Despite a challenging year, a number of Ann Arbor tech startups are still experiencing rapid growth. First up? Pocketnest, the fintech startup that created a personal financial wellness app to integrate into bank and credit union software to help advise end users on savings and investment decisions while they monitor their finances.
One of the risks of the racial justice movements resulting in calls for widespread change in 2020 was that companies jumping on board to promise change in American society would use the moment for PR and then lapse back into business as usual. But tech companies in particular, along with many in fashion and entrepreneurship, have embraced 2020 as a turning point after which the awareness and support of diversity in the workplace and representation in both media and business will not go back to a misguided sense that ignorance is bliss. Is it naive to think these changes will last without a community effort? Probably, but a large number of people often would like to make a change and only need some direction as to how to help. We checked in with a couple of tech companies to see how their diversity programs are changing, to give you some tips if you’re planning your own diversity and inclusion program.
Ann Arbor-based startup Nahsai creates extreme environment materials and sensors for aerospace, defense, and industrial applications. As such they are at the forefront of seeing the defense industry, among others, adopt lean startup strategies for invention, project management, and manufacturing. In the case of aerospace, the market for private companies going to space (e.g. SpaceX) is so new that companies have to invent and produce parts in-house for their rockets in many cases. But whether it’s a private or public contract, when companies like Nahsai are brought on board to contract out parts, the industry is recognizing that the product development cycle is shortening dramatically and large contracts can’t deliver on time and still be relevant. Enter lean startup strategies.
Susan Wagner of KLA Corporation spoke up front at this year’s TechTalk out of Ann Arbor on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Inclusion gives companies the diversity of thought and experience to be as creative and innovative as possible. “We should work together to life one another up. It does not mean that just because others succeed we will fail… all boats rise together,” she said. “KLA is a global company. COVID’s impact can vary,” Wagner said. “The semiconductor industry is playing a crucial role to enable work from home. Many things are changing, some for good,” she said. “Electronics are more important than ever to keep us connected.”
This week’s a2tech360 conference has continued the newer Applied AI conference, which highlights trends in artificial intelligence applied in a variety of ways to real-world needs. No longer is AI only a mysterious force powering conversational assistants. Speakers at this year’s A2.AI conference covered a whole host of applications for AI technology, from multitouch attribution to analyzing customer insights.
For all of its historic challenges and unwelcome public health impacts, 2020 has been a not-so-subtle reminder of the critical importance of biomedical innovation. The world is figuratively holding its breath, counting on the promise of life-changing breakthroughs in vaccines and therapeutic treatment options to help us begin to get back to a pre-COVID normal. The power and potential of new ideas and new medicines has perhaps never been more evident. But bringing them to life and to market is not easy: it requires not only big ideas and expertise, but the technical and economic resources needed to infuse promising possibilities with the entrepreneurial energy that translates to practical results.
Launching a biotech startup is one of the most complex processes in new business. So what happens when a startup working on technology to identify pathogens in real-time has to roll with the punches during a pandemic? Joe Shanley serves as a consulting attorney and business consultant at Seraph Biosciences, a Detroit-based medical device company that has navigated an evolving technology platform, iterative software development process, and a multifaceted R&D strategy all while working with multiple stakeholders. We wanted to highlight the issues Seraph is navigating, because it’s a great illustration of what so many startups are handling right now. We hope that you find some ideas or encouragement in the story of Seraph’s progress growing a company during challenging times.
Companies everywhere are looking for best practices and tech tools to make work from home work for entire organizations overnight. Now that a few months have passed since companies across the U.S. started adapting to remote work, we checked in with metro Detroit-based software and AI company that offers enterprise solutions to other companies to see if they had any insights into what makes work from home software really work.
So you’re laid off, or already thinking of starting a new company, but now it not the ideal time to apply to an elite startup incubator. What does a company that doesn’t quite qualify as tech or can’t get funding do right now to fill in the mentorship gaps on the road to starting a new business in Southeast Michigan? Kristin Gapske is the Director of the Washtenaw Community College Entrepreneurship Center, which helps new startup and Main Street small business founders get the help they need to:
We’ve spoken with a number of executives in the past 3 months who are responding to COVID-19 for their big tech business or small startup, and we noticed some trends in how businesses are responding to the pandemic. Quite a few people from virtual panel attendees to readers to interviewees have asked Cronicle questions about what we’re seeing in our interviews with Midwest Tech. It’s the million-dollar question: what’s next? How are businesses coping, and how does that impact their workers and public health? Here are the top trends we’ve noticed behind the scenes in Midwest tech in our interviews from manufacturers and scientists pivoting to produce PPE to tech startups creating new software for public health initiatives. All of this is based in our limited interview time and virtual networking, not an official survey. Here are, in order that they appeared, the behind the scenes trends we’ve noticed in Midwest tech businesses responding to the coronavirus pandemic.