Automation. It’s an unavoidable job stealer, right? Well, maybe sometimes, but when it comes to automation in smaller factory lines, something big is changing. It’s the type of robots, and how they work with people instead of replacing them. Universal Robots is a 12-year-old company founded in Odense, Denmark, with offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Universal Robots has a totally different vision for robotics than most manufacturers. “These robots are approachable, accessible, and should be able to work side by side with skilled humans instead of replacing them,” says Universal Robots Senior Manager of Strategic Marketing & Applications Development Joe Campbell. Moreover, they can be programmed in a matter of minutes with training in a few hours, not requiring a degree in robotics to program or operate.
Research labs have been shut down. Small businesses are searching for funding. But it’s not all bad news in the emerging tech hubs of the Midwest. Especially in hard-hit Michigan, the structure is in place to allow some startups to do quite well during challenging times. We went in to a few interviews of Midwest tech companies and startup coaches thinking they would help us pay forward resources to startup founders to get through these hard times. In addition to resources, they had some good news.
Ann Arbor-based academic research database company ProQuest has just announced it is aggregating a database of coronavirus and related virus research available through its library customers and to academic research users for free to assist in research and data analysis of the quickly developing COVID-19 outbreak. “The Coronavirus Research Database saves time and improves outcomes for researchers by aggregating authoritative content from ProQuest with content made available at no cost by members of the International Association of STM Publishers…. Journals, preprints, conference proceedings and dissertations provide comprehensive coverage of COVID-19 and other past coronavirus outbreaks, such as MERS and SARS, for context around the current global pandemic. Full-text content in the database is available either directly from ProQuest or via links to publisher sites.”
Our new online tech events page is live and being updated on a rolling basis as many tech communities in Ann Arbor-Detroit and the greater Great Lakes region move online in the coming weeks. Many events have been cancelled temporarily, but this is a great opportunity to attend events that were previously limited to local audiences now open to anyone online. Many are free. We hope you are staying safe and still able to work through these difficult times. Be well.
Traverse City, Michigan, tech incubator 20Fathoms recently welcomed new head Lauren Bigelow, a veteran of the startup community in Michigan. Bigelow was director of Ann Arbor’s IT Zone, the predecessor to Ann Arbor SPARK, and has worked for years to help build new businesses in Michigan. “I love this work, because I love building things,” Bigelow told us from her office near Lake Michigan. “20 Fathoms was an opportunity to take my background and serve this incredibly supportive community.”
It’s already March, so we’re going back to our standard format for Michigan tech events including meetups this month, in case you’ve missed the usuals. We’ve highlighted a few we think you might be interested in. Have a great month, Great Lakes tech!
MAXAR Builds Next-Generation Technology For Space Infrastructure To Earth Intelligence To Self-Driving Cars
Little known fact: Ypsilanti, Michigan, has been home to a satellite and remote sensing company now called MAXAR since 1947. Focused on space infrastructure, remote sensing for earth intelligence, and the technology to support self-driving cars, MAXAR and the companies that came before it were originally spun out from the University of Michigan and were hosted at the old Willow Run Labs.
Did you ever wonder how candidates land jobs at hot tech companies like Duo out of Ann Arbor and StockX in Detroit? It’s a high-growth space, but operates mostly through back channels–or at least it seems that way in a landscape that is still frequently underrepresented in media coverage of business and local news. Ryan Landau is founder of re:purpose, a tech-focused startup recruiting firm that works with fast-moving companies. Startups and tech firms including Duo, StockX, WeWork, Bloomscape, Atomic Object, Detroit Venture Partners and the like come to Landau to source talent in an environment that still has trouble holding talent from leaving for the coasts.
Heather Martel is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of ProjectFRED, a new fintech, blockchain-powered commercial real estate startup launching this month out of Ann Arbor that allows the individual small investor to get into the world of commercial real estate investing through a fractional investing app. ProjectFRED was founded by a neurosurgeon turned blockchain coder, a marketer, and a real estate broker, who wanted to make it easier for commercial real estate listings to meet their investment goals and for people just starting investing or wanting a portfolio across the United States through smaller investments to jump in to real estate using only an app. Investors are alerted to new properties coming on the market and can swipe through investment properties as they are available, which creates a targeted way to help $100 million in commercial real estate in Ann Arbor move more quickly.
The world requires innovation—now more than ever. Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. Along the wild shores of Lake Superior, researchers, students, and entrepreneurs create the future. So says the website for MTEC SmartZone, a tech incubator that is located on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Michigan. You can’t get much farther north in the United States toward fresh air and rugged wilderness at the gateway to the Keewenaw Peninsula that juts out into cold and stunningly beautiful Lake Superior, and you can’t get much better aligned with Michigan tech. That’s because MTEC operates out of Michigan Technological University in Houghton. One of the biggest challenges currently facing Michigan’s new growth in tech-related industries is that there is so little media coverage or visiblity for all the smaller players that make up a very large movement of startups that are revitalizing Michigan’s economy. Who knew there were tech incubators all over the state of Michigan? Hardly anyone, including us until recently.