“In insurance, there is certain data that matters in writing a risk,” says Jeff Heine, CRO of Groundspeed Analytics, a top-rated Ann Arbor fintech startup that is disrupting the insurance industry. “But they don’t use more than 10 percent of the data. With AI,” Heine explains, “we’re taking the intensive manual effort [to analyze the data] and automating that.” Groundspeed was rated a finalist for InsurTech Honor of the Year Award by Insurance Insider, was listed by Business Insider as a top Breakout Fintech Star, and was named by the 2020 CB Insights Fintech 250 List of Fastest Growing Fintech Startups. It’s one of the hottest new AI startups coming out of emerging tech hub Ann Arbor, Michigan, but it hasn’t gotten the same attention as many cybersecurity or conversational AI companies because the fintech space is often disconnected from other innovative startups in the Midwest. Groundspeed has gained a lot of ground under the mainstream radar.
If you’re in tech, you know something special has been happening in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the last few years. First cybersecurity startup Duo Security was acquired by Cisco for $2.3 billion, alongside 3 other Southeastern Michigan companies that became the region’s first unicorn startups, or tech startups valued at over $1 billion. Ann Arbor, with its solid tech talent pipeline from the University of Michigan and local business hubs that are home to now hundreds of software, life science and biotech, and security startups, has been ranked as an emerging tech hub by national outlets. Then the Duo team present for the exit got the startup itch. Now Blumira, founded in 2018 by tech alum of Duo Security, Censys and the NSA, just raised $2.6 million in seed round funding, is doubling its staff, and is disrupting the security SIEM (Security Incident and Event Monitoring) market to offer streamlined security services to small businesses.
For the last year, Traverse City Michigan startup incubator 20Fathoms has been running a program called tccodes, to mentor professionals moving into software development careers. Tomorrow, Program Manager Keith Kelly says, they’re kicking off phase 2 of the program, tccyber, with an event called CyberSecurity As a Career, to support people entering the growing cybersecurity industry.
EntryPoint today just released its 2020 Ann Arbor Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Report, which covers everything from 20 years of growth in the Ann Arbor startup ecosystem to impact reports of recent events. If you’re interested in how Ann Arbor came to be recognized as an emerging tech hub for software/security and life science startups, this is a great report to dig into, and to see up-to-the-minute trends as it also addresses the very recent impact of COVID-19 on the region’s economy.
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.
Protect Michigan Creates New Air Filtration PPE for Frontline COVID-19 Workers Facing High Viral Load
Ann Arbor’s maker community has designed a simplified protective face shield with powered filtered flow, a little brother of the high-end hazmat suit style PAPRs (Powered Air Purifying Respirators) you see in contagion movies. The so-called PFFR is not a fully contained helmet or suit, and has been redesigned to be more appropriate for the current pandemic. It costs under $100 instead of $2,000, and will soon be ready for production. The only problem? Many frontline workers are only allowed to use protective gear that fits into previously FDA-approved personal protective equipment (PPE). This concept likely falls between existing PPE categories, because it isn’t a full respirator mask and it isn’t a simple face shield but somewhere in between. The journey to getting FDA emergency use authorization has been a long one, even in times when the agency has sped up its evaluation process drastically to get more PPE onto the front lines.
In a short month, everything from grocery delivery to contactless delivery robots are becoming commonplace as the American workforce adjusts to work from home. You can still go out of the house for essentials even during stay-at-home orders in most cases, but what if you’re looking to have contactless delivery of as many supplies as possible? We put together a list of top newer delivery services you may not know are now in your area. We focused this list on Southeast Michigan where we have tested the services, but many of these services are national or quickly expanding in your area, too. Most offer a zip code check to find out if you are in the delivery zone.
Companies around the world are navigating how to reopen after shutdown. In many cases, it simply isn’t feasible for workers to return to cramped working conditions even with masks and hand sanitizer or spray shields, so many companies are extending work from home indefinitely. But tech has largely been operating on the idea that innovation happens in close quarters when founders swim in a soup of collaborative brainstorming–especially startups that operate out of coworking spaces. What happens to the coworking spaces and the smaller tech startups that operate out of these shared spaces after reopening?
Michigan’s business analysis firm EntryPoint has just released the Washtenaw County COVID-19 Business Impact Report to help business owners and investors examine the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on local business and investment. For startups and tech businesses looking at the business landscape, here’s what you’ll learn:
Today, the Michigan Venture Capital Association released its annual research report on the state of venture capital in Michigan. As with other recently published reports on the state of business investment, the MVCA Research Report show record-breaking investment in the recovering state’s new business ecosystem, followed by challenges brought by COVID-19.