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Plex scores $50M in private-equity funding

Plex finds itself $50 million richer this summer after landing big financing investments from T. Rowe Price and Accel Partners.

The Troy-based company makes cloud-based ERP software for manufacturers. Plex describes its software platform as built from the plant floor up, enabling users to increase productivity and profitability at existing facilities by streamlining the manufacturing process.

The 19-year-old tech company was acquired in 2012 by Francisco Partners, a private-equity firm based in Silicon Valley. Plex also received a $30 million investment in 2012 from Accel Partners, a venture capital firm also located in Silicon Valley. The new $50 million capital infusion is considered an equity investment.

Plex plans to use its new round of seed capital to grow the sales and marketing efforts of its software platform. It is also planning to put some of that money into research and development of new technology.

"We have been working on a new user-interface over the last year," says Katy Teer, a corporate communications manager for Plex.

Plex has a staff of close to 400 employees and 20 interns. It has hired 156 people since January of last year. It also has 27 openings for everything from sales to senior technical writers right now. More information on those jobs is here.

"We're in an aggressive hiring plan right now," Teer says, adding she was employee No. 220 when she started at Plex two years ago. The firm expects to cross the 400-employee threshold later this year. "We're a really fast-growing tech company here in Metro Detroit."

Source: Katy Teer, corporate communications manager for Plex
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

123.net hires 10 people as it grows wireless business

123.net is hiring in Southfield, and with good reason.

The Internet/data center company has hired 10 people over the last year, including six people for its wireless Internet division. It’s in the process of adding summer interns right now, and the firm plans to hire more staff later this year. The reason?

"Demand," says Jim Hart, director of wireless operations for 123.net. "We don't add head count because it's speculative. We add people because there is a need."

The 17-year-old company has been hard at work expanding its tech center at its headquarters in Southfield. The 130,000-square-foot structure at 24700 Northwestern Highway just brought an extra 15,000 square feet of data center space online.

123.net wireless Internet product has led the company's recent growth spike. Hart explains the speed of that product's deployment has been second to none.

"There is a demand for it," Hart says. "People just want it."

123.net also has two interns on top of its staff of 40 employees. It is currently looking to add three more summer interns. The company plans to use its internship program as a talent pipeline for future employees.

"We're hoping to convert a couple of them as soon as their internships are complete," Hart says.

Source: Jim Hart, director of wireless operations for 123.net
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Varnum targets Metro Detroit with 12 newer hires for Novi office

The Varnum law firm has been around a long time. One hundred and twenty-five years, to be exact. And the Grand Rapids-based firm sees a big part of its future in Metro Detroit.

Varnum offers a broad range of legal services, ranging from technology development to employee litigation. It opened an office in Novi 12 years ago, and it has grown significantly in the last year.

"Our firm has concluded that the Metro Detroit area is a place where we have many current clients and many opportunities with clients," says Rich Hewlett, partner at Varnum. "We see a lot of really good attorneys here as well."

Varnum has hired eight attorneys and four paralegals at its Novi office over the last 18 months. It currently has a staff of 29 attorneys, eight paralegals and 18 support staff in Novi. Hewlett expects the Novi office to continue growing for the foreseeable future.

"We have a lot of really good things going on here," Hewlett says. "We see this area as a place that is very favorable to us."

Source: Rich Hewlett, partner at Varnum
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Cirrus Group leverages spike in school district customers

Schools are becoming an increasingly important part of Cirrus Group's future.

The Rochester Hills-based company specializes in back-end software for school districts and after-school programs. It has expanded significantly into school districts in the Phoenix area, where it represents six school districts.

"We have grown quite a bit in the school district space," says Michael Garret, COO of Cirrus Group. "We have also experienced growth in all of our segments."

The 11-year-old firm’s software handles operational, financial and customer management functions for child-care facilities, community centers and school districts. The platform manages enrollment, participant payments and communications, scheduling and government compliancy requirements including state and local subsidy payments and food care programs. The subsidy part has proven to be a distinct competitive advantage in recent months.

"We are one of the few companies that offers a subsidy management tool," Garret says.

That has allowed Cirrus Group to hire two people in software development and customer service over the last year. It currently has a staff of 14 employees and three additional openings for software developers.

Source: Michael Garret, COO of Cirrus Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Michigan-made film being shot at Troy office building

A Troy office building will serve as the backdrop for a new Michigan-made film being shot this summer.

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Walk-In Start Up Thursday | Special Topic: Advice on Government Contracts

Budding entrepreneurs whose business will be headquartered in Oakland County are invited to attend the new, free Walk-In Business Counseling Service every Thursday in the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center.
 
During Walk-In Start-Up Thursdays, entrepreneurs who want to start a business but do not know where to begin can receive confidential, one-on-one advice from an experienced business counselor in a supportive atmosphere with no appointment necessary. Counselors will provide direct answers to start-up questions, suggest next steps and provide guidance on business planning tools.
 
Walk-In Start Up Thursday | Special Topic: Advice on Government Contracts

June 19, from 1:30 p.m. to  4:30 p.m.
Oakland County Executive Office Building
2100 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford MI
Fee: This program is free to attend.
 
Join Alexander Masters, Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Counselor, this Thursday afternoon for conversation and coffee at the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center. Chat with Alex about government contracting, procurement assistance, and other relevant contracting topics. The Oakland County Purchasing Department will also be on hand to answer questions. For more information, please call 248-858-0721 or smallbusiness@oakgov.com.

Level One Bank hires 18, grows assets 25 percent

Level One Bank is well on its way to the next level, thanks to a spike in its asset size and staff.

The Farmington Hills-based bank’s assets have grown 25 percent over the last year, topping out at $630 million. Its deposits also stand at $545 million. That has allowed the company to grow its staff to 145 people at its seven branches across the region. It has hired 18 people over the last year, mostly in lending. The bank currently has four open positions.

"Our primary businesses are focused on commercial loans," says Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank. "We're seeing a lot of action in our loans to entrepreneurs. We're also seeing an increase in our residential mortgage loans."

Fehring expects his bank to grow another 15 percent this year. He sees Level One Bank's status as a local bank as a key ingredient to its success at a time when an increasing number of people don’t trust large financial institutions.

"We think that gives us a distinct competitive advantage," Fehring says. "It's easier to connect with a decision maker at Level One Bank."

Source: Patrick Fehring, president & CEO of Level One Bank
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Telegration expands cloud computing services offerings

Cloud services are becoming an increasingly important part of Telegration's bottom line and its growth prospects for tomorrow.

The Clawson-based firm specializes in technology consulting. It services a broad range of organizations, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local government agencies. The 24-year-old company’s products include local, long-distance and Internet services, and it's expanding into cloud computing this year.

"We are adding more products and services to our portfolio," says Rayon Treadwell, marketing administrator for Telegration. "Our customers are clamoring for cloud services."

Telegration is still in the process of fleshing out its cloud computing experiences, which it expects to complete this year. The company is also ramping up its marketing.

"We're starting to increase the visibility of our cloud services," Treadwell says.

Telegration has continued to grow its company as it expands the services it offers. It has hired five people over the last year and now has a staff of 50 employees and two interns. Among its recent hires are a channel support manager, sales engineer, finance specialist and customer service professionals.

Source: Rayon Treadwell, marketing administrator for Telegration
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

AltaFlux adds 12 staff on demand for cloud computing services

Cloud computing is taking tech firms like AltaFlux to higher places these days.

The Troy-based firm has hired 12 people over the last year, thanks largely to the increasing demand for its cloud computing services. The company now employs 30 people with most of its new hires consisting of IT consultants.

"We have been growing steadily," says Vijay Nachimuthu, CEO of AltaFlux. "Quarter over quarter we have seen double-digit growth."

AltaFlux specializes in technology consulting services. It offers cloud applications and data and integration technology services. Many of AltaFlux’s customers have been leveraging its cloud computing services, specifically to get on board with the latest trend in tech, and also to create cost savings by optimizing existing operations and talent.

"Businesses are warming up to a lot of things they have ignored over the last five years," Nachimuthu says.

Source: Vijay Nachimuthu, CEO of AltaFlux
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Gale in Farmington Hills adds 400 consumer e-books to offerings

The recent addition of more than 400 e-books from John Wiley & Sons Inc. to the Gale Virtual Reference Library online service signifies a new direction for the Farmington Hills-based publisher, part of Cengage Learning, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April.

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Versicor launches ideas to action contest, awarding $250,000 to support technology companies

Versicor, an electronics, software and controls development company is thrilled to launch its inaugural Ideas to Action award  (I2A) contest. This exciting new program is designed to help technology entrepreneurs transform their medical, clean-tech, or transportation project ideas into products. Versicor will provide a total of $250,000 worth of electronics, controls and software development services to award recipients.
 
Versicor’s Ideas to Action award provides an opportunity for businesses - large and small - to accelerate their products. Selected winners will gain access to Versicor’s team of engineers as well as its unique platform. Aligned with the company’s mission to support growth in the medical, clean-tech and transportation industries, the award competition is an example of yet another avenue in which Versicor attempts to break down barriers to provide easy access to innovation by providing technical support and resources.
 
“We are thrilled to launch the Ideas to Action program that helps a company’s ideas come to life,” says Christie Coplen, President of Versicor. “Through this award, our goal is to recognize product ideas in their infancy so we can better assess and deliver tangible products that embody their full potential.”
 
The Ideas to Action awards program holds two application rounds. The first round opens May 1, 2014 and applications will be accepted through August 15, 2014. Winners will be announced on August 30, 2014. For more information, visit http://goversicor.com/ideas-2-action/.
 
About Versicor
Dedicated to revolutionizing the way products are developed, Versicor is an electronics and controls platform that simplifies new product development, decreases risk and increases speed to market. With its unique offering of a validated, proven and robust hardware platform in conjunction with intuitive model-based software, Versicor is able to optimize product development for both new and established companies in the medical, clean-tech and transportation industries. Versicor is located in Royal Oak, MI. For more information, visit www.goversicor.com.

Blackstone LaunchPad grows Make It Better competition

The Make It Better business competition enjoyed its broadest participation yet, attracting high school students from across the state.

The Walsh College Blackstone LaunchPad event encourages students to redesign an existing product or service or develop a new one. This year it doubled the number of participants, attracting students from Frankenmuth High School, Troy High School and Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores.

"We needed to get the work out to the high schools, and the right people at the high schools, before they developed their curriculum for the year," says Carol Glynn, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College.

This is the third Make it Better competition, which is held on an annual basis. Winners received as much as $500 for their ideas to help improve the quality of people’s lives or make their community a better place to live.

Among the winners were a Frankenmuth High School student who took first place for her idea of a Furry Friend Finder that tracks pets and reports on their location and physical condition. Second place went to a Troy High School student for a mobile application programmed to find recipes based on existing home food supplies.

"They're already asking us if we are doing this again next year," Glynn says. She adds, "I am hoping to get the funding next year so we can do it."

Source: Carol Glynn, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Walsh College
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Southfield-based PublicCity PR continues adding to clientele

Michigan-based is an important word in the world of PublicCity PR. The boutique public relations firm got its start doing work for small businesses in the Great Lakes State, and continues to grow because of those same sorts of clients.

PublicCity PR has landed a handful of new clients, all based in Michigan, over the last three months. Some of those firms include construction company Barton Malow (Southfield), Medical Weight Loss Clinic (Southfield), and the new Life Time Athletic in Bloomfield Township.

"These are recognizable brands, Michigan-based companies that are reaching out to us," says Jason Brown, principal of PublicCity PR. "This is all word of mouth organic growth."

This has allowed the 5-year-old business to grow out of Brown's kitchen table and into its own office. It also added a new employee to its team over the last year, expanding its staff to four people.

PublicCity PR has also been able to grow its practice to a level of comfort where Brown doesn't have to chase down every lead for new business or say yes to every opportunity to keep the lights on now.

"We take it as it comes," Brown says. "We are at a good level of clients."

Source: Jason Brown, principal of PublicCity PR
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Saphran Solutions launches CapacityBase software platform

Data is everywhere. Often it's in random places, jumbled together in a slop of 1s and 0s that doesn't make much sense to the casual observer. Saphran Solutions is creating software that puts all of that data into proper perspective.

The Franklin-based business creates software platforms that help automotive suppliers and other manufacturers achieve efficiencies by narrowing the gap between business planning and performance.

Its newest proprietary software program, CapacityBase, does that by simulating and evaluating multiple product-demand scenarios to map out the user's short- and long-term capital investment plans to maximize returns. Think of it as a system that enables manufacturers to more effectively manage assets, avoid future risk and reduce costs.

"Essentially we connect the information the company already has and use it to streamline its operations to meet capacity," says Don Stilwell, vice president of sales & business development for Saphran Solutions.

The 10-year-old company employs 20 people. That team will work to aggressively market this new software platform to manufacturers.

"We are looking at adding additional people as we ramp up," Stilwell says.

Source: Don Stilwell, vice president of sales & business development for Saphran Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Registration opens for Demonstration Alley at Medical Main Street's INNO-VENTION 2014

Registration is now open for life science and health care companies who want to showcase their innovative products and technologies at Demonstration Alley as part of INNO-VENTION 2014 – a Medical Main Street Conference.

Conference organizers have expanded Demonstration Alley for the 2014 health care and life science event. They are looking for exhibits that have a demonstrable “wow” factor. INNO-VENTION 2014 is set for Oct. 21-22 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. Information on the conference can be found at MedicalMainStreet.org.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for companies to introduce the technology that can change the world to the Medical Main Street community,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Demonstration Alley has been one of the most popular features of our past conferences and I expect the 2014 edition will be the best we’ve ever had.”

Product evaluation criteria for the demonstration area includes: health care-related products that are new-to-market, visual, and award-winning. Interactive live demonstrations are preferred. Companies wishing to be considered for space on Demonstration Alley should apply online at MedicalMainStreet.com. Submissions must be received by Sept. 5.

The fee to participate in Demonstration Alley is $500, which includes exhibit space and one complimentary conference registration. Questions may be directed to Leslie Smith, CMP at 248-353-0735, ext. 152 or lsmith@esd.org. Those selected will be notified by email by Sept. 12.

Patterson created Medical Main Street in 2008 with the area's leaders in health care, research and development, education and industry.  INNO-VENTION 2013 attracted more than 600 health professionals, clinicians, investors and suppliers. A global audience of more than 95,000 people was reached through social media in the United States, Europe, Asia and Canada.
This year’s conference includes:
  • Expanded Commercialization Competition
  • Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Pure Michigan Business Connect - matchmaking with purchasing agents from major health care providers
  • Concurrent industry break-out sessions on Oct. 22 
  • Returning will be a networking reception on Oct. 21
  • The INNOVATOR of the Year Award luncheon
The Medical Main Street board includes Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Beaumont Health System, Beckman Coulter Molecular Diagnostics, Crittenton Hospital, DMC Huron Valley Hospital, Ferndale Laboratories, Henry Ford Health Systems, Housey Pharmaceuticals, McLaren Health Care, MichBio, State Rep. Gail Haines, R-Waterford, Oakland Community College, Oakland University, Oxus Inc., Rockwell Medical Technologies, St. John Providence Health System and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland.

For more information on how to get involved, conference sponsorships and programming from INNO-VENTION 2014, visit MedicalMainStreet.com.
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