Posts about Startup

Detroit In Tech: Justins-In-Tech

July 10, 2017

This month we’re featuring two millennial entrepreneurs of color, and their work in the Detroit tech industry. Our entrepreneurs are two Justins-in-Tech! From connecting college students to jobs, to providing marketing to increase the sustainability of local companies, these two Detroit entrepreneurs of color are working for more than just their own gain.

Let’s begin with Justin Dunn at Increase Branding & Design:

What do you do when you discover a personal talent? Do you ignore it? Or do you work on it in order to perfect your skill and use it to open other possibilities? Well, that’s just what Justin Dunn did! Read on to learn how to turn your talents into your next career move. (more…)

New Detroit Startup: Jewel

June 28, 2017


Living in Detroit comes with all sorts of little-known perks. For instance, hearing about up-and-coming Detroit startups before the rest of the world. One such startup is Jewel. Founder Andrew Landau developed a clever way to connect luxury retail with online shopping, while saving shoppers money. Plus, he donates 1% of sales back to charity.

Let’s take a closer look at Jewel by talking to its founder, Andrew Landau:

What is your startup all about?

Jewel is a luxury, ecommerce, loyalty site. We help customers earn money by shopping at their favorite luxury brands. Customers who shop through Jewel earn cash-back on all of their purchases.

Cool! Is eCommerce a happening space in tech? What about luxury?

Luxury is one of fastest growing segments in the ecommerce  space –– the luxury ecommerce market is expected to be over $80B by 2025 (according to a study by McKinsey & Co). By helping customers save money and helping retailers to access new online customers, Jewel hopes to capture some of this fast-growing market.

Who is going to benefit from your model?

We hope everyone can find something they love on Jewel. We’re working with over 100 retailers, and if you’re going to shop, we’d love you to shop through us. You get cash-back every time you make a purchase. Jewel is free, there’s no membership fees and anyone can sign up.

Plus, we give 1% of all of our sales back to charity. It’s a great way to make a difference and earn money at the same time.

Jewel is working with some of the top brands and retailers in the industry. From high-end department stores to indie labels, you’ll find everything you need (and want) at Jewel.

What are your thoughts on the Detroit startup scene?

We’re fortunate to be embraced by the Detroit startup community. From Grand Circus to Detroit Startup Week –– it’s great to be part of what’s happening in Detroit. We believe that if you focus on culture and strive to create a company that’s focused on more than profit, anything can be done.

There’s no better place to start a business than in Detroit, and we can’t wait to see where the future takes us.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’ve been involved in entrepreneurial activities since a young age. When I was younger my brother and I started a carnival concession business (Carnival Extravaganza) and I continued my entrepreneurial drive throughout the years. Since college I spent a little over four years at Google, co-founded a Detroit based

 startup, Chalkfly, and most recently acted as a Business Development leader at It’s been great being back home and have really enjoyed exploring all that’s new in Detroit.

I’ve been fortunate to spend the majority of my life in Detroit. My grandfather had a pharmacy Downtown and from a young age our whole family spent time downtown. Over the years, it’s been incredible to see the resurgence of the Detroit. There is a unique determination, passion and energy about Detroiter that makes this city truly special.

We’re always looking for great people to join the team and if you’re looking to be part of our startup, we’d love to hear from you.

Check us out at

From UseJewel to Waymark and beyond, Detroit startups are alive and vibrant. Are you a Michigan startup looking for a space to grow? The coworking space at Grand Circus might be right for you! Meet Detroit’s movers and shakers, get access to free workshops and more. Learn about our coworking space.

Startup Spotlight: Varsity News Network

April 18, 2017

In sports and in business, communication is key. But when it comes to high school athletics, it isn’t just the players on the field, track or court that need to be in constant contact. Athletic department need to keep parents, coaches and fans in the loop of everything happening with their teams. But how?

Enter Varsity News Network (VNN), a Grand Rapids-based startup that aims to connect communities with their local high school sporting teams. With their easy-to-use mobile applications and online software, athletic departments can update schedules, scores and roster information with a click of a button. Founded in 2011, VNN has grown to include 1,500 partner schools across the U.S., including 200+ in Michigan.

To learn more about VNN we caught up with the company’s Marketing Director, Romy Glazer, to hear more about their services and the role Grand Rapids has played in the company’s growth.

Meet Varsity News Network

Meet the team at Varsity News Network

What does your company do?

VNN is a communications platform that brings the local community together around high school sports.

Our apps help athletic directors streamline the tasks they already have to do every day (scheduling, registration, reporting scores), and our technology delivers that information to the right people at the right time. With VNN, final scores are delivered to the media the second a game ends, messages reach athletes the second their coach makes an announcement, and parents are alerted with any new photo gallery of images from sports their kid plays on.

What role does the city of Grand Rapids play in your company’s identity and culture? Do you think things would have been the same if you’d chosen to start somewhere else?

Grand Rapids has played an important role in VNN's growthGrand Rapids is our home. It’s where many members of our team grew up, where our family lives, and where we’ve been welcomed and enriched by the startup environment. Being from the Midwest, it means we are hard-workers, and it shows in our culture. In Grand Rapids, we’ve benefitted from the boom in young creative talent that’s come to the city, as well as our low-cost of living and scenery.

I do think things would be different if we started elsewhere. For one – our company being surrounded by local communities passionate about high school sports is something you can find elsewhere, but is very near and dear to the hearts of the Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and the rest of the area that our company is from. In ten minutes, we can drive out to any number of our local customers, share in their excitement and become a part of what they’re doing in part because we’re located here. Had we started the company in a place like NY, our passion for high school sports would have stayed the same, but I don’t think we’d have been living our business quite like we do with our home here.


In addition to the communication software, VNN also runs a fantastic blog, chock full of intriguing high school sports stories from around the country. Check it out!  

What has been your company’s largest challenge so far? How have you/are you able to overcome this?

Our biggest challenge is balancing the short-term, and the long-term goals, of the company. We’re venture-funded, which from the outside seems glamorous. But what it really says is that our products have lots of potential, but don’t currently make us enough money to sustain ourselves, so we borrow from partners who think we can succeed in exchange for growth. And when you’re doing that – you always need to balance things that you can learn and achieve quickly –– to show your team that the company is moving in the right direction –– while also planning ahead to position the company correctly and build the platforms needed to truly own the market. Focus too short term and you’ll only tackle the small things and build it on a shaky foundation, while if you focus too long term, you’ll run out of money with nothing to show for it. The only way to overcome this is through good communication between departments, utilizing small-scale prototypes to teach us about what the market wants, and digging into the user information we already have to learn about trends and estimate impact on the organization.

How has your company evolved since it was first founded?The Varsity News Network Team

In our experience, our product has evolved as we’ve learned more about our customer, the high school athletic director (AD), spent time with and empathized with them. At first, our product was a website, which allowed athletic directors to post information so parents could find it and promote their entire sports program. When we learned that ADs didn’t always have enough time to keep their site active, our apps came into the picture –– streamlining the things they already have to do every day and automatically creating posts, and allowing other stakeholders, like coaches, to help carry the load. Once we had the information, we realized that a website was only one way to communicate, and that our company would be well served by providing the right information to the right person at the right time. So, we built text message and email functionality into our platform along with a sync to social media, which gave us new channels to bring a community closer together. It’s incremental, but our product should always be evolving to stay relevant to the needs of our customer.

What is your company’s vision for the next three years?

We see a lot of potential in the power of contextual information that actively helps parents manage their kids sports lifestyle, and delights fans. The simple relationships within communities and how people connect with one another will be essential for us to understand to move to the next level.

Thanks to Varsity News Network for sharing their insights with us! Make sure to check out their website and blog to keep up-to-date with everything high school sports.

Don’t miss our other Startup Spotlights on companies in the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas!

Why Cowork at Grand Circus? Just Ask ellell & co!

March 10, 2017

Leeann Drees and Laura Eagin of ellell & co. joined the Grand Circus coworking family in Summer 2016. To say it’s been a treat to have them in our space is an understatement! While monthly massages certainly keep them excited to come in on Fridays, Leeann and Laura have both been super involved in the Grand Circus community and are a great addition to the Detroit’s Madison technology Block. Read on to find out more about friends founding a company together and how Detroit has fostered its growth. (more…)

Creating The New You: How To Stick To Your Goals All Year Round

February 24, 2017

The hardest part of any New Year’s resolution is sticking with it. As 2017 rolls along, it might be tempting to start slacking on that fitness routine you committed to back in January or begin skimping on your monthly financial savings goals. Luckily, with the help of some industry experts (and members of our team), attendants of our recent New Year, New Career Speaker Series learned some helpful tips, tricks and strategies to stick with their resolutions all year long. (more…)

Startup Spotlight: PhotoUp

January 19, 2017

Check out our feature on PhotoUp!

The saying is true: a picture IS worth a thousand words. That’s why Grand Rapids area company PhotoUp
knows how important images are to a company’s brand and public perception. Founded in 2012, the business provides photo editing solutions to help real estate photographers deliver stunning images that capture the attention of customers. With a team in Grand Rapids and an additional editing team in the Philippines, PhotoUp has experienced substantial growth since it was founded and looks forward to continuing its success in the future.

In order to learn more about the business and the role Grand Rapids plays in its success, we caught up with PhotoUp VP of Marketing, Devon Higgins.       (more…)

Startup Spotlight: Fathom Drone

December 13, 2016

Meet the team from Fathom!

What mysteries await below the waves? Thanks to a new startup in the Grand Rapids area, exploring the depths of the sea, or just your local pond, just got easier. Fathom Drone offers the world’s first affordable modular underwater drone, allowing users to explore depths of up to 150 feet with stunning 1080p quality video. Similar to aerial drones, Fathom’s underwater model is controlled via a mobile app or a physical controller and can capture HD video and pictures that users can share directly to their favorite social media channels. Thanks to the Fathom Drone’s streamline design and the manufacturing methods, it is able to offer the Fathom One model for the price of $600.


Startup Spotlight: SPLT

October 26, 2016

Commuting to work can be tough. Waking up at the crack of dawn and setting out alone to battle miles of gridlock traffic, detours, and red lights isn’t exactly how you’d like to start your day. Plus, the further you live from work, the more costly this daily adventure can be. But what if there was a better way to travel that saved you time, money and most importantly, your sanity?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet SPLT–––a startup based in the Motor City that is changing the commuting game oneMeet the SPLT team! car pool at a time. Through its  mobile app and partnerships with ride-sharing companies like Lyft, SPLT is helping make everyone’s journey to work more efficient and less stressful.

In addition to the company’s great idea, SPLT also holds a special place in our hearts at Grand Circus as an alumni company from our co-working space (they grow up so fast!). Since then, SPLT has gone on to participate in our statewide Google Demo Day and then made it to the nationwide Google’s Demo Day in Mountain View, California. SPLT has received numerous awards and funding prizes at events across the country.

With the energy behind the ride-sharing industry continuing to grow, we had to check in with our friends at SPLT to see what was new. In order to learn more about their mission and vision, we talked to SPLT’s Founder & CEO, Anya Babbitt.


Startup Spotlight: Saga Marketing

September 30, 2016

What a time to be alive. The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving across the state of Michigan, especially in cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids. At Grand Circus, we’re proud to be a part of the excitement. With hundreds of rising startups and small businesses right in our backyard, it’s not hard to find new growth. Detroit’s recent startup boom and Grand Rapids’ thriving entrepreneurial community are further proof that we’re a state full of makers, doers and innovators.