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Revolution Lighting acquires Oxford-based Relume Technologies

Revolution Lighting Technologies has acquired Relume Technologies and plans to keep the Oxford-based firm’s facilities in Oxford.

Relume Technologies makes LED lights and smart-grid control systems. Think LED streetlights and the control systems that help maximize electricity usage. LED lights are seen as the next generation in energy efficient lights, and use exponentially less electricity than traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Relume Technologies is a portfolio company of Beringea, Michigan’s largest venture capital firm. Revolution Lighting Technologies, a Connecticut-based company listed on the NASDAQ, agreed to pay $15 million to acquire Relume Technologies with $5 million in cash and $10 million worth of its common stock.

“We thought there was a strong partnership with Revolution Lighting,” says Michael Gross, managing director of Beringea. He adds, “we thought it was a better path for growth than just keeping Relume as a stand-alone company.”

Relume Technologies’
acquisition is Beringea’s fourth exit in the last five months. It is also Beringea’s second exit of a Michigan-based company this year. Pioneer Surgical Technology, which is based in Marquette, was acquired in June.

Source: Michael Gross, managing director of Beringea
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Steady growth is recipe for success for PublicCity PR

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race for Jason Brown, but steady growth is the preferred way he wants to grow his business, PublicCity PR.

The Southfield-based company has recorded double-digit revenue gains in the last year, allowing it to hire one person. It now has a staff of four employees and the occasional intern.

“It has been steady growth,” Brown says. “It’s up 15-20 percent. It’s been great.”

Brown started PublicCity PR five years ago in October. The veteran journalist and Michigan State University graduate has grown the business from his kitchen table to big enough for its own office last year. The firm has mainly worked with small businesses from Metro Detroit, taking on more clients through word-of-mouth referrals.

However, PublicCity PR is starting to grow outside of that norm. For instance, Dan Clark (Nitro from American Gladiators) reached out to PublicCity PR earlier this summer to promote his Gladiator Rock n’ Run in Metro Detroit earlier this summer.

“This random guy in California does his own research and finds us,” Brown says. “There are dozens of PR companies in Metro Detroit and he chose us.”

Source: Jason Brown, principal of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Innovative Learning Group leverages diverse client base for growth

Innovative Learning Group has added 12 new clients over the last year, but the value in that news comes from when you take a deep look at the list of customers.

The new customers include the likes of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Ford. The business consultancy’s client list spans a number of different industries, ranging from IT to medical devices to healthcare to pharmaceutical.

“We have always had quite a mix,” says Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group. “It’s great from a diversification standpoint. It’s also interesting for our consultants. It’s also nice to share things across industries and it’s not a competitive problem.”

That growth has allowed Innovative Learning Group to hire one person over the last year, a business development executive. It now employs 13 people. The 10-year-old company, which is based in downtown Royal Oak, has been doing more work in mobile strategic projects, such as how best to streamline mobile apps into the everyday work routine of a sales professional.

“How does it integrate into the way they do their jobs?” Toenniges says.

Source: Lisa Toenniges, CEO of Innovative Learning Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Kidpreneur brings entrepreneurship education to tweens

Thanh Tran is of the belief that more people would pursue entrepreneurship the earlier they start making money with their own business. It’s why he's launching an entrepreneurial education company for tweens, called Kidpreneur.

“We want them to be able to start that early,” Tran says. “That’s why we pick that niche of ages between eight and 13 years old.”

Kidpreneur’s 9-week classes will provide a start-up environment for young people at the offices of Digital Roots in the historic WaterWheel Centre in Northville. Students will learn the basics of building a business through new technology, such as building their own server for Minecraft, a video game where users can placing blocks to build anything they imagine.

“We want to give them a place where they can build their business idea into a reality,” Tran says.

Tran, a serial tech entrepreneur, plans to keep the classes to about four students to one teacher. They will also be divided into skill levels, such as beginner, intermediate and expert. The company plans to start its first class on Sept. 21. It currently employs four people.

Source: Thanh Tran, founder of Kidpreneur
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

WorkForce Software creates 40 more jobs in Livonia

WorkForce Software is growing, adding dozens of jobs at its headquarters in Livonia as it extends the reach of its software around the world.

The tech firm, which makes management software for large employers, has hired 100 people over the last year. It now has a staff of 380 employees and eight interns. The company's revenue is up 50 percent and its software is deployed in almost 1,000 locations around the world.

"By year's end, we will be in 100 countries," says Kevin Choksi, co-founder & CEO of WorkForce Software.

Livonia has been the beneficiary of most of those hires, taking in 40 new employees over the last year. It has also added six people to its new downtown Ann Arbor office. Those positions have been predominantly software engineers but have also included technical support and sales and marketing professionals. It also has between 30 and 40 open positions, ranging from software engineering to project management.

"There is a wide range of people we are looking for," Choksi says.

Driving this growth is the company's expansion overseas. It has done a lot of work in Australia and Europe.

"It's part of a concerted effort to grow overseas," Choksi says. "It's hard work but there it a lot of potential."

Source: Kevin Choksi, co-founder & CEO of WorkForce Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Livio hires 4 in Ferndale, looks to hire 4 more

Livio is looking for a few good entrepreneurs to come to work in Ferndale.

The tech start-up has four job openings for software engineers, and it's looking for people with an entrepreneurial mindset to fill those positions. Why would someone with entrepreneurial ambitions want to go work for someone else? Jake Sigal, Livio's CEO, explains that his company is looking more for someone with "an entrepreneurial attitude about software engineering."

"We look for problem-solving skills rather than expertise," Sigal says. He adds that other qualities Livio is looking for are software developers who are so passionate about coding that they do it in their free time. The company also wants people who can thrive on finding innovative solutions and can work without a lot of direction.

Livio has already hired four software engineers over the last year, expanding its staff to 15 employees and two interns.

Sigal started the company in 2008 as Livio Radio, making radios that could play Internet music websites like Pandora. It has evolved since then to include Livio Connect, which helps stream Internet radio, and other apps, from smart phones to an automobile's sound system. The company is currently working on a new platform called Livio Car Keys that Sigal describes as a platform serving as a marketplace for automobiles and mobile apps.

Livio has continued to grow over the last year, thanks mainly to what Sigal describes as the company's ability to pivot and turn around products quickly. That sort of nimbleness is thanks to the start-up's entrepreneurial culture, which is what Sigal wants to maintain with this latest round of new hires.

Source: Jake Sigal, CEO & founder of Livio
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.

PRISM Plastics continues growth streak with 6 new staff

The recession hit PRISM Plastics hard, just like it did the rest of the manufacturers in the automotive supplier world.

That was 2008. The next year the Chesterfield Township-based company notched $5 million in revenue. It hit $8 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011. Revenues spiked to $18 million last year and the company is on track to reach $24 million in 2013, and $30 million next year.

"We have been on an attractive growth spurt since the 2009 recovery," says Gerry Phillips, vice president of PRISM Plastics.

The 14-year-old company makes seat belts, air bags and brake parts. It has operations in Chesterfield, Texas and Port Huron. The firm has a workforce of 62 employees and one intern. It has hired six people over the last year and has another six positions open now for engineers and technicians.

"Everything we do is automated," Phillips says. "All of our manufacturing positions are higher-level technician positions."

Source: Gerry Phillips, vice president of PRISM Plastics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

We Build Databases expands with custom business app work

We Build Databases has become a mobile app company but not necessarily the stereotypical start-up kind that hawks its software in the Apple store.

The Washington Township-based company has traditionally specialized in database software. It now creates custom mobile apps that helps improve a business' operations, finances and workflow. That sort of work has allowed We Build Databases to grow its revenue by 15 percent over the last year as it focuses on doing work for small- and medium-size businesses.

"We have been able to grow in a pretty organic fashion," says Dan Reynolds, CEO of We Build Databases. "Things are looking pretty good for us."

The 6-year-old company has hired five employees over the last year, expanding the firm's staff to 18 employees. Its newest hires have included database developers, software architects and mobile app developers.

"There is a ton of talent in Michigan," Reynolds says. "The work ethic here is second to none."

Source: Dan Reynolds, CEO of We Build Database
Writer: Jon Zemk

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

Spider9 adds to staff, scores big European contract

Spider9 just scored a significant contract to help provide an energy storage system for a large solar installation in Europe. It's a win that is expected to set the stage for more growth for the sustainability start-up.

"It's a very significant project," says Glynne Townsend, president & CEO of Spider9. "It's twice the size of anything we have done so far. It's also the first project we have done in Europe."

The downtown Northville-based company's technology helps make alternative energy generation and storage more efficient. It is partnering with with Easypower, a European-based energy firm, to deliver a two-megawatt hour grid-tied energy storage system. The system is set to be installed next year and will be tied to a large solar panel farm in Europe.

Spider9 will provide the hardware and software to manage the system. This is a big step-up for the company because most of the systems it manages handle half a megawatt hour of alternative energy generation.

The 2-year-old company has validated, demonstrated and made the first sales of its technology over the last year. It has also hired four people in that time period, expanding its staff to 15 employees.

"We're starting to get some traction in the market," Townsend says. "We're looking to triple our sales over the next 12 months and double our staff."

Source: Glynne Townsend, president & CEO of Spider9
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IT firm KNS Technologies opens Metro Detroit office

KNS Technologies, a Virginia-based IT firm, is opening a Metro Detroit office in St. Clair Shores to take advantage of the rebounding automotive industry.

KNS Technologies aims to go after automakers and their suppliers, offering services in cloud computing, data integration, CRM platforms and mobile apps. "With more integration of mobile technology and the automobile, mobile is going to become more important," says Len Capelli, director of business development for KNS Technologies.

Capelli is a Metro Detroit native and an Eastern Michigan University graduate. He says he still maintained his membership at the Detroit Athletic Club after he left and wants his company to be part of the automotive industry's rebound.

KNS Technologies choose St. Clair Shores for its Metro Detroit office because of its proximity to a number of the region's automotive centers, such as downtown Detroit, Dearborn and Rochester. He also liked St. Clair Shore's low start-up costs to establishing an office and its proximity to Lake St. Clair.

"By next summer, I hope to have a boat there," Capelli says.

KNS Technologies Metro Detroit office is a one-person venture right now, but Capelli expects that presence to grow to two people by the end of this year. He also sees it growing to seven people by the end of 2014.

"We hope to expand it fairly quickly," Capelli says.

Source: Len Capelli, director of business development for KNS Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dearborn's ticglobal switches gears to keep growing

Metro Detroit's automakers have been a big part of ticglobal's bottom line since the graphic and visualization firm's inception in 1987.

That started to change earlier this year when one of the major automakers pulled its work from the Dearborn-based firm. It was a pretty big wakeup call for the company and its staff of 32 people, which is now hustling to diversify its client base with customers in aerospace or defense.

"We're looking at other transportation industries, such as boats or motorcycles," says Peter Kapas, president of ticglobal. He adds that his company is on its way to replacing half of the lost revenue by the end of the year and all of it by early 2014.

To do this, the company is leveraging the region's business-building resources, such as Automation Alley. The expectation is to find other small-to-medium-size businesses that are looking for quality graphic design and visualization work.

"It's just getting our message out," Kapas says. "We want to help companies get a clear message out to any company that manufactures a product and is interested in quality and how that translates to their bottom line."

Source: Peter Kapas, president of ticglobal and Anthony Kapas, vice president of ticglobal
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Biz consultant starts Vidorum consultancy in Sterling Heights

Quentin Forgues loved his work as a business consultant in the corporate world. The serial entrepreneur loves the aspects of building businesses and helping them improve so much that he wanted to do it on a bigger scale, so he started his own consulting firm, Vidorum.

"It's my passion," Forgues says. "It's like the saying of throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow."

Vidorum  is doing a lot of work with companies in the Macomb-OU INCubator in Sterling Heights where it is based. "I like to just observe for a while," Forgues says. "I can pick up on where they need to improve."

The 8-month-old company is also creating a consulting software platform called ImpACT. The web-based platform focuses on improving accountability, control, reporting and time management for businesses. Its release will include a mobile app of its platform.

Source: Quentin Forgues, president of Vidorum
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Green start-up Terra-Telesis aims to capture feral energy

Ever feel the breeze when a bus passes, or watch something get knocked over when a jet engine takes off? That phenomenon is called wake vortex or jet blast, but Al Khavari sees it as the basis of a new alternative energy start-up.

Terra-Telesis is working on technology that can harness this feral energy, such as through a turbine. "We are trying to repurpose energy," Khavari says.

The Sterling Heights-based company (it calls the Macomb-OU INCubator home) is currently working on a model of the technology. Khavari and his team of two people expect to continue demonstrating the technology's effectiveness and raise a seed capital round later this year and into 2014.

"We have reached the point that with two more tests and money we will be able to test the technology in a wind tunnel and the real world."

Terra-Telesis is currently looking to raise $750,000 and expected to build its first prototype within the next year.

Source: Al Khavari, founder of Terra-Telesis
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

ZeroBase cuts ribbon to new HQ in Ferndale

ZeroBase is cutting the ribbon to its new headquarters in Ferndale today, a move that is helping accommodate the alternative energy start-up's rapid growth.

ZeroBase, formerly ZeroBase Energy, makes solar-powered off-grid systems designed to be used in remote areas. The 4-year-old company landed a large contract with the U.S. Army, which allowed it to begin making its products in earnest late last year.

The company has since expanded its team from three employees to 14 employees and three interns to meet the demand for its products. That growth prompted the company to move from its 500 square feet of space in TechTown to 3,000 square feet in Ferndale.

"We didn't have a lot of space," says Michelle Klassen, power product specialist for ZeroBase. "We were piled on top of each other."

The new space in Ferndale gives the ZeroBase team some elbow room to continue its work. The company is focusing on pilot projects for commercial customers for the rest of this year, such as providing its mobile alternative energy products to rural areas in African countries.

The new headquarters, which includes space for offices and lab work, will help accelerate the time to develop a successful pilot to half a year or less. Plus, the new space will provide close proximity to local companies and organizations that might be interested in doing business with ZeroBase in one way or another.

"It (the new location) is mainly about community development," Klassen says. "We want to be in a location where we can reach out to local businesses."

Source: Michelle Klassen, power product specialist for ZeroBase
Writer: Jon Zemke

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