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Future Help Designs grows staff by 3 as it works to grow app community

Future Help Designs knows it will be plenty busy as it continues to create mobile apps from its headquarters in downtown Pontiac. The 3-year-old start-up also wants to keep even more metro Detroiters employed as the app economy continues to emerge a significant economic driver.

"We can't get every job that is out there for mobile developers," says Christian Marcillo, CEO of Future Help Designs. "We want to help other people be ready to do those jobs."

To do that, Future Help Designs is offering training classes for people and companies interested in learning how to make mobile apps. The Mobile Developer Workshop Series will train people who want to get into the mobile app industry and for companies that would like to bring some of that work in-house.

The bottom line is Future Help Designs wants to grow the app development community in not only Pontiac but the region overall. It hopes that by attracting local arm-chair developers and tech-oriented firms into the industry it will foster "a rising tide that lifts all boats" philosophy.

"We're helping the community grow in terms of the mobile app domain," says Christian Marcillo, CEO of Future Help Designs. "We're going to be expanding it through our classes."

Future Help Designs got its start when Marcillo and Glen Konopaske, two Mac fanatics, were downsized from their corporate jobs. The duo began making iPhone apps and have since expanded into other mobile applications. The company moved out of their homes last year and into office space in downtown Pontiac as part of the city's Rise of the Pheonix program.

It now employs a team of 19 people after making three hires over the last year. It hopes to continue adding staffers as it grows.

Source: Christian Marcillo, CEO of Future Help Designs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Metro Detroit start-ups turn smartphones into biz apportunities

The app economy is here and growing in Metro Detroit. A broad range of start-ups and businesses are finding creative ways to boost their bottom lines by developing custom and original apps. Some are even basing their entire business plan around it and growing like crazy.

Texts From Last Night: A Q&A with Ben and Phillip Bator

Mobiata adds 10 jobs, moves to bigger space in Ann Arbor's Nickels Arcade

Future Help Designs sets up shop in downtown Pontiac

Metro Detroit start-ups dominate Accelerate Michigan

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

Hewlett-Packard subsidiary plans to create 250 IT jobs in Pontiac

HP Enterprise Services, a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard, plans to expand its tech office in Pontiac, a move that is expected to create 250 jobs over the next year.

The $4.8 million investment will expand HP Enterprise Services' significant presence in Pontiac. HP Enterprise Services, formerly EDS, already employs 1,976 people there. It has begun hiring and expects to continue as demand permits.

"We have more business today than we do staff," says Rick Sullivan, a vice president of application services for HP Enterprise Services. "We're actively hiring."

HP Enterprise Services provides software applications, processes, consulting and support from its Pontiac office. Helping make this deal possible was a $3.5 million tax incentive from the Michigan Economic Development Corp over the next seven years. Sullivan says the company was also attracted to the region's deep talent pool of skilled tech workers and plethora of high-quality universities.

"Personally, my game plan is to exceed 250 hires," Sullivan says. "I see the demand coming quickly."

Source: Rick Sullivan, vice president of application services for HP Enterprises
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Future Help Designs sets up shop in downtown Pontiac

Future Help Designs' bottom line is more creative than two basic colors, like red and black. The smartphone app start-up is moving to downtown Pontiac because its profitability is more dependent on the inspiration derived from a historic and eclectic city center than a vanilla office complex in the middle of nowhere.

"We operate in a very creative space," says Christian Marcillo, director of creative design at Future Help Designs. "Cubicles are not our style. They don't work for us. We found a big, open space in downtown Pontiac that works for us. It's easy to walk out and get inspiration from the other artists that are down there as well."

Marcillo started the company with Glen Konopaske a little more than two years ago, after the two Mac fanatics were downsized from their corporate jobs. The pair began making iPhone apps and have since expanded into other mobile applications. The company also hosts training classes for iPhone and iPad apps.

The growth has been so significant that they decided to move their fledgling business out of Dearborn Heights to downtown Pontiac, taking advantage of the Rise of the Phoenix program's free year of rent for firms that move to the city's central business district. Marcillo adds that the strong sense of community among Pontiac's downtown businesses and creative class workers also helped seal the deal.

Future Help Designs hands out paychecks to 20 people, split between four traditional employees and 16 independent contractors. The company has gone through three rounds of hiring over the last year, adding 1-3 people to its staff each time. Marcillo expects his start-up to add another 10 jobs over the next year.

Source: Christian Marcillo, director of creative design at Future Help Designs
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Pontiac-based BidDogz.com launches penny auctions

BidDogz.com, a new penny-auction website, launched last week, creating a few more jobs in Pontiac.

Howling Dog Enterprises launched the site and is basing its operations out of Pontiac. The 18-month-old company employs 17 people handling everything from the back end of the website to the warehouse where the merchandise is stored.

"We're based in Michigan because we want to reach the people here," says Michael Falk, managing partner with Howling Dog Enterprises and a veteran of the promotions industry.

BidDogz.com auctions off merchandise online, often for pennies on the dollar. On its first day the website sold a plasma TV worth hundreds of dollars for 12 cents. The company works directly with manufacturers to get the merchandise cheaply. It also makes money by charging customers 65 cents for each bid.

Falk says his company is working to make sure only real people are bidding on the items, not software programs. He hopes to take the operations national over the next year and hire another 6-12 people.

Source: Michael Falk, managing partner with Howling Dog Enterprises
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Oakland County Medical Main Street now $61M program; 45,000 jobs to come

A now 3-year-old Anderson Economic Group study called for the health-care and life science sector to be the fastest-growing in Oakland County, prompting it to create the Medical Main Street program to encourage investment. That prediction is beginning to ring true today.

The Oakland County Medical Main Street program scored investments
totaling $34.8 million from five companies either moving or expanding in the county in the first quarter of this year. This contributed to the creation or retention of more than 1,000 jobs. Fifteen companies have put $61 million into Medical Main Street since it was founded in 2008, a trend Oakland County officials expect to continue as the economy rebounds.

"We're seeing this accelerating," says David Schreiber, chief strategist for Oakland County Economic Development. "This is trending upward."

Among the recent investments are $3.7 million (162 new jobs) from Ascendant MDx for a new clinical laboratory for diagnostic tests in Farmington Hills and $28 million (640 new jobs) from health-care info tech provider CareTech Solutions to complete the second phase of its expansion project.

Oakland County already had a strong base in the health-care and life sciences industries. The 2008 study shows approximately 93,000 jobs at about 4,300 life science and medical facilities there. About 45,000 more positions are expected over the next 10 years.

Source: David Schreiber, chief strategist for Oakland County Economic Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DASI Solutions grows with rapid prototyping machines, adding staff

DASI Solutions got its start with engineering software work for automotive companies 15 years ago.

Today the Pontiac-based company has diversified not only its own client base in that area, but also its offerings. It recently began selling a rapid prototyping machine from Israel-based Objet that creates 3-D prototypes in a matter of hours instead of the standard weeks-long timeline. The new offering allowed DASI Solutions to take on a number of new clients, such as Stryker and Rousch Racing.

"The flood gates opened at the end of this last year," says David Darbyshire, engineer and partner of DASI Solutions. "We sold $2 million of these machines. We normally do $6 million in business."
The machines retail for between $20,000 and $250,000 apiece.

The company now has 28 employees, two independent contractors, and an intern after hiring four people in the last year. It expects to add two more jobs by this summer to keep up with demand for its services. Expanding into the prototyping field has the added advantage of finding new customers in different sectors it wouldn't normally come into contact with.

"It's fun," Darbyshire says. "It makes me feel like an entrepreneur again."

Source: David Darbyshire, engineer and partner of DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

3-D ETC expands into Wash. D.C. and Houston markets, plans for 50% staff growth

At 3-D ETC, new revenue doesn't equal new product offerings. In fact, it's the inverse of that equation.

The safety-training company watched its revenue climb 125 percent last year, but that wasn't as important as growing its product offerings. The
7-year-old firm went from offering four programs in 2009 to 11 last year. It plans to continue to invest heavily in new product development.

"We're growing the company through product offerings," says Dave Hodgson, president of 3-D ETC. "Our goal is to offer 20 different products by the end of 2011."

3-D ETC, based in Pontiac, provides unique, proprietary programs that immerse employees into realistic 3-D experiences meant to change the way they think about safety. The training programs simulate live situations, giving people the virtual sensations and emotional impacts of their actions.

Traditionally, that has meant industrial customers with potentially dangerous workplaces. However, 3-D ETC plans to expand that focus by going after the health-care industry. This plan has allowed the company to add three jobs in 2010, expanding its staff to eight employees, six independent contractors, and the occasional intern. It plans to increase its staff by 50 percent this year as it expands into the Washington, D.C., and Houston markets.

Source: Dave Hodgson, president of 3-D ETC
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Oakland County announces cloud computing, Wi-Fi initiatives

Oakland County is making more and more of its IT and tech services wireless, according to County Executive L Brooks Patterson in his State of the County speech on Tuesday.

Oakland County will introduce a cloud computing initiative where it will conduct its own IT services through the cloud computing platform, and offer the services to local municipalities. The new program will eliminate the need for each local government entity to have its own servers and applications, instead accessing the county's for a nominal fee. The first offering will be Oakland County's eHealth software.

The county is also revamping its Wireless Oakland initiative with a new partnership with Frankenmuth-based Air Advantage. The 8-year-old Internet provider will provide Wi-Fi services to communities in northern Oakland County, utilizing the county's towers. In exchange for selling these services, Air Advantage will provide free wireless Internet in some downtowns, starting with Holly, Oxford and Clarkston. More communities will be announced later this year.

"Our philosophy is all people should have access to the Internet," says Scott Zimmer, president of Air Advantage. "The Internet is becoming a necessary utility like electricity or water."

Making this deal possible is a $64 million grant from the federal stimulus package. The grant is meant to help Air Advantage make Internet services available in underserved areas within a 13-county section of eastern Michigan. That section stretches from Bay County to the north, Shiawassee County to the west and Oakland County to the south.

Source: Oakland County and Scott Zimmer, president of Air Advantage
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Oakland Co Medical Main St hits $21M in investment

Oakland County's Medical Main Street notched a strong 2010, attracting $21 million in investment that retained or attracted about 600 jobs.

The Medical Main Street program began in 2008 as a tool to help diversify Oakland County's economy by growing the health-care and life-science industries. Those industries represent 93,000 jobs today and are expected to create 45,000 new jobs over the next decade. The program helped six companies relocate or expand their operations in Oakland County.

"In the next couple of months you'll hear about more companies moving into the area," says Irene Spanos, senior business development representative for the Oakland County Economic Development Team. "We have a lot of projects in the pipeline."

This year's totals are up from four deals worth $5.2 million in investment that took place in 2009. Spanos is expecting an even better 2011. She points to Oakland University's new medical school opening this year and its new stem cell center as reasons for optimism.

"This is going to be a good resource for us," Spanos says. "We can build on that."

Source: Irene Spanos, senior business development representative for the Oakland County Economic Development Team
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

i3Logic sees 40% revenue growth, plans to hire

Rebound is a good word for i3Logic these days, mainly because it's one that's allowing the consulting company to grow.

"We're almost back to our peak, 2007, for revenue," says Rom LaPointe, president of i3Logic. "That's a 40-percent increase since last year."

That growth has allowed the downtown Pontiac-based company to make 4 new hires. It now has 25 employees, 30 independent contractors and the occasional intern. The company expects to add more people over the next 3-6 months. "We'll probably bring on a person a quarter over the next year," LaPointe says.

The 6-year-old firm specializes in consulting, such as change management, one of i3Logics' top growing sectors. Its business fell off when the economy contracted in 2008. The consultancy has rebounded since then through expanded work with new and existing clients.

Source: Rom LaPointe, president of i3Logic
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Pushtwentytwo expands online presence, adds jobs in downtown Pontiac

The economy hit pushtwentytwo like most other businesses in 2008-09, but now the public relations/marketing agency is on the rebound and hiring.

The 6-year-old company recently added two positions in its downtown Pontiac headquarters and is looking for two more in administration and graphic design. It currently employs 14 people and the occasional independent contractor or intern. It expects to make 2-4 more hires over the next year.

That's on top of the company's revenue growing by 25-30 percent since the recession hit its peak. But
pushtwentytwo's leadership is being a bit cautious as the economic recovery begins to take hold.

"As much as our clients are spending money again they are being very careful, so we have to be very accountable," says Mike Verville, partner with pushtwentytwo.

The firm is expanding its online presence to fuel growth by moving into more Internet services, such as web development and social media. "There are a lot of opportunities for companies looking to enter the digital space, and companies that have been quiet for a while."

Source: Mike Verville, partner with pushtwentytwo
Writer: Jon Zemke

Healthcare providers team up on blood clot prevention

A group of prominent healthcare organizations are partnering to cut the occurrence of blood clots by as much as 50 percent over the next two years in a coordinated effort to improve patient care and reduce medical costs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, and the University of Michigan Medical Center are leading the effort with 16 hospitals from across the state, including Beaumont and Oakwood healthcare systems. The idea is that this collaboration, part of Value Partnerships, will expand its focus.

"The expectation is the collaboration will take on other things as the years go by," says Tom Leyden, manager of clinical program development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

For now, the new initiative will focus on getting the state's major hospitals to reduce the risk of blood clots, a common problem that causes further sickness or even death. The new consortium will work in unison to study, benchmark, and implement best practices to eliminate preventable blood clots.

Just about all patients who are hospitalized are at risk of suffering adverse effects from clotting, some of which are often as serious as death. A double-digit reduction would be a seen as a big step forward.

"It's not perfect," says Scott Flanders, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center and the project director for this initiative. "We're never going to be able to get rid of these things."

Sources: Scott Flanders, professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center; Tom Leyden, manager of clinical program development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac, Detroit, Hamtramck focus of MSU broadband project

Pontiac will be one of the first cities to receive more computers and better Internet service thanks to a $6 million program Michigan State University plans to launch later this fall.

The Oakland County seat, along with Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park, will receive dozens of computers for local libraries, public housing centers, community centers and community colleges. This will include both desktops and laptops, along with faster Wi-Fi connections at these facilities.

"It will be a matter of computers popping up all over the place in the Detroit area," says Kurt DeMaagd, assistant professor of telecommunications at Michigan State University. "It will add up to about 70 locations in total over the first year." He adds that Metro Detroit will receive about a third of the $6 million federal stimulus grant funding the program.

The entire program expects to install 2,232 computers in 207 locations in Metro Detroit, Benton Harbor, Saginaw, Muskegon Heights and Flint. Organizers expect the new computers and increased access to the Internet will allow residents in these areas greater access to education, job training and job searchers/applications rooted in the new economy. The money will also help Michigan expand its e-Library program services.

Michigan State has already begun the process of implementing these computer/broadband Internet resources and training local people how to use them. The first round of funding worth $1 million began installing 500 computers in 88 libraries across the state, primarily in rural areas that will serve an extra 13,000 people.

Source: Kurt DeMaagd, assistant professor of telecommunications at Michigan State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac's RazorThreat adds clients, staff

Greg Guidice isn't afraid of the rise in Internet crime. In fact he sees it as an opportunity. Of course, it helps that he is CEO of a computer security firm RazorThreat.

"The cyber crime industry is larger than the illegal drug industry," Guidance says. "It's a $900 billion a year industry. In 2008, the private sector lost $1 trillion to cyber crime."

Which is turning into a window of opportunity for the downtown Pontiac-based firm that only opens wider. The 4-year-old company started with three people and now employs five with an occasional independent contractor. More hires could be on hand in the next year as it continues to grow.

RazorThreat has focused on expanding its revenues and profit margins, partly by attracting more public sector clients. It's now looking to partner with more technology firms, such as reseller who can distribute its product.

"We're also looking for strategic partners where our products are complimentary," Guidice says.

Source: Greg Guidice, CEO of RazorThreat
Writer: Jon Zemke
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