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Macomb-OU INCubator awards $23K at pitch contest

The Macomb-OU INCubator just handed out $23,000 in seed capital and services at its first elevator pitch competition earlier this month.

The Sterling Heights-based small business accelerator gave the money to three local startups that participated in the first Macomb Pitch: A Competition for Small Businesses. The Macomb-OU INCubator received 50 applications for the competition and narrowed the field down to eight finalists.

The winners include LayStitch taking first place, which is worth $8,500, a year-long service package from Mac-OU INC and seven-and-a-half hours of consultation with Butzel Long. Second place ($1,500) went to re-Contour, a developer of breast reconstruction dressings. Third place ($500) went to Warmilu, which is developing a non-electric, blanket-warming technology for the geriatric community.

Both re-Contour and Warmilu also received a one-year lease for a Mac-OU INC cubicle, five hours of consultation with Butzel Long, and a two-hour, strategic planning session with Advicoach of Michigan. The money and the services will go toward product development, customer research, and marketing efforts for the startups.

"Those are the main things people are using them for," says Julie Gustafson, executive director of the Macomb-OU INCubator. "It's meant to help them move their company forward and launch their product."

The Macomb-OU INCubator plans to turn the Macomb Pitch competition into an annual event with a few smaller pitch competitions sprinkled in between.

Source: Julie Gustafson, executive director of the Macomb-OU INCubator
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Coliant merges with Macomb Pitch winner LayStich

The winner of the Macomb Pitch: A Competition for Small Businesses at the Macomb-OU INCubator is off to a fast start in the aftermath.

LayStitch, which won the elevator pitch competition, is merging with Coliant. The two Macomb County-based startups specialize in fabric technology that helps warm the wearers.

"Some of the technologies in LayStitch processes have value in the heated clothing technology for Coliant," says Mark Lundquist, executive vice president of LayStitch.

For instance, Coliant is developing personal climate-control technology, i.e. Smart Clothing system, that works to keep users warm while riding motorcycles and other similar vehicles, like ATVs. LayStitch is developing a process of making carbon-fiber composites at a reduced cost.

The 19 employees between both companies will now work together, even though LayStitch will retain its brand identity and operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Coliant. The two startups have offices in Sterling Heights and Warren.

Source: Mark Lundquist, executive vice president of LayStitch
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Quinn Law Group diversifies clientele, adds 6 positions

Quinn Law Group has experienced a lot of growth in the last few years, attracting more customers and adding new employees at the intellectual property law firm. The reason why can be summed up in one sentence.

"It has been through diversification," says Chris Quinn, president of Quinn Law Group.

The Novi-based law firm got its start in 2002 with Chris handling work for one automotive industry firm. That work helped Quinn Law Group grow in its early years but Quinn knew it needed more.

Today it has grown to handle work for a number of companies around the world from a wide variety of industries. For instance, Quinn Law Group does intellectual property work for Nike’s golf line. It is also doing an increasing amount of work for tech firms, including automotive engineering firms. That has prompted Quinn Law Group to add to its staff and upgrade its software systems.

"We are continually positioning ourselves for growth because we seem to have a steady growth of clients," Quinn says.

Quinn Law Group has hired five people over the last year, expanding its staff to 25 people. Its new hires include two attorneys and three support staff. It is also looking to hire another patent attorney right now. Quinn expects to hire 4-7 people in 2015 to keep up with demand for his firm’s services.

He attributes a big part of Quinn Law Firm's success to not relying on billable hours to get a job done. The firm deals instead with quality of work, a feature he believes sets it apart.

"Our only requirement of our staff is to do high-quality work," Quinn says.

Source: Chris Quinn, president of Quinn Law Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Spider9 creates 4 jobs, commercializes clean technology

Spider9 recently received a key certification that should help make installing its energy storage technology easier as it looks to ramp up sales in 2015.

The Northville-based startup recently received certification to UL 1741 standards for the company's advanced energy storage and controls technology. The certification, given by TÜV SÜD America, represents a first for a system featuring Spider9's technology.

"It's a great step forward," says Michelle Chitambar, chief technology featurist for Spider9. "Some people don't want to put systems in their building unless it’s certified."

The 3-year-old company is commercializing technology that helps make alternative energy generation and storage more efficient. Spider9 has deployed some of its first units over the last year and is setting the stage to do it much more often in 2015.

"We expect to ramp up considerably now that we have certification," Chitambar says.

Spider9 currently employs 14 people and is in the process of hiring another staffer specializing in sales and technology. It has hired three people over the last year.

Source: Michelle Chitambar, chief technology featurist for Spider9
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Results at Hand Software doubles in size on demand for event apps

Results at Hand Software has made a name for itself in event-focused mobile apps during its first four years.

The Waterford-based startup has found a significant amount of success with its ConferenceBeat app. The event app is used by businesses or associations throwing events, providing them with a direct line of communication to attendees that enables them to strengthen their relationship.

"Everyone has come back and said, 'We love the app,'" says Kim Harwood, president of Results at Hand Software, and "'oh, by the way, can you provide more features and functionality?'"

Sales at the 4-year-old company are up 100 percent over the last year. That has enabled it to hire three people (a software developer and sales professionals) over the last year. It now has a staff of seven employees and one intern. It plans to add two more interns in January.

Results at Hand Software is preparing to have another big year in 2015. Harwood expects to hit triple-digit revenue growth again as her company continues to attract more customers.

"Every customer tends to turn into a longterm customer," Harwood says.

Source: Kim Harwood, president of Results at Hand Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Design firm Elefant Design & Strategy looks to add 3 jobs

Elefant Design & Strategy has got the growth part down. Now it wants to focus on the work.

The Troy-based design firm made a name for itself in design for everything from website development to print. The 1-year-old company has grow by more than 100 percent.

"We are really focused on the design process," says Elena Kapintcheva, partner & designer with Elefant Design & Strategy. "Creating goals, conceptualizing, and execution."

The firm is currently comprised of two partners. However, it plans to hire three designers in January. It needs the extra help to aid in its growing workload coming from a broad range of customers, such as local restaurants and coastal non-profits.

"We definitely want to continue to grow," Kapintcheva says. "By hiring more talent we want to expand our design reach."

Source: Elena Kapintcheva, partner & designer with Elefant Design & Strategy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

PHASIQ aims to ramp up production in Plymouth

PHASIQ is gearing up to make a number of steps toward commercializing its research lab technology in 2015.
"The technology has progressed a lot since last fall," says Shuichi Takayama, co-founder of PHASIQ. "We're currently working on scaling up our production."

The University of Michigan spinout provides a diagnostic platform for detecting protein biomarkers in biological samples. Its custom arrays can be used by pharmaceutical companies for drug and biomarker discovery, and advancing personalized medicine. You can check out a video describing the technology here.

The Plymouth-based startup that calls the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center home has expanded its core team to three people after adding a technical support person. They have leveraged a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to further develop the technology, which is currently being used by researchers at the University of Michigan.

"It's much more user friendly with fewer steps," Takayama says.

PHASIQ is currently going for a few more SBIR grants to further development. The team hopes to begin ramping up production of its lab equipment in 2015.

Source: Shuichi Takayama, co-founder of PHASIQ
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Automation Alley aims at advanced manufacturing with 7Cs Program

Automation Alley is going for the low-hanging job creation fruit in Metro Detroit with its new program.

The Troy-based small business accelerator is launching the 7Cs program this week. The new initiative is focused on advanced manufacturing, specifically accelerating the growth of small businesses looking to leverage or improve advanced manufacturing.

"We want to focus on those businesses that can have the biggest impact on southeast Michigan," says Tom Kelly, director of entrepreneurship at Automation Alley.

Kelly took over as Automation Alley’s director of entrepreneurship last spring after working as a small business coach for the state of Michigan stationed in Automation Alley. He has seen companies come and go from Metro Detroit, but knows that any company that wants to work in manufacturing will come to Michigan. Why not exploit that strength?

"We think the ecosystem is ripe for this sort of focus," Kelly says. "If you think about it, we should have been doing this a long time ago because we’re really good at it."

Automation Alley's 7Cs program will guide entrepreneurs through a customized seven-step process that starts with the conception of their technology and leads to commercialization. The program includes intense coaching and a commitment from Automation Alley to invest resources and capital.

Kelly hopes to facilitate 10 companies in the program’s first year, and to grow that number incrementally in the following years.

Source: Tom Kelly, director of entrepreneurship at Automation Alley
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Huntington Co. acquires, consolidates dry cleaning businesses

A conglomerate of growing dry-cleaning companies are consolidating under a new name, The Huntington Co.

The Berkley-based business is made up of Huntington Cleaners & Shirt Laundry, Huntington Window Fashions, Wesch Cleaners, 1-800-DryClean, bizziebox, Pressed 4 Time, Martinizing, Dry Cleaning Station, and Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network. The combined companies employ 200 people after hiring five in the last year.

"We wanted to have a common reference point for people to look at," says Wayne Wudyka, CEO of The Huntington Co.

Wudyka launched the Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network (also known as CRDN) in 2001, restoring clothing damaged by things like fire and smoke. It now has hundreds of franchises across the U.S. What is now the Huntington Co. launched bizziebox last year, integrating mobile technology into dry cleaning with locker-based pickup and delivery service for offices and apartment buildings.

"We see great opportunities to expand in this space," Wudyka says.

The Huntington Co. also acquired Pressed4Time, a door-to-door pick-up and delivery service, in May. Earlier this fall it also acquired Martinizing, the largest U.S.-based franchise dry cleaning brand with 422 locations in eight countries. Martinizing has been a brand name in the dry cleaning industry for decades with its founder becoming a co-owner of the Cincinnati Reds.

"We think we can add value to these companies," Wudyka says. "The economy is getting better so that’s good for the dry cleaning business."

The Huntington Co. plans to bring efficiencies to these businesses through improved and coordinated IT, marketing and operations services. The next year will be spent drilling down on the newly expanded family of businesses and improving them.

"I want to be operating at a very efficient level," Wudyka says.

Source: Wayne Wudyka, CEO of The Huntington Co.
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Eagle Ottawa invests $10M into Rochester Hills tech center

Eagle Ottawa is investing $10 million in expanding its tech center in Rochester Hills.

The Auburn Hills-based automotive supplier employs 150 at its headquarters and another 160 people at its tech center. That number will rise at its tech center after the expansion project is complete.

"We see growth in the employment there," says Brad Jackson, spokesman for Eagle Ottawa. "We are making room for 50 more employees."

Eagle Ottawa is an automotive supplier that specializes in leather work. It is 150 years old and has grown its revenue by 18 percent over the last year. It has had a 25-percent compounded annual growth rate since 2011.

The firm has invested $75 million in global innovation initiatives and resources including design, R&D and marketing. Its $10 million expansion in Rochester Hills is part of that. The project will expand the building to 16,500 square feet to accommodate more prototyping and validation work. There will also be a new customer co-creation center aimed at empowering customers to ideate, prototype and validate their inspirations.

"Eagle Ottawa is committed to research and development and continually investing in its development," Jackson says.

Source: Brad Jackson, spokesman for Eagle Ottawa
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Pontiac's Mobile Comply adds 4 jobs, clears way for mobile certification

Mobile Comply grew up quite a bit in 2014, mostly by living up to its name.

"We have completely exploded in a great way," says Eliana Farnsworth, CEO of Mobile Comply.

The downtown Pontiac-based company helps educate businesses and institutions (think higher education) on how best to leverage mobile technology. Last year it provided training and wrote the textbook for CompTIA, a Chicago-based non-profit that developed the A+ certification. That bit of work led to Mobile Comply creating the certification for mobile technology.

"We became the only company in the world that provided mobile certification," Farnsworth says.

That led to a 35-percent jump in revenue over the last year. The company has hired four people over the last year, expanding its staff to 20 employees and 100 independent contractors. It is also looking to hire another two people in the first quarter of next year. In 2015 Mobile Comply is looking to expand its mobile certification activities to the automotive market.

"We would like to expand to not only certifying individuals but also supporting the growth of connected vehicles," Farnsworth says.

Source: Eliana Farnsworth, CEO of Mobile Comply
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Troy's blueRock Technologies makes 5 hires on 30% sales growth

Troy-based blueRock Technologies has earned a couple of nice spikes over the last year.

The first comes from an additional five hires in technical and project management positions, expanding the company’s staff to 19 employees. It is also looking to hire another two technical staff right now.

The second is in its revenue. The IT company enjoyed a 30-percent bump over the last year. Most of those new sales have come from the hospitality industry. The 14-year-old firm has a number of clients that are nightclubs, restaurants, and hotels on the east coast.

"We have really increased our footprint in those areas," says Peter Marsack, vice president of consulting for blueRock Technologies. "We have a lot of clients in this area as well."

The IT firm also provides consulting and cloud-based services for its clients. One of its aims is to help pair clients with the best technology for their business model. The strategy is paying off, and blueRock Technologies is optimistic about its near-future prospects.

"We're going to continue growing the business in the hospitality market," Marsack says. "We're definitely going to be bringing on more people."

Source: Peter Marsack, vice president of consulting for blueRock Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Climate Technologies develops new way of cutting pollution emissions

Climate Technologies has reinvented itself in recent years as a company that works in both the automotive and green-tech sectors.

Today the Farmington Hills-based company is growing at a healthy clip while it continues to develop both ends of its business. Its revenue is up 15 percent in the last year, enabling it to hire another engineer in that time. It now employs six people.

"It's the rebounding of the automotive industry primarily," says Walt Zimmerman, CEO of Climate Technologies.

The 44-year-old company got its start providing temperature and humidity-control services for the automotive suppliers. The rebounding automotive industry has helped beef up that business. It has also gotten work from larger organizations, such as hospitals and universities.

Climate Technologies has also been developing a new way of cutting pollution emissions. The climate-control technology captures toxic gases and concentrates them so they can be used in things like fuel cells. It's now working on a next-generation version that integrates natural gas into the mix to make it more efficient.

"It's a large step forward," Zimmerman says. "It makes the technology appealing to people with pollution-control issues."

Source: Walt Zimmerman, CEO of Climate Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Wayne State grad/musician starts music production firm, J IV Media

Alton James has long dreamed of working in music. So much so that he even recently worked as an independent contractor for larger firms on the coast, providing musical scores for a variety of broadcast productions.

Now the Wayne State University graduate is doing it on his own with his new company, J IV Media.

"Why should I just be a subcontractor?" James says. "Why not start my own business?"

James worked with the Blackstone LaunchPad program at Wayne State to set up the basics of his business. He recently got engaged and opened his own studio in his new house in Chesterfield Township.

"We love the homes and the community out here," James says.

J IV Media is currently working on providing musical work for two documentaries. One has a Detroit-rebound focus and is locally based. The second is out of New York City and focuses on the for-profit prison system. James is also working with a number of University of Michigan film students on their projects.

"I would love to do some commercials for local businesses," James says.

Source: Alton James, owner of J IV Media
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Southfield's Ayar Law Group takes off with tax law work, adds 5 jobs

When Venar Ayar launched his own tax law practice, Ayar Law Group, two years ago he quickly realized he had a growing problem. But it was a good problem.

The Southfield-based firm's legal services were so in demand that Ayar had to move out of the 10-foot by 12-foot office within three months because he hired his first employee. Three months later he had to move to a bigger office after he hired two more people. Three months later, Ayar Law Group moved to its current offices to accommodate its growth.
 
"This office is almost to the point where I am at capacity," Ayar says. "I have grown so fast."

Ayar Law Group offers legal services in tax law, including audit defense, tax-debt relief, negotiating tax settlements, criminal tax fraud defense, and unfiled tax returns. It services individuals, families, and small businesses.

Today Ayar Law Group has a staff of eight employees and three interns, including five hires over the last year. It is currently looking for another attorney to hire and a law student for an internship.

"I am always looking for more law students and lawyers," Ayar says. "I don't plan to stop hiring anytime soon."

Ayar has a Master of Laws in Taxation (the highest degree available in tax law practice) from the University of San Diego School of Law. He also worked as an IRS defense lawyer for five years. He started Ayar Law Group two years ago because he saw a huge uptick in tax troubles thanks to the Great Recession and the economy was finally improving to the point that people were becoming optimistic.

"It was sort of the perfect time for this," Ayar says.

Source: Venar Ayar, principal of Ayar Law Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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