| Follow Us:

Ferndale : Innovation & Job News

165 Ferndale Articles | Page: | Show All

Private-equity firm acquires ePrize, plans to rapidly grow tech firm

The poster child for new economy start-ups in Metro Detroit, ePrize, has been acquired by Catterton Partners, a Connecticut-based private-equity firm. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but the deal represents one of the more high-profitle exits for a Michigan-based software start-up.

"We have had a great past couple of years," says Matt Wise, CEO of ePrize. "We have had good growth."

Pleasant Ridge-based ePrize specializes in digital engagement software for marketing campaigns on the Internet, social media and mobile platforms. Josh Linkner founded the company in 1999 before stepping aside in 2010 to become the CEO of Detroit Venture Partners, a downtown Detroit-base venture capital firm that is aggressively investing in local tech and IT start-ups.

Today, ePrize employs close to 400 people and about 20 interns after hiring 50 people over the last year. Catterton Partners acquired ePrize so it could accelerate the start-up's growth plans and expects to keep the firm in its current headquarters, a former brewery turned into a cutting-edge office space.

"We are looking to hire another 40 or so before the end of the year," Wise says.

Catterton Partners is particularly interested in ePrize's multi-channel engagement and CRM arenas. The start-up is a recognized industry leader, administering four times more national campaigns than any other company. Last year, ePrize moved aggressively into the mobile sector, acquiring a division of Apollo Data Technologies and then Cellit, a mobile solutions company, a few months later.

Source: Matt Wise, CEO of ePrize
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Livio Radio adds 3 jobs, more automotive work

Livio is leveraging its growth by connecting its signature Internet radio technology with your car.

The Ferndale-based tech firm is pressing forward with its Livio Connect, a software package that allows users to channel their favorite Internet radio stations through their cars. Livio Connect's technology allows the Internet radio controls to "show up on the dashboard" of the car, according to Livio founder & CEO Jake Sigal.

"It lets us produce software which is nice because it's a faster turnaround than the hardware business," Sigal says. "It also lets us work with auto companies and expand into licensing."

Sigal started Livio, it was Livio Radio until a few months ago, by making Internet radios so people could listen to websites like Pandora without draining their computer battery. It has steadily expanded its product lineup to include Internet radios. Western Technology Investment (a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm) invested in Livio last year along with Beringea, the largest VC in Michigan.

That has allowed the 4-year-old firm to hit a growth spike as of late. It has hired three people in the last year, leaving it with a staff of 12 employees and three independent contractors. It is looking to hire a couple of software engineers right now.

"We are looking to bring on more passionate people who are into tech and cars," Sigal says.

Source: Jake Sigal, founder & CEO of Livio Radio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ferndale's ardentCause L3C nails down investment, adds to team

Ferndale-based ardentCause L3C has received an investment from Mission Throttle L3C and the Detroit Development Fund to help spread the use of the low profit limited liability company's (L3C) software.

Mission Throttle L3C is based in Southfield and is focused on accelerating philanthropic efforts through targeted investments. The L3C and the Detroit Development Fund, a Detroit-based social entrepreneurial loan fund, found a peer in ardentCause L3C, which specializes in helping non-profits and foundations utilize technology.

"Our missions are quite similar," says Kathleen Norton-Schock, co-founder of ardentCause L3C.

Woman-owned ardentCause L3C has developed a cloud-based software application called CauseEffectz. It is being used at more than 70 non-profit agencies during the past year, assisting them to efficiently expand their capacity and fulfill their missions.

"It's a break-through solution," Norton-Schock says. "It allows foundations and non-profits to build a capacity. It's a business intelligence tool built for non-profits."

The 3-year-old start-up has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The company now employs 11 people, including an intern it recently promoted to a full-time position. The firm has hired five people over the last year and expects to keep growing.

Source: Kathleen Norton-Schock, co-founder of ardentCause L3C
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Livio Radio expands into software, adds to engineering group

Livio Radio has been expanding its workforce, expanding it product portfolio, and taking in a new award to round out a nice year of growth.

The Ferndale-based start-up has recently received the prestigious Frost & Sullivan 2012 New Product Innovation Award for its Livio Connect API. Livio Connect's technology connects apps to cars, eliminating the need for constant support and one-on-one integration between consumers' smartphone apps and hardware devices.

"We have third-party validation for what we have been saying about our product for the last three years," says Jake Sigal, CEO & founder of Livio Radio.

The 4-year-old start-up got its start making Internet radios so people could listen to websites like Pandora without draining their computer battery. It has steadily expanded its product lineup to include Internet radios and similar products for automobiles. It even took in a venture capital investment from Beringea (Michigan's biggest VC) and Western Technology Investment last year.

Livio Radio's gross margins have increased over the last year, allowing it to hire three more people. The 15-person company has one opening for an engineer today. Helping make this growth possible is Livio Radio's expansion into software for its products, which it is also licensing out to other platforms.

"It's a new revenue stream for us," Sigal says. "We don't have to deal with assembly in China. All of our software is created in Ferndale."

Source: Jake Sigal, CEO & founder of Livio Radio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ferndale's IT Management Group adds 4 employees, plans to add 2 more

The Great Recession not only hit The IT Management Group hard, it nearly delivered a death blow.

The downtown Ferndale-based small business had a healthy client list and a few employees before everything came apart between 2008-10. At its lowest point the company was down to its founder, Greg Atkins, and fighting to stay afloat. Then the economy began to turn around.

"We slowly started to add some customers," says Atkins, president of The IT Management Group. "In 2011, we really took off and added some key customers."

That growth, mainly from small- to medium-sized businesses, allowed the 9-year-old firm to rebuild it staff, hiring four people in the last year. It's in the process of hiring two more now. The IT Management Group has enjoyed most of that growth from a variety of local firms with a few from outside of Michigan. The company now expects to expand its customer base outside of the Great Lakes region to continue fueling its growth.

"I would expect us to be more than double this size in another 18 months," Atkins says.

Source: Greg Atkins, president of The IT Management Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ferndale Review becomes Ferndale's first weekly newspaper

Ferndale is getting its first weekly newspaper this spring, and it can thank its open-minded culture that has made it welcoming to everyone from small business owners to a large section of the region's gay and lesbian population.

The Ferndale Review will begin printing editions (it's already online) in April, employing a staff of five people including established, professional journalists. The newspaper is opening in the inner-ring suburb because of its eclectic culture that values the arts and being truly business friendly.

"It's a model city of creativity and diversity," says John Ulaj, publisher of the Ferndale Review. "It reminds me of Brooklyn. It appeals to me. I like cities that cater to the youth and creatives. It's an environment that breeds talent."

Ulaj is a real-estate broker for his day job, but entered the newspaper publishing business three years ago when he took over what was then the Hamtramck Citizen. He revamped and rebranded the weekly newspaper as the Hamtramck Review, which now employs a staff of five people. He has doubled the paper's circulation since taking it over.

"The notion that papers are dead is not true," Ulaj says. "It's a figment of people's imaginations."

Ulaj says Hamtramck and Ferndale are similar communities. Both are urban suburbs with diverse populations of about 20,000 people apiece that value the arts and support small businesses. He says these sorts of communities are perfect for newspapers like his that focus on both hard news and entertainment. He would like to spread his style of newspapers to other southeast Oakland County communities, such as Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak in the near future.

Source: John Ulaj, publisher of the Hamtramck Review and Ferndale Review
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

B. Nektar Meadery spreads to 15 states, aims at Cali, bigger facilities

B. Nektar Meadery's footprint is growing in more ways than one. The Ferndale-based microbrewer of honey wine is set to have its meads in 15 states by this spring, will take aim at the California market after that and is looking at moving to much bigger facilities within the next 12-18 months.

The almost four-year-old craft brewer's team of nine employees and a handful of volunteers (up a few people from last year) is currently selling the company's wares in 11 states. It will enter Indiana and Virginia within the next month. Alabama and Georgia will come online a few weeks after that. The B. Nektar Meadery team is now speaking to a distributor in California to take on that market later this year. That would stretch the firm's mead-making capacity to its limit.

"California is such a large market it would be the equivalent of six or seven new states," says Brad Dahlhofer, co-founder of B. Nektar Meadery. "It's huge."

B. Nektar Meadery recently expanded its capacity from 15,000 gallons to 100,000 gallons with some new equipment at its Ferndale space on Jarvis Street. Dahlhofer says he and the company's other co-founders are working with Ferndale officials to find a 20,000-square-foot location that would accommodate its brewing, bottling and storage needs.

The new facility would also have space for a tap room and a light kitchen. The tap room would not only serve meads but also beer and spirits brewed on site. Dahlhofer says the new facility could be in the fold within 12-18 months.

Helping drive all of this is its growing variety of mead flavors. The company has been focusing on gateway products that are similar to other sugary, carbonated, alcoholic drinks. One of its most successful so far is its Zombie Killer, a carbonated mead with a low alcohol content.

"They appeal to a wider audience," Dahlhofer says. "The Zombie Killer was the first one in there and it's moving really fast for us."

Source: Brad Dahlhofer, co-founder of B. Nektar Meadery
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

ePrize acquires Cellit, adds more than 100 to payroll

Pleasant Ridge-based ePrize is adding clients and employees these days, and now it has added a competitor, acquiring Chicago-based mobile marketing agency Cellit.

ePrize is an agency specializing in interactive, online marketing campaigns. The acquisition of Cellit will give ePrize a foothold in the mobile marketing field, allowing the company to avoid building up its own presence while still engaging mobile customers.

"In the last 18 months we have moved the business into more social and mobile markets," says Matt Wise, CEO of ePrize.

ePrize has been on a growth streak over the last year. Its revenue has gone from $42 million in 2010 to $50 million last year. It expects to cross the $70 million mark in 2012. A year ago, ePrize employed 257 people. That number is at 363 today, about 275 of which work at the Pleasant Ridge headquarters. It expects to reach 420 employees by the end of this year.

"The drive of that growth is we have been shifting our company into higher growth areas," Wise says. He adds that ePrize hires "most of our folks from the local area" and expects to continue doing that in 2012.

Source: Matt Wise, CEO of ePrize
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Craft alcohol goes mainstream in Metro Detroit

Michigan is cementing its reputation as the Great Beer State but Metro Detroit is expanding that reputation with growing companies that make vodka and meade. Ferndale-based B. Nektar Meadery and Valentine Vodka are expanding their distribution across the U.S. Arbor Brewing Company (from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti) is spreading its brand to India and craft brewing continues to grow exponentially. Cheers!

Making The Jump: A Q&A with Brad Dahlhofer and Paul Zimmerman of B. Nektar Meadery

What Does It Mean To Be Business Friendly? A Conversation with Valentine Vodka's Rifino Valentine

Beer's Better Half

Strange Brew: A Q&A with Rene and Matt Greff

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

Youngpreneurs stake claim in Metro Detroit business class

The numbers of entrepreneurs in Metro Detroit continue to climb, but the youngpreneurs are making some of the biggest strides. DeNovo Sciences, founded by a small group of 20 somethings, won the top $500,000 prize at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Are You a Human, started by recent University of Michigan graduates, rakes in seven figure seed capital round. Livio Radio, run by youngpreneur poster boy Jake Sigal, is attracting investment from Silicon Valley VCs. It all adds up to a promising future for Metro Detroit's entrepreneurial class.

Silicon Valley VC invests in Ferndale's Livio Radio

From Scratch: Denovo Sciences

Are You a Human moves to downtown

Garbage In, Energy Out: A Q&A with the Founders of ReGenerate

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

Ferndale's ardentCause L3C plans up to 4 more jobs

Ferndale-based ardentCause L3C has scored a microloan from the Detroit First Step Fund, financing that should allow the start-up to grow and add people.

The two-year-old firm creates software which helps nonprofits measure their results and maximize their impact, while illustrating their successes graphically. It has grown from its two co-founders, Kathleen Norton-Schock and Rosemary Bayer, to 12 employees and the occasional intern. It plans to hire another 2-4 people over the next year.

“Non-profits always need to tell their story about why they’re doing and what they’re doing,” Norton-Schock says. “But they also need to measure what they’re doing in this world of shrinking funding.”

The software from ardentCause L3C also helps non-profits cut down on time spent on administrative work. So far it has met with success at more than 60 nonprofit sites. Norton-Schock expects that number to grow exponentially in the next year.

“It’s a huge field,” Norton-Schock says. “The non-profit field has been growing and there is a great need crying out to be met.”

Source: Kathleen Norton-Schock, co-founder of ardentCause L3C
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Pleasant Ridge's Gravy Network launches mobile billboard app MOBIBO

Brothers Zachary and Josh Ball have a vision for changing the mobile advertising game, and they're working to make that happen with their new mobile app, MOBIBO.

The brothers started Gravy Network in January, with the idea of launching MOBIBO later this year. The Pleasant Ridge-based company is made up of the Ball duo and draws upon the half-dozen employees of Zachary's other firm, web developer Mercury Studio.

MOBIBO is a free, downloadable smartphone app that serves as a mobile billboard that advertisers can rent for a small fee. Advertisers only pay for the ads consumers see. The consumer is paid 25 cents through PayPal for viewing each ad. The app alerts/ads come up when the consumer is near the advertiser's place of business, telling them to view a special discount or promotional offer at a store close-by.

"I'd like to see MOBIBO being used throughout the nation," says Zachary, president and co-owner of Gravy Network. "We think we can shift the advertising paradigm to this model."

The Ball brothers are working to establish the MOBIBO brand this year, with an aim of broad adoption within the next year. They expect to significantly add to Gravy Network's staff when that happens.

"We'd like to keep the team as lean as possible," Zachary says. "What does that mean? Hopefully, less than 25 people."

Source: Zachary Ball, president and co-owner of MOBIBO
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Silicon Valley VC invests in Ferndale's Livio Radio

Livio Radio can now put its name up with some of tech's heaviest hitters now that it has received an investment from Western Technology Investment, which has companies like Google and Facebook in its portfolio.

"To get that kind of recognition from the west coast does more for the state than us," says Jake Sigal, CEO of Livio Radio. "It validates Michigan and what's going on here."

The Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm made an undisclosed investment in the start-up that calls Ferndale home. Livio Radio plans to use that cash to support the development of the firm's automotive Internet radio products, such as the Livio Car Internet Radio app, its Bluetooth Internet Radio Car Kit and Livio Connect API.

The 3-year-old firm has been on a growth spike as of late. It has expanded its staff to 15 employees, two independent contractors and two interns. It has one job opening right now and plans to raise its number of interns to five. Livio Radio received an undisclosed amount of seed capital from Beringea, Michigan's largest venture capital firm.

Sigal started Livio Radio by making Internet radios so people could listen to websites like Pandora without draining their computer battery. It has steadily expanded its product lineup to include Internet radios and similar products for automobiles.

Source: Jake Sigal, CEO of Livio Radio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Level One Bank opens up $100M for local small biz loans

Level One Bank is making a pool of $100 million worth of loans available to local small businesses.

The Farmington Hills-based bank will consider working capital loans and owner-occupied real estate mortgages of up to $10 million. Real-estate investment loans are not included. It considers businesses with less than $50 million in revenues to be small businesses and eligible for this new pool of money.

"The lending will be focused on the businesses in our area," says Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank.

The three-year-old bank has been growing at an exponential rate in its first few years. It now has branches in Ferndale, Birmingham, Northville, Clinton Township, and two in Farmington Hills. It employs 86 people after adding 32 positions year-to-date.

"We're hiring fast and furious," Fehring says.

For information on the loans, please contact Jeff Taliscka at (248) 737-3154 or jtalicska@levelonebank.com.

Source: Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Livio Radio expands Internet radio into auto, federal government markets

Livio Radio is growing its business by taking Internet radio to new places, namely your car.

The Ferndale-based company got its start when Jake Sigal turned his electronic tinkering into a hot-selling Internet radio in 2008. That attracted a venture capital investment and an expansion into the automotive realm.

"We've been focusing on car/Internet radio," says Nicole Yelland, brand manager for Livio Radio. "We'll be launching the Kit later this month, which allows you to manipulate the Livio car radio applications."

Livio Radio has leveraged the revenues and outside investment into a significant growth spurt. The business has recently hired two new engineers, bringing its staff to 15 em[;oyees and four interns. It plans to continue hiring as it expands.

Livio Radio has also been reaching out into activities indirectly tied to Internet radio. It recently host Social Media Day Detroit at Motor City Casino. It also has been able to place its products into the FCC's Open Technology Center for Employees in Washington, D.C.

"It allows them (federal FCC employees) to really interface with these products," Yelland says. "It's a museum for employees so they can tinker."

Source: Nicole Yelland, brand manager for Livio Radio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
165 Ferndale Articles | Page: | Show All
Share this page
0
Email
Print
Signup for Email Alerts