Roundup: HelloWorld, Blackstone, MI Celebrates Small Business & More

Here’s a look at news from around Michigan’s innovation hubs:

—HelloWorld, the digital marketing company formerly known as ePrize, is in the midst of a flurry of changes. A new CEO, Peter DeNunzio, joined the company a few months ago; HelloWorld has also added a new COO, CTO, and CCO in the past six months. Today, the company announced it is relocating from its Pleasant View office to a new headquarters in Southfield at 3000 Town Center. When I visited the company in 2012, it was bursting at the seams and had clearly outgrown its old space, so the move isn’t a surprise. Company leaders said they chose Southfield because it accommodated growth without adding significant commuting time for most of its employees.

Blackstone LaunchPad, an entrepreneurial program and accelerator at Wayne State University and Walsh College, says a total of 394 Michigan businesses have been started or grown since 2010 as a result of Blackstone’s help. Blackstone offers students the opportunity to test the feasibility of their startup ideas no matter what their major is. More than 20 coaches from Automation Alley offer mentorship to program attendees, and, as the program has matured, other partners have stepped in to organize pitch competitions where participants can begin to raise capital. “Entrepreneurism is thriving on our campuses,” said Aubrey Agee, who oversees the Blackstone program at WSU, in a press release.

—Comerica Bank is bringing back Free Prix Day at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, and this year, the announcement involved STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who drove the Corvette to victory at Belle Isle last year, met with students from the Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody High School last week to talk about technology and careers in racing. All Detroit families are invited to Free Prix Day, which will be held on Belle Isle on May 29.

Springboard, which invests in startups run by women and helps them grow, is recruiting women-led biotech and digital health companies from Michigan for its 2015 Health Innovation Hub, a platform for collaborating that grants access to Springboard’s network of coaches and resources. Applications will be accepted until March 19; click here to apply.

—Michigan Celebrates Small Business will hold its annual awards gala on May 7 at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing. The awards honor growth-oriented businesses, job creation, technological innovation, and community impact. To be considered, companies must be privately held and headquartered in Michigan, have between six and 99 employees, and generate between $750,000 to $50 million in annual revenue, or have working capital from investors or have received grants in 2014. Xconomy has covered several companies on this year’s list, including Algal Scientific, HistoSonics, jacAPPs, Rubicon Genomics, and Varsity News Network. To see a complete list of this year’s honorees, click here.

—Bobby Bringi, the CEO of the Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MBI) in East Lansing, will be inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering during a ceremony today in Washington, DC. Bringi was elected by his peers for the development of plant cell fermentation process to make Taxol, as well as his leadership of the MBI. Prior to joining the MBI in 2006, Bringi helped develop and successfully commercialize an innovative way to produce the anti-cancer drug Taxol without having to destroy 100-year-old yew trees.

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