Roundup: Ann Arbor SPARK, WSU, MCWT, Beringea, Start Garden, FarmLogs
Here’s a look at news from around Southeast Michigan’s innovation community:
—Ann Arbor SPARK held its annual meeting yesterday at the University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex, where the business development organization detailed the results of its work over the past year. According to SPARK, its efforts netted $148 million in new investments committed to the region, generating 1,509 jobs. SPARK provided assistance to 274 startups and incubated 83 companies. SPARK was also offering demos of its Virtual Business Advisor, an online tool developed with Washtenaw County’s office of community and economic development and the A2Y Chamber to help business owners asses their needs and access tools and training to meet those needs. The Virtual Business Advisor will officially launch in early June.
Paul Krutko, SPARK’s president and CEO, told the crowd that the Ann Arbor area has gotten all of the jobs back that it lost during the recession, with unemployment in the region 3 percent lower than the rest of the state and 1.5 percent lower than the rest of the nation. The next challenge, he said, is making sure Southeast Michigan leads the development of autonomous and connected vehicles. “There’s no better place for this technology to evolve, but it’s ours to lose,” he said. He also said that SPARK is working with the construction company Walbridge and the Rakolta family to transform the former Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti into a connected vehicle research center.
—Wayne State University’s Technology Commercialization Office announced it has hired John Shallman as its senior director of licensing and Kenneth Massey as its senior director of venture development. Shallman comes to WSU from Beaumont Health System, where he was director of commercialization. Massey served as managing director of MicroDose Life Sciences and its associated venture fund, LifeLine Ventures, before coming on board at WSU.
—The Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) hosted its ninth annual scholarship recognition event on May 15. The MCWT awarded scholarships and laptops to young women it considers future technology leaders. Scholarship recipients are: Andrea Salamay ($20,000), Sierre Wolfkostin ($20,000), Sierris Smith ($20,000), Zilphia Martin ($15,000), and Barbara Tegart ($15,000). The MCWT also awarded $3,000 scholarships to Alexandra Chisholm, Rachel Polus, Olivia Miller, Melinda Kothbauer, and Rebecca Wolanin. Lauren Rinkus, Hannah Kochendoerfer, and Savannah Ruby received laptops from Dell and Microsoft.
—Beringea, a private equity firm based in Farmington Hills, MI, and London, announced it has invested $2 million in Peerius, the largest provider of personalization software in Europe. It also invested $4.2 million in ResponseTap, a call tracking and analytics company. The ResponseTap investment was part of a $6.7 million Series B round, which also included $2.5 million from Eden Ventures. Stuart Veale, managing partner at Beringea, will join the ResponseTap board.
—Start Garden, the $15 million seed fund based in Grand Rapids, MI, announced it has invested $5,000 in Storyverse, a mobile app that combines games and 3D interactive storybooks for kids ages 3 to 9.
—The NewCo festival, which was formerly called the OpenCo festival, is returning to Detroit in September. Organizers are looking for local startups and businesses to apply to be hosts. Click here to apply; deadline is July 18.
—FarmLogs, the Ann Arbor-based startup that helps farmers leverage precise agricultural data to increase profitability, announced that it has moved to a “significantly larger” office in the Kerrytown Market and Shops building downtown. The company will take over the entire second floor of the building. After a $4 million Series A round in January, the company is still actively hiring and plans to add more than 10 new employees by the end of the year. (Check out the FarmLogs jobs page for more information.)