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Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund Invests $585,000 in Three Start-Ups

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ANN ARBOR — Three companies have received investments from the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, totaling $585,000, fund officials said Wednesday.

The investments went to Detroit-based Clean Emission Fluids Inc. and Estrakon and IX Innovations, both in Ann Arbor.

CEF manufactures patent-pending onsite fuel and fluid mixing stations for commercial truck stations and service stations, allowing instant mixing of biodiesel and other fuels. CEF currently has six stations deployed with six additional stations planned for delivery by the end of 2012.

“The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund’s support and investment in Clean Emission Fluids is an invaluable resource to help advance our leading-edge and patent-pending FAST Truck Stops in a Box that offers on-demand and on-site blending of any fuel in any proportion,” said Oliver F. Baer, CEF president and co-founder.  “FAST stations track the performance of every gallon, proportion and fuel type dispensed — including biofuels and emission fluids — to optimize vehicle operations and lower prices at the pump. Ann Arbor Spark and the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund has been vital to our developing success and establishing a solid framework on which to build, while helping boost Michigan’s economy in high return, job creating industries.”

Estrakon, based in Ann Arbor, designs, develops and manufactures custom, patented LED signs and displays that provide more design detail than a static sign but don’t need the maintenance cost and upkeep of a full-motion video display. The signs offer simulated motion, changing of color, and changes in brightness and contrast.

“The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund was instrumental in allowing our organization to stay on top of the influx of new business that we were experiencing in mid 2011,” said Matt Shumate, Eskraton founder.  “We have added new equipment, more staff and increased our production space to accommodate the rapid growth.”

Ix Innovations, based in Ann Arbor, enhances the usability of electrical test and measurement instrumentation through continual product innovation. Ix’s products are used throughout science and engineering, in diverse fields including low power electronics, energy harvesting, and in teaching labs worldwide.

“The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund financing allows Ix Innovations to fill key management positions,” said Ian Dailey, Ix president.  “This funding is critical to fueling research activities and enabling us to bring our next-generation low power measurement instruments to market.”

The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund is an equity fund that invests in technology-based companies to support business formation and acceleration. To date, the fund, a collaborative effort of Michigan’s SmartZones, has awarded 63 Michigan companies with seed funding totaling more than $14 million.

Those companies have attracted more than $18 million in matching grant and equity funds.

In 2011, the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund made 12 investments totaling $2.4 million, matched with more than $2 million in investments and grants.  Combined, the Michigan Pre-Seed Fund investments have helped to create more than 100 jobs in Michigan.

“We continue to receive applications from entrepreneurs around the state who are raising their first round of equity funding for their innovative, technology-based businesses,” said Skip Simms, Ann Arbor Spark’s senior vice president and administrator of the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund. “This interest in funding is a clear sign that Michigan’s entrepreneurial spirit is strong.”

To qualify for the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, start-up companies must be based on a technology in one of the state’s identified competitive technologies and have the sponsorship of a local SmartZone.  In addition to SmartZone sponsorship, companies must have received grant, angel or venture capital funding as a match with the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund investment.

Funds for this initiative were provided by the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a Michigan Strategic Fund program designed to accelerate the growth and diversification of Michigan’s economy.

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