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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.

Automation Alley welcomes four new companies to its International Business Center

Automation Alley, Michigan’s largest technology business association, recently welcomed four new companies to its International Business Center. The companies – from Germany, France and Canada – are expected to create about 80 new jobs for the region.

Tenants of Automation Alley’s International Business Center can use the Troy facility as a home base for up to 90 days while exploring opportunities to do business in Southeast Michigan. Since 2011, Automation Alley has assisted 11 foreign companies in establishing their operations in Southeast Michigan, creating 433 jobs for the region.

Peter-Lacke USA, a Germany-based company specializing in the development and manufacture of coatings for plastic, glass and wood, is one of the four new tenant companies. Joe Sanchez, accounting manager at Peter-Lacke USA, said the purchase of a building in the Detroit area will provide the infrastructure to support paint customers both locally and throughout the U.S.

“Additionally, this will provide excellent proximity to North American OEMs (original equipment manufacturers),” Sanchez said. “The staff at Automation Alley has provided fantastic service and support.”

Paul Lester, president of North American operations for new tenant company Bmax, agreed.

“Our U.S. startup has been made easier with the assistance received from the Oakland County economic development team, the state of Michigan and Automation Alley. We look forward to exciting and sustained growth in the U.S,” Lester said.

Bmax is based in France and is a world-leading provider of magnetic pulse systems for metal processing.

“Our expansion into the U.S. is a vital step to our worldwide strategy of introducing clean, highly efficient and groundbreaking technologies to established as well as emerging industries,” Lester added.

Automation Alley’s 3,200-square-foot International Business Center includes three meeting rooms with state-of-the-art communications technology, three private offices, an open office area and convenient access to Automation Alley’s International Business Services staff.
 
In addition to temporary office space, tenants of the International Business Center receive assistance with site selection and introductions to potential business partners, clients and employees to jump-start their business.

“Automation Alley has a track record for attracting technology and manufacturing companies from around the globe to our region, helping to diversify our economy and create jobs,” said Automation Alley Executive Director Ken Rogers. “On behalf of our association, I’d like to welcome our new international tenants and wish them the best of luck as they seek permanent locations in Southeast Michigan.”

For more information about Automation Alley’s International Business Center, contact the Automation Alley Resource Center at 800-427-5100 or info@automationalley.com.

About Automation Alley
Automation Alley is a technology business association and business accelerator dedicated to growing the economy of Southeast Michigan and enhancing the region’s reputation around the world. Automation Alley offers talent and business development programs and services to tech-focused businesses of all sizes — from startups to large corporations — to help them grow and prosper.

Since its founding in 1999, Automation Alley’s membership has grown to include nearly 1,000 businesses, educational institutions, government entities and nonprofit organizations from the city of Detroit and the surrounding eight-county region.

Automation Alley provides a variety of exclusive benefits to its members to help them succeed, including networking opportunities, meeting space and public relations tools. Automation Alley also serves the general business community in five key areas: entrepreneurial services, talent development, international business services, product lifecycle management and defense and manufacturing.

Automation Alley collaborates with regional partners to provide its members and clients with the best business resources available, to drive local economic growth, and to positively influence the stories being told around the globe about the people and businesses of Greater Detroit.

For more information, visit automationalley.com.

Song of Duo Security named Leader & Innovator of the Year by Lawrence Tech and WWJ

Dug Song, the founder and CEO of Duo Security based in Ann Arbor, has been named the Leader & Innovator of the Year by Lawrence Technological University and WWJ Newsradio 950.
 
The award was announced at a May 15 reception at Lawrence Tech. Song was chosen from nearly 50 nominees profiled during the past 12 months in the WWJ Newsradio 950 Technology Report.
 
The Leaders & Innovators program was developed in 2005 by Lawrence Tech to recognize Michigan business executives who are engaged in cutting-edge professions and industries expected to be key to Michigan’s economic future.
 
Song has a history of leading successful products and companies to solve pressing Internet security problems. He spent seven years as founding chief security architect at Arbor Networks, protecting 80 percent of the world’s Internet service providers, and growing annual revenue to $120 million before its acquisition by Danaher.
 
Before Arbor Networks, Song built the first commercial network anomaly detection system – subsequently acquired by NFR/Check Point – and managed security in the world’s largest production Kerberos environment at the University of Michigan.
 
Song’s contributions to the security community include popular open-source security, distributed filesystem, and operating system projects. He co-founded the USENIX Workshop On Offensive Technologies (also called WOOT).
 
His firm’s hosted, two-factor authentication service brings strong, scalable security to organizations of any size. The unique, high-availability architecture provides centralized management, self-service enrollment, and interactive secondary login through an intuitive web interface, eliminating the high costs, complexity, and confusion associated with traditional two-factor systems. Every day, over 1,000 organizations in over 80 countries around the world rely on Duo for their security.
 
Duo Security is a privately held company whose investors include Google Ventures, True Ventures, Resonant Venture Partners, and Radar Partners.  
 
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for return on undergraduate tuition investment, and highest in the Detroit metropolitan area.  Lawrence Tech is also listed in the top tier of Midwestern universities by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review. Students benefit from small class sizes and experienced faculty who provide a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus include over 60 student clubs and organizations and a growing roster of NAIA varsity sports.

Grow your business - become a 10k Small Business Scholar

Oakland Community College is hosting a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10kSB) information session for small business owners wishing to gain a competitive edge and boost their business’s performance.
 
The information session is 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 3, in the Student Center, G Building, Room 240, at Oakland Community College’s Auburn Hills Campus, 2900 Featherstone Road, one mile east of the Pontiac Silverdome.
 
“OCC is proud to host the 10kSB information session to help local entrepreneurs grow their business and create jobs in our community,” says Julie Jurmo, OCC Business Services Manager and the liaison between OCC and the Detroit 10kSB team.
 
Across the U.S., 10,000 Small Businesses graduates are increasing their revenues and creating new jobs in their communities:
·         63% of participants reported an increase in revenues
·         47% reported creating new jobs
·         76% are doing business with each other
·         The program also has a 99% completion rate
  
As a 10kSB scholar, business owners will be given access to the tools and resources to develop a strategic and customized growth plan for their business. The curriculum was designed by Babson College, one of the country’s top-ranked schools for business and entrepreneurship. It is available at no cost to selected applicants. To qualify, participants must be the owner or co-owner of a business in operation for at least two years, have a minimum of two employees and show revenue of more than $100,000 in the most recent fiscal year.
 
Current Detroit-area 10kSB scholars will discuss how the curriculum has impacted their businesses. Attendees will have the opportunity to register for the fall 10kSB training program, which begins in October. OCC partnered with Goldman Sachs, Babson College, the Initiative for Competitive Inner City (ICIC), Wayne State University and Macomb Community College to bring the 10kSB program to Detroit. Space is limited and reservations are encouraged at wfdev@oaklandcc.edu. Light appetizers will be provided. 
 
With five campuses throughout Oakland County OCC is the largest community college in Michigan and the 25th largest in the nation. OCC offers degrees and certificates in more than 160 career fields and university transfer degrees in business, science and the liberal arts. Nearly a million students have enrolled in the college since it opened in 1965. To learn more about OCC, visit www.oaklandcc.edu.
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