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Posted on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

Ann Arbor startup plans move to Detroit after securing venture capital investment

By Nathan Bomey

A tech startup founded by University of Michigan student entrepreneurs has secured a venture capital investment and plans to move from Ann Arbor to Detroit.


An Ann Arbor startup called Are You a Human, which is developing an alternative to CAPTCHAs, is moving to Detroit. The team includes (l-r) software developer Stuart VandenBrink and recent University of Michigan MBA grads David Levitch, Reid Tatoris and Tyler Paxton.

Nathan Bomey |

The startup, a firm called Are You a Human, received an investment from Detroit Venture Partners, which revealed the investment today and announced that it had attracted a fourth investment partner: NBA legend Magic Johnson.

Are You a Human has developed an alternative to CAPTCHAs, which are distorted images of text that Internet users often have to decode to make purchases or post web comments.

The firm's founders told in May that they were close to securing their first outside investment and that they planned to introduce their CAPTCHA alternative sometime this summer.

The firm, founded by several U-M student entrepreneurs, including a team of recent MBA grads, has been using space at TechArb, a U-M business incubator for student-led companies.

The company plans to move to Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert's Madison Theatre Building, a downtown Detroit facility that is currently being renovated, Are You a Human co-founder Tyler Paxton said in an email.

Detroit Venture Partners, which is also based there, said in a statement that it hopes to turn the building "into a hub where tech and creative companies can collaborate and innovate."

Are You a Human is developing a game that could replace CAPTCHAs. People would take just a few seconds to complete the game, but that activity would be enough to certify that the user is not a computerized “spambot” — a perpetrator of web clutter whose existence necessitates the existence of an authentication step.

The company recently won $154,100 in cash after a strong performance at the Rice University Business Plan Competition in Houston, where it also won the Most Promising Technology Startup award.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Angry Redneck

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

Theyyyyyyyy took urrrr jerbs!!


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

Be sure to wear the hat, Stuart


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

Sure, the streets of downtown Ann Arbor can be very mean indeed, what with hysterical vegans and medical marijuana addicted panhandlers aggressively shadowing your every move. Heck, who wouldn't want to leave all that behind? I know! I know! Let's get out of this stinking urban jungle and move to Detroit, where we will be safe. Heh heh. Be sure to check out Jumbo's bar, boys.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

SPARK? Calling out for SPARK? Wasn't this part of SPARK's mission? Or, will SPARK now include this venture in their numbers of helping companies thrive in Washtenaw county?


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

The company is staying in Michigan which is the objective. We should celebrate that they stayed in SE Michigan. It will help the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Ron Granger

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

Good luck recruiting talent. When anyone good can work anywhere in the world, who'd live and work in Detroit, paying city income tax to a corrupt government that offers almost no services?


Fri, Jul 22, 2011 : 11:06 a.m.

'guess it depends on what you mean by "anyone good." I know at least a half dozen people with good, solid technical skills and career histories who've been laid off in the past few years who wouldn't mind at all working in downtown Detroit just to have a job right now. Several of these folks have family commitments that pretty much tie them to SE Michigan. Not everyone is necessarily free to shop the entire world to find a job.

Boo Radley

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 11:09 p.m.

"a corrupt government that offers almost no services?" Sounds like you are talking about Ann Arbor.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

Congrats! Loved your presentation this week.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

I have to tip my hat to these guys for taking a chance on Detroit. I am completely in favor of doing all we can to get Detroit up and thriving again. Would have liked to hear that from either of the candidates for Governor during the last election. Like it or not, Detroit is Michigan.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

Very cheap office space (or any other type of space, for that matter). I have read a couple of articles recently saying that various costs of doing business have gotten so cheap they are actually competitive with some third world countries, without having to move to the third world. With three MBAs in the group, I'm sure the decision had SOMETHING to do with costs.

Marvin Face

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

Cake rocks!


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

The Viking helmet - nice touch. Hope you read the fine print. Really, good luck.

John of Saline

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 4:51 p.m.

They'll have a city income tax now, too.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Speaks well for the mighty Ann Arbor when they lose a business to Detroit,the CESSPOOL of Michigan.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Please remove your mind from the gutter.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

Very cool! Kudos to them for giving Detroit a try.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

and no one thought o ask why they're leaving Ann Arbor? Why they can't continue to develop their company here?


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

"The company plans to move to Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert's Madison Theatre Building" Magic Johnson is now a partner of Dan Gilbert -- makes sense they move to his building and Gilbert's goal is a DETROIT revitatilazation ...