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UltraLevel spins out CloudSAFE in Southfield

UltraLevel, an IT firm, is spinning out a private cloud computing company called CloudSAFE this week.

"Our customers are companies like UltraLevel," says Michael L. Butz, Sr., founder & CEO of UltraLevel. "We have three partners, and we are working to grow it from there."

CloudSAFE offers integrated private and hybrid cloud services with live technical support. Its initial products include providing IT infrastructure out of the office and into a secure private cloud, IT disaster recovery services, a managed firewall protection services, and voice-over IP services.

The company is currently covering the Midwest and part of the Washington, D.C., area. Butz has plans to make the company a national player within the next 12 months.

"I'd like to establish us as North America’s premier private cloud computing company," Butz says.

CloudSAFE currently employs a team of 15 people and is hiring.

"We expect to double in the next 12 months," Butz says.

Source: Michael L. Butz, Sr., founder & CEO of UltraLevel
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Community Choice, NuPath credit unions merge

Community Choice Credit Union is merging with NuPath Community Credit Union, creating a larger metro Detroit-based financial institution that will carry on under the Community Choice Credit Union’s banner.

The newly expanded credit union will now have 67,000 members across Michigan and $665 million in total assets. The merger with NuPath Community Credit Union will open up the downriver market to Community Choice Credit Union, along with other locations across Michigan.

"Downriver certainly is an area that is a good fit for us," says Alan Bergstrom, senior vice president & chief marketing officer for Community Choice Credit Union. "NuPath also has a branch in Holland, which was attractive to us. We have been looking at going from a strictly metro Detroit credit union to serving other areas of Michigan."

NuPath Community Credit Union has three branches in Wyandotte, Flat Rock, and Holland. Those branches and the credit union’s employees will be folded into the Community Choice Credit Union's workforce. The new credit union now employs about 200 people.

Community Choice Credit Union will now have 13 branches after the merger. The Farmington Hills-based credit union recently opened a new branch in Northville near Six Mile and Haggerty roads. It is also in the process of building out another new branch in Shelby Township that is set to open early next year. The 80-year-old credit union is also looking to execute more mergers, one of which is currently in the works.

"Based on our strategic plan, we have a pretty aggressive growth plan in place," Bergstrom says. "That includes mergers."

Source: Alan Bergstrom, senior vice president & chief marketing officer for Community Choice Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Qstride looks to hire 25 people at Techweek Detroit

Qstride is celebrating its birthday in a big way. The 3-year-old firm plans to hire 25 people later this month, starting at the Techweek Detroit conference next week.

"We're looking to hire a number of technologists at Techweek," says Shane Gianino, CEO of Qstride.

Techweek is a national conference that specializes in technology entrepreneurship. It brings together local leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors who specialize in everything from software to hardware. The week-long event will be held at Ford Field starting on Monday.

Qstride is one of the sponsors of Techweek Detroit and plans to use the event as a recruiting tool for the staffing end of its business. The Troy-based company (it also has an office in downtown Detroit) generates the lion’s share of its revenue from providing staffing and consulting services to tech firms. It also resells software.

Qstride has customers across the U.S., from New York to Texas to San Francisco. It has grown significantly over the last year, expanding its staff to 20 people with eight hires. It is also looking to begin raising a $1 million seed round to help it rapidly scale its growth curve.

"We're starting the process of raising the capital, such as putting together the pitch deck," Gianino says.

Source: Shane Gianino, CEO of Qstride
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Attorney creates own law practice based on mediation

Antoinette "Toni" Raheem knew what it was like to work in corporate law. She knew it so well that she was inspired to launch her own legal practice: Law & Mediation Office of Antoinette R. Raheem.

"I was with a big firm for a number of years and learned what I could from them," Raheem says. "I decided it would be best if I went out on my own."

The Bloomfield Hills-based legal practice specializes primarily in mediation. That can mean settling disputes for everything from divorces to business partnerships gone wrong.

"The legal system is made to increase animosity between people," Raheem says.

She adds that the legal system sets up people to argue with each other. It picks winners and losers. It decides who is right and wrong. Raheem believes there is a different way forward for litigants through simple communication.

"You can meet everybody’s needs," Raheem says. "You don't need a winner or a loser."

The Law & Mediation Office of Antoinette Raheem is a one-woman show, but it's one that is pushing for change in the local legal system.

"I'd like to see more immediate and frequent use of mediation," Raheem says.

Source: Antoinette "Toni" Raheem, owner of the Law & Mediation Office of Antoinette Raheem
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

123.Net leads effort to create Detroit Internet Exchange

123.Net is leading an effort to add more speed and remove more problems from your Internet experience.

The Southfield-based Internet/data center company has created the Detroit Internet Exchange (Det-IX for short), a local Internet exchange passing Internet traffic locally between carriers for improved speed and lower cost.

"Our goal is to get as many companies in Michigan to interconnect locally instead of paying carriers in Chicago," says Ryan Duda, CTO of 123.Net.

Today, people from metro Detroit who send an email to their neighbor might have to route it through a Chicago-based Internet exchange. Going through a third-party provider in another time zone creates a longer sending time. Many major metropolitan areas already have an Internet exchange, but this will be metro Detroit’s first.

Det-IX will enable local carriers who share bandwidth to send information over the World Wide Web faster and more affordably by utilizing peer-to-peer efficiencies. The creation of Det-IX will also upgrade the data infrastructure in Michigan and make it more appealing to new economy businesses who depend on Internet connectivity.

Source: Ryan Duda, CTO of 123.Net
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Waltonen Engineering aims to fill 30 positions for engineers, designers

Waltonen Engineering is looking for engineers, designers, project leaders, and others as it hustles to keep up with the demands of customers. The Warren-based firm is looking to fill 30 positions in all. You can check out the openings here.

"Our customer base has been extremely busy," says Lloyd Brown, CEO of Waltonen Engineering. "We want to make sure we are in a position to support our longstanding clients. The one thing we hate to do in business is turn down business."

To make sure that doesn't happen, the 58-year-old firm is looking to fill positions working on products in the manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, and military sectors.

"It's busy in all sectors right now," Brown says. "The demand is there."

Waltonen Engineering has worked to diversify its client base in recent years, allowing it to consistently notch double-digit increases in revenue. The firm hired 20 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 125 employees and about a dozen interns.

Source: Lloyd Brown, CEO of Waltonen Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Plymouth-based Algal Scientific scores $7M in Series B

Algal Scientific recently secured a Series B round of investment worth $7 million. The Plymouth-based biotech startup plans to use the money to commercialize algae-based chemicals that help wean livestock farmers from over using antibiotics on their animals.

"The $7 million is a great thing," says Geoff Horst, CEO of Algal Scientific. "We're seeing a lot of interest from the agricultural industry."

The 6-year-old startup launched by developing a wastewater treatment system that uses algae to remove nutrients from contaminated water. The leftovers would become the raw materials for biofuel production. It won the grand prize of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition a few years ago and has since raised a combined $10 million in seed capital, including the most recent Series B.

The latest investment was led by Formation 8, with additional participation from Evonik Industries and Independence Equity. Algal Scientific has also received extensive help from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

"Without them we certainly wouldn't be where we are right now," Horst says.

Algal Scientific is now focused on developing agriculture solutions, such as the massive overuse of antibiotics in food supply. Its principal product, Algamune, is the world’s first beta glucan commercially produced from algae, which can be introduced into the diets of livestock and poultry to naturally support the animals' immune systems without relying on antibiotics.

"We have been really ramping up production of the algae," Horst says.

The company has hired five people over the last year. It now employs a staff of 14 employees and the occasional intern.

Source: Geoff Horst, CEO of Algal Scientific
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DroneView Technologies lands seed capital for commercial drone tech

DroneView Technologies has landed an undisclosed amount of seed capital from a big name, R.L. Polk & Co chairman Stephen Polk.

The Bloomfield Hills-based company is developing technology for drone aerial imaging solutions and drone operator training.

"It's an opportunity where we would rather make our own platform," says Michael Singer, CEO of DroneView Technologies. "It's an industry that's really at an inflection point. It was developed by the military and is being adapted to commercial uses."

The 1-year-old company currently employs two employees and 6-12 independent contractors. It is headquartered in Bloomfield Hills but also has an office in New York. The seven-figure seed capital raise will help the company further develop its technology and add to its team.

DroneView Technologies is looking to apply its technology to a broad variety of industries, such as real-estate construction and industrial inspection. Any place where data needs to be collected in hard-to-reach places.

"We want to become a nationally recognized brand in drone space," Singer says.

Source: Michael Singer, CEO of DroneView Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

CAM Logic caps off banner year with more hires

Last year, CAM Logic, a product lifecycle management sales company, grew organically and through acquisition, but its leadership has a different way of describing that success.

"It was a banner year," says Angelo Biondo, GM & vice president of CAM Logic.

The Oxford-based company specializes in selling product lifecycle management solutions like 3-D scanning and rapid prototyping technologies used to design, build, and improve products. It experienced 38 percent revenue growth last year selling those products and support services.

Part of that growth came through acquisition. CAM Logic bought the Midwest book of business from a competitor (Acuity) last year. That acquisition aside, CAM Logic still experienced 22 percent revenue growth, which is par for the course for the company these days. It has also hired four people, expanding its staff to 20 employees.

"We have seen steady growth," Biondo says.

Leading that growth is CAM Logic’s team expanding its workload with its current customers, or "increasing walletshare" as Biondo says. A lot of that expanded business has come from increased sales in printing and scanning equipment.

"That business has really ramped up in the last year," Biondo says.

Source: Angelo Biondo, GM & vice president of CAM Logic
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Harley Ellis Devereaux hires 10 as it expands architecture work

In 2014, national architecture firm Harley Ellis Devereaux experienced solid growth in Michigan.

The Southfield office of the company has grown its revenue by 10 percent over the last year, allowing it to hire 10 people. Its staff now stands at 120 employees and three interns. The new jobs include architects, engineers, and technical staff. Harley Ellis Devereaux is also looking to hire a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer.

The company's leadership expects to grow at that pace again in 2015 by focusing on its core competencies. "We continue to be focused on the areas where we can best leverage our expertise," says Michael Cooper, managing principal of Harley Ellis Devereaux.

The 106-year-old firm and offers a wide variety of services, including planning, architecture, and engineering. It services clients in a number of different industries, from healthcare to advanced manufacturing to higher education.

"Those markets have been doing well here," Cooper says. "As a result our opportunities for new work have also been doing well."

Source: Michael Cooper, managing principal of Harley Ellis Devereaux
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Brownrigg Companies grows by bringing clarity to insurance policies

Brownrigg Companies is an insurance agency that prides itself on knowing what it's selling, as well as letting its customers know what they are buying.

Ever read the first page of insurance policy and feel lost? Ever look at the stack of pages that come after it and feel even worse about your chances or ever really understanding what you just bought? Brownrigg Companies is making sure its customers don't ever feel that way.

"We really study the policies," says Nancy Brownrigg, CEO of Brownrigg Companies. "We want to make sure customers understand what they are buying. We don't pay our sales team on a commission. They are educators."

The Troy-based company sells commercial insurance policies, including products for industries that require unique and large insurance programs such manufacturers of plastics, chemicals, and automotive components.

The 26-year-old business has grown about 10 percent annually over the last five years. That has allowed it to hire three people in underwriting and customer service. It currently employs 15 people and is looking to hire one more.

Brownrigg Companies has also been recently recognized as among the top 10 percent of all agencies representing Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company. The award is based on a number of factors including production, outstanding customer service, and business retention.

"It lets us know we are meeting their goals and objections," Brownrigg says. "And that we are making products companies want to purchase."

Source: Nancy Brownrigg, CEO of Brownrigg Companies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Fred Astaire Dance Studio hires as it adds wheelchair dance classes

The Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills is adding to its staff by offering classes tailored to disabled dancers.

The Bloomfield Hills-based business recently hired a new dance instructor to lead an effort to start a wheelchair dance workshop. The dance-instruction business has made a name for itself over the last decade teaching traditional ballroom dancing, and the new wheelchair dance workshop is expected to help bring the joy of dancing to a whole new group of people. Wheelchair dancers use special wheelchairs with slanted wheels that allow for more agile mobility.

"They can experience something they thought they might never do," says Evan Mountain, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills.

Clinton Township resident Cheryl Angelelli is one of the first people to take advantage of the wheelchair dance workshop at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills. Angelelli broke her neck in a swimming accident at 14. She is working with dance instructor Sergio Sanchez thanks to a grant from the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan Foundation that is subsidizing the workshop set to begin on May 2.

Wheelchair dancing was pioneered in Sweden in 1968 and has grown in popularity with participants in 29 countries. It became a Paralympic sport in 1998. Today, the IPC Wheelchair Dance World Championships are held every two years.

"In Europe, it's a very big sport," Mountain says.

Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills employs a staff of 10 and is looking for interns. It has hired five people over the last year, including two newly created jobs. It has grown its business over the last few years as the economy has rebounded, but also as it does more community outreach efforts, such as the wheelchair dancing workshop.

"It's part of our business model," Mountain says. "If we can use the skills we have to help the community or someone in it, we do it."

Source: Evan Mountain, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Eagle Thread Verifer aims to diversify client base

The five-person team behind the Eagle Thread Verifer has some big plans to diversify what has primarily been an automotive industry company.

The Sterling Heights-based firm's principal product is a patented automatic thread gauge that catches 99 percent of all thread problems in any manufacturing process, such as removing weld spatter in projected welded nuts. It is designed to operate in the rigorous production environment of automotive industry plants, preventing improperly tapped parts from reaching final assembly.

But the company wants to market its product to customers beyond the automotive industry.

"It can apply to all industries that drill or use tap holes," says Gordon Taylor, president of Eagle Thread Verifer.

Eagle Thread Verifier got its start in 1990 when the father-son team of Alphonso and Thomas Peplinski started tinkering with the idea of an automatic thread gauge verification system in their engineering design shop, Eagle Design. It came to the market just before Alphonso Peplinski's death in 2004 when it was installed at American Axle & Manufacturing.

Taylor, a long time sales engineer for the company, succeeded Alphonso Peplinski. Taylor and his team are looking to begin selling this tool’s services more thoroughly to Tier 1 auto suppliers and into more industries, such as oil-and-gas and wind energy.

"There is no end to the use of this tool," Taylor says. "It used to be just about autos."

Source: Gordon Taylor, president of Eagle Thread Verifer
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

G2 Consulting Group hires 10, looks to hire 10 more

When the Great Recession hit, G2 Consulting Group adapted by integrating more technology into its business model. It was a successful strategy and the firm grew significantly in the years that followed. Today it’s using that same philosophy to keep growing.

The Troy-based construction firm specializes in environmental and geotechnical engineering services. (Think of it as doing the construction work that takes place below the ground, such as soil testing.) The addition of technology, such as remote monitoring of solar panels or sensors at the I-94/I-69 interchange that track vibration, has become an integral part of the company's work.

"We're just using more technology to get the data," says Noel Hargrave-Thomas, principal of G2 Consulting Group.

The firm opened a satellite office in Ann Arbor last year and now has a staff of 46 employees and five interns. It has hired 10 people over the last year.

"We're looking to hire 10 more," Hargrave-Thomas says.

The driving force behind those new hires is revenue growth. G2 Consulting Group's revenue spiked 43 percent in 2014, which is up from 31 percent growth in 2013 and 20 percent growth the year before.

"We're on pace to continue that growth," Hargrave-Thomas says.

Source: Noel Hargrave-Thomas, principal of G2 Consulting Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PeachWorks scores $4M in VC, opens Southfield HQ

Software startup PeachWorks has landed a few million dollars seed capital and is opening its first headquarters in Southfield this spring.

The 8-year-old company, formerly known as WhenToManage, provides cloud-based software for the restaurant management industry. Its $4 million Series A was led by Indiana-based Allos Ventures. Other early stage venture capital firms participating in the round are Ann Arbor-based Huron River Ventures, Florida-based Arsenal Venture Partners, and downtown Detroit-based Invest Detroit.

"We're rolling out a new general product and platform," says Mark Symonds, CEO of PeachWorks. "We're also building out staff and marketing."

PeachWorks principal product is a subscription-based software platform for restaurants. The platform handles recipe and inventory management, point-of-sale analytics, and staff scheduling. It can be used by restaurants, hospitality businesses, speciality retailers, and food service markets.

"Our sweet spot is fast casual, casual, and fine dinning," Symonds says.

Symonds recently joined PeachWorks as CEO after serving as the CEO of Plex Systems, a software firm that specializes in cloud ERP for manufacturers. He says PeachWorks had been more virtually based before this year with staff spread across the U.S. Metro Detroit contained the highest concentration of those staff. The company currently employs 35 people after hiring eight over the last year. It is currently looking to add another six people.

"Southfield is centrally located," Symonds says. "We also have an office in downtown Ann Arbor."

Source: Mark Symonds, CEO of PeachWorks
Writer: Jon Zemke

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