It’s been a while since we played a scavenger hunt, but these days augmented reality seems just the thing to make these old-fashioned games fresh again. Plus, on our phones we don’t have to get in trouble deciding if we should follow a clue like “find the oldest bones around” by taking forbidden photos in the dinosaur museum or asking an old guy crossing the street to take a selfie with us…. Closing out our summer series on Michigan-based gaming studios is Scavenger, another student launched out of the University of Michigan OptiMize program that has continued as the co-founders Kyle Zappitell (CEO) and Harry Stephens (CPO) and other team members moved to LA, New York, and Chicago. Co-founder Kyle Zappitell tells us his startup Scavenger is an augmented reality scavenger game app that allows users to combine augmented reality and real-world gaming to win cash prizes. For now, the testing zone for the game is based in Chicago, but other cities are coming soon.
The Tangent Gallery in Detroit this weekend is hosting the Marvelous Detroit Art Emporium for a multimedia music and art show Saturday August 17. Why promote this for a tech blog? Because BrandXR’s augmented reality murals are part of the show. Come check out the multimedia art recently featured on Cronicle created by Moody Mattan and friends. Summer is drawing to a close in a few weeks. Check this out for some end of summer festival fun.
College campuses have been through a number of crises lately, from dealing with increasing academic pressure to a growing number of active shooters to high rates of alcohol abuse among young people. One startup aims to offer students support in a format that works for their lives–in demand, online, and peer to peer. hEARt is a new startup founded at the University of Michigan out of the OptiMize program, which is creating a platform and peer mentoring service to combat the mental health crisis facing many students in college and even in high school.
There are a number of successful co-working locations in Ann Arbor, so what makes yet another one special? David Whitinger of Office Evolution Ann Arbor said that he was looking for an opportunity that would reflect the culture of startups in Ann Arbor, and Office Evolution out of Denver really spoke to him because of the layout. Unlike most open-concept co-working spaces that aim to foster collaboration and socialization through single desks packed into an open room, Office Evolution is an office concept that allows teams to close their office door for private conversations, then emerge into the shared office kitchen and lounge for more connection. For teams engaged in proprietary discussions–automotive, legal, security, for instance–it’s an essential difference. And that is who has populated Office Evolution.
How does a young marketer bring best practices from one of the world’s most elite marketing academies and festivals back to a small tech town and apply it to B2B marketing? Silas Bush of Nexient recently was accepted to the Cannes Young Lions Marketing Academy, one of 4 small classes of marketing professionals at the 66th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France, and says he learned a lot from hobnobbing with the CMOs of major global brands from tech to retail on how certain marketing practices can be applied to any kind of business. Everyone from Loreal to Google and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to Redbull to actors Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum were there on the French Riviera, where Bush says the connections with technology taught him an enormous amount about how to apply agency best practices to tech marketing.
The market for software development teams serving software companies is saturated, at least in Ann Arbor, where Alfa Jango founder Steve Schwartz has started and/or sold several startups himself alongside helping other new companies. That’s why he decided several years ago to focus on helping non-tech startups get the software development and guidance they would need so they could focus on the subject area they were expertise in. The results speak for themselves. Alfa Jango now serves clients that hail from YCombinator to Carnegie Mellon to the University of Michigan, and after selling startup Carcode to Edmunds in 2014 with a co-founder, Schwartz has now started another company called Genomenon on the side, which true to his vision uses his technical expertise on the tech side but focuses primarily on creating a genome interpretation software that empowers genomicists to compile and analyze research on immune disorders and cancer to better serve patients–rather than worrying about the software that allows them to do their work. Genomenon helps companies develop therapies or precision medicine to treat root causes of disease instead of symptoms, or build their knowledge database.
We live in a time where old orders are collapsing: from the post-colonial nation states of the Middle East to the EU and the American election. Amid all of this, a generation of young men find themselves burning with resentment, without the money, power, and sex they think they deserve. Written and performed by Javaad Alipoor and co-directed by Kirsty Housley (who also co-directed Complicite’s The Encounter), this multimedia show weaves together stories of three disaffected men and their journeys to radicalization, exploring the smoke and mirrors world of online extremism, anonymity, and hate speech.
We’re adding more Detroit tech events this month as we begin to expand our tech news coverage into other regional tech towns in Michigan. Let us know if we’ve missed your event, and please add us to your press lists and newsletters to keep us in the loop on your meetups!
It’s an improving but still perennial issue for the “flyover states”: finding funding for your business. Different types of tech companies require different types of funding, but it never hurts to know who is out there. With this in mind, the Michigan Venture Capital Association has created the Michigan Entrepreneurial & Investment Landscape Map, which includes not only local and regional VCs and angels but also economic development corporations, university partners, funds of funds, and more.
Mike Beasley of Amazon is the co-chair of UX Ignite MI with his colleague Andrea Neuhoff of Thompson-Reuters. Together they represent a cohort of user experience and product design professionals that are a growing pool of talent in the Michigan area. “Amazon has found Detroit a rewarding place to hire,” Beasley says. “Until Amazon moved in, there was a lot of talent not being tapped.”
In our recent two-part series on the student entrepreneurs of the University of Michigan at the TechArb accelerator and Innovation in Action program, we profiled a young entrepreneur named Scarlett Ong Rui Chern and her venture called Peerstachio. One of the things that struck me as I interviewed Chern was the sheer number of grants she had managed to wrangle to keep her venture afloat, and the amount of support she had received from TechTown and the University of Michigan programs and departments dedicated to supporting student entrepreneurs. “There are so many resources at U of M,” Chern tells me, “we really have the upper hand.”
Jeni Olney’s role at the University of Michigan is to get students excited and interested in entrepreneurship, to be exposed to the idea of entrepreneurship as a useful skill set and a valuable degree. “Then, once I get them into classes, my job is to connect them to resources,” Olney says. This is Innovate Blue, the University of Michigan’s program for connecting any and all undergraduate students with the option of a minor in entrepreneurship.
Mario Loria is still in his late twenties, but on his team at super hot Detroit-based startup StockX, the billion-dollar luxury goods stock exchange run by Josh Luber, he’s one of the older team members. Loria is the founder of Ann Arbor meetup Orchestructure (2017) for devops and related folks to geek out over latest tech and best practices, and his career started in Ann Arbor with a tech company that had a more traditional management style. He also founded his own company between these gigs, somewhere between helping organize DevOps Days Detroit and starting several other projects. Thus, he has some strongly held ideas about team structure and culture, and what he sees as a slow shift toward transparency in the workplace serving tech teams well–but kind of taking forever.
… Innovation in Action uses the same work space as TechArb for students to come brainstorm ideas for new ventures. Students and mentors first meet to discuss ideas, then browse presentations on the walls featuring different components of the business ideas and the challenges they are attempting to solve. People can place a dot sticker near any idea that sparks their interest, and leave Post-Its with questions the idea raises for them. This was the process going on during the IIA meeting. Entrepreneurs can see how their idea strikes people, where the interest is clustered, and have a chance to address concerns or questions as their business idea progresses. As we go around the room at the Innovation in Action meeting, Gourley introduces people involved in one or both programs with Innovation or TechArb.
Jonathon Baugh, Experience Architect Senior Manager at Pillar Technology, loves his farm. And karate. And maps. And especially people. He uses all of these disparate topics as basis for talks he gives on user experience and design. “In the design community we have to take inspiration from outside of industry,” he says, in order to gain new insights into why and how things are done and what we take for granted. This helps Baugh make new connections between ideas for great user experience. “That’s a powerful technique,” he says. There’s something about studying maps in particular, learning about new worlds, that leads to great product road maps. “Overlaying two topics, to me, is how I make a difference.”
In the office suites below the Washington Street parking garage near State, student entrepreneurs from the University of Michigan and their mentors have gathered for a meeting, where they present business ideas in a setup similar to an art gallery. The atmosphere is hushed, thoughtful. The ubiquitous Zingerman’s catering elves have come and gone, leaving pound cake and coffee. Attendees mill around examining the structure for each business on the walls. At the end of the meeting, the posters and papers are covered in little stickers and notes of feedback.
Cronicle Press is you, the Ann Arbor tech community. We don’t talk enough. We don’t follow each other on Twitter. We come to occasional meetups, but maybe we don’t have time for every group we’d like to keep up with, and it’s getting harder by the year to follow how many new startups are out there in town.
It was packed to capacity and standing room only. The sixth annual UX Ignite meetup on user experience held this year at Circ Bar next to the Blind Pig on downtown Ann Arbor’s west side was an almost comedy club type setup for some very engaging speakers on the subjects of digital product design, user experience… and goats. One speaker, Jonathon Baugh of Pillar, had recently moved to the country west of Ann Arbor to start a family farm, so his talk focused on the parallel lessons between running a farm and the user experience of technology products. He told stories about surprisingly predictable seasonal visits from owls, and how he learned you have to catch the maple syrup at the exact right time of spring when the up and down cold weather makes the sap run. “Think about the season your users are going through,” he said, pointing to a photo of his toddler son drinking from a maple sap tap hose. “And learn to lean in to your users.” Instead of telling users what they need, listen to how they already use products and interfaces. The example for this? His goats found ways to knock down trees as snacks. Instead of restraining them, Baugh started a yearly tradition of feeding his goats an offering of recycled Christmas trees. Creating new routines on the farm and in technology can also create unintended users, he said, pointing to a video of him petting a “trash panda,” an opossum who was attracted to the farm’s new offerings.