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Entrepreneurship : Innovation & Job News

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ENRG Power Systems plans 8-10 hires next year

Milton Roye believe the timing is right for the first product of his new startup, ENRG Power Systems.

The Bloomfield Hills-based business is working on a new piece of technology that will allow motorists to retrofit their engines to make them more sustainable. The technology makes the engines more fuel efficient, as much as 15-20 percent for V-8s, and reduces the production of all four major greenhouse gases. Roye sees such a product as having perfect timing in an age where going green is actually going somewhere.

"It wasn't right 10 years ago or even five years ago," says Roye, founder and president of ENRG Power Systems. "It is now."

The 1-year-old company is composed of two people and a network of unpaid volunteers. That team is working with TechTown to finalize its business plan and marketing strategy so it can launch the product next year. ENRG Power Systems is also one of the 50 semifinalists in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

Regardless of whether the company wins any of the $1 million in prizes at the statewide entrepreneurship contest, Roye and his team plan to raise $750,000 to $1 million in seed capital over the next year to launch the product in 2011. He plans to hit $1 million in sales and a staff of 10-12 people by the end of next year.

"Our major push now is for the fleet markets," Roye says. "That's where we'll build out our manpower."

Source: Milton Roye, founder and president of ENRG Power Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

W Bloomfield man capitalizes on Internet clips with videoburst

For David Mayer, the sign that an Internet video company was viable came with the debut of YouTube. He knew it was time to start such a company, videoburst, when YouTube's popularity shot through the roof.

"Broadband reached enough people that most people watch video on the Internet now," Mayer says. "YouTube has 30 billion views per month. There wasn't even a YouTube five years ago."

That sort of success has allowed the 2-year-old videoburst to go from Mayer alone to a staff of three employees and four independent contractors. He expects to have a staff of 15 people within the next year as websites demand ever more video material.

The West Bloomfield-based company continues to fill that need, making videos for doctors, cosmetic dentists, plastic surgeons, and industrial companies. Mayer plans to hire an in-house acting troupe to create funnier, improv-style material for its clients who want to attract more traffic to their sights.

"Businesses are recognizing how video can help them enable growth," Mayer says. "It's not just cool to have a video on your website. You can use video to draw people to your website. Video is a huge distinguishing feature for a website. It increases the chances people will stay longer."

Source: David Mayer, owner of videoburst
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Fanaroo allows fans to put their mark on stadiums

Ever wanted to see your name in lights at a major athletic venue? Fanaroo plans to make that happen for the Joe Sixpack sports fan soon.

Steve Chapman, Giri Gondi, and Jack Nissley plan to launch the website for the 1-year-old startup in December. That website will enable people to put their name or a message into the background of a stadium, such as in the ice at Joe Louis Arena or the end zone at Spartan Stadium.

"The end product is a poster or a picture or a calendar or a personalized notebook for kids," says Chapman, vice president of sales for Fanaroo.

The Beverly Hills-based company recently became one of the 50 semifinalists in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Fanaroo has worked out licensing deals with 52 sports organizations, including a number of minor league hockey leagues and Michigan State University. Fanaroo now employs four people and expects to hire another six by this time next year, when it hits $1 million in sales.

Source: Steve Chapman, co-founder and vice president of sales for Fanaroo
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DataSpeaks builds drug development software, partners with TechTown

Years of intellectual property and software work for major organizations like Parke Davis, Dartmouth College, and Wayne State University led Curtis Bagne to entrepreneurship. He's now putting all of that institutional knowledge to work for himself with a new startup called DataSpeaks.

The 1-year-old firm has created software that helps improve and streamline the drug development process. The Troy-based company has been working with TechTown to perfect the technology, which Bagne expects to roll out soon.

"The patents have been issued and we have software that is ready for demonstrations," says Bagne, DataSpeaks' founder and chief science officer. "We don't have a commercially ready product quite yet."

DataSpeaks' business plan calls for landing some seed capital over the next few months so it can finish perfecting its new technology. Within the next year, he hopes to have signed on some pharmaceutical companies to test it out and begin developing it to help with doctors' switch to electronic records.

"I'd like to get some key companies and individuals involved with advancing the technology," Bagne says.

Source: Curtis Bagne, founder and chief science officer for DataSpeaks
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Search Ad Marketing adds clients, to add jobs

Meaghan McCann worked in advertising for a big company until she decided to start a family. Then the soon-to-be-mother decided to take over AdWords and social media responsibilities for the company on a part-time basis, a move that led to the creation of her own company, Search Ad Marketing.

That was four years ago. About the same time, McCann's husband was laid off from his automotive job. Luckily, Search Ad Marketing's services were rising in demand to help offset the hardship.

"It just made more sense to put more time into this to make it a full-time thing instead of looking for a job," McCann says.

Today the downtown Plymouth-based company employs McCann, an intern, and a few independent contractors who handle search engine optimization, Internet marketing, and social media. McCann just signed three new clients and hopes to continue growing, adding up to five people over the next year.

She also recently started the PayPerClick Club, which serves as a primer for people and companies that are just dipping their toes into Internet marketing and AdWords. McCann expects to turn that into a pipeline for new business down the road.

Source: Meaghan McCann, owner of Search Ad Marketing
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Wisdom Consulting charts biz plan on idea mapping

Lisa Harvey Roach used to work for a big automotive supplier, teaching project management and helping things run smoothly. That is until she was told her services would soon no longer be needed, even after 20 years.

"They told us we had two years to find another job or we would lose our jobs," Roach says.

The Farmington Hills resident made a decision at that point in 2008. She decided to start her own company, Wisdom Consulting, and base it around her expertise in idea mapping. She teaches time and project management in a way that is different than the normal linear learning process. Think of it as organizing and problem solving in a manner similar to how one would brainstorm. "Not everyone learns the same way," Roach says.

That knowledge turned into a consultancy and education firm. She regularly teaches seminars on project management and helps businesses in need of that sort of help. She is also looking to expand into the education community by instructing teachers about idea mapping as part of their in-service training.

Source: Lisa Harvey Roach, business consultant and educator for Wisdom Consulting
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Auto engineer's hobby morphs into job-creating business

Kevin VanDette's new career started as a hobby earlier this decade. The automotive engineer liked to build websites and started doing it for his son's sports teams and his band. The demand for his services began peaking about the same time the automotive engineering field started faltering, allowing him to start Affordable Website Specialists.

"I kept getting more and more requests," says VanDette. "I thought I might as well make it a business."

That was four yeas ago. Today the Rochester-based firm employs three people, an intern, and an independent contractor after adding another position this year. The company's consistent growth, doubling in size each year, has occurred despite the trials and tribulations of the local economy and automotive firms.

"We're on a pretty steady growth pattern even in a bad economy," VanDette says.

Most of Affordable Website Specialists' clients come from referrals and are local small- to medium-sized businesses. The company's roots are in website building but it has spread to search engine optimization. VanDetter expects his business to double its revenue next year and hopes to add 1-2 more positions as well.

Source: Kevin VanDette, owner of Affordable Website Specialists
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

The Benefits Edge decodes employee perks

Jan B. Sherman faced a decision about a dozen years ago. The Farmington Hills resident had been climbing the corporate ladder for 17 years, making vice president of national marketing. The job made him a jetsetter but it also took precious time from his young family. He left it all for the flexibility of starting The Benefits Edge.

"I never miss a dance recital or a sporting event," Sherman says. "I am happy about that."

The Benefits Edge helps people decipher the contents of their benefits package, with a focus on health insurance. Sherman, the company's only employee, also advises clients on life and disability insurance. The business has been growing an average of 10 percent a year, almost entirely from referrals.

"The phone keeps ringing when you treat people right and give them sincere, good advice that helps them solve their problems," Sherman says.

Leaving the safe corporate job for the uncertainty of being your own boss isn't the easiest decision, especially with a young family depending on you. But the decision became an easy one for Sherman when a friend told him that everyone is self-employed. They either have one customer (an employer) or a number of customers (from a business). It was a piece of advice that set Sherman free and let him see his kids whenever he wanted.

Source: Jan B. Sherman, owner of The Benefits Edge
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

MSU grad's PT college biz becomes successful FT job

Kurt Hines started HLC Technology Solutions while getting his business degree at Michigan State University. He has since turned it into his full-time job, helping small businesses choose the best technology options.

"I always loved technology," Hines says. "I always felt it could make life simpler. I try to give everyone a little bit more time back in their day."

The Plymouth-based company switched its strategy over the last few years as it adapted to a challenging economic climate. It went from a small firm with a couple of big clients to a growing company with an expanding client list of small businesses. So far his revenue is up 50 percent, and in 2011 Hines hopes to make his first hires in the 9-year-old company's history.

"My small businesses are the ones that kept growing," Hines says.

Source: Kurt Hines, president of HLC Technology Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Accelerate MI Innovation Competition attracts 570 entries, exceeds expectations

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is firing on all cylinders now, exceeding organizers' expectation for the number of applicants and their geographic diversity.

The $1 million business plan competition brought in 570 applications from across the U.S. and from around the world. The applications were evenly split between established, growing startups and college students pitching a business concept.

About 90 percent of the applications came from Michigan-based businesses and a little more than 10 percent of the applicants came from those age 55 or older. The most popular sectors were products and services, IT, and life sciences, but the contest received business ideas from all walks of life.

"It touched on all the sectors," says Michael Finney, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK, the lead organization behind the competition. "We're very pleased with that. We think it's going to be a very good competition."

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is offering $1 million in prizes to start-ups in Michigan or planning to move to Michigan. The idea is to showcase the state's entrepreneurial ecosystem to a large audience of investors in town for the Big Chill hockey game at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 11. There will also be a Student Idea Competition with $50,000 in prizes. Students must submit a one-page business plan, a three-minute video pitch, and formulate a 15-minute live pitch.

The competition is being run by the Business Accelerator Network, which is composed of southeast Michigan's major business accelerator agencies. Judges will start narrowing down the list of entrants to 45 company semifinalists and 25 student semifinalists by Tuesday. The Top 10 companies and students will be selected just before the event in December.

Source: Michael Finney, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Urobiologics guides parents in choice of baby gender while creating jobs

Some decry choosing a child's gender as playing God, but would that argument still hold up if the parents did so naturally? Religion politics aside, a startup is offering these services to new parents in its own version of natural family planning.

Urobiologics is the brainchild of Kuldeep Verma, who has a PhD in biochemistry and biotechnology from Punjab Agricultural University. The 11-year-old Livonia-based company, of which Verma is the sole employee, offers consulting services to let potential parents know which menstrual cycle is most likely to produce a child of one sex or the other during conception. No hormones. No injections. Just good timing.

"We're advising them to conceive at the right time if someone wants to plan for something," says Verma.

However, he is developing a unique lateral flow test strip for use before pregnancy. The strip will guide couples as to the best cycle for conceiving a baby of the desired gender. It well also help them to identify the gender of the baby during the pregnancy.

Verma recently presented Urobiologics' technology at the MichBio Expo and Conference in Ann Arbor last week. He expects it will spur Urobiologics on a big growth streak in 2011 that should allow it to hire "at least 15 people."

"We have a cool technology," Verma says.

Source: Kuldeep Verma, owner of Urobiologics
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

hiredMYway employs a web dating-service model for job hunters and employers

When we last checked in with hiredMYway, the downtown Birmingham-based startup was just getting its feet underneath itself by preparing to hold its first job fair. A few months later the company has locked down an outside investor, held a couple of job fairs, and is launching its website this week.

"It's really growing quick," says Matt Mosher, CEO and co-founder of hiredMYway. So is its staff. It went from half a dozen this summer to nine employees, five independent contractors, and two interns today. It's also looking to hire a sales associate and plans to add a handful of new hires over the next year.

The website for hiredMYway features technology that uses a dating-service model on the Web to help people find jobs. It basically pairs employers and job seekers with matching needs and skills in the same way a dating service would. The company also plans to hold a job fair today to accompany the launch of the new site.

Its job expos have helped put 300 Michigan residents back to work, and similar results are expected over the next year. Mosher expects the website to attract 10,000 new people per month looking for work.

Source: Matt Mosher, CEO and co-founder of hiredMYway
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ring Ring expands telecom products, plans to hire

In 2005, Aaron Beals decided to start chasing the American Dream of owning his own business with his startup, Ring Ring. The idea of being responsible for his own destiny by following through on his vision was appealing.

That vision is a telecom startup based in West Bloomfield that sells local vanity phone numbers. The firm, which has a team of about 10 people, is now moving into the business of helping people with toll-free numbers contain costs. After five years of chasing down new business like that, Beals is ready to reverse the flow.

"The goal is to make the companies come to us instead of going to find the companies," says Beals, president of Ring Ring.

To accomplish that, Beal plans to make himself and his team more available at networking events and social media outlets, as well as traditional building on the company's reputation. He hopes these efforts will allow the firm to expand its client base by 25 percent over the next year, and even add a few more people to its team.

Source: Aaron Beals, president of Ring Ring
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Outside Hub plans to hire 6-10 in next year

It should come as no surprise that the people at Outside Hub Media are big fans of the outdoors. So much so that the leadership team asked if we could do the interview for this story a few days later so they could finish a bow-hunting trip. But don't be too shocked that the members of the growing startup's staff are all big fans of hunting, fishing, camping, and the like.

"It's not a prerequisite to work here," says Stephen Dooley, president of Outside Hub Media. "We just attract like-minded souls. We believe in what we're doing."

The Southfield-based company started out as a broker specializing in Internet advertising for outdoors-related sites, mainly selling banner ads. Four years later it has grown into a full-service media company, offering marketing and media services of all shapes and sizes for websites and brands associated with the outdoors.

"It is an underserved market with a large demand," says David Farbman, CEO of Outside Hub Media.

So much so that the company has grown from an initial staff of three to 22 employees and about eight independent contractors and interns today. It has hired half a dozen people over the last six months and expects to hire another 6-10 over the next year.

Source: David Farbman, CEO of Outside Hub Media and Stephen Dooley, president of Outside Hub Media
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

IPS Technology Services plans for healthcare IT growth

Pradip Sengupta had climbed to the heights of the corporate world, attaining the title of chief information officer. But he needed something more, so seven years ago he started his own company, IPS Technology Services, in his spare time.

"I wanted to do something special," Sengupta says.

Today the Troy-based IT company employs a handful of people, normally fewer than 10, depending on the project it's tackling. Sengupta made IPS Technology Services his full-time job almost three years ago when the side projects began demanding his full attention. He hopes to expand his staff to 10 employees in 2011.

"This year is much better," Sengupta says. "I have a goal of being a $2 million company by 2015."

IPS Technology Services provides end-to-end IT services for small businesses. Sengupta expects most of his growth in 2011 to come from healthcare IT service demands. He sees the digitizing of doctors' and dentists' offices requiring more robust networks to handle the increased workload. To him that will mean a lot of opportunity for his IPS Technology Services, at least enough to demand all of his time and that of many others.

Source: Pradip Sengupta, founder of IPS Technology Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

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