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Grand Circus Media establishes itself in local music scene

Joe Choma found himself working in the financial investment sector after college, but not for too long. The long-time music fan decided to pursue his passion and ended up starting his own company, Grand Circus Media.

The Grosse Pointe-based business specializes in management, booking, and promotions of live music acts. Among its projects are the Dark Star Orchestra show at the Majestic and the Rag Birds show at the Magic Bag.

"We typically work with an electronic theme," Choma says. "We also work in folk, bluegrass, or jam-band indie rock."

Choma got his start interning for Paxahau, working with its street team promotion. He now does artist relations and marketing for Paxahau’s biggest events.

"I wear a couple of different hats," Choma says. "I like doing it. I started doing work at Movement five years ago doing artist check-in. My role has grown since then."

Choma plans to keep increasing the number of events Grand Circus Media puts on. He also wants to help grow the local bluegrass music scene.

"It's interesting because I work in one realm at a far end of the spectrum, and then on another form at the end of the music spectrum," Choma says.

Source: Joe Choma, owner of Grand Circus Media
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Plymouth-based Advaita lands nearly $2M in SBIR funding

Advaita scored nearly $2 million in seed capital this month after it landed the second phase of an SBIR grant to develop its bioinformatics software.

"It will allow us to continue development of our software tools and our products for personalized medicine," says Sorin Draghici, president & CEO of Advaita.

The Plymouth-based startup is commercializing gene pathway analysis technology developed at Wayne State University called Pathway Guide. The platform helps researchers trying to understand the data generated by high-throughput experiments, including next-generation sequencing. It aims to eliminate false positives in diagnosis, as well as correctly identify biologically meaningful pathways in a given disease.

Advaita's technology is being used by a number of large research universities, including Harvard, Columbia University Medical Center and the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

"We have a number of high-profile institutions that are using our tools," Draghici says. "We are also getting ready to release a new web application called iPathwayGuide."

Advaita employs a staff of 11 people, along with three summer interns. It has hired two people over the last year, including a project manager and PhD-level research scientists. It is currently looking to hire up to two software developers as the company aims to ramp up the commercialization of its technology over the rest of the year.

"We would like to expand our user base substantially," Draghici says. "We'd like to include some big pharmaceutical companies as customers."

Source: Sorin Draghici, president & CEO of Advaita
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Impact Management Services aims to fill 170 jobs

Looking for a new job? Blue collar? White collar? Impact Management Services probably has a position for you.

The Southfield-based staffing firm is looking to fill 170 positions right now. The new jobs include machine operators (115 jobs), welders (35), high-lo drivers (20), along with a smattering of positions for quality engineers, manufacturing engineers, controls engineers and industrial engineers.

"These are all long-term, permanent employment opportunities," says Jeff Lothian, executive vice president of Impact Management Services.

The 9-year-old company held three jobs fairs earlier this week, and plans to hold more later this month. For more information, click here.

Impact Management Services has helped about 2,000 people find employment over the last year. The firm currently has 700 people working for other companies on contract positions. It has an internal staff of 20 people along with a few summer interns. It has hired four recruiters over the last year to help it meed the demand of its clientele.

"The Detroit market is hotter than ever," Lothian says. "We see growth all over town. It’s growth at a rapid rate and we are seeing it across the board with our customers."

Source: Jeff Lothian, executive vice president of Impact Management Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Identity hires 4, adds 17 new clients in last year

Maturation is becoming an increasingly important word at Identity. It applies to the public relations firm’s client list, business model and staff.

The Bingham Farms-based firm has added 17 new clients over the last year. Those new clients include some larger-and-growing firms like Atlas Oil Company and Carbon Media Group. Taylor-based Atlas Oil Company (a national fuel supply, logistics and services firm) hired Identity for media relations, marketing and social media work. Bingham Farms-based Carbon Media Group (a digital content producer for outdoors enthusiasts) retained Identity for media relations and marketing services.

"We are seeing more sophisticated and larger clients," says Mark Winter, partner at Identity. "I think it's a sign of the maturing of our agency. We’re growing up."

The larger customer base accompanies Identity's own recent efforts to refine and streamline its business model. "Our focus in the last year and a half has been on efficiency and profitability," Winter says.

This has allowed Identity to add to its staff. The 15-year-old company has hired four people over the last year, two for its creative department and two for its media relations department. It currently has a staff of 23 employees and an intern. It is currently looking to hire two people for assistant account executives, and expects to promote more people from within for higher-up positions.

"We grow from within," Winter says. "We are constantly working on growing our own leaders."

Source: Mark Winter, partner at Identity
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

CitrinGroup investment firm adds 4 new consultants

CitrinGroup made a name for itself in its early years as an investment firm with a track record for sizable returns.

The 10-year-old firm realized there was a sizable number of financial firms that could do the same thing. If it wanted to continued its growth streak it would need to find a way to separate itself from the pack.

"It's been an exciting year," says Jonathan Citrin, chairman of CitrinGroup. "We have intensified our focus as a portfolio manager."

CitrinGroup’s advantage is divorcing emotion from its decision-making process. Sounds simple, right, or just industry standard? Not necessarily. Citrin points out his firm relies solely on numbers and seizing opportunity. No gut calls. No more sticking only to what they feel comfortable with.

"We have been super focused on keeping emotion out of decisions," Citrin says.

That has allowed the downtown Birmingham-based firm to make its returns more consistent and increase its new business. CitrinGroup has also grown its staff, adding four consultants to its core team of four employees.

"We were just creating a way to give our clients some added value," Citrin says.

Source: Jonathan Citrin, chairman of CitrinGroup
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

CRESIT Energy expands alternative energy workload

Robert Kulick had a bit of a non-traditional introduction to alternative energy. The downriver resident first explored solar energy while serving in the military and looking for a quiet power source for forward units.

That led to his putzing around with solar panels after his service ended, and eventually to the creation of CRESIT Energy eight years ago.

"It started with me experimenting with batteries, inverters and cords," says Robert Kulick, president of CRESIT Energy. "My daughter said, 'Nobody lives like this.' But I saw energy costs going up so that is what got me started."

The Wyandotte-based business has established itself since then, helping put together alternative energy projects for local municipalities and residents. Among its portfolio of projects is installing a wind turbine at Heritage Park in Taylor and solar panels at police stations in Southgate. It now employs a staff of four people, including a recent hire handling marketing.

Kulick is proud of the foothold he has established in the local energy market. He and his team have helped put downriver on the map when it comes to sustainability and alternative energy, making it a leader in Metro Detroit. He is also trying to remain positive about the future of his business if the federal government doesn’t renew its renewable energy tax credits.

"It's grown but it's tougher," Kulick says. "It's already hard selling with a 30-percent tax credit. I wonder how hard it will be in two years when those tax credits run out."

Source: Robert Kulick, president of CRESIT Energy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Smart Lighting Solutions brings on new LED product lines

Ralph Petty was working in property management in 2009 when the economy was falling apart. He and a friend who worked at Ford looked at the job landscape and decided to make their own by starting Smart Lighting Solutions.

"Energy efficiency is something that intrigued both of us," Petty says.

The Shelby Township-based firm specializes in helping businesses improve their energy efficiencies, usually through replacing light with more efficient options.

"The big push is starting to go towards LED (lights)," Petty says. "We're installing at a bowling center on the east side of Detroit that will be all LED."

Smart Lighting Solutions is also bringing new products to its lineup by adding Juganu Lighting's LED lighting products. The LEDs allow for energy savings of up to 80 percent over traditional lighting, such as metal halide fixtures.
 
The company now has a staff of three people after hiring a sales professional in the last year. Petty expects his company to continue to grow as the firm focuses more of its efforts on outdoor facilities.

"Our biggest goal is to work with outdoor facilities like parking lots and parking structures," Petty says.

Source: Ralph Petty, principal of Smart Lighting Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Information Systems Resources hires 6 in Dearborn

Information Systems Resouces has hired six people in the last year as the Dearborn-based firm grows its service offerings into every sector of the IT world.

The 25-year-old company now has a staff of 53 people, including new hires for executive assistants, business development director, and electronics recyclers. That employee base now handles services that range from hardware sales to IT support to electronics recycling.

"We try to be responsive to the industry and our customer base," says Avery Tabron, director of business development for Information Systems Resources.

Information Systems Resources helps large corporations conform to federal regulations, such as HIPPA requirements and Department of Defense standards. It has also deployed a mobile tracking system that helps track the status of IT services to the minute.

Electronics recycling is one of the biggest areas of expansion for Information Systems Resources. The recycling division specializes in remanufacturing of electronics like desktop computers, taking out the precious metals and recycling the rest. That way when a school upgrades its computer labs the old workstations don’t end up in a landfill.

"That has had significant growth to this point," Tabron says. "We have hired two additional people on that team."

Source: Avery Tabron, director of business development for Information Systems Resources
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Rave Computer pushes STEM education with RAVE CAVE

Rave Computer is making a push into local education with the establishment of the Center for Automated Virtual Environments, commonly known as RAVE CAVE.

Rave Computer, the anchor tenant of the Macomb-OU INCubator, works in modeling, simulation and visualization software. The 26-year-old firm has made three replacement hires over the last year and is looking to add another three people to its staff of 35 employees. It launched RAVE CAVE last year, taking a 3-D immersion cave out of storage at TARDEC and repurposing it as an educational tool to get more local students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

"I really enjoy STEM and being involved in the community," says Rick Darter, founder & CEO of Rave Computer. "I thought this is a great way to give back."

RAVE CAVE is a Reconfigurable, Automated, Virtual Environment, powered by a five-system cluster that was configured, built and installed by Rave Computer engineers. The system enables the users to experience visualization software and how it is used in the creation and design of new products.

"There are a lot of teaching tools that you can use to demonstrate why math is important. Why (information technology) is important," says Art Adlam, president of RAVE CAVE.

RAVE CAVE has hosted close to 500 local students, ranging from grade school to college students, with the bulk of the number coming from local high schools. The non-profit gives tours of the technology and also hosts workshops. It hopes to ramp up its usage over the next year, adding things like college courses and summer camps.

"We'd like to (host) as many (students) as possible," Adlam says.

Source: Rick Darter, founder & CEO of Rave Computer, and Art Adlam, president of RAVE CAVE
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Splash360 increases staffing to 14 since last year's launch

The co-founders behind Splash360 all worked in business marketing and began to see the same thing in recent years: digital marketing was all over the place. That inspired them to launch Splash360.

"They weren't unified. There was data all over the place," says Robert Standwick, CEO of Splash360. "That's when we saw the need to create a unified system."

The Sterling Heights-based startup housed in the Macomb-OU INCubator launched a software platform a year ago for use in both digital and traditional marketing. It enables customers to create, manage, customize and deliver brand-building marketing content, utilizing features like contact management, email marketing, print marketing, social media and lead acquisition.

Since Splash360's launch last year, its team of 14 people have been building up clientele, focusing on small- and medium-sized business like grocery stores.

"We're sending out more than 1 million emails a month," Standwick says.

Splash360 is now focusing on making its emails and website more mobile compatible. "If you're not mobile then you're not in the game," Standwick says.

Source: Robert Standwick, CEO of Splash360
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Southfield-based PublicCity PR continues adding to clientele

Michigan-based is an important word in the world of PublicCity PR. The boutique public relations firm got its start doing work for small businesses in the Great Lakes State, and continues to grow because of those same sorts of clients.

PublicCity PR has landed a handful of new clients, all based in Michigan, over the last three months. Some of those firms include construction company Barton Malow (Southfield), Medical Weight Loss Clinic (Southfield), and the new Life Time Athletic in Bloomfield Township.

"These are recognizable brands, Michigan-based companies that are reaching out to us," says Jason Brown, principal of PublicCity PR. "This is all word of mouth organic growth."

This has allowed the 5-year-old business to grow out of Brown's kitchen table and into its own office. It also added a new employee to its team over the last year, expanding its staff to four people.

PublicCity PR has also been able to grow its practice to a level of comfort where Brown doesn't have to chase down every lead for new business or say yes to every opportunity to keep the lights on now.

"We take it as it comes," Brown says. "We are at a good level of clients."

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

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

Saphran Solutions launches CapacityBase software platform

Data is everywhere. Often it's in random places, jumbled together in a slop of 1s and 0s that doesn't make much sense to the casual observer. Saphran Solutions is creating software that puts all of that data into proper perspective.

The Franklin-based business creates software platforms that help automotive suppliers and other manufacturers achieve efficiencies by narrowing the gap between business planning and performance.

Its newest proprietary software program, CapacityBase, does that by simulating and evaluating multiple product-demand scenarios to map out the user's short- and long-term capital investment plans to maximize returns. Think of it as a system that enables manufacturers to more effectively manage assets, avoid future risk and reduce costs.

"Essentially we connect the information the company already has and use it to streamline its operations to meet capacity," says Don Stilwell, vice president of sales & business development for Saphran Solutions.

The 10-year-old company employs 20 people. That team will work to aggressively market this new software platform to manufacturers.

"We are looking at adding additional people as we ramp up," Stilwell says.

Source: Don Stilwell, vice president of sales & business development for Saphran Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Blackstone LaunchPad grows Make It Better competition

The Make It Better business competition enjoyed its broadest participation yet, attracting high school students from across the state.

The Walsh College Blackstone LaunchPad event encourages students to redesign an existing product or service or develop a new one. This year it doubled the number of participants, attracting students from Frankenmuth High School, Troy High School and Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores.

"We needed to get the work out to the high schools, and the right people at the high schools, before they developed their curriculum for the year," says Carol Glynn, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College.

This is the third Make it Better competition, which is held on an annual basis. Winners received as much as $500 for their ideas to help improve the quality of people’s lives or make their community a better place to live.

Among the winners were a Frankenmuth High School student who took first place for her idea of a Furry Friend Finder that tracks pets and reports on their location and physical condition. Second place went to a Troy High School student for a mobile application programmed to find recipes based on existing home food supplies.

"They're already asking us if we are doing this again next year," Glynn says. She adds, "I am hoping to get the funding next year so we can do it."

Source: Carol Glynn, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

ProNAi Therapeutics lands $59.5M in Series D funding

ProNAi Therapeutics isn't exactly hurting for money these days thanks to a $59.5 million Series D financing round it announced this week.

The biotech startup is developing a cancer-fighting drug called PNT2258. The drug is currently in clinical trials, which should take 3-5 years to get FDA approval.

"We're going to be using the majority of our funds for clinical trials," says Mina Sooch, co-founder & CEO of ProNAi Therapeutics. "We hope to treat many patients with the funds, probably a few hundred."

The Plymouth-based startup, which also has an office in Kalamazoo, describes PNT2258 as a drug that utilizes a proprietary DNA interference technology to block a key oncogene BCL2 that then signals cancer cells to die. It is currently in the midst of Phase II clinical studies of patients with relapsed or treatment refractory non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, including those with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, Richter’s transformation, and follicular lymphoma.

ProNAi Therapeutics is 10 years old and employs a staff of nine employees and one intern. It has hired three people over the last year, including professionals in research & development, finance and administration. Proceeds from the Series D round will be used to continue to build out the company's team, along with supporting drug manufacturing and advancing development of preclinical drug candidates in ProNAi Therapeutics' portfolio.

Source: Mina Sooch, co-founder & CEO of ProNAi Therapeutics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

iDashboards hires 18, looks to add 6 more positions

Troy-based iDashboards has been a growing business on the move in recent years. The software firm moved to a new 20,000-square-foot office last summer and is expanding its space by another 7,500 square feet.

"We have moved three times since I have been here," says Jenna Ryberg, human resources manager for iDashboards. "Now we're in a space where we can expand quickly."

Which means more hires. Lots of hires. The 10-year-old company has hired 18 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 67 employees. Four more employees are set to come onboard in early May and the firm has six open positions right now.

"We want to continue adding people," Ryberg says, continuing, "by the end of the year we should have 100 employees at the Troy location."

IDashboards creates real-time interactive computer dashboards for businesses. The personalized dashboards analyze, track and organize a wealth of data into critical informational tidbits for companies.

The firm's cloud and enterprise divisions have spearheaded its overall growth of 15 percent in the last year. It is aiming for a 25-percent revenue increase this year.

Source: Jenna Ryberg, human resources manager for iDashboards
Writer: Jon Zemke

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