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Innovation & Job News

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Soothsayer Analytics launches out of Livonia

A new analytics startup is launching out of Livonia, and it's looking to start making a name for itself as the company that can translate the effectiveness of cutting-edge algorithms into everyday English.

Soothsayer Analytics likes to describe itself as a data science and machine-learning startup. It aims to use machine learning and statistical techniques to find hidden insights and patterns from complex and unstructured data.

The 3-month-old company currently has a core team of six employees and nine advisors, along with some help from overseas universities. It is also in the process of hiring another employee.

"We have some really respected people in a variety of different fields," says Christopher Dole, partner of Soothsayer Analytics. "We expect to do some really exciting work."

Some of the projects in the pipeline include a technology that will be able to forecast which college football players will make the transition to the NFL, and which team each individual player would do best with. It’s also working on a mathematical model that will help predict things like stroke or heart attack.

Soothsayer Analytics is hosting a conference at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 14. It will feature a two-hour presentation by Murthy Kolluru that aims to demystify data science. The idea is to provide business leaders with a deeper understanding of the subject by emphasizing intuition instead of the math behind some cutting-edge algorithms and concepts like machine learning.

The event will be held at 21000 W. 10 Mile Road in Southfield in Room M336. For information click here.

Source: Christopher Dole, partner of Soothsayer Analytics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Inteva continues to grow in Troy

Lots of companies like to call themselves global because they have an office in Europe or a sales employee in Asia. Inteva Products likes to call itself a global firm because it employs 11,500 people in 18 countries.

The automotive supplier specializes in everything from interior systems to engineering. It employs 300 people at its Troy headquarters after making a handful of new hires over the last year.

"There have been a number of hirings," says Karen Manardo, global director of marketing & communications for Inteva Products.

Inteva Products spun out of Delphi in 2008. It acquired Arvin Meritor in 2011, a move that essentially doubled its size.

"That was our biggest growth phase," Manardo says.

The company went from $1.2 billion in sales to $2.4 billion. It has since grown quickly, with its revenue edging up to about $2.8 billion.

"We have continued to grow, particularly in China," Manardo says. "That's our biggest growth area."

Source: Karen Manardo, global director of marketing & communications for Inteva Products
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Oakland University students build diabetes app, TypeOneTwo

A trio of Oakland University computer science majors placed at the MHacks hackathon in Ann Arbor with its diabetes mobile app.

Andrew Clissold, Steven Wiggins and Brandon Powell are the undergrads behind TypeOneTwo. The mobile app helps people who live with diabetes track and analyze their glucose and insulin levels.

"I have been wanting to make an app to help me better track my stuff," says Powell, who also lives with Type 1 diabetes.

The friends built out the app during the MHacks software programming competition at the University of Michigan earlier this fall. The 2-month-old startup placed in the top 10 after the 36-hour hackathon, and set the stage to further develop the app into a business.

"This was something that was fun for all of us and could help other people," Powell says. "It was really a blast. We had so much fun. We just sat down and programmed for 36 hours."

The trio behind TypeOneTwo plans to keep developing the app over this winter and launch it to the public in early 2015.

Source: Brandon Powell, co-founder of TypeOneTwo
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MyFastbraces opens new dental practice in Troy

A Saginaw-based dental practice is expanding its firm by bringing a new technology for braces to Michigan, and opening a Metro Detroit location.

Dentists Donald Sabourin and Joel Hayden first ran into Fastbraces, a technology that claims to give people braces to correct their teeth faster and cheaper, while at a conference in Texas a few years ago. They brought the technology to their practice last year, and immediately noticed its popularity.

"We thought we would do five or six cases a month," Sabourin says. "We ended up doing 27 or 28 cases a month. We were like, 'Holy cow!'"

This fall they are opening a satellite location called MyFastbraces in Troy on Big Beaver Road to serve Metro Detroit. Since introducing the technology last year, they have hired an additional seven people including four employees at the Troy office.

Fastbraces were developed by a dentist in Texas as a way to help people correct the path and straighten out crooked teeth faster than traditional braces. Traditional braces move the tooth first and allow the root to follow. Fastbraces moves the root and the tooth at the same time, realigning the root and crown simultaneously. Fastbraces claims to cut the time and money needed to correct the problems by as much as half.

"We like to say half the time and half the price but at twice the comfort," Sabourin says.

MyFastbraces is currently looking to hire two registered dental assistants.

Source: Donald Sabourin, co-owner of MyFastbraces
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Breast cancer survivor launches bio-tech startup, re-Contour

Julie Hyde-Edwards is a breast cancer survivor and an entrepreneur, and those two things are joined at the hip for her.

The Royal Oak resident was working as a graphic designer for a financial services firm when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lost her job midway through fighting her illness, and ended up going through a double mastectomy, which required removing large amounts of tissue from each breast.

But she survived. She innovated a new technology. And now she is working on commercializing it with her own startup, re-Contour.

"I was learning that there were stages of this that were problematic, so I tried to fix it myself," Hyde-Edwards says.

Re-Contour's technology is a type of surgical dressing that improves the aesthetic look of the breast and nipple, helping it avoid flattening and encourages healing after a mastectomy. The re-Contour dressing cover the breast mound, with no contact on the nipple area – providing a safe space around the newly created nipple and preventing clothes from applying pressure to it.

Mastectomies routinely leave large scars on the survivor, and nipple loss after the procedure is not uncommon. Many women struggle with the physical changes that occur after a mastectomy.

"It looks like someone took a machete and tried to cut you in half," Hyde-Edwards says. "It's pretty hard to look at."

Hyde-Edwards is currently working with Dr. Kenneth Shaheen, section head of plastic surgery at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, on commercializing the technology. Re-Contour received a patent for its dressing in April and it recently took first place in the Growth category (worth $13,900) at the Entrepreneur-YOU business and pitch plan competition at Walsh College in Troy.

Re-Contour has been working with a variety of local economic accelerators, such as TechTown in Detroit and the Macomb-OU INCubator in Sterling Heights, but isn't directly enrolled in any specific incubator program.

"We're hoping to produce this product within a year," Hyde-Edwards says.

Source: Julie Hyde-Edwards, founder & CEO of re-Contour
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Women-owned startups win big at Entrepreneur-YOU

More than $50,000 in seed capital and business-development services was awarded to nine local businesses as part of the Entrepreneur-YOU Business plan competition. The common denominator in all these ventures is they are all owned by women.

Walsh College hosted the Entrepreneur-YOU business plan and pitch competition with the help of the Michigan Women's Foundation, Inforum Michigan, and Fifth Third Bank. The annual competition, which dates to 2012, helps female entrepreneurs develop their business plans and firm the elevator pitches for their ventures. Each competition offers $50,000 to $75,000 in seed capital to the winners.

This year's winners in the Lifestyle category include: Tatiana Grant of Flash Delivery (1st place for $13,900), Shannon Byrne of Slow Jams Jam (2nd place for $9,400), and Yvette Rock of Live Coal Gallery (3rd place for $5,900). The Growth category winners include 1st place to Julie Hyde-Edwards of re-Contour (which is developing a nipple guard and mastectomy dressing), 2nd place to Julie Andreae of Secure Beginnings (developing a breathable crib mattress), and 3rd place to Adrienne Minerick for developing a blood-typing microdevice.

Grant, of Flash Delivery, plans to use the prize money to help improve the customer experience of its online grocery delivery service in Detroit. That includes making it more mobile friendly and building out a better online cart in time for the holiday season.

"We will be doing a big holiday push," Grant says.

Grant and her partner also picked up some important business lessons at the competition by running it past other succesful business women and practicing their elevator pitches.

"Less is more," Grant says about one of the lessons she learned at the competition. "And really know your stuff."

Source: Tatiana Grant, co-owner of Flash Delivery
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Siren PR doubles staffing on record revenue increase

Siren PR, the little public relations firm that could, is doing exactly that these days. And by that we mean adding staff.

The Royal Oak-based PR agency is looking to hire an account executive. More info on the opening here. That hire will mean the boutique public relations agency will have doubled the size of its staff over the last year with two new hires.

"We feel that this is the time for us to grow," says Adela Piper, co-founder of Siren PR. "We are growing. We have clients in the pipeline and we need more personnel to better serve them."

Piper and Lindsey Walenga launched Siren PR two years ago from their homes in Oakland County. Their first clients consisted mainly of nonprofits, such as OLSHA. Today the firm handles work for a broader range of organizations, businesses like Detroit Bikes, and schools like Pontiac Academy for Excellence. The company is projecting 36-percent revenue growth this year.

"We have already made more (revenue) this year than we did last year," Piper says. "We're right on track."

Source: Adela Piper, co-founder of Siren PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AutoBike sells out of bikes, aims to take shifting product national

AutoBike made some significant sales of its first bicycle and automatic shifter this year.

The Troy-based bike startup sold out all 150 of its bicycles and is now looking at the possibility of selling its automatic shifting technology as a retrofit to a couple of large bike distributors. The idea is to find another way to get its shifting technology onto more bikes in 2015.

"We have prototypes with a couple of different companies," says Sean Simpson, president & CEO of AutoBike.

AutoBike got its start three years ago making an automatic shifter for bicycles. The idea is to create a smoother, more enjoyable ride for casual bicyclists who love the idea of a leisurely ride but don’t commute on a bike often.

"We're trying to sell it to your friend who hasn't ridden a bike in 30 years," Simpson says.

The 4-person startup raised $610,000 in seed capital last year, including the $25,000 prize at the 2013 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. It also helped install one of its automatic shifter retrokits on a bike for a veteran. The recipient is a double-arm amputee working with Project Mobility, one of the 19 programs of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Source: Sean Simpson, president & CEO of AutoBike
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Axis CrossMedia revenue growth prompts studio expansion

AxisCross Media got its start 15 years ago when another firm (C3 Communications) went under. Today the company has grown its staff and its space as it sprints to keep up with the rapidly changing digital landscape.

"Evolution is constant," says Matt Madill, director of web development for Axis CrossMedia. "We are constantly changing. ... Over the last three years we have done a lot more video work and incorporated it with e-publications."

Madill started working at the company a dozen years ago. He became a full partner in the company in 2009. He helped lead its current evolution to digital video production and e-publication work. As a result, the company grew nearly 10 percent over the last year.

"We have become more diverse in our customer base," Madill says, adding it has been doing more work with advertising agencies; before, its workload was dominated by manufacturing and automotive firms.

That prompted the Troy-based company to double the size of its photo studio. It is now 1,500 square feet, which is helping the company facilitate an increased workload more efficiently.

"It makes doing a lot of the stuff more convenient," Madill says.

Source: Matt Madill, director of web development for Axis CrossMedia
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Community Choice Credit Union creates 50 jobs, set to open new branch

Community Choice Credit Union is experiencing a significant bump in just about everything these days. The Farmington Hills financial institution is adding members, deposits, staff, and new branches.

"We're in the process of opening one right now," says Philip Cooper, COO of Community Choice Credit Union. "It should be ready in late November, early December."

The 79-year-old credit union likes to call its branches member centers. The newest one will open in Northville near Six Mile and Haggerty roads. It will employ seven full-time people.

Community Choice Credit Union is focused on serving the metro Detroit area. It has hired 30 people for a broad range of jobs over the last year, expanding its staff to 189 employees. It also has 20 open positions, some of which can be found here.

The credit union has also grown its assets, which now total $17.3 million, up 3.5 percent since the beginning of the year. Cooper credits the increase in assets to his organization's additional membership.

"It was growth in membership and what the members have brought to us in deposits," Cooper says.

Community Choice Credit Union has eight branches across metro Detroit. The new branch in Northville will be its ninth location. The credit union plans to open a handful of branches each year for the next five years to keep up with its expansion plans and better serve its membership in the region.

"Our growth is really centered on the tri-county area," Cooper says.

Source: Philip Cooper, COO of Community Choice Credit Union
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Billhighway adds 10 jobs, focuses on staff development, culture

Every time Billhighway makes a new hire, a press release gets its wings and flies off into the world. More specifically, the Troy-based tech firm likes to announce each new hire with a press release. The company’s public relations team has been busy in 2014 sending out in excess of half a dozen new announcements about new hires.

The 14-year-old firm has hired 10 people over the last year and is looking to hire another three in project management and software development. The firm currently employs 50 people and seven interns. One of its former interns from earlier this year was also hired into a full-time position.

"Our turnover is really low, like 1-2 percent (quarterly)," says Brenda Gallick, director of team member success for Billhighway.

A big reason for that is Billhighway works to grow its employees. About 30 percent of its open positions are filled by candidates from within looking to take the next step up in their careers.

"We spend a lot of time on career development," Gallick says.

Billhighway launched as a software platform that helps people divvy up expenses, such as dues or dinner costs, in 1999. It has grown and evolved to the point that it specializes in helping non-profits and other organizations deal with their finances. It has experienced significantly higher demand for its software as it makes a bid to reach second-stage status, prompting the hiring spree. The company's leadership doesn’t expect that trend to lessen anytime soon.

"We have quite a bit of growth planned going forward," Gallick says.

Source: Brenda Gallick, director of team member success for Billhighway
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Core3 IT merges with Enlighten Technologies to form Detroit IT

Core3 IT is merging with Enlighten Technologies and forming a new company called Detroit IT.

Troy-based Core3 IT has specialized in providing hands-on work, such as a help desk. Enlighten Technologies, which was based in Birmingham, has carved out a niche for itself for IT consulting work. The two firms merged because their products complemented each other and enabled them to offer a more comprehensive package to their customers under the Detroit IT brand.

"Both teams bring a lot to the table," says Paul Chambers, CEO of Detroit IT.

Core3 Solutions also offered digital marketing and web development services. It is spinning out that side of the company into its own entity called Element5 Digital, which will employ nine people after the split.

Detroit IT will have a staff of eight people, including three from Enlighten. Chambers plans to continue expanding the range of  services and products the new company can offer.

"We're going to continue to grow our team and enhance our offerings," Chambers says. "It will really be unmatched not only in the Detroit area but in the Midwest."

Source: Paul Chambers, CEO of Detroit IT
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Stay-at-home moms become entrepreneurs with Clever Container

Karen Eschebach and Jennifer Weaver were both working as stay-at-home moms nearly a decade ago when entrepreneurial inspiration hit them. Eschebach was working as a professional organizer and the two friends were at a direct-sales party hosted by another friend when the CFL went off over their heads.

"We thought, why couldn't we do that with organizing products," Eschebach says.

That was 2006, which is also the same time they launched Clever Container. The St. Clair Shores-based company employs sales reps that host buying parties where they offer organizing tips, techniques and products for everything from kitchens to closets.

The company is now the full-time jobs of Eschebach and Weaver and it employs another dozen people beyond that. Four people have been hired over the last year. Those new jobs include customer service reps, graphic designers and a national sales director.

Clever Container has steadily grown over the years. It now offers private label products and is creating its own line of products. Sales hit $2 million in 2013.

"This year we expect to exceed that," Eschebach says.

Source: Karen Eschebach, co-founder & president of Clever Container
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Mom Biz Coach founder debuts DIY biz coaching book

About a decade ago, Lara Galloway was a stay-at-home mom aiming to become a work-at-home mom by starting her own business. The trained life coach found that she needed the help of a business coach and then came to the realization that starting a businesses is not something someone does on the side.

"There was no way I was going to work 60 hours a week to get it off the ground," Galloway says. "That's why I left corporate America."

Instead the Bloomfield Hills resident launched Mom Biz Coach, a consulting firm that helps other women blend work and family. She says she often helps women who are building businesses that have grown quickly.

"They are growing beyond themselves and they need teams," Galloway says.

And mentors. Galloway is a firm believer in the idea that mentorship makes everyone better. It's also why she is launching her own book this month, Moms Mean Business: A Guide to Creating a Successful Company and Happy Life as a Mom Entrepreneur. Galloway describes the tome as a DIY coaching tool.

"We know that everybody in businesses can benefit from a mentor or a coach," Galloway says. "But not everybody can afford to hire one."

Source: Lara Galloway, founder of Mom Biz Coach
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Simons Michelson Zieve moves into dynamic new space

Simons Michelson Zieve's new home is light years away from its old space in regards to openness and feel. Its old and new homes are also just a few blocks away from each other in Troy.

The 85-year-old advertising agency just moved into its new office at 1200 Kirts Boulevard, which measures out to 12,000 square feet. The space is actually a little smaller than its previous office but it doesn’t feel that way, with wraparound windows bringing in more natural light and multiple floor-to-ceiling, glass-walled meeting spaces.

"It just feels bigger," says Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve.

The new office is much more open, conforming to the modern creative class demands of connecting people by breaking them out of the physical office silos. Michelson's team worked in several individual offices at the old office but wanted a more collegial atmosphere in its new one.

"People would say you have all of these wonderful people here but I can't see them," Michelson says.

Simons Michelson Zieve has a staff of 47 employees and a couple of interns. It has hired three people over the last year and is looking to hire another three right now. The open jobs include junior-level account coordinators. More info on the openings here

Source: Jamie Michelson, president of Simons Michelson Zieve
Writer: Jon Zemke

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