or to pay their bills took a job for which they were overqualified.

"Many of these people are looking for jobs that are more in their skill set," says Jeff Shane, executive vice president of Allison & Taylor.

Another growing part of the company is its cease-and-desist letter service. If Allison & Taylor finds that a former employer is giving a subpar reference, its attorney will send a letter asking that person to stop making the recommendation or face legal action.

"The cease-and-desist letter service demand has been strong in the last two to three years," Shane says.

Source: Jeff Shane, executive vice president of Allison & Taylor
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Cirrus Group finds education software niche

Cirrus Group has found its niche providing back-end software for school districts and after-school programs and is growing across North America.

The Rochester Hills-based business' software is now being used in a majority of states in the U.S. and parts of Canada. The company has watched its revenue grow 70 percent over the last year, which has allowed it to hire two software programmers, expanding its staff to 10 people.

"We have plans to hire a couple more," says Michael Garrett, COO of Cirrus Group. "We're also doubling our space and moving into a suite."

Cirrus Group's principal product is software that handles operational, financial and customer management functions for child-care facilities, community centers and school districts. The platform manages enrollment, participant payments and communications, scheduling and government compliancy requirements including state and local subsidy payments and food care programs.

"We're one of the only software companies in our area that handles the subsidy payment of before- and after-school care," Garrett says.

Most of the 10-year-old company's growth has come from school districts and after-school programs outside of Michigan. Garrett expects that to continue as more and more school programs look to leverage the firm's flexible platform.

"The last three years have been our highest-growth years," Garrett says.

Source: Michael Garrett, COO of Cirrus Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Coil Group opens Rochester office, expands to 10 people

The Coil Group, a combination marketing and mobile app firm, is sinking roots in downtown Rochester.

The 10-month-old company was working from coffee shops and home offices of its founders, Jim Brown and Jon Pielak, in Rochester until it scored a small office in the city's central business district. Brown and Pielak have been looking at office space in downtown Royal Oak and Detroit but choose Rochester because of the dynamic downtown and easy access to free parking.

"The downtown is vibrant," says Brown, president of Coil Group. "There are lots of great restaurants and coffee shops. We thought the small urban setting would be great for people who would want to work for us."

The Coil Group specializes in providing both mobile apps and traditional marketing services to mid-size businesses. The company's bread and butter is having expertise in both niches. A small mobile app start-up might not have marketing expertise, or a marketing firm might be lacking in mobile app knowledge.

That business plan has allowed the Coil Group to grow to 10 people and it is looking at adding interns this summer. It has experienced most of its early growth from word-of-mouth referrals from some of its first projects.

"We have built a network of relationships across the state of Michigan," Brown says. "That has opened a lot of doors. A lot of people have embraced us."

Source: Jim Brown, president of Coil Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

High Bit Security focuses on sales presence to spur growth

High Bit Security's bread and butter is IT security, but the Rochester-based firm is making its product offerings heat up by focusing more of its attention on sales and marketing.

The 3-year-old firm specializes in IT Security Testing (Penetration Testing), Social Engineering, and obtaining and maintaining PCI-DSS or PA-DSS compliance. It has recently focused on its sales and marketing efforts, adding a full-time staffer to handle that part of the company.

"A good part of the last year was spent getting that part of the business online and working," says Adam Goslin, COO of High Bit Security.

The idea is to bolster the sales and create some internal efficiencies. That has led to a freshly relaunched website and a constant drum beat of press releases going out each month. That work has set the stage for the company to hit some significant growth goals this year.

"This coming year looks to be quite positive for High Bit Security," Goslin says. "That's because of the investment we have put into our sales presence."

Source: Adam Goslin, COO of High Bit Security
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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