MI Roundup: Court Innovations, A2 Tech Trek, SoccerStub, and More

Here’s a look at recent innovation news from around the state:

—Ann Arbor-based Court Innovations, a startup spun out of the University of Michigan’s law school, has closed on a $1.8 million funding round. The round was led by Belle Michigan Fund, with contributions from Northern Michigan Angels, Michigan Angel Fund, U-M’s student-led Social Venture Fund, and private investors, including those who contributed to the company’s crowdfunding campaign earlier this year.

Court Innovations is the maker of Matterhorn, software that allows people to settle tickets for parking infractions and other minor infractions online. According to a press release, nearly 40 percent of those who have used the system say they could not have come to court to settle their fines in person. The company, whose fundraising round drew investors from 48 states and Washington, D.C., plans to use its new capital to launch Matterhorn nationally.

Renaissance Venture Capital Fund is opening a third Michigan office. In addition to locations in Detroit and Ann Arbor, the investment firm will set up shop inside the East Lansing Technology Innovation Center, a startup incubator managed by the Michigan State University Foundation.

“Our mission at Renaissance is to serve as a bridge between researchers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and major corporations in Michigan,” said Chris Rizik, who leads the fund, in a statement. “We are impressed with the growth of innovation efforts at Michigan State University and are excited to extend our presence and network in the region.”

SoccerStub, a division of Detroit-based online ticketing startup Passage, has been selected as the National Premier Soccer League’s (NPSL) official ticketing provider. The NPSL is the largest semi-pro soccer organization in the country, and includes Detroit City FC (City Til We Die!), AFC Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids FC as members. SoccerStub will offer each team in the league a custom ticketing portal that they can elect to use, said CEO Alex Linebrink in an e-mail.

“It’s really all about making it simple for teams to set up and track their ticket sales and attendance, and making the fan experience seamless both online and at the door,” Linebrink said.

—Federal library funding is one of the items on the chopping block under the Trump administration’s proposed budget. In response, a group of  businesses and trade groups have launched an effort to educate legislators and national policymakers about the vital role public libraries play in their communities. Called the Corporate Committee for Library Investment, the organization counts Farmington Hills-based Gale among its members.

According to a press release sent by Gale, members of the committee are “united by the common belief that America’s libraries are business-building, job-creating, workforce-preparing engines of the U.S. economy in every corner of the country.” (Gale, a subsidiary of Cengage Learning, established a workforce-building program called Detroit Collective Impact a few years ago.)

“Funding for the Library Services and Technology Act represents only 0.005 percent of [the total federal budget],” said Paul Gazzolo, Gale’s senior vice president and general manager, in a statement. “Michigan receives more than $5 million annually and stands to be disproportionately affected by the proposed cuts, which would deny our students, entrepreneurs, and other residents the infrastructure, technology, and digital content provided through the Library of Michigan.”

Nexteer Automotive, a supplier of steering and driveline technologies, is partnering with Michigan State University to offer a master’s degree program in electrical engineering at the university’s facility in Midland. The 30-hour program is open to all qualified applicants and will focus on automotive electronics, particularly in the areas of vehicle safety, advanced driver assistance systems, and autonomous driving technologies.

In a statement, Nexteer said it will provide “program content recommendations and encourage eligible employees to take part.” The program will be offered starting in September; click here for application materials and more information.

—As part of its $150 million commitment to fund small businesses in Detroit, JPMorgan Chase has invested more than $2.5 million in four local organizations that help companies develop: TechTown Detroit, Southwest Detroit Business Association, Detroit Economic Growth Corp., and Eastern Market. TechTown ($1.2 million) plans to use the funding to support its Retail Boot Camp and SWOT City programs; the DEGC’s funding ($725,000) will go toward Motor City Match and innovative economic development programs; Eastern Market ($500,000) will expand its food entrepreneurship program; and SDBA ($110,000) will offer one-on-one business mentorship.

JPMorgan said that over the past three years, the firm’s Detroit investments have “helped 1,800 small businesses receive technical assistance and provided loan and grant capital directly to 100 small businesses, including 44 entrepreneurs of color who could not get access to traditional financing.”

—On Friday, a gaggle of startups will participate in A2 Tech Trek, a free public event highlighting Ann Arbor’s tech community and the job opportunities therein. Each participating company hosts an open house to show off their innovations, and many also offer giveaways, refreshments, and interactive experiences. New this year is an app from Arbormoon featuring automated check-ins, a directory of participating companies, job listings compiled by Ann Arbor SPARK, maps, and more. The Tech Trek app is available for both iOS or Android.

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