Recapping NewCo Detroit 2014

Recapping NewCo Detroit with Stream Detroit

Comprised of 54 sessions of all different companies who opened their doors to the Detroit community, NewCo Detroit is an event where you can meet the new leaders rising up to the forefront of tomorrow.

We went to several of these sessions to see what these companies are up to; Skidmore Studio, The Nerdery, Apigee, Bamboo Detroit and The Work Inc is who we’re covering in this recap of NewCo. Detroit 2014.

Skidmore Studio
What does successful design look like?

Pictured from left to right: Shawn McConnell, Drew Patrick, Tim Smith and Kacha Zema

First we visited Skidmore Studio, a design studio that has been around since 1959, located inside the M@dison Building. Their NewCo session consisted of a Q&A panel hosted by their strategy director, Kacha Zema. On the panel, the CEO, Tim Smith; CFO, Drew Patrick; and design director, Shawn McConnell were there to answer Kacha and the crowd’s thought-provoking questions. We hadn’t realized that Skidmore Studio had been around for 55 years and we were excited to hear about their methods to producing kick-ass design.

Being the first tenant to ever move into the M@dison building (after Dan Gilbert acquired the building in 2011), they stated that not only did their move down to Detroit (from Royal Oak) felt right, it was a financially good move as well (We’re assuming rent was relatively cheap).

Always striving to be better than they were yesterday, Skidmore Studio admitted to being quite particular about who they accepted as a client. Thier decision — driven by their core purpose and values.

Skidmore Studio’s Core Purpose: Create the Extraordinary.
Skidmore Studio’s Core Values:
  • Be Creative in all things we do.
  • Challenge ourselves, our clients and each other.
  • Team, work together for results.
  • Enjoy, share positive energy.
  • Integrity, show respect, earn respect.
  • Communication, speak openly and candidly.
  • Details. Details. Details.

“We’re a studio, not an agency…”

They also felt it was important that we understand that Skidmore Studio is not an agency. They’re a studio. A highly-specialized studio because of their focus on design and the creative. They stray from being generalists and they stray from clients who wouldn’t be a good fit for their company’s culture. Agencies however, tend to accept all clients and all types of jobs, regardless of if they’re a good match. Even though, Skidmore Studio seems extremely picky as a company, they do what’s right for themselves.

So if they don’t accept everyone, then what are they looking for in a client? They approve of those who are in it for the long run, who have the time and patience to build something great, who are open minded enough to accept criticism, and who accept the fact that Skidmore Studio is in charge because they’re the professionals.

In the end they left us with 3 pro-tips to producing great, high-quality work:

  • Trust your gut, your instinct, your intuition: Ask yourself, “What should I do for myself?”
  • Be authentic: branding isn’t about putting out a fake image, so layout who you clearly are and communicate it.
  • Challenge everyone: challenge yourself, your peers and even your bosses.

To find out more about Skidmore Studio, visit their website.

The Nerdery
Out-of-town nerds wanting a piece of Detroit’s pie.

Pictured is Graham & Bill introducing The Nerdery

Not exactly sure what the Nerdery was, but we showed up to their session anyway because their name sounded cool. Thankfully, the company measured up to their name. The Nerdery, a developer-driven production shop, offers services in tech consulting, user experience, software development, and quality assurance. Basically, they build apps for mobile & web technologies.

“We’re the best place on the planet for nerds to work.”

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Nerdery quickly outgrew their home base and opened up a couple more shops in Kansas City, Montana and Chicago, Illinois. Who’s next on their radar? You guessed it — Detroit. They’re coming here because of the palpable, scrappy, gritty, entrepreneurial, vibrant presence that Detroiters are embedded with.

Currently, The Nerdery calls Grand Circus Detroit’s coworking space their home here, but when the need demands it, they’ll expand. We assume that it won’t be too long before they start partnering with new clients in Detroit. Why not? They do submit an average of 455 proposals per month.

  • Microsoft
  • Hallmark
  • iBeacon
  • Oculus Rift
  • Chamberlain MyQ
  • Danfoss

Based off of their presentation, these guys really value keeping on budget and delivering on time successfully. Most appealing is their emphasis on learning in the work environment with their Nerdery Lab Program, a program that gives their employees a chance to learn new technologies, staying current, and on top of their game.

To find out more about The Nerdery, visit their website.

Apigee Labs
Connecting all kinds of things to each other over the internet.

Pictured on the right: Brian Mulloy giving us a tour of Apigee Labs

Apigee is a huge company that builds Application Programming Interfaces (API) for 20% of the Fortune 100, 25% of the most admired companies, 50% of the top 10 most valuable North American retail brands, and 70% of the world’s 10 most valuable telecom brands… Yeah, I copied that off their website, but you’ve got to admit — that’s pretty damn impressive.

So what are they up to in Detroit? Well, APIs of course! But not in the way we’d usually think of them. Before I continue however, let’s define API for all those that aren’t quite sure what it is. Brian Mulloy explains, “APIs are for programmers to extend systems in new and valuable ways.” Brian Proffitt on goes a step further to explain:

“In the simplest terms, APIs are sets of requirements that govern how one application can talk to another. APIs aren't at all new…

On the Web, APIs make it possible for big services like Google Maps or Facebook to let other apps ‘piggyback’ on their offerings. Think about the way Yelp, for instance, displays nearby restaurants on a Google Map in its app, or the way some video games now let players chat, post high scores and invite friends to play via Facebook, right there in the middle of a game…

APIs make it possible for applications to share data and take actions on one another's behalf without requiring developers to share all of their software's code.”

That said, the Apigee team in Detroit is really interested in the research and development of the Internet of Things (IoT), which is all about connecting a wide variety of devices — from crock-pots to heart monitoring implants — within the internet’s infrastructure.

Pictured is Apigee’s Internet of Things experiment using their custom-built JavaScript API — ZettaJS

The conversation we had around IoT eventually leads to a thought-provoking statement. “We plan to build the big app, the app of apps...” Brian says, “The current questions we’re asking are about the diameter of the IoT: ‘How big is it?’ and ‘How do we make it smaller?’ How can we make something like the six degrees of separation shrink to three or even two degrees?”

Besides their intriguing research, Brian told us about a couple of Apigee products; Apigee Edge, Apigee Insights and Zetta®, which we were able to preview before leaving. In the end, even if some of the session’s guests didn’t know how any of this “technology stuff” worked. We all left, with a better understanding and mouth gaped open, thinking, “Wow, that’s so cool.”

To find out more about Apigee, visit their website.

Bamboo Detroit
Somebody in Detroit has their eyes on the world.

Bamboo’s Brian Davis describing their culture.

Bamboos are some of the fastest-growing plants in the world and because of their strength they are used for building materials. That’s why “Think Fast. Grow Strong.” is Bamboo Detroit’s tagline. Which makes a lot of sense when considering their identifying link to the plant itself. But what is it that they do?

That’s starting to become a hard question to answer…. On the surface, they’re a co-working space but they’re much more than that too. According to Bamboo Detroit’s product guy, Brian Davis, they’re a brand with no boundaries — kind of like Virgin Group, a multinational conglomerate company.

As ambitious as that may seem, Bamboo Detroit does have their hands in quite a few things: Real estate, business incubation, and event hosting & promoting to name a few. For instance, it’s uncommon to attend a big tech/business event in Detroit that’s not hosted or sponsored by Bamboo. One could go as far as to assume that whatever Quicken Loans hasn’t sponsored, Bamboo Detroit has.

Most recently, alongside other companies, Bamboo is supporting the Starter Talks series, an event organized by Delane Parnell of IncWell Ventures which features fireside interviews of founders from successful startups such as Charles Adler, co-founder of Kickstarter.

Besides everything mentioned, Bamboo Detroit emphasises their philosophy with Think Bamboo a series of isms they’ve created. They acknowledge everybody within their community as family, which goes to show how much they value and support the relationships they form. Even our very own, Mike McClintock, has recently become a member here.

One thing’s for sure: it’s easy to observe the folks at Bamboo Detroit’s passion, commitment and discipline because they’re aiming for the stars, keeping their feet on the ground and working hard at their goals everyday. Keep your eye on them, they’ve only just begun.

To find out more about Bamboo Detroit, visit their website.

The Work Inc.
Bad-ass cinematography for hire.

A few gentlemen from The Work Inc. getting real with their visitors.

When I saw the excellent montage produced for Detroit’s X-Games bid, I thought to myself, “Who made this?!” then I instantly began looking for credits and found The Work Inc.

So naturally, my reticular activating system would zero in on their timeslot when glancing through the NewCo Detroit schedule. “Uhm, The Work Inc. at 4:30pm? A no-brainer.”

When it came time to get down to their studio, I drove down East Jefferson and found myself parked alongside the Dequindre Cut on Franklin Street, a block away from the Detroit River — which was apparent for a few reasons including the nice river breeze I felt when stepping out of the car. There were a few dudes standing outside the front door, one with a beer in his hand and the other two with cocktails.

They were quite welcoming — the guy with the beer pointed inside the studio and with a smile, introduced himself as Andrew and said, “Go on in, grab a drink. We’ve got an open bar.” So I did.

There’s not much I can say about their work without wasting your time because there’s no better way to explain what they do than to just show you their latest showreel:

What I can tell you is that like Bamboo Detroit, the folks at The Work Inc. are young, bold, hospitable, and they’re going places. Best of all they’re completely humble about it all and they’re here to stay. Detroit should be proud.

To find out more about The Work Inc, visit their website.


Attending the 2nd annual NewCo Detroit was an awesome way to connect with these companies and learn about what’s on their radar. And even though we couldn’t cover all 52 sessions of NewCo this year, we are still extremely happy with the companies that we did cover . Our overall feeling is that this event proves that there’s something really tasty brewing in Detroit’s business atmosphere.

If you haven’t had a chance to smell what’s cooking in Detroit, then we suggest you stay tuned to our Facebook page because from there, we’ll let you know what’s going on, when it goes on. When it comes to Detroit companies, whatever you might be looking for, attending NewCo Detroit is a great way to find it. Trust us.

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