The Apps Metro Detroit CEOs Can’t Do Without

The app economy isn’t just growing in Metro Detroit, it’s building a bigger profile in the region’s emerging new economy.
 
This isn’t news to those of us who live and work through our smart phones and tablet computers. Panic is one of the first words that come to mind when we loose or break our mobile devices. So it’s no surprise that applications, or apps as they are commonly known as, are playing an increasing larger role in determining how business is done in southeast Michigan.
 
The local app economy is also helping drive job creation in Metro Detroit. If you can write code for software to create an app or help make a website or IT at system more app friendly, then there are dozens of businesses that want to hire you. Now. Those companies range from new start-ups to major corporations. 
 
That makes Metro Detroit’s app economy “hugely important” in the words of Henry Balanon, co-founder & director of mobile at Detroit Labs, a rapidly growing app start-up based in downtown Detroit.
 
“As of March 2012, over half of U.S. mobile subscribers owned smart phones,” Balanon wrote in an email. “This means the mobile apps industry is accelerating right now with a lot of room for growth. We get to be a part of that with our company Detroit Labs. Detroit is quickly becoming a city of opportunity and these opportunities will lead to an increase in jobs and a growing economy.”
 
Metromode reached out to a handful of local executives from across Metro Detroit to see what apps they couldn’t live without, which locally made apps they are most impressed with, and which apps they wish others in business would use more often.
 
STACY GOLDBERG, Savorfull
 
Stacy Goldberg is the CEO of Savorfull, a Detroit-based start-up that is developing an online platform to help people with food allergies live life to the fullest. The 8-month-old company offers a forum for people with allergies to things like nuts or gluten exchange recipes, resources and other important information.
 
Business app she can’t do without: “Sprout Social is indispensable to me for our social media at Savorfull. It easily allows me to toggle between accounts, schedule posts, read my messages, review analytics, all from one app.”
 
Business app she wishes people would use more often: Sprout Social. “Many business people struggle with social media, so this could make their life easier if they learned how to use it.”
 
Favorite local app: “UpTo is one of my favorites. Created by co-founders Greg Schwartz and Chris Kaufman, I can see the calendars of all my friends, family and colleagues in the future so I know what everyone is up to. Its an efficient way to connect, especially for busy working professionals.
JAKE SIGAL, Livio Radio
 
Jake Sigal is the founder & CEO of Livio Radio, a Ferndale-based start-up that makes Internet radio more widely accessible through its handheld radios and software. The 4-year-old start-up has received seed capital from Silicon Valley-based Western Technology Investment and Beringea, Michigan’s largest venture capital firm.
 
Business app he can’t do without: “GeeTasks. Our business uses Google Apps for all email and calendar applications. Part of the Google Calendar is the “task list.” With all the post its, emails, whiteboard markings, CRM tasks, and conversations, this is the one place I keep all of my personal and business tasks that I don’t want to forget about. GeeTasks works like a charm on my iPhone to keep my task list synced with Google. I can’t function without it.”
 
Business app he wishes people would use more often: GeeTasks. “I wish more people used this or some other system for all tasks. One of the most annoying things to me is when there is a task for/with vendors, customers, or family and you don’t ever hear back. It’s just rude. I’m guessing that 90 percent of the time they forgot.”
 
Favorite local app: “Glyph (currently in Beta). It’s a new business all about helping people maximize the reward points they receive from credit cards. They are launching now, and made in Detroit.”
HENRY BALANON, Detroit Labs
 
Henry Balanon is the co-founder & director of mobile for Detroit Labs. The app start-up is based in downtown Detroit’s entrepreneurial tech Mecca, the M@dison Building. The 1-year-old company is backed by Detroit Venture Partners and has made apps for the likes of Chevrolet and Stryker.
 
Business app he can’t do without: “Evernote. It’s where I take all my notes for meetings and it’s where all my drafts are. It keeps everything in sync between my MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. You can store voice notes, images, PDFs, and text. And the best thing is you can search through all of it by keyword.”
 
Business app he wishes people would use more often: “Dropbox. It’s an indispensable tool that allows seamless syncing and sharing of files and folders on your computer. The issue with sending a document over email is that as soon as someone needs to update it, the attachment in their inbox becomes obsolete. If more people used Dropbox to share files, someone could share a link to a document and all updates to that document would be up to date.”
 
Favorite local app: “There’s an app called UpTo which I’m really loving right now. They’re toying with a concept called the “intention graph,” which is what people intend to do in the future. This information becomes valuable to users as well as marketers to find out what people are going to do.”
MICHAEL GODWIN, Resonant Venture Partners
 
Michael Godwin co-founded Resonant Venture Partners with Jason Townsend in downtown Ann Arbor in 2011. The two University of Michigan graduates recently received their MBAs from the university’s Ross School of Business where they ran the student-led Wolverine Venture Fund. Resonant Venture Partners focuses on early stage investments in local tech start-ups, such as Ann Arbor-based Duo Security which has also received venture backing from Silicon Valley VCs.
 
Business app he can’t do without: “We at Resonant Venture Partners run our entire business on the suite of Google apps including gmail, calendar, drive and maps. We also rely heavily on Dropbox. Our entire business is in the cloud and available on all our devices. Pocket is a rad app that allows you to aggregate anything you must read later.
 
Business app he wishes people would use more often: “I am personally shifting away from Facebook and towards Google+. Google+ conversations are more focused by interest, whereas Facebook conversations tend towards cliquey.”
 
Favorite local app: “Duo Security’s X-Ray app is an Android vulnerability assessment tool that scans for privilege escalation, a common security threat on mobile devices. Duo Security’s multi-factor authentication stuff is also going to be really disruptive in the market and we are stoked about what these guys have built. The mobile space is a hackers paradise at present. Many enterprise level users will avoid large scale mobile deployment until significant improvements in security occur. This is a huge opportunity for app developers with security backgrounds.”

Jon Zemke is the Innovation and Jobs News Editor for Metromode, Concentrate, and Model D. He is also the Managing Editor of SEMichiganStartup.com.