Early-stage tech firms receive assistance

Stabilization fund helps at least eight West Michigan startups.
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One of the products coming from Inductive Intelligence is a multi-functional wireless charger. Greg Clark

Eight Grand Rapids early-stage tech companies received financial assistance from the state’s Tech Startup Stabilization Fund, according to Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Among the 58 early-stage tech companies in Michigan to receive a total of $3 million because of the negative economic impact the pandemic has had on those companies were Assemble Technologies Inc.; Eighty-Six Inc.; CertifID LLC; Inductive Intelligence; The Patient Company LLC; Sportsman Tracker Inc.; Towel Tracker LLC; and VNN Inc.

“This outbreak presented unprecedented challenges for businesses of all sizes over the past (few) months, and we are proud to help support Michigan’s small businesses to not only survive COVID-19, but continue innovating long after,” said Mark A. Burton, CEO of MEDC. “The technologies and discoveries these small businesses are pursuing will have an invaluable impact on our ability to strengthen and rebuild our state’s economy over the coming months as we work to enable economic prosperity across all corners of our state.”

The companies represent the information technology, life sciences, manufacturing and mobility industries. The funding ranged from $10,000 to $125,000 and the money was issued to companies based on the level of need to retain their workforce, advance vital high-tech research initiatives and support operating costs, in addition to meeting other critical needs.

Danny Beckett Jr. is the founder and CEO of Assemble Technologies. It is a private digital platform that vets, assembles and provides experts to businesses and companies that are searching for well-informed professionals on a particular subject.

Beckett’s company was founded in 2019, and it is now in the seed stage. When the pandemic started, Beckett said he had to lay off some of his staff.

One of the company’s investors, Invest Detroit Ventures, informed Beckett about the Tech Startup Stabilization Fund. He applied and was awarded approximately $50,000. Now armed with the news funds, Beckett said he is looking to increase staff size by hiring a sales team. Currently, Assemble Technologies employs 12 people.

“Because of what is happening with COVID-19, it has moved us to accelerate into a future workspace by hiring salespeople so that we can take market share right now,” he said. “The time for us to act and take market share away from the other competitors we have in the market is now. It is our time now, so we are hiring salespeople to … continue to evolve and grow the company.”

Inductive Intelligence, which also is a portfolio company of Invest Detroit Ventures, was a recipient of the financial assistance. The company specializes in using induction technology, through a “proprietary system to turn smart packaging and vessels into heatable loT elements.”

“It delivers a heating process that sends the exact amount of energy required to heat the package or vessel based on its design and contents,” according to the company’s website. “Inductive Intelligence adds a layer of connectivity through smart sensors that make each product an intelligent system for heating, cooking and powering.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greg Clark, co-founder and CEO of Inductive Intelligence, said the company was in a pre-revenue stage so the pandemic did not affect sales. It did affect his staff, however, because he had to make salary cuts. He said the funding will be used toward payroll.

The pandemic also forced the company to change course, Clark said. It is working with some large food brands and had planned to conduct consumer testing on various items this spring. Clark said he’s not sure when that will happen now.

“We were going to do a lot of testing on college campuses, so that is completely wiped out until the kids are back on campus,” he said. “So, it is slowing down the development for us and the time it will take us to get to market with some of the packaged goods.”

While Inductive Intelligence won’t be doing consumer testing in the near future, Clark said the funding is fortuitous because now he and his staff can concentrate on some of the things they put off while ramping up for consumer testing, such as creating heatable ceramic products like coffee mugs and bowls.

“The funds have been enormously helpful, without a doubt, because the other challenge in this environment is the venture capital in the angel investor space just got a lot more challenging,” he said. “Everything that was hard got harder, and things that took time take more time, and as a startup, it is a constant race against the clock because you are operating with limited resources and time is money. When all those things get stretched out, it puts you in a difficult situation regardless of how interesting your technology is.”

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