Ornicept Takes Flight with New Office, More Funding, Explosive Growth

Ornicept, the Ann Arbor-based startup focused on remote data management, has experienced significant growth since we first profiled the company in June 2013.

Last month, the team of 12 moved out of the Ann Arbor SPARK incubator and into its own 2,500-square-foot office off North Main Street, and CEO Russell Conard already has his eye on some of the neighboring buildings as the company plans a dramatic expansion in the coming year.

“We recently finished looking at the financials, and we plan to have a staff of 70 a year from now and 150 a year after that,” Conard says. “We’re already in talks to find a new office, and we’re counting on the ecosystem here to help us find talent.”

Ornicept’s flagship product is called Specteo, a two-part, cloud-based data management system made up of an online administration tool and field software for use on tablets. The company works with fieldwork technicians who are, for example, collecting information about the water level in Lake Michigan or inspecting wind turbines. Essentially, Specteo helps workers in the field remotely tabulate, organize, analyze, and share large amounts of data in industries where pen, paper, and spreadsheets have been the norm. Its mobile app for Android and Windows is already in use, and the company plans to release the iOS version of its app in November.

“Our focus is on workflow,” Conard explains. “Putting a paper form on a computer is not that imaginative. Our approach is to focus on quality control and security.”

Conard, who recently spent a few days working on a study with clients in the Mojave Desert, says most of his customers are in Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, and California, and that’s where Ornicept plans to start opening satellite offices. Though he declined to name names, he did say “two of the largest companies in the world” are among Ornicept’s customers. Closer to home, the Michigan Department of Transportation uses Ornicept “heavily” to help manage its projects, he says.

“Our customers believe we’re poised to be the number one company of its kind in the world,” Conard says. “We’re building the company to grow fast, which is why we’re focusing on adoption.”

Part of Ornicept’s increasing confidence is the result of its users and investors believing the company is onto something big. Ornicept closed on a $600,000 Series AA round from angel investors over the summer, and Conard says most of Ornicept’s investors are outside of Michigan. Eight of them have led companies with more than $100 million in annual revenue, and three have led Fortune 500 companies, he adds.

In September, Ornicept announced it had won a $150,000 U.S. Department of Energy Small Business Innovation Research grant and a $25,000 Michigan Emerging Technology Fund award. The company plans to use the funding to conduct a large-scale demonstration project for an integrated remote monitoring system, generating computer risk models that help the wind industry reduce negative impacts on bats and birds. This fall, Ornicept also plans to begin a new fundraising round to help it scale and hire new employees, Conard says.

“We’re big believers in reversing the brain drain,” Conard says. “We’re looking to partner with the University of Michigan to attract talent, and we’re already working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation on that. We’re perfect for people who want to move back to Michigan.”

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