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EcoMotors acquires Katech, plans to add personnel

EcoMotors has acquired engine-manufacturer Katech, a move that will help the Allen Park-based startup accelerate development of its green-engine technology.

Katech, which calls Clinton Township home, has made a name for itself over its 35 years for pushing the envelope when it comes to developing the latest in engine and powertrain technology.

“The company has a great reputation,” says Tony Mannarino, the new CEO of Katech. “There are some really skilled people here.”

EcoMotors launched in 2008 with the idea of reinventing the internal combustible engine to be more energy efficient and cleaner. It's developing an opposed-piston, opposed-cylinder engine that is smaller and lighter than conventional engines. It also has about half of the components of traditional engines. EcoMotors is a venture-backed startup with investment from Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates and Braemar Energy Ventures.

The acquisition of Katech will allow for EcoMotors to research, test and build its engine technology. Katech will also keep doing business with its existing clients and flesh out its operations. Katech employs 18 people and is looking to add interns. It expects to hire another five people this year.

“We expect to add another shift to operate at capacity,” Mannarino says.

Source: Tony Mannarino, CEO of Katech
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Beringea recruits modern music college to Detroit with $3M investment

A trio of musical entrepreneurs are crossing the Atlantic Ocean and setting up shop in Detroit, thanks in part to the encouragement and investment from Michigan's largest venture capital firm.

Beringea is investing $3 million in the Detroit Institute of Music Education, a music college for contemporary musicians set to be launched this fall. Sarah Clayman, Bruce Dickinson and Kevin Nixon launched Brighton Institute of Modern Music in Brighton, England, in 2001. They sold the business in 2010 and were recruited by executives at Beringea to open a U.S. version in Detroit.

"It was a really easy sell," says Charlie Rothstein, founder & senior managing director of Beringea. "They were getting there on their own. Everything that is happening in Detroit is saying loudly to open up here."

Detroit Institute of Music Education, commonly known as DIME, will open up in 15,000 square feet of one of Bedrock Real Estate Services' buildings in downtown Detroit. The company will offer lessons in playing instruments and musical entrepreneurship. Initial projections call for 150 students in the first class, with a goal of up to 1,000 students in future classes. The business is already looking to hire up to 30 instructors and support staff for the venture.

Detroit Institute of Music Education picked Detroit over other major markets like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago because of the Motor City's impressive musical culture and the warm welcome from regional business leaders like Rothstein and Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert.

Source: Charlie Rothstein, founder & senior managing director of Beringea
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Michigan First Credit Union aims to add 17 jobs

Michigan First Credit Union is in the process of hiring another 17 people right now, including a new spokester for its Young & Free Michigan program.

The Lathrup Village-based credit union currently employs 247 people across six stand-alone branches, plus three more in Meijer stores. It is replacing a branch on Gratiot Avenue, which is expected to open this fall. Michigan First Credit Union has hired 17 people over the last year. Its new positions range from IT professionals to branch operations. For information on those jobs, click here.

Among the new positions is the credit union’s spokester job for its Young & Free Michigan program. The 3-year-old program employs one college student for a year, making the person the credit union’s spokester. The spokester engages local college students through social media, community events, blog posts and online videos. The idea is to encourage smart financial behavior and help attract more young people to the credit union.

"The year goes by so fast," says Vicky Goldwater, young & free Michigan spokester for Michigan First Credit Union. She worked as a waitress and studied communications at Macomb Community College before taking the position. "The experience was awesome."

Michigan First Credit Union is taking applications for this year's spokester. The position comes with paid gas and insurance. Applicants are expected to make a video when applying. More info can be found here.

"Have fun with the video," Goldwater says. "Be yourself."

Michigan First Credit Union has about 94,300 members in Michigan, which is up more than 4,000 since the beginning of 2013. It has added $30 million in assets in the last year, totaling $674 million.

Source: Vicky Goldwater, young & free Michigan spokester for Michigan First Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Walsh College scores $100K investment fund for students

Business students at Walsh College in Troy have six figures to play with now that a former member of the school’s faculty has started a new investment fund there.

Leon LaBrecque, a former professor and department chair of finance and economics at Walsh College and managing partner and founder of LJPR, is giving $100,000 to start the Michigan Alpha Project. The student-run investment portfolio will focus on investing in publicly traded companies based in Michigan. LeBrecque says he choose to donate $100,000 at first because “it seemed like enough to make the students interested,” and he is helping raise more money to expand the fund.

"We're trying to shoot for $1 million by the end of the year," LaBrecque says.

The Michigan Alpha Project will be run by two student teams per quarter. One team will make the investments and manage the fund while a second team manages a shadow fund. The results from both teams are compared each quarter. The teams can range in size from five to nine students.

The students will use Walsh College’s newly created finance lab to analyze markets and make investment choices. The 1,400 square-foot space features 24 work stations, 12 Bloomberg terminals, lab projectors, a white board, and an interactive market wall with live feeds for market indexes, global currency movements, current commodity prices, bond prices and NASDAQ, NYSE and Watchlist feeds.

"It gives the students enough to get their fingernails dirty," says John Moore, professor of finance and economics at Walsh College. "It's different when you are investing real money."

Source: John Moore, professor of finance and economics at Walsh College and Leon LaBrecque, managing partner and founder of LJPR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Talascend staffing firm gets new COO

The leadership team at Talascend is growing as the Troy-based staffing firm adds a new COO.

Andrea Hopkey arrived this month with 20 years of staffing industry experience, working in the engineering/construction, manufacturing, telecommunications, IT/technical, chemical, and oil and gas industries. She has worked at Adecco, and most recently as president responsible for all aspects of the business at Allstates Technical Services.

"She has a tremendous amount of staffing experience with some major players," says Jason Dawson, executive vice president of global administration for Talascend. "She has expertise in places we are growing, such as oil and gas."

Talascend got its start in 1946 as Modern Engineering. It specialized mainly in engineering and design work early in its life but has transitioned mostly to staffing in recent years. The company employs about 150 core staff after making some new hires of recruiters and other positions in the last year.

It routinely places 3,000 people in contract staffing jobs around the world, however, most of its staffing work is U.S.-based. Dawson still sees U.S.-based work as the firm’s biggest growth spot. Talascend has experienced double-digit growth since the end of the Great Recession, and Dawson doesn’t see why that streak would stop anytime soon.

"We see '14 already growing again," Dawson says.

Source: Jason Dawson, executive vice president of global administration at Talascend
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Telemus Capital adds 4 positions, $100M in new clients

Telemus Capital isn't trying to make its clients rich. It's trying to keep them wealthy. That’s part of the reason why the Southfield-based financial management firm has been growing so much in the past year.

The 9-year-old firm has watched its revenue increase by 20 percent over the last year. That’s due in part to strong performances from stock markets. It also is due to an infusion of new customers.

"Our new clients that have come to us have exceeded our expectations," says Lyle Wolberg, partner & senior adviser at Telemus Capital. "We have brought in $100 million in new clients to the firm in the last year."

Telemus Capital acquired Concentratic Capital in Los Angeles earlier this year. The new acquisition will serve as Telemus Capital’s new LA office. Telemus Capital has also hired four new people, including a new partner and a few research analysts.

"We have done quite a bit of hiring," Wolberg says.

Source: Lyle Wolberg, partner & senior adviser at Telemus Capital
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DASI Solutions adds 8 jobs, moves into new downtown Pontiac HQ

DASI Solutions underwent some big changes in the last year, expanding its staff with a number of hires, moving into a new home in downtown Pontiac, and preparing to offer some new cutting-edge services.

The engineering/tech firm executed its move to a newly renovated building in downtown Pontiac last summer. The company also hired eight people over the last year, expanding its headcount to 45. The new employees are primarily engineering and business development professionals. It also has two openings for application engineers and is planning on adding a couple of summer interns this year.

DASI Solutions is also getting ready to launch a 3-D printing-on-demand service later this month. The company plans to make 3-D printing much more affordable and accessible.

"We will be accepting models from our customers online," says David Darbyshire, co-owner of DASI Solutions. "We will give them an instant quote."

The 18-year-old company has also been expanding its market share geographically. It recently entered into the Cleveland market. The new Cleveland office joins a handful of the firm’s offices across the Midwest.

DASI Solutions has also been doing a lot of work with the state of Michigan's MAT2 (Michigan Advanced Technician Training) program, which helps steer high school students or recent graduates toward tech careers. Think of it as helping guide kids in high school robotics programs who might not be cut out for engineering degrees toward careers in robotics through an apprenticeship program.

"The best way to describe it is an internship on steroids," Darbyshire says.

DASI Solutions will be participating in a MAT2 company fair for careers in mechatronics and design visualization on March 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The fair will take place at Oakland Community College’s Auburn Hills campus in Building F, 2900 Featherstone Road.

Source: David Darbyshire, co-owner of DASI Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Canine To Five looks for larger Ferndale space

Canine To Five is starting its second year at its new location in Ferndale and is looking for a bigger space to help accommodate its success.

The dog daycare business, which got its start in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood, opened its second location in Ferndale last year. It now takes care of 60 dogs a day there. It took the company several years to reach that number at its Detroit location.

Canine To Five currently employs 15 people at its Ferndale digs and is looking for a bigger location to accommodate its growing pack of customers. "When I find the perfect building, I'll know," says Liz Blondy, owner of Canine To Five.

The business got its start on Cass Avenue just south of Martin Luther King Boulevard in Detroit in 2005. Back then the rebranding of the old Cass Corridor as Midtown was just beginning and dog boarding was a relatively new idea to the market. Today it employs 45 people, mostly in Detroit, and expects to hire another four or five this year.

Blondy says her business has proven popular in the suburbs, especially with people who don't often frequent the inner city. She is considering opening another location in the suburbs in the not-too-distant future to take advantage of that demand but isn’t actively moving toward doing that this year.

"At this time it's not a serious consideration but if a great opportunity comes up I will consider it," Blondy says.

Source: Liz Blondy, owner of Canine To Five
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Complete Data Products makes 6 hires, expands customer base

Neal Doshi and his brother, Nyrav Doshi, purchased Complete Data Products two years ago with the idea of turning the software firm into something bigger. A few software product launches later, the Troy-based business is realizing that dream for its owners.

"From a numbers standpoint we expect our company to grow 20 percent, top-line, by the end of the year," Neal Doshi says.

Complete Data Products specializes in paperless document management software. If there is some sort of business function that requires using paper, Complete Data Products is coming up with ways to do it digitally.

For instance, the firm launched its financial receipt product last year, which allowed users to send sales receipts through email. It also recently launched an electronic signature application, and upgraded its financial receipt product to utilize text message technology.

"There were a lot of people who pushed that out," Neal Doshi says. "There was a lot of growth in that vertical."

The customer base of this technology has grown from credit unions to include banks and law firms. That has allowed Complete Data Products to hire six people, primarily in tech support and marketing, over the last year. It now employs 28 people.

Source: Neal Doshi, managing partner of Complete Data Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Expetec Technology Services eyes adding new locations

IT firm Expetec Technology Services suffered a hit to its bottom line when businesses put off technology upgrades during the down economy.

Now that it's back up, the Troy-based firm is experiencing a spike in sales. Expetect Technology Services has watched its sales increase 27.5 percent in the last year thanks to organic growth from companies looking to upgrade their IT systems. Think everyday businesses looking to upgrade from a Windows XP platform.

"We're getting a lot of calls for that," says Michael St. John, vice president of sales & marketing for Expetec Technology Services.

The 19-year-old firm has hired three people in tech support and sales in the last year. It now has a staff of nine employees. The firm is also looking at adding another location in the Livonia/Ann Arbor area so it can be closer to its customers when their IT infrastructure starts to go down. It is also considering an expansion into Grand Rapids and Lansing to be closer to its clientele.

"It gives us a quicker response time for our customers," St. John says.

Source: Michael St. John, vice president of sales & marketing for Expetec Technology Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Highway Media transitions to more web video work

Video production has made a dramatic change in recent years and Highway Media has been there to reap some of those rewards.

The Canton-based video-production firm has enjoyed a 10-percent bump in its revenue over the last two years as it transitions from doing video work for DVDs to online videos. Mark Salloum, producer/director for Highway Media points out that online videos play a significant role in helping websites reach the top of Internet searches and keeping surfers engaged for longer.

"The power of video has become the most impactful medium in the world," Salloum says.

Most of Highway Media’s clients fall into two categories, Salloum explains. A lot of industrial shops are looking for short videos explaining what sets them apart. There are also many medical professionals in need of videos that explain the niche of their practices, such as fertilization clinics. He adds that they want a professional look that tells a compelling story.

"That's why they're hiring us," Salloum says.

The increase in business has allowed Highway Media to add two employees to its core team of 12. The firm is also planning to bring on an intern this spring. 

"We're projecting a dramatic growth, 30-40 percent, in the next two years," Salloum says.

Source: Mark Salloum, producer/director of Highway Media
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Tanner Friedman PR firm grows on recurring client work

Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications is one of those companies that doesn't measure its success by the number of new clients it attracts, but by the clients it keeps in its fold.

The Farmington Hills-based public relations agency has enjoyed double-digit revenue growth over the last year thanks primarily to increased work from existing clients.

"That's where we prefer growth to come from," says Matt Friedman, partner at Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications. "We like new clients and are happy to add them. But it’s the best testament to our work and our growth when a client says, 'We want you to do more work for us.'"

The agency enjoyed a small spike in its crisis communications work in the fourth quarter of last year, but its bread and butter came down to three core industries: privately owned businesses, professional services and non-profits. Those three areas have allowed the firm to triple in size since its launch seven years ago.

"These are the types of clients that really need us," Friedman says. "We are closer to a need-to-have than a nice-to-have with them."

Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications has added another person to its staff, rounding it out to eight employees. The hire, a former intern, is an account coordinator. The firm also has six independent contractors and plans to bring on two interns this summer.

"We grow when it makes sense," Friedman says. "We want to add people when we have the work to justify it."

Source: Matt Friedman, partner at Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IT firm Red Level Networks grows sales 30%, adds 9 jobs in Novi

Last year was one of those years the folks at Red Level Networks will remember for a while, and for all the right reasons.

"We had a great year in 2013," says David King, president of Red Level Networks. "It was one of our biggest growth years in a while."

The Novi-based IT firm grew its revenue by 30 percent and added 48 new clients. Those new customers are in the manufacturing, finance and healthcare industries, among others.

"They're across all industries," King says. "Word gets around when you're good."

Red Level Networks has hired nine people in sales and marketing over the last year. It now has a staff of 32 employees. It is looking to add a few summer interns and hire four more people for data center engineering, help desk and administrative staff.

"We expect to expand our service offerings and staff," King says. "We want to have a staff of 40-50 people within the next 1-2 years."

Source: David King, president of Red Level Networks
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Oakland Energy & Water Ventures fund launches in Farmington Hills

A new second-stage investment fund is launching in Farmington Hills. Oakland Energy & Water Ventures will specialize in making investments in the clean energy and water spaces.

"We look at opportunities up to $100 million," says Chris Brower, managing director of Oakland Energy & Water Ventures.

Brower adds that the fund, which is made up of three partners, is flexible when it comes to what type of deals it is looking to do. Among them are joint ventures, partnerships, license agreements, and collaborations. The main things Oakland Energy & Water Ventures is looking for are patented technologies that are ready to scale.

"We're a bit more simplistic," Brower says. "We're looking for proof-of-concept technologies. That is our focus."

Brower says there are a couple of potential deals in the works but the firm isn’t ready to make an announcement yet. He adds that the company is focusing on clean energy and water plays because of global macro trends that are spiking demand for both clean energy and water to accommodate the growing world population.

Source: Chris Brower, managing director of Oakland Energy & Water Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dart Appraisal sets stage for growth with 14 new hires

Dart Appraisal began to see some of its business pick up in the last few months. Last month new business for the real-estate appraisal firm consisted of 27 percent of its revenue.

"These were in the works for some time," says Darton Case, president of Dart Appraisal. "These were some big deals." He says those deals were made up primarily of five large clients.

The Troy-based company handles appraisal work for real-estate foreclosures, purchases and refinancing. It employs 43 people and is looking to add summer interns. The firm hired 14 people in the last year (some of whom were replacement hires) and currently has openings for seven positions in operations and sales.

Dart Appraisal, formerly DartAppraisal.com, moved into a larger office in Troy a little more than a year to accommodate its growth. The firm's new space is twice as large as its previous office. It is currently aiming to continue growing in 2014 as it keeps doing large amounts of work with a variety of customers, including homebuilders, modular home companies, wholesale mortgage firms and HUD housing.

"We are in the core business of about a dozen strategic platforms," Case says.

Source: Darton Case, president of Dart Appraisal
Writer: Jon Zemke

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