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Detroit’s economy has been historically dependent on one industry: automotive. But the city’s revitalization is ushering in a new economic era in the Motor City—one that’s more diversified, and one could argue, more creative, than decades past. While innovation hubs like Silicon Valley and Seattle still garner the most media attention, Detroit’s relatively inexpensive office space and growing access to talent and venture capital makes it an attractive location for startups and entrepreneurs. Take real estate identity platform CertifiD, restaurant management solution Wisely, workforce management system Andonix, automotive security software Karamba Security, and fintech company Plinqit, for example. We believe that all five companies are ones to watch—they all call Michigan home and have either expanded operations to other cities, or have plans to do so. They’ve all utilized and developed technology to solve a unique problem in a variety of industries, including food and beverage, real estate, automotive security, finance, and workforce management. Read up on the five Michigan companies we’re watching below and learn why they’re fixtures in Detroit’s burgeoning tech scene.
Wisely is a software solution for restaurants designed to help create memorable dining experiences. By improving wait times, capturing guests’ dining preferences, and optimizing dining resources, Wisely helps growing restaurant brands gather data about their customers, spot trends, and ultimately grow their bottom line. Based out of Ann Arbor, Wisely has undergone a number of transformations to become the fast-growing company that it is today. Originally, co-founders Mike Vichich, Tyler Felous, Arjun Iyer and Josh Stern positioned Wisely as a restaurant loyalty app that pinged hostesses or managers via beacons when app users entered the facility. However, Bluetooth technology was less reliable than today and acquiring users proved challenging. Wisely found its “sweet spot” when it integrated customer relationship management (CRM) tools, marketing automation, and waitlist, table, and reservation management features into its existing technology. The brand now counts restaurants like Snooze, Next Door, The Kitchen, Dishoom, Carolina Ale House, and more as clients.
Automotive security software company Karamba Security was founded by noted investor and serial entrepreneur Ami Dotan. Karamba Security’s industry-leading, award-winning software detects and prevents cyberattacks on a wide variety of connected devices and systems. They’re keen on using their technology to protect connected vehicles from cyber attacks and unauthorized commands. The company has raised over $27 million in funding to date and has been recognized by Forbes, the Financial Times, Architectural Digest, MarketWatch, and more as an innovative leader in the automotive space.
CertifID is a real-time identity platform for real estate, mortgage, and title industry professionals. It allows them to authenticate parties in a transaction and securely transfer bank account information. CertifID’s technology verifies the identity of all participating stakeholders involved in the transfer of funds, eliminating the risk of wire fraud. The founders, Thomas Cronkright and Lawerance Duthler, started CertifID after falling victim to financial fraud in 2015 with their title company, Sun Title. The experience highlighted a need for a secure platform to protect real estate transactions. Since its founding in 2017, CertifID has protected more than $1.2 billion in transactions and has been featured in Forbes, Crain’s Detroit Business, Business Insider, and more.
Workforce management software Andonix was founded by Endeavor mentor and serial entrepreneur, David Salazar. The platform was designed to empower and unleash the potential of the labor force, and improve communication and workflow in traditional industries that still rely heavily on paper. When new protocols are implemented on a production line, for example, Andonix ensures that relevant information is easy to access and hard to misplace. Andonix helps employees work smarter and provides management with important data and insights into their own operations. The company currently has operations in Detroit, Mexico City, Mexico, São Paulo, Brazil, and Munich, Germany.
Plinqit is a fintech company that aims to make saving money more fun and understandable for millennials. The founder and CEO, Kathleen Craig, is an experienced financial executive, having risen to the ranks of Vice President at United Bank & Trust. The company’s goal is to educate over 1,000,00 young people about personal finance in the next five years in an effort to improve financial literacy nationwide. The company is growing quickly—Craig and team have already received institutional investment from fintech firm SixThirty and Invest Michigan.
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