| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Vimeo RSS Feed

Startup News

699 Articles | Page: | Show All

My Graffiti Removal Guy targets SW Detroit

Robert Sheppard worked for a masonry restoration company for 10 years before he moved to Detroit. He and his wife made the move to the Motor City about a year ago after she took a nursing job at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital. That was about the same time Sheppard started My Graffiti Removal Guy.

"There wasn't a lot of graffiti removal in Detroit, so I got the ball rolling for myself," Sheppard says. He adds that "it's a skill I acquired in masonry restoration. When I got to Detroit I noticed a lot of graffiti. It was an opportunity and I ran with it."

My Graffiti Removal Guy has done most of it work in Southwest Detroit, mostly in the area of Springwells and West Vernor for the Southwest Detroit Business Association.

The firm takes graffiti and tags off the sides of businesses and homes in the area, along with other places throughout the city. It is enough work for Sheppard to employ himself. He is looking to really establish the company in 2014.

"I want my business to continue to make people happy and provide a quality service," Sheppard says. "I would like to hire a guy within the next year and have my name known across Detroit."

Source: Robert Sheppard, owner & operator of My Graffiti Removal Guy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

New president pushes Fusion Coolant Systems forward

Fusion Coolant Systems executed a pivot in its business plan from new leadership in the clean-tech startup over the last year, which is setting the stage for growth later this year.

The 5-year-old startup, which calls Focus: HOPE's job training campus home, makes an environmentally friendly cutting fluid for industrial uses that help improve performance while reducing the wear. The technology aims to eliminate the toxic cutting fluids that are standard today in sectors like aerospace and automotive. The firm is also looking to focus on machining parts made of exotic materials, such as titanium.

"We have a lot of changes going on right now," says Brad Darr, president of Fusion Coolant Systems. "More specifically we have begun to focus on the end user. Before we were focused on machine tooling. We realized no one is going to sell our product like us."

One of those changes is Darr. He came on to lead the startup last June and now oversees a team of four. He hopes to add another 2-3 people later this year to help accommodate the company’s expected sales growth. Focusing on end users is the leverage Darr and his team hope to take advantage of soon.

"We are at the point where 75 percent of our focus is on this type of customer," Darr says.

Fusion Coolant Systems is also looking to raise a Series A round of venture capital later this year. It is aiming to lock down $1 million that Darr hopes will expedite the company’s growth.

"We're looking to get traction early in the year," Darr says. "We're looking to scale midway through the year."

Source: Brad Darr, president of Fusion Coolant Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Wedit hires 2 people, looks to add another

Wedit is one of those startups that launched out of the early days of Bizdom and has been knocking around the Quicken Loans family of businesses ecosystem for a few years. This last year is when it started to gain traction and then some.

The 4-year-old startup made its name by offering affordable wedding videography solutions that are shipped to the happy couple in a box and then edited upon their request. It hired two people (a video editor and project manager) last year and is looking to hire another person who specializes in customer service now. It currently employs a team of three full-time employees and eight independent contractors. It is looking for summer interns.

"We tripled our sales," says Sarah Brithinee, CEO of Wedit. "It was our first cash-flow positive year."

The new economy startup made that happen by harnessing some new economy tricks to grow its revenue.

"It's all through social media," Brithinee says. "Ninety-seven percent of our sales come from Pinterest."

Wedit currently works out of the co-working space at Bizdom at 1528 Woodward. It is looking to move into its own space in the First National Building before the end of the winter. Wedit is also planning to rebuild its website and build up the company brand in this year.

"We're setting the table for a big 2015," Brithinee says.

Source: Sarah Brithinee, CEO of Wedit
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

BUILD grads launch food-delivery service, Flash Delivery

A couple of graduates from D:hive’s BUILD program are launching a food-delivery service in Detroit’s greater downtown area called Flash Delivery.

Tatiana Grant and Ericka Billingslea both graduated from D:hive’s BUILD program with the idea of launching a food delivery service in Detroit. A mutual friend introduced them and decided to launch Flash Delivery together, covering most of the up-and-coming neighborhoods within the Grand Boulevard loop.

"Downtown specifically is becoming a typical downtown," Grant says. "There are businesses and services every other downtown in America has but we don’t. This is one of those services."

Flash Delivery and its team of two people, operating out of Lafayette Park for now, are offering to deliver food from local supermarkets and restaurants to patrons in the greater downtown area. Participating businesses include 24 Grille, R.U.B BBQ PUB and Sala Thai, among others.

Grant and Billingslea hope to establish their business this year and are looking at expanding its farther out into the city and suburbs in 2015, such as the Grosse Pointes, Palmer Park-area neighborhoods and Ferndale/Royal Oak area.

"We're letting the growth be very organic," Grant says.

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

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

ArtServe study helps highlight local creative economy

A new report from ArtsServe is providing some hard statistics on the impact of Michigan's growing creative economy, and the Detroit Creative Corridor Center is providing a number of its own.

The CreativeState MI report issued by ArtServe shows that 9,700 creatively inclined companies, ranging from advertising agencies to design firms, employ 74,000 people in Michigan as of 2011. They represent $3.6 billion in wages. Oakland, Wayne, Macomb and Washtenaw counties are four of Michigan's top five counties for creative industries.

"I see this day in and day out and I didn’t think the numbers would be so big," says Matt Clayson, director of Detroit Creative Corridor Center.

The Detroit Creative Corridor Center provides business-building services to creative-based firms and aspiring entrepreneurs who want to set up shop in Detroit greater downtown area, specifically the Woodward corridor between Grand Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue. Its operates a year-long incubator program for these types of startups and is shepherding its third class through this year.

It currently has 18 companies in the incubator that represents 32 jobs. Those companies have added three jobs since the incubator class started last fall. Among its promising startups are Wedge Detroit (a marketing and branding firm), MammothReach (a web-design firm) and The Empowerment Plan (a company that makes a combination sleeping bag and winter coat.

"They have been fundraising machines," Clayson says. "They have been aiming to launch a kickstarter campaign to fund their prototype."

Source: Matt Clayson, director of Detroit Creative Corridor Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Huron Capital Partners aims for sustainability with new partnership

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important word at Huron Capital Partners.

The downtown Detroit-based private-equity firm, it calls the Guardian Building home, has formed a partnership with Phil Bomrad, a veteran of the energy and clean-tech industries. Huron Capital Partners plans to invest in companies with a focus on sustainability through a holding company, Albireo Energy.

"We see a lot of really strong trends in this market," says Jim Mahoney, partner with Huron Capital Partners. "We think it’s a large and fragmented market which is good for us to invest in."

Albireo Energy will focus on making investments in the energy services industry, specifically companies that focus on energy-efficiency and grid-services for commercial and institutional buildings. The idea is to provide capital to companies that help owners of large buildings lower operational costs and environmental impacts.

Some of the characteristics of the targeted growth firms are companies with strong expertise in building automation and energy efficiency retrofit projects that have an existing commercial building customer base and annual revenues greater than $15 million.

Mahoney expects Huron Capital Partners to make about a dozen investments from this partnership, including a handful over this year. The private-equity firm employs more than 20 people and has hired four over the last year.

Source: Jim Mahoney, partner of Huron Capital Partners
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Title Source hires 500, including 100 tech pros

Title Source didn’t just hire a few people in 2013 or even a few dozen. It hired a few hundred. Five hundred hires to be precise.

The downtown Detroit-based title company hired 500 people last year, including 100 people who specialize in technology development, such as software developers. It is currently looking to hire another dozen people.

"Last year was probably our record breaking year," says Jeff Eisenshtadt, president & CEO of Title Source. "We grew the company, top-line, by 40 percent. We grew our headcount by a third."

Title Source specializes in real-estate services, such as title and appraisal work. It moved to the First National Building overlooking Campus Martius in the summer of 2012, bring the bulk of its workforce with it from Troy. It followed the lead of Quicken Loans to be close to one of its primary customers. Title Source currently employs 2,000 people, including 1,600 in downtown Detroit.

Since moving downtown, Title Source has made developing its principal technology, Atlas, a priority. The custom software focuses on streamlining the title creation process, specifically the communication aspect between the the numerous moving parts of the process, including property researchers, appraisers, city services. The idea is to eliminate miscommunications and make what once took hours to do only take a few minutes.

Atlas has allowed Title Source to eliminate the usage of other software platforms, saving it money in licensing fees. Title Source is now working on creating a new software platform for its vendors called Nexsys. Title Source works with about 25,000 vendors across the U.S. and Eisenshtadt hopes having some of those major vendors using Nexsys will allow for more efficiencies to be created.

Source: Jeff Eisenshtadt, president & CEO of Title Source
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Urban Science plans to add 126 staff in Ren Cen

James Anderson has some big ambitions for Urban Science. The CEO of automotive retail consulting firm has built the 37-year-old company into a $200 million business. That is up from $147 million in 2012, and Anderson expects to grow the firm exponentially within the next 10 years.

"I like the b word (billion)," Anderson says.

Urban Science provides sales and marketing software and other solutions for the automotive industry. It got its start in 3,600 square feet of the Renaissance Center when it opened in 1977. Urban Science now occupies six floors of the building. It employs about 850 people after making 110 hires (mostly of technical talent) in the last year.

Urban Science plans to create another 126 jobs over the next five years. The firm plans to expand its software consulting and engineering and services operations with a $2.1 million investment. Anderson hopes to hit that hiring goal sooner rather than later.

"I would expect to see a lot of that happen before we hit year four or year five," Anderson says.

The downtown Detroit-based company also recently hired Elizabeth Klee as its chief information officer. Klee served as managing director at Accenture before joining Urban Science. At Accenture, she was responsible for numerous technology strategies and outsourcing engagements across multiple industries.

"As the world becomes more digital everyday we have to rely more on software to thrive in the marketplace," says James Anderson, CEO of Urban Science.

Source: James Anderson, CEO of Urban Science
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Draper Triangle Ventures aims to open Detroit office

Draper Triangle Ventures is expanding its investment strategy to including Michigan and the Pittsburgh-based VC has its eyes set squarely on downtown Detroit.

The venture capital firm specializes in making early stage investments in tech startups, think young software and IT companies. It sees a number of its future targets coming from the emerging technology hub in downtown Detroit, specifically the M@dison Block, and plans to open an office there to be close to the action.

"There are a dozen companies, maybe more, that are very interesting and worth taking a look at," says Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures.

Draper Triangle Ventures plans to open two small satellite offices in Michigan, one in downtown Detroit and the other in Ann Arbor. Murray will serve as the man on the ground in Michigan manning those two offices. He says Draper Triangle Ventures focused on those two areas because they both target rich environments for technology investors.

"Technology deal flow tends to originate in large metropolitan areas," Murray says.

Draper Triangle Ventures is raising a $100 million investment fund, of which it has commitments for $75 million. The firm plans to make 1-2 investments in a startup each year. Those investments are expected to be in the $1 million range. The firm is also deep into doing due diligence into one local startup and Murray is optimistic that an investment announcement could be made within the next few months.

Source: Jonathan Murray, managing director of Draper Triangle Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Challenge Detroit begins recruiting for 2014 cohort

Challenge Detroit is now taking applications for its third class of fellows, but also has some interesting statistics to show off from its first class.

Challenge Detroit is a talent/retention initiative that pairs recent college graduates with employers. The year-long program also provides the fellows with a housing stipend to live in the city and opportunities to volunteer and become involved in the city.

Challenge Detroit takes in about 30 fellows each year starting with its first class in 2012. Of those fellows in the first class, 90 percent stayed in the region. A vast majority of them also kept working with their host employer after the fellowship was up.

"We're hoping for similar events coming out of year two," says Deirdre Green Grove, executive director of Challenge Detroit. "We're really excited about our first year’s impact."

That first class of fellows has also proven to have some aspiring business people. Five of the fellows from the first class have started their own business or are in the process of doing. Among those ventures are FYOUNK Clothing, which just opened a retail location in downtown Royal Oak, and Zoom Detroit Studios, a videography and animation firm.

"We weren't trying to start an entrepreneur incubator but we definitely had some entrepreneurial individuals," Green Grove says.

Applications for the 2014 class of Challenge Detroit fellows can be found here. Applications are due by March 9. The new class of fellows will launch in September.

Source: Deirdre Green Grove, executive director of Challenge Detroit
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Fathead adds a couple dozen hires in downtown

Patrick McInnis isn't gun-shy about hiring someone at Fathead. The poster-decal firm has two open positions for sales professionals and the company would be ready to take a shot on good candidates even if those jobs weren't on the table.

"If we come across a good candidate we will pull the trigger," says Patrick McInnis, CEO of Fathead. "That is a revenue opportunity for us."

The downtown Detroit-based firm, it calls the Compuware Building home, has taken a lot of shots over the last year, hiring 25 people. Those jobs include sales, operations, marketing and customer service. It now has a staff of 100 employees and half a dozen interns. The number of interns expands to 20 over the summer.

Those hires go with Fathead's increasing growth. Its revenue is up 35 percent last year, making 2013 its best year so far.

"We are expecting to grow another 30-35 percent this year," McInnis says. "We're definitely a company on the rise."

The 8-year-old company got its start making poster-size decals of famous athletes that adhere to walls. It was acquired by Dan Gilbert and is now a member of the Quicken Loans family of companies.

Fathead has grown its product portfolio over that time. It now offers jumbo-sized wall art for commercial buyers, such as ceiling to floor decals for major universities, like the University of Michigan and Miami (of Ohio) University, to name a few. One of its new products is Fashion Fat Dots, which are small stickers that go on the navigation buttons of iPhones and other mobile devices.

Fathead also is moving into the home decor arena. It now offers products that are similar to customizable wallpaper. For instance, renters who can't paint walls can order a piece of vinyl in any color they want. That way the renter's room is customized to their wants and they don't have to worry about losing any of their damage deposit when they take the piece of vinyl down.

"We're going to continue to expand that product line," McInnis says.

Fathead is also planning to expand its traditional product portfolio in 2014. The company wants to add more licenses for non-sports celebrities for their original-style wall decals. Last year Fathead nailed down the image rights for One Direction and it wants to bring in more celebrities that resonate with teens and tweens.

"The up-and-coming kid bands are a big focus for us this year," McInnis says.

Source: Patrick McInnis, CEO of Fathead
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Edibles Rex grows staff, scores Mission Main St Grant

Edibles Rex is both hiring and locking down new money, including six figures from a Mission Main Street Grant.

The 21-year-old firm is based in the Warren-Connor neighborhood on Detroit’s east side. It specializes in catering and wholesale food preparation service. Think making the meals that are used in school cafeterias.

Edibles Rex services a number of large corporations and schools. The company has watched its revenue jump 5 percent over the last year as the demand for federally subsidized school meals has spiked. It also worked on a summer meals program last year to bring more healthy food for children in economically challenged neighborhoods by service free lunches at recreation centers, churches and parks.

"We served probably 3,500 meals a day this summer," says Tammy Tedesco, president & CEO of Edibles Rex.

That growth has allowed Edibles Rex to hire 10 people over the last year, expanding the firm's staff to 90 employees and the occasional summer intern. The new hires filled open positions for upper management, food preparation and school lunch servers.

Edibles Rex also scored a $250,000 grant from the Mission Main Street program this year. That money will go toward the renovation costs of a new building Edibles Rex acquired near Eastern Market. Edibles Rex expects to spend $2 million renovating the structure later this year. It has already raised about 75 percent of that number.

Source: Tammy Tedesco, president & CEO of Edibles Rex
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Henry Ford Innovations receives $3M from Davidson Foundation

The Henry Ford Innovation Institute, the intellectual property incubator for Henry Ford Health System, has received a $3 million grant from the William Davidson Foundation aimed at expanding the hospital's entrepreneurial activity and educational outreach.

"This grant will allow us to start new programs and augment some programs we already have," says Dr. Scott Dulchavsky, CEO of the Henry Ford Innovation Institute.

The three-year grant establishes the William Davidson Center for Entrepreneurs in Digital Health. The center will help enable turning more of the healthcare innovations developed at Henry Ford Health System into commercially viable products.

Among the programs it plans to start is the Davidson Entrepreneurs in Residence, which will put about a dozen entrepreneurs to work in Henry Ford Innovation Institute helping commercialize new technologies. The Davidson Center will also help foster more collaboration between innovators, educators, and corporate partners to create new technologies, such as digital applications and platforms.

The $3 million grant will also help augment Henry Ford Health System’s education outreach programs. That includes helping fund and promote events about healthcare for everyone from middle school students to physicians' groups.

"We have a pretty robust plan in place for educating folks in the region," Dr. Dulchavsky says.

Source: Dr. Scott Dulchavsky, CEO of Henry Ford Innovation Institute
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AutoHarvest aims to foster more IP collaboration

AutoHarvest is creating a new Internet platform that not only promises to make the purchase of intellectual property easier but will also open up innovation hubs in the automotive industry to more collaboration.

The 3-year-old nonprofit aims to foster collaboration and innovation in the auto industry by making things like tech labs and intellectual property more accessible. AutoHarvest has offices at the University of Michigan and TechTown. It has a team of six people after adding two more over the last year.

AutoHarvest has spent the last year and change developing a new software platform that it hopes will serve as a Amazon.com of intellectual property innovation. The online bazaar will allow inventors, entrepreneurs, businesses and institutions to buy, sell and collaborate on technology. It's currently in Beta-version and is aiming for a June release.

"There are several key communication features that need to be added," says Jayson Pankin, president & CEO of AutoHarvest. "We are in major bug-hunting mode."

Among the features in line for addition are the ability to broadcast the website in eight different languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, French and German.

"We have companies from France and Germany that use our network now," Pankin says. "This will help them."

AutoHarvest is also looking to add an "Innovation Hub" tab to the site that will allow local research institutions to open up their labs and databases to the public. For instance, TARDEC (the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren) will make 70 of its laboratories open to the public that follows specific guidelines. The idea is to make the resources of big organizations available to startups.

"This way small companies can have access to software and databases they wouldn't otherwise," Pankin says.

Source: Jayson Pankin, president & CEO of AutoHarvest
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Locqus mobile app helps small biz manage assets

A new startup hatching out of the M@dison block in downtown Detroit is debuting a software platform focused on helping small firms keep track of their assets and the back-end of their business.

Locqus' first mobile app, Field Manage, helps small service businesses (think skilled trade contractors and mom-and-pop shops like exterminators) track and manage time clocks, scheduling, service times, inventory, quotes, payroll and invoices. It synchronizes most aspects of running a business between devices and employees without the need of separate software packages, so the software platform can be run from the firm's desktop and connect with its employees personal mobile devices. Field Manage can work on iOS, Andriod and other software platforms.

"Most small businesses aren't interested in buying Android or iPhones for their employees," says Sandy Kronenberg, principal of Locqus. "We needed to support them in that way."

The 1-year-old firm employs nine people who work out of the co-working space of Bizdom at 1528 Woodward.

"Where else would I like to be other than in an environment of a bunch of young peole trying to build up companies?" Kronenberg says.

Locqus is offering Field Manage for free. It hoped to have 50 firms use the app within its first month after release. It went live early this year. So far 60 companies have downloaded it. Locqus makes money by having a Square-like creditcard mechanism built into the app. Field Manage also offers small lines of credit to the firms that use it, making it easier and cheaper to borrow money to grow their business.

"We can determine their creditworthiness better than any bank," Kronenberg says.

Source: Sandy Kronenberg, principal of Locqus
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
699 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts