Have a new startup in mobility, sustainable energy, or tech that you would like to pitch? Ann Arbor SPARK has just announced a number of opportunities for startups, particularly in the mobility space, to get their name out and find funding. Here are some new announcements of opportunities for Michigan startups from Komal Doshi, Director of Mobility Programs at Ann Arbor SPARK, Ann Arbor’s premier business support organization for tech startups.
Entrypoint’s current Washtenaw County COVID-19 Business Impact Report is now available for anyone wanting an in-depth look at how the coronavirus pandemic has affected businesses in Ann Arbor’s business industries over the past year. Cronicle reported on the upcoming research earlier this year, and it’s now complete and updated for current market conditions.
Ann Arbor-based Shuffleboard officially launches today, with a 40% discount for anyone looking for a remote team collaboration tool. The idea, from founder Sam Pierce Lolla? Make remote team collaboration more like in-person brainstorming. Shuffleboard alleges to cut down on Zoom fatigue, and also creates a process by which professional teams can glean feedback from clients or colleagues in a simple streamlined process. Lolla has years of professional experience working with professional teams to help them collaborate. The Shuffleboard tool is a natural extension of a lot of expertise and deep knowledge of team brainstorming process best practices.
Pocketnest, a new app for next-gen financial wellness used by top credit unions and companies like Cisco and Henry Ford, has experienced explosive growth over the past year after closing its Series A funding round in 2019. The Ann Arbor-based fintech startup was founded by financial advisor Jessica Willis just 12 months ago after realizing there was very little out there in the way of non-transactional financial wellness apps for Gen X and millennials who were looking for technology to ease communication with financial advisors and to glean accessible financial wellness education and advice. Now boasting 8 enterprise clients with 20% user growth month over month and 40% growth month over month from an enterprise standpoint, Pocketnest now works with the top 3 largest credit unions in the United States–Wright-Patt Credit Union, Lake Trust Credit Union, and MSU Federal Credit Union–and growing.
“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.