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H2bid set to raise $1.5M seed capital round

H2bid is working toward raising a round of seed capital worth $1.5 million that will help the 8-year-old startup grow its service offerings and hire more staff.

The Midtown-based startup's software helps water utilities bid out projects over the Internet, enabling them to strike the best deal in the most cost-effective manner. Over the last year it has turned into more of a data-and-analytics firm.

"We're helping water vendors and contractors make smarter decisions in the bidding process," says Glenn Oliver, president & CEO of H2bid.

H2bid employs about 15 people. It is looking to add people in three areas: a senior-level marketing professional with digital marketing experience, a data analytics research manager, and people with B2B telephone sales experience. H2bid plans to leverage its team to finish developing a data analytics offering, which it plans to market as software as a service. It is also offering a lead-generation service for its customers.

Oliver hopes to finish developing these services by the second quarter of this year. He is currently raising $1.5 million in seed capital to finish the development of those services and add more people to his team.

Source: Glenn Oliver, president & CEO of H2bid
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

TechTown takes applications for 2014 startup programs

Aspiring entrepreneurs looking for their place in Detroit's emerging startup ecosystem have a chance to claim it in TechTown this year. The small business accelerator is taking applications for its Labs Venture Accelerator and DTX Launch Detroit program for 2014.

"There are all kinds of programs right now," says Leslie Smith, president & CEO of TechTown.

The DTX Launch Detroit program is more of a talent-retention program, focused on college students and recent grads. The 10-week program helps young adults (two-or-three-person teams) take their ideas for a startup to actual launch. Each participant receives a $2,500 stipend.

The Venture Accelerator program is a bit more advanced, taking early stage tech startups and turning them into a market-ready business. The 12-week program also provides a pathway for the participating startups to enter into full-time incubation at TechTown.

The two programs expect to take about 50 startups team this year. The deadline for applying for each of these programs is early March. More information about DTX Launch Detroit can be found here and information on the Venture Accelerator can be found here.

These two programs are each 1-year-old. It has already had some measurable success, such as Sentinl. The startup is developing a high-tech gun control technology. It showed well at last year’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

"That has really made some extraordinary strides," Smith says. "It's about to close on some seed funding."

TechTown has also launched its own co-working space, Junction 440, this year. It also plans to host a number of individual events to help build local startups this year.

Source: Leslie Smith, president & CEO of TechTown
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

LOVELAND Technologies previews Motor City Mapping

Evolution. It's becoming an increasingly important word in describing the Motor City Mapping project.

The ambitious initiative originally set out to produce a comprehensive list of all of Detroit's blighted properties. It quickly became an effort to catalogue each of the Motor City’s 400,000 properties. The database will contain pictures and the condition of each property in Detroit, regardless of whether it is blighted or in pristine shape, contains a building or is vacant land.

The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force sent 100 surveyors and 50 drivers out to start taking pictures and assessing the condition of each of the city’s properties. They are passing the halfway mark (200,000 properties) this week. That information is compiled and sorted by teams from Data Driven Detroit and LOVELAND Technologies in TechTown where they are being catalogued into a digital database that will be made public.

"It's WhyDontWeOwnThis-like in that it's an individual parcel map,” says Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder of LOVELAND Technologies. "It's kind of like a coloring book. When you survey something it goes from red to green in the microhood."

Paffendorf and his team launched WhyDontWeOwnThis.com a few years ago as a way to sort through the thousands of tax foreclosed properties in Detroit. The website provided basic information about the properties, such as year built and building size, while tracking the tax auction bidding and sales.

Motor City Mapping’s website promises to be similar, providing a picture of the property and an assessment of its condition. Other information, such as ownership and tax status, might also be available further down the line. Paffendorf makes sure to reinforce the idea that the creation of the website is sill in the development stage and the concept of what it will provide is evolving.

Paffendorf says he wants it to serve as "an overall picture of occupancy in the city." However, ensuring that it stays up to date and accurate means it will have a public interaction component. Local residents and stakeholders will have the ability to further elaborate on the condition of property and even update the property's photo.

"This is sort of the people’s property catalogue," Paffendorf says. "It recognizes that there is only so much information the city can collect."

That means if a property devolves from occupied to abandoned or fire damaged, the community will be able to track it or even be given a more comprehensive depiction of its condition than the original surveying team. On the other side of the coin, people who improve property will be able to update the website’s information to reflect that.

"It also records when things get better as well," Paffendorf says.

Paffendorf expects the survey work will finish up in February as long as the weather doesn’t get too extreme. Surveying teams were kept at bay in recent days because of the recent large snowfall and subzero temperatures. Paffendorf declined to estimate how long it will take to get Motor City Mapping’s website up and running because the development process is still evolving.

"We're still up to our eyeballs trying to get this survey done," Paffendorf says.

LOVELAND Technologies has grown its team to seven people over the last year, including three recent hires. The new hires include one software developer and two community planners. It is also looking to hire one more software developer.

Source: Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder of LOVELAND Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

6th Man Apps brings analytics to sports with mobile tech

Luke and Matt Geiger have been big basketball fans for about as long as the two young men have been alive.

The brothers weren't able to play organized ball much beyond high school and recreation leagues, so they built a mobile app dedicated to the sport they love.

"It's the next best thing," says Luke Geiger, CEO of 6th Man Apps. "Basketball is something we love to do."

Luke Geiger was one of the first developers with UpTo, a up-and-coming startup in the M@dison Building. He and his brother are looking to set up 6th Man Apps' 4-month-old shop in the Grand Circus co-working space. Its first app, HoopMetrics, uses advanced statistics and analytics to help coaches and teams maximize their lineups.

The startup describes the app that "identifies the players that don’t necessarily light up the stat sheet but when they are on the floor, good things happen." It breaks down "player performance beyond basic statistics" so it can pinpoint the team’s highest scorer and its most efficient scorer.

"We got a lot more in-depth with our statistics," Geiger says.

6th Man Apps launched HoopMetrics last summer, selling it for $60 a pop. It now claims about 750 teams using the app, including teams like the University of Detroit Mercy. The startup and its four-person team is now looking at expanding to other sports later this year, such as baseball.

Source: Luke Geiger, CEO of 6th Man Apps
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Groovebox Studios grows staff as it expands across U.S.

Jeff Wenzel is the co-owner of Groovebox Studios, a production company that helps bands crowdsource new audio and video content. The 3-year-old firm got its start from the Sugar People music project and everything it took to put that together.

"We learned that it takes a huge team of people to make a project go," Wenzel says. "So we picked up the pieces and started Groovebox Studios."

Groovebox Studios helps independent bands crowdsource money from their fans to make new music and videos. The first $1,200 raised goes toward Groovebox Studios' expenses to make the project work (think time for equipment and professional services) and anything crowd funded beyond that goes toward paying the band.

"We make our money on the production costs," Wenzel says. "The band gets its money and the fans get fresh content."

The production company is based in the Russell Industrial Center, which is on the city’s near east side next to Hamtramck. Groovebox Studios is currently working with Start Garden to grow the concept. It has opened satellite locations in Chicago and Chapel Hill and is looking at expanding to Atlanta, Columbus or Cincinnati.

The firm currently employs four staffers and seven independent contractors. It hired one person and all of the independent contractors over the last year.

Source: Jeff Wenzel, co-owner of Groovebox Studios
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Styleshack creates virtual showroom for local boutiques

Rachel Schostak sees a hole in the retail market, at least in its virtual world. It's why the recent Bizdom graduate started Styleshack.

The downtown Detroit-based startup provides the online infrastructure so local boutique stores can have an online presence. Styleshack also puts those boutiques in one central location so its easier for patrons to shop local stores.

"Wouldn't it be great to have one place to find local boutiques and local stores?" Schostak says. "It's your own virtual showroom. Each store has its own individual URL."

Schostak went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and worked in the fashion industry in New York and Chicago before returning to Metro Detroit to work with a local designer. She launched Styleshack to help connect local stores and designers with more local patrons.

Styleshack launched in late November with a little more than a dozen stores using the service, most of which are in Metro Detroit. "We plan to grow in the Midwest in the coming months," Schostak says.

Source: Rachel Schostak, founder of Styleshack
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

M@dison Building-based iRule acquires On Controls

To say 2013 was an eventful year for iRule might be a bit of an understatement. The entertainment technology startup scored a Series B investment round last spring, moved into the M@dison Building in November and acquired On Controls just before the end of the year.

"It's been a great 2013," says Itai Ben-Gal, CEO of iRule. "We're excited about this year."

The 4-year-old startup makes a cloud-based universal remote control system that can be operated from the user's mobile device. It acquired On Controls (which iRule has partnered with in the past) in December for an undisclosed amount. The Salt Lake City-based startup specializes in making a control-and-automation system for professional entertainment center dealers and installers. Downtown Detroit-based iRule plans to offer On Controls’ technology to dealers and continue selling its own technology to consumers.

"We got to a point where we wanted to bring that side of the sales in-house," Ben-Gal says. "We wanted to acquire that brand instead of starting one of our own."

Compuware Ventures made the first major investment in iRule, moving the startup into the Compuware Building shortly thereafter. Detroit Venture Partners led the $1 million Series B round last March. It moved into a bigger space in the M@dison Building, where Detroit Venture Partners is headquartered, in November to accommodate its new hires. Thirteen people now work at iRule after hiring six people over the last year. It is also looking to hire three people right now and another three in the second quarter of this year.

"We're looking to grow the team aggressively," Ben-Gal says. "We're looking for everyone from developers to sales guys."

Ben-Gal and Victor Nemirovsky launched the company as a side project from their living rooms in Farmington Hills. The partners (both home-entertainment-center enthusiasts) quickly created a niche for iRule’s technology with people who enjoy custom home entertainment centers. Last year, iRule started to sell its product to both everyday consumers and commercial customers, finding a high-growth ceiling with the latter.

"That has been a nice area of growth," Ben-Gal says. "Now we're working to aggressively grow the commercial side."

Source: Itai Ben-Gal, CEO of iRule
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Agency 720 hires 20 as it grows in downtown Detroit

Agency 720 got its start two years ago primarily working as the recommended tier 2 marketing agency for Chevrolet, handling a little more than 100 markets across North America. Since then the downtown Detroit-based marketing firm has added a couple dozen new markets. It expects to bring another 15 more markets on board in 2014.

"We now have 128 markets across the country for Chevy," says Harold Kobakof, president & CEO of Agency 720. "We started with 103 markets two years ago."

That has also meant a good bit of hiring for Agency 720. It has hired 20 people over the last year for its regional offices and headquarters at One Detroit Center. It now employs 98 people, including 38 in downtown Detroit. Agency 720 expects to continue hiring at its current pace through this year.

Driving that growth is in large part the firm’s work with Chevrolet. It is also expanding into more digital media work and has worked on some non-automotive work with other agencies. For instance, it helped Organic land a contract with Pulte last year. It was an opportunity Agency 720 would like to capitalize again in 2014.

"If the opportunity presents itself we will look at it," Kobakof says.

Source: Harold Kobakof, president & CEO of Agency 720
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

WaitTime software helps biz broadcast real-time wait times

Ever wish finding out the wait time at a restaurant was as easy as looking up its website? A new startup rolling out of Bizdom is making that possible.

WaitTime just launched a software plug-in that allows a business to broadcast its wait times for service in real-time to their website, mobile app or digital signage. It's available for eateries and any other retail or professional service business that might have a line.

"It's a new way of allowing the consumers to get to their end goal more efficiently," Zachary Klima, co-founder & CEO of WaitTime.

The 4-month-old startup launched is software over the holidays at a handful of restaurants in downtown Detroit, including Buffalo Wild Wings, 24 Grille, Fountain Bistro and a variety of locations in Greektown.

Klima started WaitTime with Craig Bisson. The partners have been friends since they went to high school at Birmingham Brother Rice. Bisson currently works a Google and Klima works at Bedrock Realestate Services. They enrolled in Bizdom last summer.

The pair are marketing WaitTime as a software service with a free two-month trial to start. The idea is the software will provide the digital wait times and also an analysis of how customers go through a business, how long they wait, etc.

"We give that restaurant a report card," Klima says.

Source: Zachary Klima, co-founder & CEO of WaitTime
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Enterprising Health accelerator invests in local startups

Enterprising Health is a business accelerator with an aim of creating value in more places than just a startup’s bottom line.

The Midtown-based organization is an offshoot of St. John Providence Health System's Community Health Program. Enterprising Health provides consulting services, mentoring and seed funding to startups that could help improve the population’s health.

"What we're looking for is health-impact," says Erica Thrash-Sall, director of Enterprising Health. "We don't take any stake in the business."

The 5-year-old business accelerator is staffed by Thrash-Sall and is looking to hire a program manager now. It has provided seed funding (up to $10,000 per venture) to eight new businesses over the last year. Those include Fresh Corner Cafe, which provides healthy meals at inner city corner stores, and the Buffalo Street Farm, an urban farm near Jayne Field on Detroit's East Side.

One of Enterprising Health's other investments is in Healthy Dollar, a Flint-based company that focuses on stocking healthy food options at the front of dollar stores in underserved communities.

"It's meant to introduce healthy food options and make them affordable to people who might not think they can buy them," Thrash-Sall says.

Enterprising Detroit is currently looking for candidates to take part in its startup programs for this year. For information, click here.

Source: Erica Thrash-Sall, director of Enterprising Health
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Data Driven Detroit adds 5 staff in TechTown

To say 2013 was a year of transition for Data Driven Detroit might be a bit of understatement. The TechTown-based non-profit’s founder retired, it joined the Michigan Nonprofit Association and it started to take part in some big projects, such as Motor City Mapping.

"We have been through a lot of transition in the last year and a half," says Erica Raliegh, acting director of Data Driven Detroit.

Despite all of that, Date Driven Detroit has hired five people over the last year. Those new hires include data analysts and project managers. The organization now has a core staff of 11 people.

Raliegh is filling in for Kurt Metzger, Data Driven Detroit’s founder. Metzger retired last summer and has since been elected as the mayor of Pleasant Ridge. He is currently serving as Data Driven Detroit’s Director Emeritus.

"We are so glad to have had Kurt throughout the years," Raliegh says.

She adds that Data Driven Detroit plans to continue its push to bring greater transparency to Metro Detroit by "opening up data holdings." That includes publishing MEAP scores for every school in the state, analyzing population statistics and trend and making information about recorded offense in the city of Detroit more accessible.

One of its largest projects is taking part in the Motor City Mapping project, which aims to catalogue the condition of every piece of property in the city of Detroit. "Every piece of property across the city, including those that don’t have buildings," Raleigh says. That project is currently underway and is expected to wrap up by the end of this winter.

Source: Erica Raliegh, acting director of Data Driven Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HealthCure's revenue jumps 300 percent, 3 people hired

HealthCure is starting to hit its stride. The Detroit-based healthcare startup has been watching its revenue spike 300 percent over the last year, allowing it to hire a handful of people.

The 5-year-old startup has hired three people over the last year, including an executive, an operations professional, and a field technician. It currently employs 10 people on Detroit's east side in the area of Van Dyke and Lynch Road.

HealthCure
specializes in helping hospitals reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections. The startup’s software and expert team works with the medical center to find the best places to prevent infections and help the institution meet Affordable Care Act benchmarks. The idea is to help hospitals avoid penalties by hitting these benchmarks and even go beyond that.

"We want to help hospitals get a bonus (for surpassing the benchmarks)," says Mark Arizmendi, CEO of HealthCure. "We think it can be a source of revenue."

HealthCure, which made the semifinals of last month’s Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, is currently working with Oakwood Healthcare System on implementing its solutions. It is also planning to add more hospitals to its roster in 2014.

"We are talking to a number of new customers in the healthcare arena right now," Arizmendi says.

Source: Mark Arizmendi, CEO of HealthCure
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

HIRE DETROIT! inspires local biz to hire unemployed

Detroit Employment Solutions Corp is launching an initiative called HIRE DETROIT!, which will encourage local businesses in the Motor City to hire at least one Detroiter over the next year.

HIRE DETROIT!
hopes to encourage the hiring of 25,000 Detroiters by the end of the next year. To accomplish this, the nonprofit is working to raise awareness about the Motor City's talent pool to new businesses moving in and taking part in major infrastructure projects, such as M-1 Rail.

"I think it's important to remind employers that are moving into the city and benefiting from these contracts to consider these qualified Detroiters," says Pamela  Moore, president & CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corp.

HIRE DETROIT! is modeled after HIRE ONE Atlanta, an initiative launched two years ago to encourage Atlanta-based businesses to hire more local talent. Both HIRE ONE Atlanta and HIRE DETROIT! are working to help reverse the unemployment numbers by facilitating more local hiring of unemployed people.

HIRE DETROIT! is working with Michigan Works! centers across the city to get more Detroiters into more job openings.

"It's time to focus on the human capital of Detroit, not just the venture capital," Moore says.

Source: Pamela  Moore, president & CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

M@dison Block, Batching Brewing headline 2013 news

The top business headlines in Detroit in 2013 often involved new businesses filling vacancies in old buildings across the Motor City.

The biggest example of that is the expansion of the M@dison Building entrepreneurial hub in downtown Detroit to include most of the buildings on that block, creating the M@dison Block. Growing tech startups and creative firms started to fill newly renovated spaces in the block overlooking Grand Circus Park, including taking space in the Broderick Tower and mid-size commercial buildings along Woodward Avenue and Broadway Street.

Those new economy companies include mobile app firm Detroit Labs moving from the M@dison Building into two floors of 1520 Woodward and Grand Circus taking a floor of the Broderick Tower. Hudson Editorial and Nueman/Smith Architecture moved into the Wright Kay building at 1500 Woodward. TVS Communications Solutions took the upper floors of the Detroit Beer Co’s building on Broadway Street.

Batch Brewing Company
also took the Motor City's business community by storm. The craft brewery is working to open the first nano-brewery in Detroit, taking over a long-vacant storefront on Michigan Avenue in Corktown. First it raised $25,000 from a crowd-funding campaign. Second, it has been working all year to renovate 1444 Michigan Ave, which it hopes to open next year. Third, it won the Hatch Detroit contest.

Last year's Hatch Detroit winner, La Feria, opened in the newly remodeled retail space at 4130 Cass in Midtown this fall. The Spanish Tapas restaurant is the latest new business to open in a long-vacant commercial building. New retail businesses have also opened in The Villages and along the Avenue of Fashion in the University District.

Writer: Jon Zemke

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

SIB Medical Technologies leverages Accelerate Michigan win cash

SIB Medical Technologies took second place in the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition last month.

It's a win that brought $15,000 in seed capital to the Wayne State University spin-out, among other things. The startup's co-founders made a large number of contacts at the event, which was held in downtown Detroit. Contacts that helped get the word out about the up-and-coming biotech firm.

"There was a marketing aspect as well," says Adham Aljahmi, co-founder & COO of SIB Medical Technologies.

The 1-year-old company is developing a medical device that its co-founders hope will become the simpler and cheaper option for colon-cancer screening that will eventually open the door for home screenings. The technology preserves tissue samples in a liquid solution rather than with heavy, bulky cryogenic materials. Check out a video explaining it here.

"Our device allows for a cleaner-and-simpler approach to collecting stool samples for testing," Aljahmi says. He and Sagor Bhuiyan, seniors at Wayne State University, created the technology. They have been working with TechTown and the Blackstone LaunchPad business incubator at Wayne State to develop the technology.

They are using the prize money from Accelerate Michigan a $5,000 grant from the Warrior Fund to launch a second pilot study next year.

"We hope to get it started by at least the beginning of the summer," Aljahmi says.

Source: Adham Aljahmi, co-founder & COO of SIB Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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