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Eagle Ottawa invests $10M into Rochester Hills tech center

Eagle Ottawa is investing $10 million in expanding its tech center in Rochester Hills.

The Auburn Hills-based automotive supplier employs 150 at its headquarters and another 160 people at its tech center. That number will rise at its tech center after the expansion project is complete.

"We see growth in the employment there," says Brad Jackson, spokesman for Eagle Ottawa. "We are making room for 50 more employees."

Eagle Ottawa is an automotive supplier that specializes in leather work. It is 150 years old and has grown its revenue by 18 percent over the last year. It has had a 25-percent compounded annual growth rate since 2011.

The firm has invested $75 million in global innovation initiatives and resources including design, R&D and marketing. Its $10 million expansion in Rochester Hills is part of that. The project will expand the building to 16,500 square feet to accommodate more prototyping and validation work. There will also be a new customer co-creation center aimed at empowering customers to ideate, prototype and validate their inspirations.

"Eagle Ottawa is committed to research and development and continually investing in its development," Jackson says.

Source: Brad Jackson, spokesman for Eagle Ottawa
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

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

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

Expetec grows for 5th straight year, adds data-sharing product

Expetec is growing the old fashioned way, through improved services to its customers and client recommendations.

The Rochester Hills-based IT company has been hiring more staff, including a position in network administration support work, and is in the process of hiring a sales person. It now has 10 employees, with an eye for adding more at its current pace of expansion.

"We're on pace to grow for the fifth straight year at 20 percent," says Michael St. John, vice president of marketing and sales for Expetec. "We have been adding new clients and looking into new products in the market place."

Expetec offers network-managed services, telecommunication systems, servers, firewalls, computers, and a 24/7 help desk. It recently added a new product called E-Lockr. Think of it as a more secure version of Dropbox that enables businesses to share and sync important data anywhere on any device with continuous, real-time backup and comprehensive usage reports. More importantly, St. John believes it’s a more secure option than rival products.

"It allows us to control what's going on with our clients in regards to the user," St. John says, adding their clients can determine who can see what documents, when, and for how long with E-Lockr.

St. John is optimistic that Expetec's current growth streak will continue, and not just because the economy is picking up speed.

"We have been consistently getting a lot of referrals from our clients," St. John says. "They trust us and the work we do."

Source: Michael St. John, vice president of marketing & sales for Expetec
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

EAFocus turns 15 years old, doubles staff

Barbara Fornasiero started EAFocus, a public relations and marketing company, to help take more control of her life. The mother of a young family wanted to stay professionally active and focus on helping raise her young children. Becoming her own boss seemed like a good option to make that happen.

"I wanted the freedom to set my own schedule and pursue the clients that interested me," Fornasiero says.

That was 15 years ago. Today the Rochester-based company has recently hired its first employee and is growing its client list. EAFocus got its start serving professional companies, like consulting and law firms. It now does work for local school districts and municipalities, and a growing variety of clients.

Fornasiero hired Sara Przybylski nearly a year ago. Przybylski had worked as a social media coordinator for an automotive supplier before coming on as a public relations consultant at EAFocus.

"I wanted to expand the business and have a regular schedule," Fornasiero says. "I wanted to grow the business and still be able to take some time off."

Source: Barbara Fornasiero, owner & principal of EAFocus
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Cirrus Group leverages spike in school district customers

Schools are becoming an increasingly important part of Cirrus Group's future.

The Rochester Hills-based company specializes in back-end software for school districts and after-school programs. It has expanded significantly into school districts in the Phoenix area, where it represents six school districts.

"We have grown quite a bit in the school district space," says Michael Garret, COO of Cirrus Group. "We have also experienced growth in all of our segments."

The 11-year-old firm’s software 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. The subsidy part has proven to be a distinct competitive advantage in recent months.

"We are one of the few companies that offers a subsidy management tool," Garret says.

That has allowed Cirrus Group to hire two people in software development and customer service over the last year. It currently has a staff of 14 employees and three additional openings for software developers.

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

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

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.
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