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DeNovo Sciences secures $2M Series A investment round

DeNovo Sciences has closed on a Series A round of investment worth $2 million earlier this month, allowing the life sciences startup to start fundraising for a Series B in 2015.

"We are in very good shape (from a monetary standpoint)," says Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences.

The Plymouth-based startup, it calls the Michigan Life Sciences and Innovation Center home, got its start in Ypsilanti in 2011 developing a platform for early detection of cancer from blood samples. The idea is to create an less-invasive method than the traditionally painful route of biopsies. It won the top prize worth $500,000 in the 2012 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The Series A consists of all new money from angel investors and pre-seed funds.

DeNovo Sciences has developed a fully automated system to detect cancer, primarily breast and colon cancers. Two of those systems are currently in use in medical centers in the Middle East and Asia. The startup also has purchase orders for two more locations, including one in the U.S.

"We are actively engaged with more customers around the world," Handique says. "We hope to see more orders next year."

DeNovo Sciences has a staff of nine employees, nine independent contractors and one intern. It has hired three people over the last year, including software developers and clinical researchers.

Source: Kalyan Handique, president & CEO of DeNovo Sciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Human Element creates 3 jobs as it hits double-digit growth

Human Element has grown in a number of ways over the last year. It has watched its revenue spike by double-digits, its staff is on the rise, and its office expand by a few thousand square feet.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based e-commerce company (it specializes in the Magento e-commerce platform) has watched its revenue jump by 40 percent since 2011. That has allowed it to hire three people, a software engineer and project manager over the last year, and it's looking to add a software developer now to its team of 13 employees and six independent contractors.

"Growing that quickly has its challenges," says Ben Lorenz, managing partner of Human Element. "We're targeting 30 percent growth right now. We feel that is a manageable way to grow the team."

Which has prompted the 9-year-old company to expand its office. The company added 2,000 square feet earlier this year. Another addition of a few thousand square feet of office space seems like its in the card considering the company’s current growth curve.

"If we can stay on track of our growth plan we will need more space next year," Lorenz says.

He adds that a rebound in demand for e-commerce work, specifically the Magento platform, has driven the growth. Lorenz is quick to add that his company is controlling the growth because it takes a long timeline (typically closer to a year than just a few months) to get new hires up to speed with the rest of the team.

Another factor is Ann Arbor SPARK giving a Phase 4 grant to Human Element last year. The $12,000 grant helped the company form some strategic planning for its growth so it can lessen the learning the curve to getting bigger.

"SPARK has been helping us quite a bit," Lorenz says.

Source: Ben Lorenz, managing partner of Human Element
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Spry Publishing almost doubles staff with acquisition

Ann Arbor-based Spry Publishing has acquired Farmington Hills-based The Word Baron, a move that nearly doubles Spry Publishing's staff.

Spry Publishing is a health-and-wellness publisher and a member of the Edwards Brothers Malloy family of businesses. Most of Spry Publishing’s work is focused on the pharmaceutical industry. The Word Baron specializes in digital marketing, ranging from graphic design to building training manuals.

"It (acquiring The Word Baron) expands our creative services that we can offer our clients," says Jeremy Sterling, director of sales & marketing for Spry Publishing.

He adds the two firms have partnered on projects before and there is a good synergy between them thanks to how the services they provide complement each other so well. The Word Baron's three employees have moved into Spry Publishing’s offices in Ann Arbor, expanding the staff to eight employees.

The Word Baron has a number of clients in the automotive industry. Sterling expects the combination of the two firms will allow them to offer a more comprehensive publishing and marketing package to their respective clients.

"We should grow well across both of our businesses," Sterling says.

Source: Jeremy Sterling, director of sales & marketing for Spry Publishing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Vivergy software bridges sustainability and public health

A couple of tech entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor are working to bridge the gap between living a sustainable lifestyle and improving the public health with their new startup, Vivergy.

Kevin Kononenko and Dom Parise's are releasing the digital platform this week. Vivergy enables individuals to score their impact on local health due to their energy consumption and air pollution. That way they can see if the tweak their everyday behavior they can see how it can have a real-world impact on lessening things, like childhood asthma.

"Children in Ann Arbor inhale on average seven cigarettes each year," Kononenko says. "That is the equivalent of living with a smoker for three months."

Kononenko and Parise were inspired by the frustrating conventional wisdom that comes with sustainability -ie. the problems seem too enormous, things are slow to change, and that the positive actions of one person are often negligible.

"It always feels very negative, overwhelming, and sad," Kononenko says. "I wanted to do something about it that encourages people to think about it in a different way."

Vivergy is launching this week and the two partners are planning to focus on generating local usership at first. However, the platform can be used anywhere in the world.

Source: Kevin Kononenko and Dom Parise, co-founders of Vivergy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Seelio adds 14 people to downtown Ann Arbor office

Startups launched and grown in Ann Arbor can sometimes end up in new homes after they are acquired. That’s not the case with Seelio. The 3-year-old startup is doubling down on Tree Town with a small spike in hiring.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based higher education software startup has hired 14 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 22 employees and an intern. It is currently looking to hire four more people in software development, educational services, and a director of a university partnership development. Check out the openings here.

"We have been hiring at a rapid pace," says Emily Keller-Logan, director of marketing & communications for Seelio. "We have brought on a lot of talented people."

Seelio's platform enables college students to showcase their portfolio of work. The software documents how their college projects came to fruition and presents them for employers in job interviews. Check out a video about the platform here.

"We're providing student lifecycle portfolios to institutions so that students can begin preparing for their careers from orientation to graduation," Keller-Logan says.

Seelio raised a $1.5 million seed capital round in 2013. It was acquired by Kansas City-based PlattForm last summer.

Source: Emily Keller-Logan, director of marketing & communications for Seelio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Underground Printing leverages revenue spike for 52 hires

Underground Printing spent most of the last year building up the business infrastructure it had laid the groundwork for in previous years, and is starting to reap some significant rewards.

The Ann Arbor-based clothing printer is projecting that it will hit $16 million in revenues this year. That's up from $13.8 million last year, a jump of nearly 15 percent. As a result Underground Printing has hired 52 people in a wide variety of positions. It now has a staff of 190 people with 133 based in Ann Arbor.

"It (the new hires) are across the board," says Rishi Narayan, co-owner of Underground Printing. "The new employees are all over the company."

The 13-year-old company makes custom printed apparel, like t-shirts and embroidered clothing. It has 19 stores across North America, including four in Ann Arbor. It production facility is also in Ann Arbor.

Underground Printing opened a handful of new stores a few years ago. Since then it has focused on building up sales for those locations, along with its production capabilities. The firm has added two automatic presses and other parts of screen prep equipment.

"Our improvements have been focused on the backend," Narayan says.

Source: Rishi Narayan, co-owner of Underground Printing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Renovo Power Technology expands product lineup, staff

Renovo Power Technology has a growing staff to go with its expanding product portfolio in alternative energy.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based company has doubled it staff with three hires in sales, marketing and government affairs. That employment growth is thanks to more sales from a wider variety of products.

Renovo Power Technology makes advanced inverters that help transition energy from solar panels to the electric grid. The transformerless inverter technology gets rid of the copper coils of traditional transformers and replaces them with electronics that are both more efficient and cheaper to manufacture. Normal five kilowatt inverters weigh 150 pounds. Renovo Power Technology's inverters are less than 60 pounds.

It recently launched a micro inverter that allows an inverter/solar panel ratio to be as low as 1/1. Often an inverter will service an array of solar panels that can number a dozen or more.

"It offers more flexibility when it comes to installations where shading might come into effect," says Shane LaHouse, managing partner of Renovo Power Technology. "It also allows for smaller installations."

Renovo Power Technology currently has its technology being used in two large installments in Michigan with a third being lined up in Traverse City. It also looking to use its technology in a 166-panel array on 416 W Huron in Ann Arbor next year. The company is also looking to land more orders from governments, such as municipalities, in 2015.

"Our primary focus is on the Midwest," LaHouse says.

Source: Shane LaHouse, managing partner of Renovo Power Technology
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

OcuSciences enlists Adams Fellow to grow startup

OcuSciences hired two people over the last year, expanding the bio-tech startup’s staff to five. One of those hires was a new CTO (coming Accuri Cytometers) and another is from the Adams Entrepreneur Fellowship program.

The Automation Alley-managed program pairs recent college graduates with locally based startups. The idea is to get more talented young people involved in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Erich Heise joins OcuSciences as its business manager, specializing in business development.

"It's a chance for Erich to get his feet wet in a company," says Kurt Riegger, COO of OcuSciences. "OcuSciences is doing a lot of business development and Erich has a chance to do a lot of it."

OcuSciences spun out of the University of Michigan six years ago developing a new way to diagnose diseases like diabetes with eye scans. Its ocular diagnostic technology for metabolomic diseases that allows doctors to diagnose patients earlier and with higher accuracy. It's the type of new technology in an emerging area that attracted Heise back to Ann Arbor after he graduated from Case Western University.

"Ann Arbor is really an area of opportunity when it comes to entrepreneurship," Heise says. "Most people run to the coasts but I think this area is really blossoming."

OcuSciences’ technology is being used in two clinical centers, and the startup is working to bring two more online in the coming months.

"The need is high," Riegger says. "The challenge is can we get ahead of the need?"

Source: Kurt Riegger, COO of OcuSciences
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Customer Discovery Ninja platform helps gauge customer demand

Customer Discovery Ninja isn't Steven Sherman's first startup, but his first startup served as the inspiration for Customer Discovery Ninja.

The Ann Arborite spent a large part of last year trying to build up YouKnowWatt, a technology platform that brings real-time information to home energy audits with an eye for making more houses energy-efficient. That startup didn't pan out, but Sherman and his co-founder did stumble upon a market need when trying to determine their customer base.

They were doing customer research with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform when they realized the technology wasn’t doing everything they wanted. So they decided to make their own to facilitate more comprehensive interviews with potential customer.

"You're not pitching a solution," Sherman says. "You're trying to understand the core of their problem."

Customer Discovery Ninja is currently in private Beta with a handful of paying customers. The platform works to gauge customer demand for a new product. For now the new service is limiting its focus as it building up its platform.

"It's for general U.S. consumers," Sherman says. "You won't find an B2B on there."

Sherman and his partner would like to hire 100 paying customers (think businesses and entrepreneurs) paying $5 per interview by the end of this year.

Source: Steven Sherman, co-founder of Customer Discovery Ninja
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arborís re:group makes 6 hires in 6 months

Downtown Ann Arbor-based re:group scored a bigger home and larger staff in 2014.

The digital marketing agency has hired six people in the last six months, expanding its staff to 33 employees and the occasional intern. The new jobs include an art director, copy director, and social media professionals, among others. It's also looking to hire another three people now.

To accommodate that staff growth, re:group has expanded its space in the Schlenker Building on Liberty Street. It now occupies in excess of 10,000 square feet in the structure.

"We took another floor in our building," says Carey Jernigan, vice president of development for re:group.

She adds that re:group is growing so fast that it’s writing a new work proposal each work. It has landed new clients, such as Molly Maid and Pet Supplies Plus. Jernigan believes it is landing all of this new work because it offers a comprehensive marketing package that includes both new and traditional aspects of marketing.

"We do all of it under one roof," Jernigan says. "We always offer an integrated plan that includes traditional because it works better."

Source: Carey Jernigan, vice president of development for re:group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

ISSYS wins patent for sensor tech in Ypsilanti, adding positions

Integrated Sensing Systems, AKA ISSYS, recently received a patent for one of its minimally-invasive procedures used to insert its sensing technology,

The Ypsilanti-based tech firm designs and develops microelectromechanical systems for medical and scientific sensors. Its technology (miniature, wireless, batteryless, sensing implants) can be used in a variety of ways, such as wirelessly monitoring a heart or as fluid sensors in industrial manufacturing. The new patent is part of Integrated Sensing Systems’ sensor implementation as part of a minimally-invasive procedure, such as arthroscopic surgery.

"The patent covers how you do the actual implementation," says Nader Najafi, president & CEO of Integrated Sensing Systems.

The 19-year-old company has hired four people over the last year, including three engineers and an administrative person. It now has a staff of close to 30 people and is looking to hire another three people in engineering and quality control.

Integrated Sensing Systems has experienced incremental growth over the last year, but Najafi is optimistic that 2015 should bring double-digit revenue gains. He points out that Integrated Sensing Systems technology has received government approval for a few countries in Europe, which should clear the way for more sales.

"The potential for expansion has improved dramatically for 2015," Najafi says.

Source: Nader Najafi, president & CEO of Integrated Sensing Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Molecular Imaging adds staff, opens San Diego office

Molecular is growing its business in a couple of different ways.

The Ann Arbor-based tech firm has opened a new office in San Diego and made a number of hires over the last year, adding five people in Ann Arbor over the last year, including a couple of PhD scientists and experts in oncology.

"We have done quite a bit hiring," says Patrick McConville, CSO & senior vice president at Molecular Imaging. "We have filled a few key positions."

Molecular Imaging provides in vivo pre-clinical imaging services for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies. A group of venture capital firms, led by Farmington Hills-based Beringea, acquired the tech firm three years ago. Molecular Imaging opened a satellite office in San Diego in January. It hired two people for that office.

"There is a very big pharmaceutical and biotechnology community on the west coast, particularly in San Diego," McConville says. "We thought proximity would be important."

McConville notes that Molecular Imaging has experienced solid growth over the last year. He adds that is has doubled in size over the last three years and plans to maintain that growth curve.

"Now we're targeting the next doubling," McConville says.

Source: Patrick McConville, CSO & senior vice president at Molecular Imaging
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arborlight starts to sell new LED technology across U.S.

Arborlight is starting to go national this year, and has its sights set on some big milestones in 2015.

The Ann Arbor-based tech startup is starting to sell its sun-light-like LED lights across the country. It now has a backlog of orders amounting to $150,000 and is gearing up to start selling both a commercial and residential version soon.

"We have made tremendous strides,”"says Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight. "We have completed product development."

The 4-year-old company is creating a "daylight emulation system." Think of it as an energy-efficient LED light that can imitate sunlight down to the color, temperature, and other subtle details. The technology has an algorithm that is connected to a weather forecast, allowing the LED to behave in the same way as the outside lighting.

Arborlight has developed a commercial version that is 4 feet by 4 feet. It also recently came out with a 2 foot by 2 foot version that can be used in residences. The company has fielded orders from architects across the U.S.

"We have a fair amount of interest and traction," Forbis says.

Arborlight is in the process of raising a $1 million Series A after raising $500,000 in seed capital last year. Forbis hopes to close on the Series A before the end of the year. The company is currently made up of six employees and the occasional summer intern. It has hired three people over the last year, including marketing and sales professionals. Forbis expects his staff to reach eight people by next year.

Source: Mike Forbis, CEO of Arborlight
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Reconsider launches pilot for local biz investing awareness

Reconsider is starting a big to help channel more local investment dollars into local small businesses.

The Ypsilanti-based firm is teaming up with the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development to launch the venture LOCAL, an initiative to raise awareness that people can invest in local companies and see comparable returns to more traditional investment vehicles, like stocks and bonds.

"It's a local investing awareness and education campaign," says Angela Barbash, founder of Reconsider. "The idea is to get some companies to do some fundraising online."

The venture LOCAL campaign aims to accelerate investment in Washtenaw County-based businesses by highlighting more of those opportunities. For instance, the effort by the Tecumseh Brewing Co to raise $120,000 in seed capital.

"What would Ann Arbor look like in five years if there was an infusion of local capital?" Barbash says.

Reconsider specializes in research and education about community capital and social entrepreneurship. Barbash, a veteran financial advisor, works with a team of six independent contractors. She is currently interviewing two Shifting Gears program participants as potential interns.

Barbash is optimistic that the venture LOCAL campaign will be successful in Washtenaw County over the next few months, opening the door for its expansion across Michigan.

"It could be a turnkey solution for other communities to use," Barbash says.

Source: Angela Barbash, founder of Reconsider
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Stratos ramps up staff for new Ann Arbor office

The startup formerly known as Protean Payment (freshly rebranded at Stratos) has a new name, a new pool of money to draw from, and is looking for a new home in Ann Arbor to accommodate its growth.

Stratos announced last week that it raised $5.8 million in a Series A round. Silicon Valley-based Toba Capital Partners led the round with Ann Arbor-based Reasonant Venture Partners participating, along with two other venture capital firms.

Stratos is working on disrupting the way people pay for everyday purchases, but not too much. It is making a new card that combines all of the cards in your wallet (credit, debit, loyalty) into a bluetooth enabled device. The idea is to simplify how a person pay for things without having to build a whole new payment infrastructure (and learning curve) around it. It is also the reason behind the larger-than-usual-by-local-startup-standards initial capital raise.

"We're a software company and a hardware company, so we have an increased capital requirement," says Thiago Olson, co-founder & CEO of Stratos.

Stratos is still working on developing its technology and Olson declined to give some details about it, such as when it's anticipated to launch and how many people work for the startup today. He did say the company is looking to hire 10 people right now and expects to keep hiring for the foreseeable future.

"We're scaling on all fronts," Olson says. "It's going to be constant hiring on all fronts."

Stratos currently works from an office building in Kerrytown that it shares with Duo Security and Reasonant Venture Partners. Duo Security, also in the midst of a hiring spree, is moving to a bigger office in downtown Ann Arbor this fall. Stratos is evaluating whether his firm will expand into the newly vacated space or elsewhere as it looks for a space that could house between 40-50 people.

"We're expanding and we're going to be moving into a new office and that's one of the places we're looking at," Olson says.

Source: Thiago Olson, co-founder & CEO of Stratos
Writer: Jon Zemke

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