MI Roundup: Gilbert vs. Lacob, TierConnect, Detroit Materials & More

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

—Ann Arbor’s Plymouth Ventures announced this week that it has made a follow-on investment in 365 Retail Markets, a Troy-based startup that provides hardware and software to vending machine owners who are looking to cash in on a wave of the future: unmanned, miniature convenience stores. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. 365 plans to use the new funding to continue investing in food service and small-store technologies, as well as expand internationally.

In a press release, Plymouth Ventures CEO Mark Horne said, “Based on various rankings, we believe it to be the fastest growing of any company in Michigan with more than $10 million in annual revenue. [365 Retail Markets CEO] Joe Hessling is a proven visionary in this new and rapidly growing market. We look forward to assisting 365 in continuing to aggressively build its business.”

—Dan Gilbert, who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, will sit down with Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob—the teams are currently squaring off in the NBA finals—for a public YouTube chat about building championship teams that will also highlight Detroit’s nascent startup scene. Lacob is a partner at storied Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Anyone wanting to check out the conversation can watch it here; it starts tonight at 8:30 pm ET.

—This week, the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations announced the winners of its Positive Business Project, a competition that showcased companies interested in making a difference in the world. The two winners, Team Detroit and the Newmind Group, were picked from 15 finalists that included GM, Ford IT, and the City of Ballarat. Team Detroit is an advertising agency that was recognized in 2011 by Advertising Age magazine as being one of the top 10 in the country. Newmind Group, out of Kalamazoo, is an IT company that specializes in cloud computing applications.

Comcast Business announced this week that a Michigan business was among the six winners from across the U.S. in the Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs program, a national competition that awards cash and consultation services to aspiring companies using technology to grow their businesses. Fresh Co Home, which is headquartered in Bloomfield, won for its online business offering home improvement services; it will receive $20,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia to receive one-on-one consulting with national business innovation experts.

TierConnect, a Plymouth-based startup developing tools that allow businesses to harness the Internet of Things, was acquired this week by Mojix, a Los Angeles provider of wide-area sensor networks. Though the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Mojix said in a press release that the acquisition would allow it to “offer comprehensive and fully configurable software solutions with advanced analytics, enabling end-to-end business intelligence and data visibility across multiple industries.”

Detroit Materials, a startup developing high-strength, low-alloy steel and cast iron developed at Wayne State University, recently announced that it is working with Ricardo Strategic Consulting, a subsidiary of Ricardo, on how to further commercialize its products in the automotive, truck, and transportation sectors. Ricardo will help the company assess market opportunities and the best entry points based on what Detroit Materials has to offer its customers. At last month’s SAE World Congress in Detroit, Detroit Materials won the Global Automotive Innovation Challenge for its ultra-high-strength castable low-alloy steel, which can be used in auto manufacturers’ vehicle light-weighting efforts.

—There’s a new report out from the University Research Corridor (URC)—its members are Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University—called “Attracting, Fostering, and Inspiring Talent for the Global Economy,” and URC leaders were touting its findings at the Mackinac Policy Conference last month.

According to the study, among the eight top research university clusters in the U.S., the URC ranks first in medical degrees, second in advanced degrees in high-tech fields, first in total degrees awarded, and first in enrollment. The URC universities, which account for 93 percent of all academic R&D in Michigan, also have worldwide networks of more than 1.2 million living alumni, with more than half of them in Michigan. Profiles of URC talent, including alumni making a global impact and successful entrepreneurs who stayed in Michigan after graduation, can be found here.

—fDi magazine has ranked Ann Arbor among the top 10 small cities of the future, giving it top honors in terms of “human capital and lifestyle.” The rankings were based on a range of criteria, including overall foreign investment, the number of patents issued to companies located there, and GDP. Data was then collected for 208 small cities in five categories: economic potential, business friendliness, human capital and lifestyle, cost effectiveness, and connectivity. To check out the list in its entirety, click here.

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