We knew this would happen, it just came sooner than expected. We couldn’t possibly cronicle all the amazing tech-related events around Ann Arbor and Detroit, much less the entire state of Michigan, in one post anymore, so our tech events posts will now contain highlighted events you might not know about or one-off conferences you won’t want to miss.
Continuing our series on podcasts in the Michigan tech scene is Dave Haviland, new host of the SPARK.Grow podcast sponsored by Ann Arbor SPARK that interviews executives around the Ann Arbor business community. Haviland is an executive coach through Phimation Strategy Group to second-stage tech company founders and executive teams in the Ann Arbor area. We found him in his offices on the 8th floor of the First National Building on Main Street and Liberty, which has a lovely view of downtown.
Just a few months ago, industry-disrupting conversational AI startup Clinc, which is rolling out an automotive application of their voice-interface software in 2021, was filling the top floor of tech and startup co-working space Cahoots and filling an office in Kerrytown. Now the conversational AI research startup is expanding into a third location in Ann…
It’s a well-worn Silicon Valley fairytale that some of the world’s biggest and best tech companies started in garages. In the Midwest tech ecosystem, which is growing quickly in towns like Ann Arbor, there is still a bit of this bootstrapping in action. Case in point, home healthcare tech company Shoshana, which was founded almost 20 years ago in a shed on a farm north of Ann Arbor near the Washtenaw Food Hub. The team is now a dozen strong and fill a space that is mid-renovation, so there are multiple monitors and young people milling around a building that still doesn’t have walls. A young developer knits in front of a lit screen in the back room at a standing desk next to a colleague. An old wood stove still sits in the middle of the main room, even though the building now has HVAC and heat. “There is a fallow field behind this yard,” Shoshana President Tom Voiles explains, pointing past a yurt and barn through some trees. “Sometimes we do team circles there. It’s very peaceful.”
When we were kids, it was headline news that the human genome had finally been sequenced, a remarkable feat of science that cost $2.7 billion and took 15 years to complete. Today, according to Matthew Hymes of Arbor Biosciences, it’s possible to replicate the same work for under $1,000, which has allowed an entire field of genomic sequencing to emerge, with applications from crop disease resistance studies to research on ancient DNA from archeological digs, to medical research. Arbor Biosciences is one of those companies, whose work in genomic sequencing can be applied to a host of industries.
The University of Michigan has a Princeton Review #1-rated ecosystem for student entrepreneurs and multiple venture accelerators, which is great support for budding startups in Ann Arbor and Michigan’s growing tech industry. But what really goes on behind closed doors? As supportive as the University of Michigan is for new businesses being spun out from faculty or run through funded programs with multiple levels of mentorship, this can all still look a bit opaque from the outside. As part of our mission to highlight the accelerating growth of Ann Arbor and Michigan regional tech over the past few years, we wanted to sit down with the Desai Accelerator run out of U-M’s Zell Lurie Institute at the Ross School of Business to hear how things work and what resources are out there for people looking to connect. This is a newer program, and still being shaped.
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.
Until they develop the technology (waiting), we can’t be everywhere at once, and that’s what it takes to attend and cover all Ann Arbor tech events these days. So, here is a list of some tech events going on in May in Ann Arbor, plus some great lists to follow who can keep you in…
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.”
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.”