Update: Ingress, LevelEleven, Rubicon, ArdentCause, Time Magazine

8/29/14Follow @XconomyDET

We glide into the long weekend with a report from an Ingress event held in Detroit on Aug. 23, an update on three expanding local tech startups, and brief, gloating commentary on the new story about Detroit in Time magazine. Have a lovely holiday!

—The Ingress XM wagon (pictured) stopped in Detroit last weekend for the first-ever Anomaly held in the Motor City, part of a series of events happening across the world under the #Helios tag. I attended the Anomaly’s cross-faction afterparty at St. Andrew’s Hall in downtown Detroit. Hundreds of people of all ages, colors, and creed crammed into the historic concert hall as the floors buckled, and results of the competition were announced—the Enlightened team captured Detroit—to raucous cheering. Afterwards, the local band Howling Diablos took the stage. (Fun fact: John Hanke’s wife’s cousin is in the band.) Linda Besh, the Ingress player we profiled in February, helped organize the event.

We caught up with Niantic Labs’ Hanke, the original creator of Ingress, who told us that the game is now available for iOS, allowing those with iPhones to play for the first time. Hanke said he participated in the Anomaly as an agent for the Enlightened, the first time he’s played at an organized event. He said the next big thing coming to the Ingress universe is the “missions” feature, which will allow the implementation of player objectives. “The missions will be curated by Ingress agents, and it’s a great way to take walking tours,” Hanke explained. Expect a big announcement on that in the next few months.

The Anomaly marked a return trip to Detroit for Hanke, who calls it the perfect city in which to play Ingress: “There’s so much to discover, but it’s not a place where people spend a lot of time on foot. Those who play Ingress here come away with a very positive image of the city.”

LevelEleven, the Detroit-based startup focused on Salesforce apps and sales motivation software, has raised an additional $2 million in venture funding from new investors, including the Dallas Angel Network and Tamiami Angels. Bob Marsh, LevelEleven’s CEO, says the company now has 175 customers and is growing annually at a rate of 300 percent. Marsh adds that the funding announced this month is in the form of a convertible note leading to a future Series A round.

“More and more, we’re looking to drive the productivity of sales teams,” he says. “When we launched a year and a half ago, four percent of companies were looking at gamification of sales. Now it’s about 30 percent. Gamification is not itself a solution, but it’s the reason companies are adopting LevelEleven software rapidly. They’re trying to optimize performance of their existing sales teams, and the cost of LevelEleven is much cheaper than hiring five new salespeople.”

LevelEleven also announced that it has added former Exact Target chief marketing officer Tim Kopp to its board of directors.

Rubicon Genomics, the biotech startup based in Ann Arbor, has doubled in size to 30 employees since we last wrote about it in 2012. It recently moved to a new 19,000-square-foot facility on Venture Drive, and the company plans to hire more employees and expand sales to India, Mexico, and Brazil over the next year.

Christine Haakenson, the company’s chief operating officer, says Rubicon’s technology, which is used in preparing genomic samples for next-generation sequencing or other analysis, ensures easy work flow and can be done all in one test tube. “We’re seeing personalized medicine go more mainstream, and our technology is being used in both clinical trials and diagnostic applications,” Haakenson says. “New employees will focus on product pipeline and building our product offerings.”

ArdentCause, the Ferndale-based startup that has developed software to help nonprofits manage resources and track the progress of grantees, is another local company in expansion mode. Co-founder Rosemary Bayer says she has learned a lot during the five years that the company has been in existence. CauseEffectz, ArdentCause’s flagship product, is data integration and dashboard software, but what the company found was that a lot of nonprofits didn’t have data ready to plug in to CauseEffectz.

“We started with the idea of helping nonprofits show their impact with an analytics tool that pulls data together to show outcomes,” Bayer explains. “We found out that a lot of nonprofits have data in the form of piles of paper. Nonprofits are often behind the times when it comes to IT, and we didn’t realize how severe the problem is.”

Because of this, ArdentCause built a new product called DataSnapz, which allows nonprofits to enter data and produce reports. It also helps companies track what they do and for whom. “The biggest lesson we learned in five years is that we built an amazing and cool product, but we didn’t spend the time understanding what was needed in the first place,” Bayer says.

While the company figured out how to adjust its product offerings, Bayer says the largely bootstrapped startup was able to survive thanks to sponsorship by the United Way, funding from the First Step Fund, and a Business Acceleration Fund grant. ArdentCause, which was one of the first LC3s in Michigan, also began offering subscription-based online data management.

ArdentCause’s future plans include selling its software outside of Michigan, expanding its custom database offerings, and formally raising capital. “We’re really happy that we finally feel like we aren’t tip-toeing close to the edge,” Bayer adds.

—Detroit is in the national news again, this time as the subject of a Time magazine article titled “Detroit: America’s Emerging Market.” Here at Xconomy, we’ve long championed the idea that Detroit can serve as a model of how to reinvent post-industrial American cities. We’re happy to see Time is now also on board with that idea.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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