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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.

Great Lakes Systems & Technology aims to become prime govt contractor

Gerald "Jerry" Lane has spent most of his career working for someone else. He recently turned that equation around by working for himself running Great Lakes Systems & Technology, a defense technology firm. Now he is aiming to build a team of employees under him.

"I want to turn the business into a prime contractor and build unmanned systems," Lane says. "I want to bid on these projects as a prime contractor."

A prime contractor is licensed to hold direct government contracts and to divvy out the work to other subcontractors. Great Lakes Systems & Technology currently services small business in the defense sector that need a marketing/manufacturing representative, engineering, business development and project management. The Chesterfield Township-based firm currently serves a handful of firms of various sizes, but Lane declined to name any of them because of confidentiality agreements. It also works with the annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition at Oakland University.

Lane has spent most of the last few decades doing that sort of work for larger firms that are centered around the TARDEC and TACOM facilities in Warren. He struck out on his own last year by starting Great Lakes Systems & Technology.

"It was certainly my strong suit," Lane says. "I am very well connected in the ground vehicle community. I started in TARDEC in 1976."

He plans to put together a small team by the end of this winter so he can become a prime contractor for the U.S. government.

Source: Gerald "Jerry" Lane, president & owner of Great Lakes Systems & Technology
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Insight Technologies grows revenue on strongest year yet

Michael Wade spent 20 years helping manage communication networks and data centers for large companies. Then he decided to take things into his own hands and start his own business, Insight Technologies.

"I thought there has to be a better way to do this," Wade says. "What I mean by a better way is higher quality for the customer."

Insight Technologies provides turn-key solutions for advanced corporate communications networks and data center systems. The Shelby Township-based firm did everything it could to stay afloat when it first launched four years ago. Wade describes working in those first few years as "survival mode."

Insight Technologies survived. Then it, like many other companies that were able to make it through the recession, thrived. Its revenue spiked 23 percent in 2013.

"Last year was our strongest year yet," Wade says.

He credits Insight Technologies' rise in business to an improving economy that has more businesses spending on updating their technology. Those firms that cut back on technology upgrades during the downturn now see the need to improve their IT infrastructure.

Wade always wanted to run his own business and is living that dream now. Currently he is his only employee, and he expects Insight Technologies to stay that way.

"I just enjoy doing it the way it is," Wade says.

Source: Michael Wade, principal of Insight Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Diversified Legal Staffing helps 50 legal pros find jobs

Finding a job in the legal world is far from as easy as it used to be. There is no shortage of news stories about too many attorneys graduating from law school for too few jobs. That’s why the team at Diversified Legal Staffing was happy to help 50 people find work in the legal world in 2013.

"We are flat-out overlawyered," says Mark Grobbel, owner of Diversified Legal Staffing. "We have too many attorneys to meet the demand."

The Bingham Farms-based company, an affiliate of D Diversified Services, helps professionals in the legal world find work. Those jobs range from attorneys to paralegals to legal administrative assistants.

Grobbel has been an attorney for 30 years and worked in legal staffing for 18 of those years. He started Diversified Legal Staffing in 2007 after being encouraged by a friend who owns D Diversified Services. Diversified Legal Staffing now employs a staff of six people.

Grobbel is pivoting his business plan by moving to a fixed-price hourly model for routine attorney document reviews. D Diversified Services will supply licensed attorneys at $30 per hour while carrying the cost of employing the attorneys. Grobbel hopes cost-effective pricing like this will lead to even more for the legal workers in Metro Detroit.

"If there is anyway to expand the pie, this is the way to do it," Grobbel says.

Source: Mark Grobbel, owner of Diversified Legal Staffing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Genesis Genetics hires 6, moves to larger Plymouth facility

Genesis Genetics has expanded its staff over the last year and is now moving to a bigger facility in downtown Plymouth to accommodate that growth.

The 13-year-old life sciences firm specializes in developing disease-detection technology that utilizes in vitro fertilization. Genesis Genetics has hired six people (laboratory scientists and administrative professionals) over the last year, expanding its staff to 40 employees, including 35 in Metro Detroit.

"We're growing pretty strongly," says Tony Gordon, managing director of Genesis Genetics. "We're at 40-45 percent growth."

Genesis Genetics was based in Detroit before making the move to Plymouth. It also has a satellite lab in Phoenix. The new space in Plymouth is roughly double the size of its old home, which the company expects will help facilitate its growth. Gordon says the new facility will allow for faster turn around time for its research, easier access to Metro Airport and closer proximity to the University of Michigan.

"It's a little bit of all of those things," Gordon says.

Genesis Genetics’ has two primary fertility technologies: Preimplantation Genetic Screening and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. Preimplantation Genetic Screening is a technology where an embryo can be transferred in an in vitro fertilization cycle after being tested for chromosomal abnormalities. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis is a laboratory procedure that is used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization to help detect certain single-gene diseases.

The number of testing embryos Genesis Genetics uses for this technology has gone up considerably over the last year. It has processed more than 1,000 extra samples in 2013 and expects that number to continue to rise.

"We expect to keep growing," Gordon says.

Source: Tony Gordon, managing director of Genesis Genetics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

SmartFinds Internet Marketing moves to bigger Birmingham office

Last year was a bit of a transition year for SmartFinds Internet Marketing.

The 27-year-old firm has moved to a new home, hired a handful of people and started to sharpen its aim on the services it provides.

"We have been focusing our message to our clients that we are marketeers more than a technology company," says Melih Oztalay, CEO of SmartFinds Internet Marketing. He further explains that in his experience that tech companies are more "order takers" while marketing firms work more collaboratively with their clients to shape messages in digital worlds.

SmartFinds Internet Marketing has been based in downtown Birmingham for most of its existence. Last year it moved into a bigger space, which measures about 1,000 square feet in more elbow room, on the other side of Old Woodward Avenue above Jos A Bank.

SmartFinds Internet Marketing has also hired four people in the last year, mostly account managers. Those were replacement hires for the company that currently employs 15 people but is aiming to grow that number in 2014.

To do that, Oztalay is turning the firm so it can provide more responsive web design. It is also looking to better keep up with Google searches.

"It's no longer about keyword searches," Oztalay says. "It's going to be about optimizing conversation."

Source: Melih Oztalay, CEO of  SmartFinds Internet Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Detroit's EO Accelerator sparks national program

What started out as a simple program to make good entrepreneurs in Metro Detroit better has grown into a global program.

The Detroit chapter of Entrepreneurs' Organization launched is own accelerator program in 2006. The aim is to help grow small businesses with six figures of revenue into seven-figure corporations through education and mentorship.

"We want entrepreneurs to continue to learn and grow and become better, stronger leaders," says Matt Farrell, president-election of the Detroit chapter of Entrepreneurs' Organization and the champion of Entrepreneurs' Organization Detroit Accelerator.

The three-year accelerator program offers a handful of educational seminars, ranging from how to grow sales to how to best deal with human resources. The program also pairs the entrepreneurs with local business people to provide mentorship and help enforce accountability. Most of the accelerator programs now offered around the world through Entrepreneurs' Organization have 15-22 participants on average.

Entrepreneurs' Organization Detroit Accelerator averages about 20 participants annually. Some of its alumni include Blue Newt Software (a software firm in downtown Ann Arbor) and Winning Futures, a non-profit focused on providing mentoring opportunities.

"The program has grown," Farrell says. "We have 17 participants with revenue north of $250,000 but less than $1 million."

Source: Matt Farrell, president-election of the Detroit chapter of Entrepreneurs' Organization
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.

Harley Ellis Devereaux expands team in Southfield

Harley Ellis Devereaux is growing its team at all levels at its Metro Detroit office in Southfield.

The national architecture firm has hired nine people over the last year, expanding its staff to 120 employees and one intern. It is also looking to hire four people, including engineers, project managers and a higher education studio lead. The firm has already hired a variety of engineers, architects and project managers, along with a new principal for the office.

"There is nothing like new people to improve our talent pool," says Michael Cooper, managing principal of Harley Ellis Devereaux's Metro Detroit office. "It also boosts the morale of the office."

Cooper credits the firm's growth to a number of factors, ranging from the customer satisfaction with the firm’s work to the improving national economy.

"The economy is cooperating," Cooper says. "It's getting stronger. Our clients are more active."

Harley Ellis Devereaux is 106 years old. The firm offers a wide variety of services, ranging from planning, architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, interior design, and construction services. It has offices in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

Source: Michael Cooper, managing principal of Harley Ellis Devereaux's Metro Detroit office
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Integral Technologies opens tech center in Canton

Integral Technologies opened a research and development tech center in Canton late last year and is working toward staffing it up in 2014.

"We will be expanding it early this year," says Doug Bathauer, CEO of Integral Technologies. "It will be focused on the engineering side of things."

The Washington-based company and its subsidiary, ElectriPlast, develop and make hybrid conductive plastics. ElectriPlast is a non-corrosive, electrically conductive resin-based material engineered to replace traditional metals such as steel or aluminum. It can be used for electrical and magnetic shielding applications in such industries as automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics, cable and alternative energy. Using ElectriPlast reduces the components' weight by 40-60 percent.

Integral Technologies has signed up a number of large automotive suppliers for ElectriPlast, including Delphi and BASF. Proximity to customers like that played a significant role in the decision to open the R&D tech center in Canton.

"It's really central to a lot of what we're doing," Bathauer says. "Our material, Electriplast, is very well suited for the transportation industry, particularly automotive."

Integral Technologies' Canton office is currently staffed by two full-time employees and 1-2 part-timers. Bathauer expects to hire a couple more people, primarily engineers, as the year goes on and demand for ElectriPlast increases. The tech center will serve as hub for potential customers to design ways to incorporate the material into their products.

"We want it to be an all-inclusive, one-stop-shop for applications of our material," Bathauer says.

Source: Doug Bathauer, CEO of Integral Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

RedViking merges with SuperiorControls, hires 48

To say 2013 has been a growth year for RedViking might be a bit of an understatement.

The Plymouth-based testing firm has hired 48 people over the last year. It now has a staff of 190 employees and a handful of interns. Most of its hires were engineers, and it's looking for another 15 people (mostly engineers) now.

"It's been an active year," says Randy Brodzik, president & CEO of RedViking. "And we're still looking for more."

RedViking also recently merged with SuperiorControls, the company that spun out RedViking in 2010. The two firms are roughly the same size, specializing in similar sorts of testing

RedViking designs, builds, installs and supports highly engineered aerospace and ground-vehicle powertrain test systems for large commercial and military organizations. SuperiorControls specializes in designing and building custom machines, software, automation and conveyance systems for manufacturers, primarily in automotive. But at the end of the day, the two companies share more things in common than not.

"When you look at the organization we're a bunch of engineers that like the challenge of new products," Brodzik says.

Source: Randy Brodzik, president & CEO of RedViking
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Yottabyte adds 5 to staff as it hits double-digit growth

Yottabyte is a 3-year-old software startup in transition, the type of transition it has been planning since its start.

"Now we're shifting from development to go-to-market," says Duane Tursi, principal of Yottabyte.

Yottabyte focuses on creating software that simplifies and automates IT infrastructure. Its two principal products, yStor and yCenter, specialize in different aspects of data storage. The yStor software creates an elastic and distributed storage platform that automatically adjusts when new resources are added. The system helps consolidate data storage functions.

The yCenter product creates a software-defined datacenter that enables the deployment of applications, the provision of virtual data center environments, and reconfiguring IT infrastructure in minutes. Yottabyte promotes it as an advanced software product for data centers. It is optimistic both of these systems will gain traction quickly in 2014.

"There is a readiness in the marketplace," Tursi says. "There is a consolidation going on in our space, so the rate at which our customers would adopt a non-name-brand product is pretty high."

To accommodate that, the Bloomfield Township-based firm has hired five people over the last year, including software programers and IT engineers. It currently employs a staff of 25 employees and one intern.

Source: Duane Tursi, principal of Yottabyte
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

VioPoint doubles space and adds jobs in Auburn Hills

If timing is everything, then the leadership team at VioPoint thinks it has the right ingredients for a significant growth spurt.

"We have the right people and the right services and we're going at the market at the right time," says Wolfgang Goerlich, vice president of consulting at VioPoint.

The 7-year-old firm creates cyber security solutions and provides IT security consulting for other businesses. Its team monitor activity for potential cyber attacks. They also identify and close vulnerabilities in IT systems.

VioPoint has built up its headquarters in Auburn Hills to accommodate the growing demand for its services. Its staff of a dozen employees now has double the square footage after hiring six people over the last year. The company has attracted a number of new clients in a variety of industries, such as healthcare and finance.

"There has been a growing awareness of the importance of cyber security," Goerlich says.

Source: Wolfgang Goerlich, vice president of consulting at VioPoint
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

FIRSTsense Medical aims to launch product next summer

It's been a long time coming, but FIRSTsense Medical is getting ready to begin selling its new breast cancer screening platform.

The Pontiac-based firm's breast cancer test uses robotics and software that emulates a manual test. FIRSTsense Medical claims that its technology achieves a 95-percent detection rate and has been validated in a 2,000-person trial.

"We hope to be in the market in June," says Paul Angott, president and founder of FIRSTsense Medical.

The 5-year-old firm has hired four people (software and mechanical engineers) over the last year to help get the technology to this point. The team of a dozen people helped FIRSTsense Medical make the semifinals of last month's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

FIRSTsense Medical has raised $5 million in seed capital and is in the midst of raising another $5 million in a Series B round. It is also working with a contract sales company to make sales directly to hospitals and medical centers.

Source: Paul Angott, president & founder of FIRSTsense Medical
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Commercial Progression grows in new downtown Northville HQ

Alex Fisher worked at a startup when the economy crashed five years ago. That's when he got laid off and found himself at a crossroads in life.

"It was the first chance to do whatever I wanted," Fisher says. So he gave being his own boss a chance, taking on a few software and digital marketing projects. That turned into the start of his current firm, Commercial Progression.

"I figured I would keep doing that until I crashed and burned," Fisher says. "That hasn't happened yet," he laughs.

In fact, Commercial Progression has flourished. It went from a virtual company to establishing its own office in downtown Northville a year ago. It has also hired four people over the last year, filling out its new space with a total core team of nine workers and two interns.

"We have doubled in size over the last year," Fisher says.

The firm has done that primarily by handling software and Drupal web-design projects for manufacturers and technology firms. Now that Commercial Progression has landed those clients, it is looking to capitalize on them in the new year.

"Two-thousand-fourteen is going to be about cultivating relationships with these companies," Fisher says.

Source: Alex Fisher, founder of Commercial Progression
Writer: Jon Zemke

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