Permission Not Required for Assemble Detroit, Michigan’s Own SXSW Event

Assemble Michigan, Michigan startup, Michigan startup event, eventKevin Krease and Garrett Koehler recently lost the ESPN X Games bid for Detroit, but turned this failure into Michigan’s own and very first SXSW-like event. The event called Assemble will be hosted in Detroit during the Summer of 2014, and will combine tech, music, art and extreme sports.

The duo who attracted national media attention for the ESPN bid shared with us at last night’s Fifty Founders event how they got started and what they aim to do with Assemble Detroit. It was a great turnout at Bamboo Detroit where the community gathered to network and hear this young startup speak.

When Kevin Krease and Garret Koehler started the X Games bid in Detroit, it was because they wanted to make a positive impact in the city that had always fascinated them. Krease worked in publishing and Kohler had experience teaching art, traveling through Palestine, and eventually working at Groupon in Chicago. Koehler left to join Krease in Detroit this past year.

During the bid, their team raised national awareness, launched a viral video, and created a social media movement around the event. Along the way they setup strategic partnerships. The loss of the bid helped them garner enough support for Assemble Detroit.

Here’s what the duo says they learned along the way:

No Permission Required. This is the internal motto for the Assemble Detroit team. Why? Because they learned that to make something like a large scale event happen you need to take your own initiative. The duo said the resources are always there, and that there are plenty of startup resources in Detroit. You just need the idea to get started and inspire others to believe. For events, they said it’s about the idea and the brand. Then, you hire local talent to help make it happen.

Build relationships and trust. To get excitement for the ESPN bid going the team had to create a video. They had little budget to work with, and partnered with another startup to create their video that eventually went viral. The startup trusted them and covered the costs until the group received funding. What did they learn? It’s about building relationships and trust with others to get an idea off the ground. The video was a huge success in building momentum for the team. They were able to pay the other business back when funding came in.

Always add value. The team used this piece of advice to help maneuver how they would build up momentum for their extreme sports event. Every time they went to make a decision that may have seemed like a leap, they asked themselves if it added value to their goal. If the answer was yes, they found a way to make it happen.

It’s about perception, not risk. The duo said that they did hear some negative feedback on their journey. Others called hosting a large event with extreme sports in the city risky. They pointed out that risk is all about your perception on the place and the people. Risk to extreme sports is falling down during a dangerous jump. Risk in Detroit isn’t that risky as others might see it. The duo said:

“Detroit isn’t a liability. Its grit and resources are a bonus. Risky is believing that Detroit won’t turn around. It’s thinking you can move and make it in New York City.”

Failure can be fun. When the bid was lost, they realized how fun it could be to build their own large scale event that included sports. The idea for Assemble was to create a similar event to SXSW, but one that included extreme sports too. They’re aiming to bring 100,000 people to Detroit for the event next summer.

Remember the community. Both Krease and Koehler remarked that Detroit has a a strong sense of place. The name “Assemble” reminds us of coming together as an assembly line, to work, and to innovate in the city. It also brings together a larger community into the current narrative of a city that’s often described as rebuilding. They are aware of the sense of community, bringing up the X Games bid through grassroots marketing strategies. They expressed the importance for including the community, but also doing great work that isn’t tied to only Detroit.

Next Fifty Founders Event: The next Fifty Founder’s event which will feature Ryan Blair in September. Fifty Founder’s is a fireside chat series hosted in Detroit, bringing successful entrepreneurs in Michigan and around the country to Detroit. The series goes in-depth to share details about startup lessons learned. Sign up now here:

This event was sponsored by Start Garden and TechTown Detroit. Learn more about Fifty Founders and stay tuned for the next event.


From our content partner! Written by: Amanda Lewan. Blogger. Marketer. Cupcake baker. I like helping startups with marketing. I also blog on digital storytelling Follow Amanda at @Amanda_Jenn

Detroit Startup Rapt.FM: From Startup Weekend To Giving Away Major Record Deals, Detroit startup, startup weekend

Last week when we wrote about Detroit startup Grand Circus, we talked a bit about Detroit’s entrepreneurial past and that it was fueled by the automotive industry (see what I did there) and music. Startups are crucial to rebuilding the city that was once a beacon of industry in the US. It’s startups and entrepreneurs that are going to help drive Detroit out of bankruptcy and back onto the national stage.

raptlogoWe knew it wouldn’t be too long before we heard about a great music startup in Detroit. Sure, in the 1950’s the music startup that fueled Detroit was Motown, and it was driven by R&B music. Today though, Hip Hop and Rap have taken the place of upbeat party R&B music, the kind that gave Motown its name.

Rapt.FM isn’t a new hip hop record label. Those are a dime a dozen. They’re an entirely new platform for aspiring rap artists. allows people to rap and collaborate with anyone in the world and have a live audience to watch, chat, and vote.  Its also a discovery platform for up and coming artists. has already given some lucky rappers the chance to open for Mos Def and Royce Da 5’9. Now they’re giving away a recording contract with Tommy Boy Records (think Digital Underground, Naughty By Nature, House of Pain).

We got a chance to talk with CEO and co-founder Erik Torenberg who started Rapt at a Startup Weekend in 2012. Check out our interview below.

What is your startup called?

tommyboyWhat does your company do? is a platform where people can rap with anyone in the world and have a live audience watch, chat, vote for who they like best. It’s also an artist discovery platform — contest winners won the chance to open for Mos Def, Royce Da 5’9, and next month one winner will get a record contract with Tommy Boy Entertainment.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

Erik Torenberg started the company at Start Up Weekend January 2012 (along with Co-founder Jamie Pitts) because he wanted to learn how to rap. They then won the competition, and a couple other competitions, and realized there were a lot of people like Erik who wanted to rap, and even more who found watching rap entertaining.

Where are you based?

Madis@n Building, Detroit

What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

From Grand Circus piece: “Detroit startup scene is booming – SA Today names Detroit one of the “10 Great Places to be Inspire by Innovation” Fast Company’s piece “How A Young Community of Entrepreneurs is Rebuilding Detroit” called the city a “refuge for techies looking to tackle real problems.” The New York Times also spotlighted Detroit’s tech scene, nothing that hiring in the city’s tech sector is pulling developers from the coasts. Detroit has seen a 10 percent year-over-year increase in tech job listings, which makes the city the fourth in the nation for total employment in the tech industry”

What problem do you solve?

We provide place for users to find others people to rap with, to build their fan bases, and to launch their rap career — from rapping in their basement to opening on stage for a platinum rap artist or winning a record contract. is going to expand to other music genres in the future.

Why now?

Most other music sites focus on hosting, but not on live interaction between artists and between fans and artists.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

— In only 6 hours a week, during the month of July we had 7 K users, returning users of which spent an avg of 25 minutes on the site, and 60% of all users were returning

— Launched Partnerships with heavy hitters in music industry.

What are your next milestones?

Launching the full-website September 5th (open 24/7)

Where can people find out more?    Facebook


Saving Detroit: Grand Circus Is One Of Many Startups Hoping To Reinvigorate Detroit’s Economy

GrandCircus, DVP, Detroit startup,startups, startup interview

When we think of startups, tech, and entrepreneurs we don’t usually think of the industrial revolution, or the invention of things like the automobile. We don’t often equate names like Henry Ford, William C Durant, Charles Stewart Mott, or even Berry Gordy. Decades ago these were the innovators and entrepreneurs that bucked the system, created companies and created jobs. Henry Ford created Ford Motor Company, Durant and Mott were behind General Motors, and Gordy is the king of the R&B music we know today, the founder of MoTown.

All we think, when we hear Detroit today, is $10,000 mansions in foreclosure and a city government that’s filed for bankruptcy. Now it’s up to the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators to refuel the city that was once a thriving mecca of modern day technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  Detroit startups are at the foreground now of breathing life back into one of America’s industrial beacons.

One of those startups is Grand Circus. While Grand Circus is a startup itself, they are on the ground floor of Detroit’s technological revolution. Grand Circus is 15,000 square feet of tech training space. But we’re not talking about traditional certificate-based classroom learning.

“…we dismiss that true skill comes with a certificate. We focus instead on outcomes that matter. With project based instruction our training delivers real world expertise. We call it training with a purpose. Our curriculum is based on the latest in technology, business, and design, and we have partnered with the best and brightest. Our instructors are real world practitioners who are at the top of their field and committed to the success of their students. [We’ll offer] More than 30 different classes this fall – including Build an iPhone App, The Design Process, and Digital Marketing,” Grand Circus’ Kelly LaPierre told Nibletz in an interview.

Michigan, and Detroit specifically, already have a handful of great startups, that if successful will continue to create jobs in the Motor City. But this time instead of motors they’re using keyboards, computers, laptops, the internet and iPhones. We’ve recently covered myfab5, a Detroit startup making restaurant reviews and decision making much easier. Two weeks ago we reported on UpTo, a Detroit shared calendar startup that raised a $2 million series A. DVP (Detroit Venture Partners) has also graced the pages of Nibletz quite a bit over the last year.  So there’s no doubt that people in Detroit are stepping up.

Grand Circus is making it even easier for people to step up by learning the skills that they really need to create the next wave of startup companies. They will also play an instrumental part in grooming the next generation of employees for these startups.

We got a chance to interview the team behind Grand Circus. Check out the interview below:

What is your startup called?

Grand Circus – named after Detroit’s historic Grand Circus Park that our new space overlooks in downtown Detroit. We are located in 15,000 square feet of space in the newly renovated Broderick Tower.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

Grand Circus was kick-started when co-founders Damien Rocchi and Brad Hoos met while working at Detroit’s collaborative tech space in the M@dison building. “We saw the opportunity and quickly converged on a mission to create an amazing home for tech training in Detroit, a city with immeasurable talent that is just starting to reach its full potential,” said Rocchi.

What’s the startup scene like in Detroit?

Detroit startup scene is booming – SA Today names Detroit one of the “10 Great Places to be Inspire by Innovation” Fast Company’s piece “How A Young Community of Entrepreneurs is Rebuilding Detroit” called the city a “refuge for techies looking to tackle real problems.” The New York Times also spotlighted Detroit’s tech scene, nothing that hiring in the city’s tech sector is pulling developers from the coasts. Detroit has seen a 10 percent year-over-year increase in tech job listings, which makes the city the fourth in the nation for total employment in the tech industry.

What problem do you solve?

There is an ever-growing need for tech professionals in Detroit’s burgeoning digital hub. “As Detroit continues to grow and evolve its technology core, developing creative and talented technology professionals is critical. We are excited about the important role Grand Circus will play in the city’s continued revolution,” said Josh Linkner, Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners.

Why now?

“Detroit’s tech scene is dynamic and there’s a certain vibe and feel that exists here that you just have to experience,” said Hoos, COO and Co-Founder of Grand Circus. “We’re excited to be at the epicenter of Detroit’s tech earthquake just as it’s making waves.”

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

Grand Circus joins Detroit Venture Partners’ (DVP) portfolio, a venture capital firm formed by Detroit business leaders Dan Gilbert, Josh Linkner, and Brian Hermelin.

What are your next milestones?

Classes start this fall

Where can people find out more?  Any social media links you want to share? or or @grandcircusco

Join lot’s of Michigan and midwest startups at this huge, national  startup conference Sep 29-October 1 in Cincinnati. 


Detroit Startup To Make The Dinner Decision Easier Beginning Thursday

MyFab5, Michigan startup, startups, startup interview

Many of you know that for a long time in a previous life I was involved in top 40 radio in medium and major markets. As a music director and program director at several stations, I had access to very expensive, all-consuming research tools. Focus groups, call out research trade reports, and more were designed to make “picking the hits” much easier. What I found, though. was a little concept a few of us had come up with called “3 favorite songs.” Go to events, go to the mall, and ask the people, what are your three favorite songs.

What the heck does this have to do with a startup in Detroit? Well our best research, the research that led to great ratings was just asking what are your three favorite songs, without clutter and all this excess meat and fat.

Clutter, and fat, are what clogs up the arteries of what would be good recommendation engines and apps for discovering things like restaurants. On our sneaker strapped road trip a few weeks ago, I got invited to a brain picking. A funded startup wanted to bounce some ideas off me and offered to take me to any restaurant in Chicago at any cost for the time. I started Googling, yelping, urban spooning and every other -ing I could think of to pick a restaurant. I came across the restaurant I ultimately picked, but this was maybe 2 hours after I got the invitation call in the first place.  It was also after I had read a review that would have taken up 10 written pages. What a time suck.

The team at Detroit startup myfab5 takes that simple, clutter free way of asking or recommending, to help people navigate a restaurant decision. Users just rate their 5 favorite restaurants in any food related category and voila, the magic happens. The app takes all of that data and serves up good recommendations.

Startups in Detroit are looking to help the city make a comeback sweeter than Twinkies. myfab5 is one of those startups. The company has residence in both the TechArb accelerator in Ann Arbor and the Launch Detroit accelerator in Detroit. We got a chance to interview co-founder Calvin Schemanski. Check out the interview below.

What does your company do?

myfab5 is a platform that reinvents the restaurant review. Designed to mimic offline human behavior, myfab5’s platform let’s people recommend restaurants by talking about their favorite. On myfab5 you can rank up to five of your favorite restaurants in any food related category (e.g. my favorite places for #DeepDishPizza in Chicago). myfab5 instantly aggregates everyone’s rankings to power dynamic search results that tell you how popular each restaurant is for different types of food (e.g. how a pizza place ranks in the #DeepDishPizza and #ThinCrustPizza categories).

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

Omeid Seirafi-Pour is the Co-Founder and CEO of myfab5 and has previously worked in consulting where he helped fortune 500 companies develop winning growth strategies. He gained experience with online reviews when helping a big box retailer understand how consumers use reviews/recommendations when going about the multi-channel shopping experience. Omeid and his Co-Founders are passionate entrepreneurs and are members of the University of Michigan startup accelerator known as TechArb.

myfab5 Co-Founder Calvin Schemanski paid his way through college when he owned and operated a pedicab business for three years. Through this, he gained experience working with local businesses managing the growth of a venture, and managing a small workforce.

myfab5 technical Co-Founder John Gulbronson has a diverse software development background and previously worked at the University of Michigan Pathology department, developing algorithms that identify gene fusion pairs found in the genomes of cancer patients.

All three co-founders are graduates of the University of Michigan. John and Omeid graduated in 2011 and Calvin graduated in 2012.


What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

The startup scene in Ann Arbor and Detroit is small but quite energized. There is a big movement to revitalize Detroit; and entrepreneurship is at the heart of it. Several large corporations have relocated their headquarters to downtown Detroit and some venture capital firms and business accelerators have set up shop downtown as well. Even the State of Michigan is getting involved through economic development programs targeted at launching and growing startups in Michigan.

45 minutes to the west, Ann Arbor’s entrepreneurship scene is also developing. The University of Michigan is alma mater of some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Many are now getting involved in educating and mentoring UM’s next entrepreneurial generation. The university is also churning out thousands of highly qualified engineers and other professionals every year. More and more of these talented individuals are choosing to stay in Michigan to either start a company or join a young startup.

What problem do you solve?

Star ratings and long reviews make finding and recommending restaurants time consuming and frustrating. Imagine searching for a pizza place on a site like Yelp; you will see a list of places between 3.5-4.5 stars, but will not be able to tell which of those places is popular for deep dish pizza, thin crust pizza or cheesy bread. To find out you’ll have to read a bunch of long reviews that bury the useful information. It’s bad enough having to read those reviews, it’s even more time consuming to write them.

With myfab5 you never have to deal with these problems again. myfab5 makes discovering and recommending fabulous restaurants easy and fun by getting rid of star ratings and long reviews. On myfab5 you can rank up to five of your favorite restaurants in any category (i.e. pizza or thin crust pizza). myfab5 adds up everybody’s votes so that if you search for pizza, not only will we show you the most popular pizza places, we’ll also show you the other categories each pizza place is popular for (i.e. deep dish pizza or cheesy bread).

Why now?

The social era has dawned, and people are tired of review sites that make recommending a business so time consuming that less than 1% of people contribute reviews. Furthermore, people are using mobile devices more than ever and demand content that is concise and consumable on a mobile device. Ratings and reviews go against the social and mobile experiences consumers need and demand

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

In November 2012, we began developing and testing a prototype in Ann Arbor, MI.

In January 2013, myfab5 recruited our technical co-founder.

In March 2013, myfab5 launched an alpha version of myfab5 in Ann Arbor, MI.

In May 2013, myfab5 secured over $20k in startup grants.

On June 27, 2013 myfab5 won the Detroit Technology Exchange pitch competition in Detroit, taking home the grand prize of $15,000 in marketing/branding services.

On August 2nd, 2013 myfab5 graduated from the LaunchDetroit accelerator and received the “MVP” grant for being the best contributor to the program and the “Go” grant for being most commercially-ready company.

myfab5 users have made over 3600 rankings. On average, each ranking includes 3 businesses, resulting in over 11000 business recommendations.


What are your next milestones?

Launch nationally and gain traction in key markets outside of Michigan.

Iterate within food category to increase myfab5 use cases and engagement.

Offer more categories on myfab5 besides “Food & Drinks.”

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?


Check out this amazingly awesome, gigantic hackathon in Michigan.


Detroit Startup UpTo Closes $2 Million Series A, It’s Like FourSquare For The Future

UpTo, Detroit startup, Detroit Venture Partners, startup fundingCheck in apps have come and gone. Of course the biggest player in the space is still probably FourSquare. After that is Facebook checkins or even Google Plus. I personally find the only time I actually use FourSquare is when I’m at a big tech event. Judging by my FourSquare feed, I’m not the only one who has resorted to part time checking in.

But what if there was an app that could tell you where I’m checking in later. I don’t necessarily want to open up my schedule to everyone in the world,but between events, being a parent, and the sneaker strapped startup road trip, I typically catch up with someone a few weeks later and they were like, “hey I can’t believe I missed you at xx event.” I’d imagine most of my colleagues and most of our readers are pretty busy people. Typically if I check in on FourSquare or Facebook or even on Twitter, at an event, it’s too late to get on my schedule.

Well Detroit startup UpTo is taking that pain away.  By opening up the parts of your calendar you want to share socially, your friends, colleagues, and family members can see where you will be later in hopes that maybe you can schedule something social or for work.

I like this idea a lot, and so do investors.

UpTo raised a pretty hefty seed round of $875,000 back in 2011. Now they’ve just closed on a $2 million dollars Series A round.

The downtown Detroit-based startup currently has 9 employees and plans to add even more.  They also plan on evolving the platform to include interest-based entries like concerts and sporting events. They’ve incorporated more calendar features and even a business-to-business component as well.

“UpTo is now a full calendar with social networking instead of the other way around,” Founder and CEO Greg Schwartz told Xconomy. “A lot of users wanted to use UpTo as an every day calendar. We realized we could be highly differentiated from every other calendar.”

Detroit Venture Partners, Venture Investors, and Ludlow Ventures all participated in the round.

“[The $2 million round] allows us to really focus on building our sales team and the growth of B2B,” Schwartz says, adding that the company plans to hire four or five people within the next few months. “Right now, we’re focused less on selling and more on building our network,” he says. “We want to grow our customer base to the point that we look back and say, ‘I can’t believe we had calendars that were so static.’ ”

You can check out UpTo here.



The Biggest Student Run Hackathon Is Back! Hack In The Big House!

Mhacks, University of Michigan, startups, hackathons

Last February 500 students got together at the Palmer Commons on the campus of the University of Michigan for a hackathon. Michigan Hackers and MPowered, two student groups on campus, put together the hackathon which Forbes called the largest student-run hackathon.

The February event was inspired by a similar hackathon on the campus of Penn State called PennApps. David Fontenot, the director of MHacks, attended the Penn State gathering and wanted to hold something similar in Ann Arbor.  The February event spurred 125 hacks, which did in fact make it the largest student run hackathon.

mhacksIn September, the hackathon returns to the University of Michigan, and this time they’re making it much, much bigger. For starters they’ve changed venues and moved the hackathon to Michigan’s football stadium “The Big House.” The hackers, who are welcome won’t be hacking on the field but in the luxury suites on top of the stands. Organizers do promise fun activities on the field itself.

They’re picking up the hacks as well. 125 hacks was quite a feat, but at the September event they plan on having over 1000 hacks.

Students from any college are welcome, and the organizers at U of M have extended invitations to 100 universities in surrounding areas. They are sponsoring buses from surrounding colleges, making travel to the hackathon free. If a student hacker wants to attend and hack at MHacks and there’s no bus in their area, MHacks will provide a $200 travel stipend. There will be plenty of caffeine, and all six meals will be provided free of charge.  Undergraduate students from anywhere in the world are welcome to participate, and they will make exceptions for some high school students and graduate students.

Student teams can have up to 4 members and there is no limit on the amount of student teams. Teams can hack together whatever they want. They just can’t work on an existing or previous project.

MHacks will be held September 20-22nd (Friday night through Sunday morning). You can register here for free!

A week later in Cincinnati, is this epic startup event…


New VC Fund Is Linking Michigan To Silicon Valley

Michigan eLab, Venture Capital, Michigan startups, Ann Arbor startups

While the bankruptcy of Detroit has put Michigan in the news in a negative way, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel coming from startups and entrepreneurship. This isn’t anything new for the state of Michigan; after all at one point even cars were new technology.

While Detroit has a blossoming startup scene and is preparing to rebuild, Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan have a startup scene that’s starting to thrive. The latest startup-focused venture, a VC fund called Michigan eLab is the most recent organization to join the cause.

Most startup communities “everywhere else” struggle with two major things: access to capital and access to talent. The new Michigan eLab is positioned to help entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor with both.

MichiganeLablogoCrain’s Detroit reports that the new Michigan eLab is raising a first fund of $40 million dollars. While any startup community would welcome a new VC fund, Michigan eLab is uniquely positioned to bridge Ann Arbor and Michigan with Silicon Valley.

For starters the fund has two offices: one in Ann Arbor, the other in San Mateo California. An even bigger benefit that eLab brings to Ann Arbor is that three of the fund’s four founders have ties to Michigan. Doug Neal, one of the fund’s founders is originally from Mt. Pleasant. Neal spent 15 years in Silicon Valley with companies like Hewlett-Packard and Symantec before co-founding his own startup Mobile Automation.  That company sold to iPass Inc in 2005 for $20 million dollars.

Rick Bolander is another one of the Michigan eLab founders with ties to both Silicon Valley and Michigan. Bolander graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s in electrical engineering. He went on to launch Chicago’s Blue Sky Ventures and then co-founded San Mateo-based Gabriel Venture Partners.

Bob Stefanski is the third founder with ties to both Silicon Valley and Michigan. He is a graduate of UM earning both an engineering and a law degree. Stefanski is a partner in the Silicon Valley-based Reed Smith LLP. He is also the cofounder of Tibco Software, which has more than $1 billion in revenue according to Crain’s.

The final partner, Scott Chou, has no direct ties to Michigan or UM, but he is a managing director at Bolander’s Gabriel Venture Partners. Chou’s first venture deal was a 2001 seed round investment in NextG Networks, a California company, which sold to Texas-based Crown Castle International in December of 2011 for $1 billion dollars. That earned him a spot on the highly coveted top 100 venture capitalists in Silicon Valley list from AlwaysOn.

The founders of Michigan eLab hope to link Ann Arbor’s tech community, startups, and entrepreneurs with other famous founders with ties to the region. Those include: Larry Page, Dick Costolo, Skype’s Josh Silverman, Sun Microsystems co-founders Scott McNealy and Bill Joy, Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell, former Palm Inc. CEO Donna Dubinsky, and more.

Source: Crain’s Detroit.


Dress Your Personal Web Presence To Impress With Detroit Startup Workfolio

Workfolio,Detroit startup,startup interview,startupThere are thousands of  “do it yourself” (DIY) solutions to designing your own web page. There are blogging platforms, free overnight do it yourself web tools, and many more. When it comes down to it though, most of them are about saving time and sacrificing design.

Well a Detroit startup called Webfolio is looking to change that by helping users create a “stunning personal website in minutes”.

The startup, founded by Charles Pooley and Aaron Smyth, comes with everything people need to create their own beautiful website in a very short amount of time. Simple editing, magazine quality blogging, file and media hosting, promotional tools, traffic analytics and personal domain and email services make Workfolio a one stop shop for whatever your personal web needs are.

We got a chance to interview the team behind Workfolio. Check out the interview below.

What is Workfolio?

Workfolio is a web application that allows anyone to create a beautiful, distinctive website to highlight their personal brand.

In layman’s terms, how does it work (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)?

We make it easy for anyone to create a website, removing many of the technical and content-writing hurdles that complicate the process for the average person. We help users register their own domains, choose a beautiful website theme, and create high-quality content so they can feel great about their website and get back to business.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Charles Pooley is the CEO and visionary force behind Workfolio. He comes to Workfolio having previously run a successful marketing and design agency, and having served as a technology executive at a publicly-traded company.

Aaron Smyth is Workfolio’s technology lead. He previously worked as a developer for CafeMom and, and was the second employee at a successful New York startup company. In addition to his product development experience, Aaron is an instructor in front-end web development at General Assembly in New York.

Where are you based?

Workfolio operates from Detroit and New York City.

What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based? 

Detroit and New York have very different startup cultures. Because Detroit’s tech scene is still small, the atmosphere is very collaborative, and there is a greater opportunity for individual companies to be recognized within the community.

We chose to open an office in New York in order to take advantage of the tremendous network of technology entrepreneurs, investors, and media that exists here.

How did you come up with the idea for Workfolio?

About a year ago I was invited to do a number of speaking engagements, and I decided I needed my own website to help build my personal brand. I tried to use several of the popular website builders but found them to be complicated and frustrating. I realized that if I was having such a problem, being a designer and a fairly technical person, then this process must be close to impossible for less tech-savvy people. We ran a survey and found that 80% of respondents wanted their own website, but only 7% of them actually had one. And when asked why, the two most popular reasons were exactly what I encountered — people thought it was too difficult to set up their own website, and they had no idea what content to add to the website once they set it up. I took these results to my partners, and Workfolio was created shortly thereafter.

How did you come up with the name?

We struggled for a long time to come up with a fitting name for our product. We eventually landed on Workfolio because it concisely conveys the essential function of the product (and we also think it’s catchy).

What problem does Workfolio solve?

If you’ve ever tried to set up your own website, you probably remember feeling frustrated trying to get your website hosting, domain, and code to work together. If you somehow managed to get those to cooperate, you then had to create or buy a design theme, and let’s face it — most of us are not good designers. Then you’re left with another big question: what content goes on my website? Most people get stuck just after purchasing their domain — the learning curve is just so steep. We eliminate the technology and design hurdles for you, allowing you to focus on the important part — creating content to let the world know what you’re all about.

What’s your secret sauce?

We believe design and user experience are the keys to the success of every application. If we can find a way to get users to share their content and feel good about the sites they create, they will be loyal customers for life.

Are you bootstrapped or funded?

Workfolio is funded by angel investors.

What are some milestones you’ve achieved?

We’re still in the early stages of the business, so most of our milestones have been related to product development. We have hit every product development milestone we have set so far.

What’s your next milestone?

Since our soft launch, our milestones have shifted from product development to customer acquisition.

Who are some of your mentors and business role models?

Randy Whitaker, the Executive Vice President of Operations for Victoria’s Secret, Dr. David DiChiera, the founder of the Detroit Opera, and Dave Hill, former President of General Motors Trading, stand out as the three people who have been most influential in helping me develop as an executive. I also admire a number of thought leaders in business, Tom Peters for example, and designers such as Jonathan Ive at Apple.

What’s next for Workfolio?

We have several new product enhancements in the works to provide more customization options for subscribers.

Where can people find out more?

The best place to learn about us is on our website: Follow us on Twitter, as well: @WorkfolioHQ

We’ve got more great startups from Detroit here.

Do you have your startup village booth for yet?


Detroit Startup Glocal: Share Your Local Content With 113 Cities Around The World [video][sxsw]

Detroit startup Glocal is a new local sharing site that allows you to share your pictures, videos and other content with 113 cities worldwide.

Glocal aims to be the source for localized content, shared with the world. Content creators can share their articles, photos and videos from their city. Content consumers can use Glocal to find out what’s going on, what to do, where to eat, local news and more for any of the 113 cities (and growing) that Glocal has a community for.

Glocal,Detroit startup,startups,startup interview, SXSW,SXSWiThe company, founded by Lincoln Cavalieri, launched back in October after a three year development period, and after raising $1 million dollar seed round from Compuware’s venture capital arm.

One of the things that makes Glocal unique is the diverse range of content being created by community members. For instance, content creators in the Memphis community have offered everything from great burger and restaurant suggestions, to photos from a tour of the Fedex world headquarters.

A quick check in Chicago has highlights captured from various Saint Patrick’s day parties, to fan pics of the Chicago Bulls and even local news like a recent lawsuit in McDonald’s.

A tour of the Berlin community turns up beautiful photos of the city, the newest Mercedes Benz and a variety of local news.

Right now Glocal can be accessed via mobile web but Cavalieri already has his team working on native apps for Android, iPhones and iPads.

You can sign up to contribute content, or peruse the Glocal offerings here at

Check out our quick video interview from SXSW below.

We’ve got a truckload more SXSW 2013 coverage here.

Detroit Accelerator: TechTown Hosting Startup Soup August 3rd

TechTown,Wayne State University,Detroit startup,Detroit accelerator,accelerator,startup,startups,pitch contest,startup soupThe creativity in pitch events gets better and better. We’ve all heard of the Startup Bus to Austin’s South by Southwest Festival. Several cities have had Startup Trains, where people work on startups on a day long train ride, we’ve even heard of a Startup Beach House (that was unfortunately cancelled).

Now, Wayne University’s TechTown Accelerator is hosting Startup Soup.

The event is open to the public and will be held on August 3rd. Startups that want to pitch must register at the link below before July 31, 2012.

The pitches will be five minutes and there doesn’t seem to be a theme for the pitch contest. There is a nice $1500 cash prize along with 5 free TechTown seminar passes for the winner. The winner will be chosen by a panel of local tech community judges.

The finalists will all receive complimentary tickets to 2 future TechTown events.  The events at TechTown are all meant for startup enrichment and offer valuable business resources and continuing education.

After the pitches and the winners are selected there will be an evening of networking, and you guessed it… soup.

The event starts at 5:30pm August 3rd at TechTown 2051 Rosa Parks Boulevard in Detroit.


To register to pitch click this link

Source: CBS Detroit

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Foundry’s Jason Mendelson, Now Bullish On Michigan Startup Scene

The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium was held this past Tuesday and Wednesday in Ypsilanti. Xconomy’s Sarah Schmid reports that over 450 founders, entrepreneurs, VCs, and others in the Michigan startup community showed out for the event.

Among them was the managing director and co-founder of Foundry Group, Jason Mendelson who gave a keynote address entitled: “The Velocity of the Midwest Venture Capital Ecosystem: Sleeping Giants or Momentary Blips?”

During his speech he was very positive about the current startup scene in Michigan. Mendelson is no stranger to the state of Michigan. He was born in Detroit and graduated from the university of Michigan.  While this weeks talk was all positive, it wasn’t always that way for Mendelson and his native state.

After graduating from law school at the University of Michigan, Mendelson wanted to stay in Michigan but he quickly found that the state, so deep rooted in the auto industry, didn’t care if someone had the next million dollar idea. At that time no one cared about anything except seniority.

So like any aspiring entrepreneur Mendelson made a pilgrimage to Silicon Valley, an experience he doesn’t speak to highly of.

Mendelson said that the competition in Silicon Valley was so harsh that the only pleasure in life came from relishing in others’ failure. Mendelson described Silicon Valley to Schmid as “toxic” ultimately causing him to leave in 2006 and head for Boulder Colorado.

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Michigan Startup: Credentialock Is A Cloud Vault For All Your Credentials

Do you have any certifications? What about your college and high school diploma? Where are your high school and college transcripts? What about that real estate license? All of these questions could probably be answered in one place if Credentialock was around 20 years ago.

Credentialock is a new Michigan startup that just launched their free web based version this past week. It is essentially a cloud based vault for all of your important credentials, transcripts and licenses.

More and more people are turning to cloud based storage for their important computer files. Even more people are turning to digital storage for things like receipts,important papers, even back up copies of drivers license, credit card and passport information. While some may already have some kind of digital record of their “credentials” Credentialock makes it easy to store all of your important papers in one spot.

“My wife is in the insurance industry and she has over 100 documents of certification from 20 different states to keep track of, so we always use her as the benchmark,” Credentialock CEO Scott Slyfield CEO told Sara Schmid of Xconomy. “Instead of having our employers keep track of this stuff, we need to be able to own and manage it ourselves. It’s really empowering.”

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Detroit Startup: Picket Report Let’s Home Buyers Dive Into A Neighborhood

While some may dispute the fact that “home buying season” is among us, it is. With that there’s a new startup in Detroit that’s hoping to make shopping for the right neighborhood a little easier.

Imagine before you even leave the comfort of your home and computer you could see more in depth information about schools, favorite restaurants, what kids of cars your neighbors drive and more. That’s just some of the in-depth analytical information you can get from Picket Report a new map based real estate tool launching out of Detroit.

This may not be the tool for real estate owners with all the fair housing laws around these days, but if you as the buyer want more thorough analysis of important demographics this tool could be for you. After all you wouldn’t want to live next to someone that drove an 82 Chevy Citation would you?

“People looking for their dream home can now make sure it’s also in their dream neighborhood even before driving through,” said Bryan Kunka, Co- Founder and CEO of Picket Report said in a statement. “We’re right at the beginning of home buying season, so house hunters looking to buy their first home or relocate to a new area can use Picket Report to make sure they are choosing the best neighborhood for themselves and their family.”

While it doesn’t say how they vet their information, the data is aggregated from over 300 sources. Kunka insists that home owners will now be able to judge the safety of their perspective neighborhood with the data provided.

PicketReport was born out of the Bizdom entrepreneurial accelerator in Detroit. Bizdom was founded by Dan Gilbert the founder and former chairman of Quicken Loans.



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Detroit Startup: RegainGo Introduces Home Owners To Home Improvement Service Providers

Now that Spring is officially underway, despite that cold front we just had on the east coast, home improvement is on a lot of peoples minds. Home Improvement startups happen to be a hot topic these days. Earlier this week we told you about Florida startup that helps home owners by providing free home virtualization software so home owners can see what home improvements will look like.

RegainGo is a Detroit based startup in the home improvement space. Co-Founders Jason Beale and Clark Covert are looking to bring home owners and home improvement service providers together in a way that fosters a relationship of trust. Xconomy calls the startup a hybrid of Groupon and AngiesList.

Covert and Beale have backgrounds in real estate. They found that when people were looking to have work done for their homes they would go to Google and use the first name that pops up. That caused a disconnect between homeowners and service providers that do quality work.

RegainGo is attracting homeowners to their site and their service providers by offering coupons for home improvement services. After the user signs in via Facebook they can browse the deals on the RegainGo site and buy the ones they like. The site encourages you to share the deal with friends and family via the users social networks. A voucher for the deal you purchase will be emailed to you and that merchant will honor it.

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