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Ann Arbor SPARK East's incubator drives business growth in Ypsi

John Newman, freelance consultant, and Chao Sun, global training & development manager at Sensei Change Associates, meet with Ryan Morton, roboticist and chief technology officer at SkySpecs.
John Newman, freelance consultant, and Chao Sun, global training & development manager at Sensei Change Associates, meet with Ryan Morton, roboticist and chief technology officer at SkySpecs.

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Ann Arbor SPARK East's business incubator, located in the heart of Ypsilanti, is giving companies in eastern Washtenaw a boost as they grow. Since its launch in 2008, SPARK East has helped innovation-based businesses gain access to affordable space, networking and education, and other critical services.
 
The incubator’s track record is impressive: Three of its clients -- LaVision, Visual Compass and Back Office Studios -- have gone on to expand in to their own offices in Ypsilanti. And, SPARK East is currently at capacity with a range of companies that want to be part of the Ypsi business scene.

One of those companies is White Pine Software Technologies. It provides engineering test data management services to the automotive industry and their suppliers. In 2015 its first year in business, White Pine achieved profitability.
 
“Our biggest success last year was to deliver a comprehensive system to a Tier1 engine supplier to replace their 25-year-old data processing system,” said Robert Smith, White Pine Software Technologies founder. “We partnered with HighQSoft Gmbh, the key German tool vendor of this technology, to develop an architecture and infrastructure that is extensible for data import and server hosting, so it can grow as new labs and engineering disciplines are added to the solution. This was a very successful effort, and we are in the process now of expanding the system globally throughout that company.”
 
Choosing to locate at SPARK East helped White Pine Software Technologies as it capitalized on this success and continued to grow.
 
“It became apparent very quickly that the business was growing too big, too fast, and that we were going to need a proper workplace,” Smith added. “At the time, revenues had not been realized yet and budgets were tight. Access to office space at SPARK East solved all of my problems neatly, providing cubes, networks, fax and print, phone lines, even conference rooms.”

Another SPARK East company, Reconsider, has been able to grow its core business as well as a spin out, Revalue, from within the incubator. Reconsider is an impact economy research and development firm, and Revalue is a registered investment advisory firm that serves values-driven investors.

“Having space to meet in has been critical for our businesses,” said Angela Barbash, founder. “It's also been helpful to get a listing of available resources that matches our needs by going through the Virtual Business Advisor assessment.”

“The biggest achievement we made in the last year was a new rollout of branding and service packages at Revalue,” she added. “After a year of testing a beta version of services, we took what we learned and pivoted to provide a higher value, more scalable version for growth. In the coming year, we're looking forward to increasing our impact on Michigan investors and the community at large.”

Access to affordable space and opportunities to grow are just two benefits of being part of SPARK East. A network of experienced mentors, a range of events where business leaders can learn and connect, and being part of a community of emerging companies are all compelling reasons to call SPARK East home.

As the Ann Arbor region’s economy continues to strengthen, companies like White Pine Software Technologies and Reconsider will continue to be attracted by eastern Washtenaw’s unique culture and ecosystem. And, as they continue on their march toward their next big milestone, companies like White Pine Software and Reconsider recognize that SPARK East is part of what makes this region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem second to none.
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