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High Tech : Innovation + Job News

105 High Tech Articles | Page: | Show All

Grand Rapids photo editing firm grows business locally and globally

Many small businesses do not readily embrace globalization. In fact, some see globalization as a threat to their efforts. But Chris Palmer views it much differently. "PhotoUp is prime example of how globalization can have a real positive impact. It's globalization done the right way," he says.

Palmer is the CEO of PhotoUp, a web platform that brings together real estate photographers with professional photo editors. It was founded by Kristian Pettyjohn in 2012, with Palmer joining soon afterwards.

The firm's value proposition is two pronged: PhotoUp helps real estate photographers be more productive and efficient with their time, and it helps photo editors in emerging markets stay in their native country, earn a fair wage and continue their education.

From the perspective of a photographer, Palmer outlines the business dilemma: "A real estate photographer I talked to could not do (photograph and edit) more than four homes a day. He was stuck, tapped out at three to four homes a day. How do you grow your business that way?"

By using his firm's services, Palmer says a photographer can grow his or her business significantly by having someone else handling the editing, often times overnight.

Second, PhotoUp utilizes a team of professional creatives in the Philippines. Palmer describes his team of "Photoshop wizards" as being "high capacity, very creative, computer savvy." He says many of the employees in the Philippines are students and are paid market wages and take advantage of PhotoUp's employee benefit programs that provide resources to help build stronger communities and funding for ongoing education and training.

The decision to use the Philippines for a home base was partly the result of Palmer's direct experience of living and working in the country and his interest in using business as a tool for social enterprise. "Many students and professionals I met could not find good jobs in the Philippines but wanted to stay," says Palmer. He says many of these creative and talented individuals had to leave the country to find work, often in other industries not related to their career interests.

The PhotoUp team reflects its global mission. There are 20 employees in the Philippines, two in Grand Rapids (the company's headquarters) and two in other parts of the U.S. 

Confident that the demand for for higher quality, digital real estate photography will grow, Palmer says he anticipates hiring sales and customer service help in the summer of 2014.

To learn more about PhotoUp you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor


OST becomes the first Michigan partner of national leader in enterprise mobile app development

Open Systems Technologies (OST) has announced that they have become one of 20 premier partners with San Francisco, CA based Xamarin and the first partner in the State of Michigan.

Xamarin is a leader for enterprise, cross-platform mobile development. It is used by over 350,000 developers from more than a hundred Fortune 500 companies.

Brian Anderson, OST's business development manager for application development, explains the primary benefits of this relationship: "Their tools are very unique in the marketplace. Building individual apps is very expensive. We now can share all the code which accelerates the development and maintenance of apps. We will also have direct access with their firm. As we get opportunities, we can work with the right people and they will have the opportunity to come to us with projects." 

Anderson also says the relationship is opening up more job growth at OST as they look to hire developers to meet the customer demand for cross-platform mobile technology.   According to OST, their application development practice is one of the largest App Dev teams in Michigan, with annual revenues of $9 million and a roster of 30 full-time developers and 50 full-time contractors.

OST is an $80 million company with offices in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, Michigan; Minneapolis; and London, England.

To learn more about Xamarin you can visit their site here. To learn more about OST you can view their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Grand Rapids-based Atomic Object has acquired the Ann Arbor software development firm, SRT Solutions

The recent acquisition of SRT Solutions by Grand Rapids-based Atomic Object (AO) is a classic win-win scenario. 

Atomic Object gets a new office in Ann Arbor, one of Michigan's technology hubs, while acquiring more top talent.

The team at SRT becomes part of a larger organization with a very similar organizational culture while remaining in their existing offices, which they call home.

Carl Erickson, founder and president of AO, says the benefits to both firms is pretty simple. "The most exciting thing for Atomic Object is being present in the three major technology markets: Grand Rapids, Detroit and now Ann Arbor. This puts us at the table to help a lot of startups and exiting companies that are looking for software to be part of their innovation process."

Equally important as the geographic expansion is the talent acquisition. "We are getting four very talented developers, three very experienced and one young but with a lot of potential. They are in Ann Arbor. They like it. They are also very excited about being part of Atomic Object. That is a heck of a way to bootstrap an office in an industry with such a skill shortage."

After the acquisition, Atomic Object now employs 45, and the company is actively recruiting designers and developers for both its Ann Arbor and Detroit offices.

To learn more about the acquisition you can read Erickson's blog post here. You can also visit Atomic Object's site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Downtown building completes renovation, becomes home for technology startups

Grand Rapids Collaborative, or coLab for short, recently finished renovations on the third floor of the Leonard building at 38 W. Fulton.

The building, formerly known as the Grand Rapids Tech Hub, features a wide variety of benefits including a shared kitchen, broadband Internet, coffee delivery from San Chez, a parking space, and a common space that encourages "startup" camaraderie.

Erik Hall says the coLab provides a unique opportunity for their tenants. 

"First thing, we are focused on startups and small businesses. An issue with real estate is that it can be difficult to enter into a lease. We are very flexible with short-term leases. Within the building, you can start in The Factory, incubate the business, then graduate into the smaller offices. As the business grows, you then can move into larger spaces."

After the renovations, the third floor features 15 office spaces and five conference rooms. The tenants include several businesses recently profiled by Rapid Growth, including Open Device Lab, Ambassador, and Huron River Ventures. The fourth floor of the building includes The Factory and Universal Mind. Moving forward, the second floor of the coLab remains a possibility for development. 

According to Hall, the name change is mostly about differentiating the building from other initiatives using "hub" in their name. It also plays off the popular "coLearning" technology and programming classes being offered at The Factory.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Collaborative, you can view their site here.

Source: Erik Hall, Grand Rapids Collaborative
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Open Device Lab provides entrepreneurs and small business owners free access to technology

'Explore. Test. Play.' is the very succinct description on the Grand Rapids' Open Device Lab's homepage. 

Eric McKee, lead organizer behind the space, describes Open Device Lab as a modern library. But instead of books, the lab provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners to explore, test, and play with new technology. 

McKee, founder of Vero Design, which is located a couple offices away from the lab in the Grand Rapids Tech Hub, says he "stumbled on" the idea through social media. 

"The concept came through a need I had personally. I started a conversation on Twitter in February and had so much feedback that I ended up researching the concept. It was during research that I stumbled on the national movement for open device labs."

Moving quickly, McKee teamed with several partners, including device manufacturers, to open the lab in March of 2013. Besides allowing individuals and businesses access to the devices for testing, the lab also serves a larger purpose for West Michigan: increasing the awareness of what mobile can do for an organization. 

"A second group of users we serve are businesses looking to enter the mobile space and individuals looking to understand mobile development and best practices. What does it means to be mobile as an organization?"

McKee says the concept is not unique; rather, it's just not well known in the U.S. "It's part of a global movement that originated in Europe. Typically, small companies and  entrepreneurs  do not have access to a wide variety of mobile devices. The lab provides new devices plus older devices for testing and exploring."

McKee says the Grand Rapids space is only the fifteenth of its kind in the U.S.

McKee says the lab is still early in its formation, as he is currently in the process of forming relationships with all major manufacturers to ensure access to a wide variety of devices. He is also still securing sponsoring partners. Additionally, McKee says educational seminars and classes surrounding mobile technology will be added soon. 

To learn more about this facility -- including hours, contact information, partners, and available devices -- you can visit the site here.

Source: Eric McKee, Open Device Lab
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Mutually Human Software and GR Makers create new creative space, now accepting founding members

Samuel Bowles, VP at Mutually Human Software, describes their new relationship with GR Makers as "the intersection of atoms and bytes."

GR Makers is a community of makers and tinkerers co-founded by Casey DuBois. They have been meeting on a weekly basis at the Warehouse in Jenison, Mich. Here, members work on projects of their choice using available equipment such as 3-D printers, wood working machines, and equipment for light metal work.

With the acquisition of GR Makers by Mutually Human, the organization will soon have a new home and access to more equipment and technology. 

Bowles explains the dynamics, saying, "We are taking them to the next step. We will use Mutually Human resources to turn it into something long-term and sustainable."

For Mutually Human, Bowles says the relationship is very strategic. "We feel that devices and hardware are the future of our business. By partnering with GR Makers, it gives us an opportunity to play at the boundary of hardware and software."

Bowles says the community will be run as a for-profit space, which he says is the business model for other successful maker spaces across the country. "They are the ones that are thriving across the nation. They have best tools, most members, and most traction in the market place. We want to be like those places."

The makers lab will be located at the Mutually Human offices at 401 Hall St. It is scheduled to be open in two to three months with an initial space of 3,000 sq. feet. Bowles says they are currently accepting applications to become a founding member, which can accessed here.

To learn more about Mutually Human, you can visit their site here. To learn about GR Makers, you can view their site here.

Source: Samuel Bowles, Mutual Human Software
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Newly formed Muskegon Angels looking to invest in job growth

Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) recently announced the formation of a Muskegon Angel investment group.

Eric Seifert, finance and strategy specialist at MI-SBDTC, says MAREC is a perfect home for an investment group. "MAREC has the resources to support the Angels with infrastructure, including access to GVSU and the MI-SBDTC." 

Seifert says the organization has a very specific focus. "They are keenly interested in businesses located in Muskegon and (the) lakeshore area, especially advanced manufacturing, technology, water-related issues, and food production."

Seifert adds that the organization is also looking to invest in existing businesses other than startups that are recovering from the recession. "Because of the challenges in the past, (these businesses) need working capital. The Angels are looking to put money and mentorship into those businesses."

According to MAREC's press release, the concept of an Angel group in Muskegon began in 2012. More than 20 individuals are participating, with some members located beyond Muskegon County. Participants agree to invest $125,000 over five years. When fully capitalized, the organization's financial assets will total more than $2.75 million.

Seifert credits Kevin McCurren, executive director of GVSU's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, as being instrumental in the formation of this group along with Mike Olthoff, Larry Hines, John Pridnia, and Paul Jackson.

To learn more about this organization, you can visit their site here.

Source: Eric Seifert, MI-SBDTC,
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Innovative technology makeover modernizes nonprofit

Thanks to Trivalent Group's new philanthropic initiative, CompassionIT, Catherine's Health Center will soon have a complete "IT makeover" valued at over $30,000.

According to Dawn Simpson, VP of market development at Trivalent Group,  CompassionIT was a program that grew from within. " We had our engineers go to a professional development day, looking for creative ways to energize the team. Two senior engineers came back with an idea for us to do a technology makeover for a nonprofit."

The program was developed and the contest launched online. After both a public vote and an internal review, Catherine's Health Center was selected as the first recipient of makeover. Simpson adds that not only did the program generate interest from the nonprofit sector, but one of their technology vendors ended up donating cloud services that were included in the package for the winner.

Karen J. Kaashoek, executive director of Catherine's Health Center, says their organization is ecstatic over the gift, even if she is not sure exactly sure what the end result will look like. "We know where we are right now. We have very old, outdated, inefficient technology. We know there are solutions that we can't afford."

The extent of the makeover won't be known until after the Trivalent team completes an in-depth assessment of the organization. After that is finished, implementation and training will take place.

Kaashoek says easy access to medical records is critical in the healthcare industry, and as an organization relying on volunteers to get the work done, inefficient technology is a big issue. "Much of our existing technology wastes very much time, and our volunteers' time is very important. We were hoping for some new computers, but this is so much more."

To learn more about CompassionIT, you can visit the site here. You can visit Trivalent Group here, and Catherine's Health Center here.

Source: Dawn Simpson, Trivalent Group, Karen Kaashoek, Catherine's Health Center
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Huron River Ventures invests in innovation

The Grand Rapids office of Huron River Ventures (HRV) is on the third floor of the Leonard Building at 38 West Fulton, a destination earning its reputation as the "tech hub" of West Michigan.

HRV was started in 2010 with a $6 million capital infusion from the State's Accelerator Fund Program. It is a Michigan-based venture fund focused on early-stage companies, primarily with clean technology companies focusing on energy.

Managing Director Tim Streit says the firm is in a good position to support the growing entrepreneurial scene in West Michigan. "We chose Grand Rapids for our second office because we think West Michigan is poised for explosive growth as a start-up community and we believe Grand Rapids is going to be the center of that growth. Look at the amazing progress already being made by Start Garden, GVSU, Grand Rapids Tech Hub, et cetera. All of the key components of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem exist."

Streit highlights a recent investment in FarmLogs as an example of his firm's focus. "FarmLogs is a Michigan startup and Y Combinator alum that helps farmers digitally manage their farm to increase profitability," he says. FarmLogs recently closed a $1 million seed funding round co-led by Huron River Ventures and Hyde Park Venture Partners.  

With FarmLogs, growers plan, manage, and analyze their farm's operations to increase yield and profitability. The tool also allows farmers to quickly forecast and measure profits, track expenses, and more efficiently schedule operations. Streit says this type of business model is a perfect fit for his firm. "We invest in technologies that allow individuals and businesses to save money, improve profitability, and make smarter decisions. Our mantra is: better, faster, cheaper, and smarter."

To learn more about Huron River Ventures, you can visit their site here.

Source: Tim Streit, Huron River Ventures
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

High-tech, high flavors and high touch at the new Kitchen 67 Brann's Cafe

The public grand opening for Kitchen 67 Brann's Cafe is scheduled for August 25, and it will not only be a new addition to the Brann's family of restaurants, but a new kind of restaurant experience.

Accordng to Johnny Brann, the name of their new venture is a nod back at his grandfather's original business, John Brann's Steakhouse. "That restaurant really took off in 1967, when we introduced the sizzler," he explains. The new concept that Brann is implementing is designed to "fuel up body and mind." It is also the result of significant collaboration between Brann's and several area and national businesses. 

Bob Israels helped Brann with building design. Brann also mentions Gentex, Custer Technologies, Apple and Verizon (Verizon will share an entrance between the two spaces) as other collaborators in the project. Together, these vendors have created very high-tech cafe, where customers can enjoy the food while experiencing the latest in technology, including wireless charging stations designed by Fulton Innovations.

The new cafe has already resulted in 45 new jobs with the probability of adding more for a total of 50-55 jobs.

Brann says the menu will have many of their popular items, but will also feature many new foods with a "high-flavor" profile.

To learn more about this new restaurant concept, you can view their website here.

Source: Johnny Brann, Kitchen 67 Brann's Cafe
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Job News Editor

Grand Haven-based Media 1 looking for Microsoft SharePoint programmers for continued success

As Grand Haven-based Media 1 wraps up its 19th year, the company continues to move ahead with positioning itself as a consultant in business performance improvement. Along with that comes a need for Microsoft SharePoint programmers and developers to join the company.

Although Media 1's VP of Operations Harrison Withers didn't pin down an exact number of how many programmers the company needs, he did say, "it's one of those things that we pretty much are always looking for; I have been, and am constantly looking for, SharePoint help."

Withers continues, "We're not actively trying to hire six, but if six great [programmers] that I could afford came along, I could probably keep them busy."

SharePoint-related projects at Media 1 have grown in the past two years, says Withers. The need for experienced SharePoint programmers is made more difficult by the fact that there aren't many in the workforce to start with, and, of those, most are either already embedded in a company or they can pretty much name their own price, which puts them out of a small company's reach.

Withers says Media 1 has 17 employees right now, including a new SharePoint programmer that started this week.

According to a recent Media 1 press release, the company has positioned itself as an "expert in aligning people, process and technology to drive Business Performance Improvement."

"Our clients have a need for a great number of applications," says Withers. "Everything from onboarding systems to specialized-demand collecting applications to career development or performance-improvement directed portals. We don't want to necessarily tie ourselves to SharePoint all the time, but at end of day, it's about business processes improvement and increasing business performance."

Inquiries can be made by emailing solutions@media1.us.

Source: Harrison Withers, Media 1
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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West Michigan Aviation Academy takes off with huge expansion

What do astronauts and high school students have in common? A great deal in West Michigan after today. Dignitaries, staff, supporters and students of the West Michigan Aviation Academy braved cold, rainy February weather to attend the groundbreaking ceremonies for a massive expansion to this aviation-themed charter school near Gerald R Ford International Airport. The event also featured a guest appearance by former astronaut Mark Kelly, who talked to the students about what it takes to be leaders in the aviation world.

The newest phase of the Aviation Academy, and its largest yet, will create a new two-story, 47,000-square-foot addition and a new entrance. The addition on the West end of the building will give the academy the ability to add Junior and Senior classes and house a new gymnasium, fitness area, high-tech classrooms, science labs, administrative offices, food service and a commons area. At least five new hires are planned when the expansion opens, as well as the capacity for approximately 450 new students.

The groundbreaking ceremony featured remarks from the founder of the academy, Dick Devos; CEO Pat Cwayna; Joe Tomaselli, Chairman of the Gerald R Ford International Airport Board; Lennox Ramsey, student and President of the Student Council and former Congressman Vern Ehlers.

With a focus on aviation and aerospace, the school opened in the Fall of 2010 with the goal of 60 freshman students and quickly grew to 145 students. The expansion will allow the school to accommodate up to 600 students in four high school grades.

Source: Jenny Waugh, Rockford Construction
Writer: Jeff Hill

Coopersville-based IT Resource seeks technology engineer, adds six jobs

Technology jobs are available in West Michigan, and Coopersville-based IT Resource aims to fill at least one specialized position soon.

The company (701 W. Randall St.) provides IT engineering and consulting services to small- and mid-sized companies that either don't have an IT department and need one, or that have a small IT department and need a bigger one. IT Resource provides onsite and remote services to help clients build their own networking infrastructure with servers, voice over IP, data storage, disaster recovery planning and more.

"We're currently looking for a senior level Cisco-certified voice over security engineer," says Carrie Borchers, director of sales. "We will be looking to add to our sales team as the business grows and we'll add engineers as our volume of work increases."

Business growth doesn't seem to be a problem.

"I joined the company four years ago and I was the tenth employee. Now we have 19," Borchers says. "Our sales were up 13 percent for 2011 over 2010, and 2010 was up 27 percent over 2009."

IT Resource recently hired an inside sales rep, which Borchers says is a new role within the company. The firm also recently added two senior account managers who will start next month. In the past six months, Borchers says they've also hired a helpdesk analyst and an IT engineer.

"I think new employees want to know they're in an organization that's going to be around a long time," Borchers says. "IT Resource has a track record of growth; where we're going to be three years from now is not where we are today -- we're not stagnant, we're always growing."

Source: Carrie Borchers, IT Resource
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Michigan Health Connect could bring more technology jobs to West Michigan

A new medical e-records collaboration in West Michigan has already brought seven new jobs to Greater Grand Rapids and looks to create several new technology positions in coming months.

Michigan Health Connect (4829 E. Beltline Grand Rapids), a collaborative effort of Spectrum Health, Metro Health and Trinity Health (Saint Mary's Health Care), launched in 2009 as a collaborative effort to connect all area hospitals, physicians, laboratories and pharmacies through a common electronic data-sharing network. What began with one employee and three hospitals has grown to become a nonprofit organization with eight staff members who are working with 50 Michigan hospitals and over 800 physicians' offices to connect patient data.

"A patient can opt out, but if they participate, this system will allow their data to be collected, so if they show up at the emergency room or their physician's office, the [healthcare network] can pull up the patient's record and understand what's going on," says Executive Director Doug Dietzman. "This system will get rid of the need for records to be faxed, the need for patients to fill out new forms, and patients won't need to remember who they've seen or what was diagnosed."

Dietzman says the goal is to connect patient records within a healthcare system, as well as between different healthcare systems, so patients can receive informed care no matter where they're being treated.
 
In addition to the efforts to get interested healthcare facilities on one electronic database developed by Salt Lake City, Utah-based Medicity, Michigan Health Connect helps individual offices customize the system and trains users.

"We'll need more project managers and analysts to help us deploy the solutions and conduct training sessions," Dietzman says. "We'll also be taking on our own human resources, IT and financial support, which is outsourced now."

Source: Doug Dietzman, George Bosnjak, Michigan Health Connect
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

The pedagogy of experimentation

It's a foregone conclusion for many that geeks will inherit the earth. What is less understood, however, is the process of this inheritance.

Recently profiled in Rapid Growth Media, The Geek Group's Chris Boden offers a glimpse into the process and it begins with two robots, Jeff and Heather.

Like three of the protagonists in the Wizard of Oz, the robots are lacking one thing. In Jeff and Heather's case, it is a permanent mount. "Mounting the robots requires a small concrete project," says Boden, hopeful that  a local contractor will donate their services.

"We need a 12" x 12" x 12" reinforced concrete pad to mount the robots," Boden says. Once mounted and operational, Boden says this will be a unique learning opportunity for those interested in robotics and advanced manufacturing. "The robots cost more than a house. We're the only place in the world where someone can play with one and not get killed."

In exchange for the contractors' time, Boden says the entire process will be documented as they will shoot an instructional video on how to mount robots, which will then be part of The Geek Group's growing video network.

Once the robots are in place, other projects waiting to be finished off (and an old building on Grand Rapids' West side) will be one step closer to becoming a Mecca for innovators, explorers and entrepreneurs who prefer to learn through doing and experimentation.

To learn more about The Geek Group or to contact Boden with leads on local contractors, you can visit their website here.

Source: Chris Boden, The Geek Group
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
105 High Tech Articles | Page: | Show All
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