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Unique Solutions of Advanced Technologies' revenue jumps 30%

Sreedhar Kaluva started his business, Unique Solutions of Advanced Technologies, because he wanted to destroy a myth or two about small businesses and the technology they can employ.

"I want to help remove the myth that they need deep pockets to have help with IT technology," Kaluva says.

Unique Solutions of Advanced Technologies has made a name for itself as an IT and software firm that services small businesses, creating customer software for them in a few cases, since its launch in 2006. Its business is up 30 percent, which has allowed the company to hire a new employee, a project coordinator. It now employs a staff of four people in Royal Oak.

"There has been a wave of customers that came on board through word-of-mouth references from our customers," Kaluva says.

Unique Solutions of Advanced Technologies is also working on a new IT process/software program called Grad Sourcing. The idea is to better organize the IT services paradigm so it can better serve companies while creating more jobs in the U.S. He hopes to launch the service later this year.

"We're trying to bridge the gap between the supply and demand with an innovative new resource," Kaluva says.

Source: Sreedhar Kaluva, founder & CEO of Unique Solutions of Advanced Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Level One Bank expands mortgage team with 4 new hires

Level One Bank is expanding its mortgage team in Oakland County as the Farmington Hills-based bank looks to capture more of the local housing rebound.

The bank has added four new mortgage bankers to its Consumer Division. Those new hires will be stationed in both Bloomfield Township and in the bank’s Farmington Hills headquarters.

"We feel there is ample opportunity in Metro Detroit," says Tim Mckay, senior vice president of Level One Bank. "The economy feels good and people are starting to buy homes again."

Level One Bank has been growing steadily over the last few years, becoming one of the larger banks based in Oakland County. It now has $580 million in assets and seven branches that stretch from Ferndale to Bloomfield Township. The bank was working to execute a merger with Oxford Bank last year, but that didn't reach fruition.

Level One Bank has also grown its staff. The bank now employs 135 employees and nearly half a dozen interns after hiring 20 new staffers over the last year.

"We have hired a number of people over the last year," Mckay says.

Source: Tim Mckay, senior vice president of retail & mortgage banking
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Engineer leaves cubicle to start Mercury Studio tech firm

Zachary Ball isn't the sort of person who works well in a cubicle for a big company. It's a big reason why he now runs his own software company, Mercury Studio.

The mechanical engineer took a job at a major local automaker out of college in the late 1990s. After a few months he helped the company create some significant savings. The thanks he received was a piece of paper expressing the automaker's gratitude. It wasn’t a check.

"The cubicle life wasn't for me," Ball says. "I wanted to create an environment for my employees that will reward them for going above and beyond."

A few months later he started his own company. That evolved into the creation of Mercury Studio, a mobile app firm that recently moved to a bigger office in downtown Royal Oak. The 4-year-old firm has worked extensively in digital advertising and is now making custom apps for advertising agencies working in the automotive industry. That client list includes the likes of Jackson Dawson Communications in Dearborn. However, Ball would like to add some variety to his company’s client list.

"We want to expand all of our relationships with more marketing agencies out there," Ball says. "We would like to focus on non-automotive to show Metro Detroit isn't all about automotive."

Mercury Studio currently employs eight people and is looking for an intern. It has hired two people over the last year and is currently looking to hire a software developer.

Source: Zachary Ball, president & owner of Mercury Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Side-job mobile app startup 3lb Games goes full-time

The married-couple team of Robin Moulder-McComb and Colin McComb named their mobile app firm 3lb Games because three pounds is the average weight of the human brain.

"We have always found that when playing a game you are using your brain," Moulder-McComb says. "You are not just sitting there passively taking in information."

3lb Games makes mobile app video games. The Grosse Pointe-based couple started the company in 2008 as a part-time gig because they have backgrounds in video game design and development.

"We have all these skills so we thought this would be a way to bring all of those skills together," Moulder-McComb says.

One of the company's biggest hits is its Numenera game, which it describes as: "If you want to explore the Earth a billion years in the future in Monte Cook’s Numenera, you’ll need to be prepared. That’s where this app comes in handy! Designed to guide you through character creation for this science-fantasy RPG, the Numenera Character Creator app also allows you to track your progress in real-time while you play!"

The couple quit their day jobs early this year to take on projects like this and they quickly realized they had made the right decision. "In March I said, 'it's a really good thing I quit my full-time job,'" Moulder-McComb says. "We have just been working, working, working."

And doing it with more and more help. Even though 3lb Games just employs Moulder-McComb and McComb, it is giving work to an increasing number of independent contractors and interns.

Source: Robin Moulder-McComb, CEO, developer & producer of 3lb Games
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Lakeside Software expands team on sales uptick

Lakeside Software is growing, both at its home in Bloomfield Hills and its satellite office in Ann Arbor.

The 16-year-old company specializes in IT and software work. Its SysTrack software monitors and analyzes applications for a company's IT infrastructure. Its sales of the product have steadily increased as more of its customers are looking to minimize IT problems.

"Productivity is really important for our clients," says Dan Salinas, vice president of business development for Lakeside Software.

That has resulted in some new hires for Lakeside Software. Salinas says that his department has hired two new people and the company's Ann Arbor office is in the area of 20 employees, which is up from a dozen a year ago.

"We are basically hiring as fast as we can find qualified people," Salinas says.

Brinton Baker, Lakeside Software’s chief marketing officer, declined to give a total employment number for the company or its Ann Arbor office. Lakeside Software made an agreement with the state of Michigan in 2011 to create 198 jobs over five years and invest in opening an R&D center in Ann Arbor. In exchange the state granted the company a Michigan Economic Growth Authority tax credit worth $731,244.

Source: Dan Salinas, vice president of business development for Lakeside Software and Brinton Baker, chief marketing officer for Lakeside Software
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Software vets find mobile app success with Five Lakes Studio

To say Ken Vadella and Tod Cunningham are veterans of the software industry might be a bit of an understatement. The pair have 50 years of experience in the industry between them, so it's little wonder they made a go with their own mobile firm and turned it into a success.

"As new things come online it’s always exciting to jump on the bandwagon and see how it works," Vadella says.

Five Lakes Studio makes mobile app video games. The New Hudson-based startup was also recently named one of the state’s largest mobile app firms by Crain's Detroit Business. One of its biggest successes is Picross HD, a picture-puzzle game similar to Sudoku.

"It was one of the first things we did," Vadella says. "It's also one of our most successful apps so far."

Five Lakes Studio focuses mainly on creating its own video game apps that are for sale directly to consumers. It only entertains the idea of doing custom app work for other companies if the price is right.

"We value our free time a lot," Vadella says. "When we do something, we want to do something that will create a constant stream of revenue."

Source: Ken Vadella, co-owner of Five Lakes Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

JVS social services non-profit continues growth streak in Southfield

JVS has been serving Metro Detroit for 72 years, getting its start by working with unemployment issues in Detroit. Today the Southfield-based not-for-profit has expanded its reach geographically and in the services it provides, covering the Metro Detroit region and helping a number of disadvantaged subsets of the region’s residents.

The not-for-profit now provides services for workforce development, youth services, affordable housing and financial education. It has also seen an uptick in demand for its foreclosure prevention services and elder care, specifically helping senior citizens age in place.

"The areas we are focused on are areas of great need in southeast Michigan," says Barbara Nurenberg, president & CEO of JVS.

The not-for-profit has watched its staff rise steadily in recent years. Nurenberg estimates that JVS has hired 25 new people in the last year, bringing its staff to 350 people. Those new hires are for everything from helping train people for tech jobs to helping developmentally disabled people work at its janitorial service, which recently landed the state of Michigan as a client.

"In the last 20 years we have gone from a $6.5-million (budget size) organization to a $20 million organization," Nurenberg says.

Source: Barbara Nurenberg, president & CEO of JVS
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Creative Breakthroughs, Inc. aims for 50 hires by end of year

Creative Breakthroughs, Inc. is looking for a few good techies, a few dozen good techies.

The Troy-based company will host a one-day career fair on Oct. 9 at its headquarters, 2075 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 700. The 22-year-old company will be looking for dozens of new employees in project management, IT consulting and engineering, administration and sales.

“We are really looking to hire 50 new employees by the end of the year,” says Kristen Sarbu, human resources manager for Creative Breakthroughs, Inc. “To achieve our goal we have to be really aggressive in our hiring.”

The IT firm specializes in providing advisory services, network security, integration and infrastructure management strategies. It has hired 43 people over the last year, expanding its workforce to 67 employees. It had nine summer interns, four of which it has hired on this fall.

“We have been having career fairs quarterly this year,” Sarbu says. “We have been going to other career fairs. We have been going out aggressively to find the talent we need.”

Source: Kristen Sarbu, human resources manager for Creative Breakthroughs, Inc.
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Total Security Solutions adds 6 staffers as client base diversifies

Total Security Solutions has grown its business while adding to its client base over the last year.

The Fowlerville-based company makes bullet-proof glass installations for businesses, among other similar security systems. The company has hired six people over the last year, including sales professionals, engineers and manufacturing professionals. It’s currently looking to hire another sales representative.

“This past year we have seen a significant amount of growth,” says Jim Richards, vice president of Total Security Solutions.

The 9-year-old company has grown its business by 20 percent over the last year, thanks to streamlining its business processes by integrating more technology with the help of Ann Arbor-based The Whole Brain Group. Total Security Solutions has also increased the number of customers it serves in a variety of industries, including pharmacies, higher education, and retail outlets like gas stations.

“It’s just more people knowing about us,” Richards says. “We’re just touching more people right now. The more people we touch, the more people are buying from us.”

Source: Jim Richards, vice president of Total Security Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Assets International finds growth niche in oil & gas industry

Assets International has made a name for itself in its first decade helping regular people find and claim property that rightly belongs to them, such as inheritances. Now the Southfield-based company is starting to nail down new business in the oil-and-gas industry.

When energy companies drill for oil, they have to set aside a sort of royalty for the people who own property in the drilling area. Often many of those owners can’t be found so the money is put aside in an escrow account. Assets International has created a new revenue stream for itself by helping find the people who are entitled to the money in those escrow accounts.

“There is no empirical evidence on how much money is out there, but according to an attorney who is an expert in the oil-and-gas industry there are hundreds of millions of dollars out there,” says Michael Zwick, president & co-owner of Assets International. “That doesn’t count all of the new drilling that is occurring down south and in North Dakota.”

Assets International’s background is in tracking down people who are entitled to a piece of unclaimed property, such as an inheritance. It takes a percentage of the value of the unclaimed property as compensation. It has been working on the oil-and-gas escrow accounts over the last couple of years, and that now makes up nearly a quarter of the company’s revenue.

“Locating the people is a natural fit for our skill set,” Zwick says.

Assets International employs 15 people, including two hires over the last year. The hires are an attorney and a secretary.

Source: Michael Zwick, president & co-owner of Assets International
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ex-auto worker transitions to app economy with Marvel Apps

Michael Antaran has succeeded where so many local leaders would like former auto workers to succeed -- at moving on from working for the Big 3 and setting up his own tech firm, Marvel Apps.

Antaran worked for Chrysler and started experimenting with making mobile apps on the side in 2007. He took a buyout in 2008 and then took a year off, launching Marvel Apps as a side project. He then worked for GM for three years before making the downtown Royal Oak-based start-up his full-time job last year.

“I have always had a passion for Apple products,” Antaran says. “That’s why the mobile app movement encapsulated me.”

Marvel Apps does both custom app work for other businesses and makes its own apps for sale in the Apple App Store. Among its customers are Coleman (think lanterns and camping gear) and a few of the major local automakers.

It also makes its own apps, including those for fantasy football. One of them has even made the Top 5 in downloads for fantasy football apps in the App Store. Selling to consumers has become a growing part of the business, which now brings in 15 percent of the company’s revenue. Marvel Apps’ revenue is now up by 25 percent overall.

The company now has a staff of four employees. It is looking to add two interns this fall and hire one full-time graphic artist.

Source: Michael Antaran, founder of Marvel Apps
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Breeze Design Studio stays ahead of tech curve in Birmingham

Breeze Design Studio has executed a pivot in its business plan that has allowed the Birmingham-based tech firm to grow.

The 5-year-old company has made a name for itself with software and mobile app development. Now it is working to stay ahead of the tech curve entirely and sell that expertise to adverting agencies looking for help executing the tech part of their visions.

“We are now strictly a production company for adverting agencies,” says Rukmal “Rocky” Fernando, president & founder of Breeze Design Studio.

This pivot has allowed Breeze Design Studio to sign an additional nine clients over the last year. It has also added two people to its staff of five (a project manager and business development professional) and Fernando hopes to hire another 3-4 people before the end of the year as it aims to establish a foothold in new markets.

“We are also looking at expanding to the East Coast,” Fernando says.

Source: Rukmal “Rocky” Fernando, president & founder of Breeze Design Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Start-up myNutratek focuses on youth health education

A new startup called myNutratek is working to help make health education available and accessible for kids.

The Brighton-based company has launched a program that helps students become better educated about how to make healthy choices and live a healthy lifestyle.

“There is nothing out there for kids,” says Tim Codd, parent of myNutratek. “There is a brochure and some billboards but there weren’t any options or programs for kids.”

Codd started the company when his then 8-year-old daughter was bullied at school for being overweight. He resolved to spend more time with her and help her overcome her obstacles to living a healthy lifestyle. He quickly learned there were limited options for doing that and started myNutratek.

The company is currently working with 1,000 kids at Howell Public Schools and a doctors group at Oakwood Health System to help spread its healthy-living gospel. The firm has also had 300 parents of students using its services sign up for the program to keep up with their children.

“The kids have become the wellness directors for their families,” Codd says.

MyNutratek and its team of five employees and one intern is working with downtown Detroit-based Marketing Associates to refine its growth strategy and prepare for scaling its message to a bigger audience. The firm hopes to expand regionally and across Michigan at first, then set its sights on bigger expansions around the world.

Source: Tim Codd, parent of myNutratek
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Nuspire Networks hires 12, looks to add 10 more

Nuspire Networks is on a bit of a hiring spree. The Commerce Township-based IT firm has expanded internationally and made a dozen hires over the last year.

The 13-year-old company now has a staff of 90 employees and 2 interns. Its recent hires have included engineers, network security professionals, project managers, business development professionals and mobile app developers. It also has 10 open positions right now for those same sorts of positions, along with a few accounting and human resources professionals.

“As we bring on more clients we need to bring on more people,” says Saylor Frase, president & CEO of Nuspire Networks. “As we go more international we need to bring on more 24/7 people.”

Nuspire Networks specializes in providing managed IT network security services. It monitors more than 100 million security events daily. All of the company’s growth has come organically from expanded work from its existing clients and recruiting new customers. Frase says Nuspire Networks has reinvested all of its profits into the company to grow it.

Source: Saylor Frase, president & CEO of Nuspire Networks
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Delphinus Medical Technologies scores $11M in Series B funding round

Delphinus Medical Technologies has raised a Series B round of seed capital worth $11 million in equity and debt financing as it prepares to commercialize its SoftVue platform next year.

The 4-year-old start-up describes SoftVue as a “whole breast ultrasound tomography system” that will help diagnose breast cancer. Delphinus Medical Technologies filed for clearance for the technology with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which should be one of the final steps it needs to take before it begins making its first sales.

“We hope to get the clearance by the end of the year,” says Bill Greenway, CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies. He adds that will open the door to start sales through a dealer-distribution network in early- to mid-2014.

SoftVue originated in the labs of Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute. It spun out of those institutions in 2009 and moved to Plymouth. It raised $12 million in a Series A round in the spring of 2010. The Series B round was co-led by Arboretum Ventures in Ann Arbor and Beringea in Farmington Hills. North Coast Technology Investors also participated in the Series B.

Delphinus Medical Technologies
has hired three people over the last year. Those hires included an electronics technician, a sales professional and a vice president of marketing. It currently has a staff of 20 employees and the occasional intern. The company is also looking to hire three people right now, primarily scientists and engineers.

Source: Bill Greenway, CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

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