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October 30, 2009

The race is on: China creates biotech VCs, new tech stock market

Biotech, as a growth industry both here in Maryland and elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad, is about to welcome a huge competitor: China.

FierceBiotech reports that China launched 20 new venture capital funds to invest in technology companies, with biotech as a focus.

China also launched a new tech stock market, similar to the Nasdaq, FierceBiotech reports.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:37 AM | | Comments (0)
        

NY Times on angel investing

In case you're a startup entrepreneur or small business owner looking for capital, here's a good little article from the New York Times titled: "The New Rules of Angel Investing."

The article has a more national focus. I wrote a similar article a few weeks back with a focus on angel investing and startups in the the Mid-Atlantic and Baltimore region. You'll find that article here.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Startups
        

Xohm in Baltimore: Is this thing still on?

Interesting post from Robert Wray over at MP3car.com, pretty much saying that Xohm has shut down its WiMax broadband internet service in Baltimore to prepare for the relaunch of the service as Clear (a new company.)

Have people been disconnected from their Xohm service? Let me know what your experience has been like lately. I'm trying to reach some Sprint officials to get some clarity.

Update 1: A clarification Wray emailed me to say that Xohm is still up for current customers, but not ones who may have been intermittent users of the service. Also, Tweeter @tothepeople tells me his Xohm service still works.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:11 AM | | Comments (12)
        

Los Angeles moving to Gmail and cloud computing

Could this be the beginning of a trend?

NPR reports that the City of Los Angeles has voted to overhaul its email system, converting it from a Microsoft-based software system, to a Google Gmail system where the data will be kept private on Google's servers across the U.S.

With so many municipal and state governments strapped for cash these days, you've gotta wonder if this is gonna catch on. If L.A. is serious about doing it, shouldn't others take a hard look at it, too? Politicians eager to bring home some tax savings to their constituents may not be able to resist the urge to review their local government's spending on I.T., and figure out what they could push into the Google cloud.

For those looking for some more detail on the possible rationale behind this deal, take a look at this InformationWeek column, which gives four possible reasons that L.A. chose Google over Microsoft.

Hey Mayor Sheila Dixon -- is somebody in your office gonna take a closer look at this?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:03 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Big Ideas, Government Tech, West Coast
        

Bootstrap Maryland recap

Jimmy Gardner has a recap of last night's Bootstrap Maryland panel in DC over at TechCocktail. Check it out.

And if you want to follow the Twitter stream, here's the #bootstrapmd tag.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (DC/No. Va. area), Startups
        

9 common mistakes to avoid as a startup

jimchungMtech.jpg At the University of Maryland Start-Up Boot Camp last week in College Park, Jim Chung, left, presented his list of common mistakes to avoid as a startup.

Chung is director of the MTech Venture Accelerator program at the university.

Here's his list (paraphrased):

Common Mistakes:

*) You have technology that's looking for a solution (as opposed to tech that immediately solves an existing problem).

*) You make too many assumptions about market share you stand to gain (you engage in top-down assumptions vs. bottom-up validation and lack customer understanding).

*) You have a "nice to have" vs. a "need to have" solution.

*) Thinking: "We have no competition."

*) You have no clear revenue model or path to profitability.

*) Your team is incomplete.

*) You don't have any metrics to measure your progress.

*) Lack of focus.

*) Failure to address the risks head-on.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:58 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Events (Baltimore area), Startups, University Tech
        

October 29, 2009

Men are for Playstations, women are for Wiis?

Admittedly, I am late to the Wii party. For my fourth wedding anniversary this month, I bought my wife and I a Wii. In addition to Wii Sports, which comes with the console, I picked up Mario Kart.

Now, I've played with Play Stations and XBoxes before, and they are amazing machines. My younger brothers have a Play Station 3, which I can't help but spend hours playing whenever I visit them -- to my wife's chagrin.

But I noticed that she was never interested in picking up the controllers to play with the PlayStation.

Many months ago, however, I remember my wife saying she'd be interested in a Wii. I stowed that tidbit away in my tiny Neandearthal-ish brain -- until a recent trip to a Best Buy, where I was drawn to the Wii display.

Within minutes, another small fold in my Neanderthal brain was triggering the impulse to buy, buy, buy. I picked up a box of Wii. Soon after, I was approached by a man who said he worked for Sony, who happened to be in the store. He said, for a $100 more, I could own a PlayStation 3, with built-in Blu-Ray player and Netflix streaming, and tried to get to check it out.

Fair enough, but I told him I didn't really care for Blu Ray and I already had Netflix streaming through my Roku player.

Plus, I said, my wife would really only play video games with a Wii. For some reason, I instinctively thought I could get away with buying a Wii as an anniversary gift, but a Play Station 3 could land me sleeping on the couch alone for a couple nights.

Sure enough, later that night, I watched my wife play Wii bowl, Wii tennis, Wii golf, and Wii boxing. It was delightful.

This was surely a first. Aside from enjoying great literature and warm, heartfelt talks, my wife and I now had another cool thing in common: we game together.

So how about that, ladies? Do you prefer the Wii to other gaming systems, and if so, why?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:03 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Events (DC/No. Va. area), Gadgets, Gamers
        

New patent filing: Apple wireless headset with integrated media player

I think this is a new, never-before-seen product that Apple seems to be working on: In a patent filing made public today, Apple calls it a wireless headset with integrated media player. What it looks like is a Bluetooth-enabled iPod that can connect to your iPhone, but also has integrated memory for playing back MP3s, and a microphone for allowing you to talk and make audio notes to yourself that you can then save to the device.

In one permutation of the device, it could be operated using voice commands, and with one or two earpieces. applewirelessheadset.jpg Some descriptive language from the filing:

"The media player may be an audio player, capable, e.g., of playing audio files such as MPEG-3 ("MP3") files. Optionally, the media player may include a recording function as well, so that a user can record voice notes. In addition, if the headset is being used with a telephone (mobile or landline), the availability of a recording function could make it possible for the user to record all or part of a conversation. Similarly, voicemail messages received on the user's telephone could be uploaded into the headset for later off-line playback."
And some more description:
Alternatively, given the presence of a microphone in the headset (primarily for use with a telephone), the media player could be configured to respond to voice commands, which could allow more complex commands, including commands to play particular content. In addition, the microphone could be used to detect the ambient noise level, and to adjust playback volume accordingly.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gadgets
        

October 28, 2009

Two nerds and their clever iPhone Halloween costume

These guys must have a ton of free time and disposable income to create this masterpiece of a Halloween costume. Check out the video (via the Holy Kaw blog):

Anybody doing their own tech-themed costume this Halloween?

(BTW, thanks to Lauren Custer, Sun web guru, for pointing me to the post!)


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:44 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Bootstrap Maryland tomorrow

bootstrapmd-logo.jpgIt's not too late to sign up for the latest installment of Bootstrap Maryland, an event that helps entrepreneurs navigate a startup business on a tight budget.

The event is tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 29) at the Pillsbury Law firm in Washington D.C. It will feature a panel discussion titled: "What You Need to Know About Money for Your Startup in 2009."

I won't be able to make it, but if people are Tweeting from the event -- or if someone wants to give their fellow BaltTechies a synopsis of some things they learned -- feel free to email me at gus(dot)sentementes(at)baltsun.com.

The speakers are pretty experienced folks.

They include:

* Jay Virdy, CEO of Summize, the Twitter search engine that was ultimately bought by Twitter itself.

* Paul Singh, founder of Philtro, a site that helps Twitter uses manage their Twitter stream.

* John Burke, a partner at True Ventures, which invests in early-stage startups.

* Matt Swartz, an attorney and partner at Pillsbury Law who focuses on mergers and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital investments, public and private securities offerings, and corporate governance.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (DC/No. Va. area)
        

Facebook movie to shoot in Baltimore

johnshopkinscampus.jpg And now we get word that the Facebook movie -- the movie that will be about the origins of the online social-networking juggernaut -- will be doing at least some of its filming in Baltimore.

Mind you, there's really no Baltimore connection with the founding of Facebook, as far as I know.

But the filmmakers, according to the Sun's movie critic Michael Sragow, decided that the Johns Hopkins University campus could fill in for Harvard, where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg attended when he and some buddies started the online site.

This, of course, is a nice win for the Maryland film industry.

I'm just waiting for a Maryland startup to make it big enough so that Hollywood makes a movie about it.

Come on, Hollywood.... Is the success of Advertising.com or Bill Me Later not sexy enough for moviegoers? :-)


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:05 AM | | Comments (1)
        

October 26, 2009

What does T. Rowe Price see in Twitter?

I know I'm late asking this question since the news broke last month, but what does T. Rowe Price (the big, smart, staid mutual fund company based here in Baltimore) see in Twitter that it (reportedly) became a big investor in the company last month?

ZDNet's Larry Dignan asks the same question.

Twitter reportedly pulled in a $100 million round of investment last month, at a $1 billion valuation, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the company doesn't have any real revenues and its executives haven't publicized much of a business plan for their Internet-based messaging service.

Okay, T. Rowe Price: why the Twinterest? I could be wrong, but based on a search of Twitter, I don't even think T. Rowe has any official Twitter user accounts.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:00 AM | | Comments (2)
        

Baltimore tech in the news


* Martin L. Johnson at the CityPaper last week had a good overview of the budding tech/events scene in Baltimore. Several local techies I've written about (and two of whom guest-posted on this blog a few weeks ago, Dave Troy and Mike Subelsky) were featured. Take a look.

* Mike Musgrove, the WashPost's tech reporter, profiled a North Baltimore video-game startup: Kalypso Media USA . They just launched a new strategy game called Tropico 3.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

October 23, 2009

Live blogging the tech startup bootcamp at University of Maryland

Updates will appear at the top of this post:

 

2:12 pm -- I just spent the past hour interviewing several highly entrepreneurial UM students and a faculty member. Their ideas were fascinating to listen to (aside: I love my job!) I'm gonna spend the next hour working on my print edition story for tomorrow, and then come back around 3:30 pm to cover the 1-minute "Pitch Dingman" sessions, where students will give 1-minute pitches in front of the audience and judges for a $100 prize. Stay tuned!

1:00 pm -- Gordon, the Valhalla Partners research director, was also asked about how entrepreneurs should approach attracting venture capitalists and raising money, without losing too much control of their companies. Gordon advised that it was wise to attract more than one investor. "Venture capitalists are like martinis. One is great, two is better...four is teetering toward catastrophe." Ha! Chuckles across the room.

12:57 pm -- Dan Gordon was asked what venture capitalists look for in an entrepreneur before they invest. His answer, in part: "We look for entrepreneurs who can show evidence they know what they will spend the money on...We want someone who's thought through how the business is going to build." My paraphrase: Don't be a fool!

 12:52 pm -- Dan Gordon, research director for Valhalla Partners, a VC firm, Craig Dye, director of venture investments for the UM business school's Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, and Murali Nair, program director for SBIR/STTR and National Science Foundation, fielded questions from an audience of about 60 people during their session. One question: Dye was asked where can entrepreneurs go looking for investors? His answer, abridged: check formal and informal channels. The formal: tap the Angel Capital Association and a website called AngelSoft.net. Informal: start tapping networks.

12:50 pm -- I'm back and catching up: I sat in on the "Where's the money?" session and came back with some good stuff. Will update in a moment. 

11:41 am -- I'm gonna shift gears and leave this session and duck into another session called "Where's the money? Funding for high tech ventures." Stay tuned. I'll bring you more updates in a few minutes.

11:35am -- Raviv: What we mean to become more innovative: it means communicate better; work in teams; appreciate diversity. Also: solve problems; open to changing point of view; expect more than one solution; and think outside the box. Have common sense; become more intuitive; be imaginative and take risks. Lots of characteristics for an innovator. "We all can be taught to become more innovative, better innovators."

11:32 am -- "Lets' focus on some aspects of becoming an innovative individual." Talking about Leonard DaVinci: artist, architect, inventor, etc. His seven principles: curiosity, learn from mistakes, use your senses, embrace uncertainty, balance both modes of your brain, cultivate fitness, connect to all.

 11:30 am: Raviv: "When we thought cd players will dominate the market for many years to come, we got mp3 players."

11:28 am -- Daniel Raviv has started his talk on great ideas and innovation, giving examples of inventions and innovations, from a new Samsung digital camera to Cuban refugees building a boat out of a truck.

 

11:16: Hinman finishes up his keynote. Now, we're taking a networking break. Everybody's milling around, getting coffee, going to the bathroom. The next session starts at 11:30 am -- I'll be liveblogging from the Business plan track, in the session: Great Ideas: Spurring Creativity and Innovation", led by Daniel Raviv, professor at the dep't of electrical engineering at Florida Atlantic University.

11:15 am -- Hinman says he loves his job working for a venture capital firm but sometimes misses the thrill of starting a company. "There's something about being part of a team and building stuff that's hard to ever get out of your system" - Brian Hinman

11:06 am -- Hinman talks about another company Greenvolts, which builds high concentration photovoltaic systems (huh?). Here's what I'm getting out of Hinman's talk: there's a LOT of innovation going on right now in clean energy tech, with many different approaches. Pretty fascinating stuff.

 11:00 am -- Just met a UM student who wants to start his own business. I'll interview him later during the lunch break and let you know what I learn. I'm looking to interview some student entrepreneurs to get their story because I'm writing a newspaper story for tomorrow's print edition, too!

10:53 am -- Another company Hinman's venture firm is supporting: Sundrop Fuels -- using solar energy to drive a chemical plant to make synthetic fuel. Basically, use the sun to drive a chemical plant. 

10:48 am -- One company Hinman's Oak Partners invests in is Aurora Biofuels, which used patented UC Berkeley tech to develop algae as a source of bio-oil for fuel. Algae as fuel could be a big part of our energy future. How about that?

10:47am -- Gives a snapshot of Oak Investment Partners' "Oak Clean Tech" investment portfolio: $273 million invested in 11 tec companies. Largest investment: solar energy: 28 percent; second largest (tie) batteries and carbon markets (13 percent each).

10:45 am -- Talks about venture capitalists lengthening their expectations from 10 years to 15 years or more for their investments in clean tech. The steps are complicated and costly. Stages of development: lab proof science; field proof of science; pilot production site; commercial scale deployment. "This whole cycle can take 5 years, 10 years," Hinman said.

10:42 am -- Hinman talks about the catalysts for market creation in clean technology: right now major government funding. Sources: Dept of Energy grants and loans, tax credits EPA renewable fuel standard program and something called the California Renewables Portfolio.  "Hopefully subsidies are only here for a period of time so we can build these businesses," he said.

10:30 am -- Brian Hinman, a UM alumni, is giving the keynote address. He was involved in brianhinman.jpgstarting three telecom companies. He majored in electrical engineering and signals processing. Last three years, spent his time working in the clean technology sector.

"It's been a fascinating time for me." Gives three reasons on importance of clean energy innovation: economic crisis, national security, and environmental impacts.

"When you put these three things together, it seems to me it's one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime."

10:19 am -- In case you're wondering, this event is being put on by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, aka MTech, which is part of UM. UM has made a great effort to integrate business, technology, science and intellectual property in their incubation efforts.

UM President C.J. Mote has a goal to start a 100 new companies out of UM over the next 10 years, according to Dean Chang, director of MTech Ventures and Education.

10:12 am -- Anik Singal, CEO of Lurn Inc., started a little company while at College Park that's taken off in the field of online marketing training.

Right now, he's talking about how he was set to major in Biology and go to Harvard, but instead, turned to business school at Maryland. He talks about tapping every resource imaginable in his senior year, and went full-time into his business.

"I was working 22 hours a day, literally. there was nobody helping me," Singal said. So he turned to resources at UM and asked for help and they turned him on to the Venture Accelerator program.

"Probably one of the best things that ever happened to me," he said. Lesson: No one he knew in his circle of friends and family could help him refine his business plan, so he went looking for the right help.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:16 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Startups, University Tech
        

University of Maryland's Tech Startup Bootcamp right here, right now

techcrowd.jpg
I'm here at the University of Maryland's Tech Startup Bootcamp, which is a full-day event featuring local startup CEOs, academics, entrepreneurs, investors and others sharing their knowledge on what people need to kickstart a start-up. The crowd is officially at a little over 600 people. Wowsers! (About half the crowd raised their hands when asked how many were here because they want to start a company.)

I'll be blogging about it all day, so I'll give you a quick peek at the schedule ahead, so you can tune in later, if you wish. But you may just want to keep this blog open all day and just periodically refresh.

Here's the agenda:


*) Dean Darrell Pines and Dean Chang kicked off the event with introductions.

* ) Bob Proctor, CEO of FlexEl Inc. and Anik Singal, CEO of Lurn Inc., are both UM alumni who tapped the university's resources to start their businesses. They're giving the crowd an overview of what those resources were that they used.

*) 10:25 am -- Brian Hinman, venture partner with Oak Investment Partners and cofounder and former CEO of Polycom Inc.

*) 11 a.m. -- Networking break

* Three tracks for participants to choose from the rest of the day.

-- Track 1: Developing a great business plan

-- Track 2: Biotech ventures

-- Track 3: Technology ventures (for people further along with their biz plan)

I plan on bouncing around on some of these different tracks and looking for the best nuggets of wisdom to bring back to you here on BaltTech, so stick around!


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Startups
        

October 22, 2009

Rich people charging poor entrepreneurs to pitch them?

Jason Calacanis, CEO Mahalo.com, web entrepreneur and blogger, has taken on a personal mission to expose angel investor groups that charge startup entrepreneurs a fee to listen to their pitches.

It's a great rant of a post where Calacanis threatens, with the help of his supporters, to expose every single one of these groups. Calacanis explains:

Yes, you heard that correctly: the rich people (angels) are charging the poor people (startup entrepreneurs desperate for cash to fuel their dreams) to hear their pitch. No, I’m not kidding. This is actually happening — and it’s widespread.

Last week, a number of the TechCrunch50 companies informed me about firms calling them to present at their “Angel forums” — only to discover that they would face fees ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 for a
10-15 minute pitch slot. After additionally investigation by the Jason Nation (the top 10% of the maniacs who follow me on Twitter), I was sent details of one epic bastard that wanted $10-$25,000, plus a couple of percentage points of the value of the deal (you’ll find out who later in this email).

When I heard this, my blood started to boil immediately. So, I did what any maniacal, self-absorbed CEO from Brooklyn would do: I started a jihad against this dispicable form of payola and the people doing it. It’s on people … it’s on like a Donkey Kong.

Alright startup folks -- has anyone around here ever felt forced to pony up some cash for investors to listen to your pitch? What do you think of this as a practice -- smarmy or just the way the world is?



This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:35 AM | | Comments (2)
        

Windows 7 debuts today

In case you've been living in a cave, the big news today is that Windows 7 officially debuts. It's supposedly a vast improvement over the Vista operating system, and it's gotten pretty good early reviews so far.

As always though, I'll wait to hear what you BaltTechies think of it before making any final judgments.

Will you be rushing out to buy it/download it? Lemme know.....

Oh, and if you're a Windows Fan Boy with some time to kill today, Ina Fried will be live-blogging a Microsoft event where Steve Ballmer will introduce the new OS.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:12 AM | | Comments (2)
        

October 21, 2009

Introducing: The Monocopter

Every once in a while, you see a piece of cool technology that a) just works and b) looks so incredibly simple, elegant and obvious that you wonder why it took so long to create.

In this case, I'm talking about the monocopter, developed by aerospace engineering graduate students at the University of Maryland's Clark School of Engineering.

For decades, engineers have been trying to mimic and improve upon nature's design of maple tree seeds (a.k.a. samara fruit) and the spiraling pattern they make when they fall to the ground. (Remember playing with those as a kid? I sure do.)

The school, in a press release, said engineers since the 1950s have tried to mimic the spiraling fall, with little success. It was hard to build a small craft that could be controlled with precision. Until some UM students and faculty came along.

They were able to build a small craft -- with one rotor -- that could take off from a stationary position and hover, and be remotely controlled. (Here's the project website.) It's incredible to watch, and it's billed as the world's smallest single-winged rotor aircraft. Expect this technology to show up for use in defense and emergency situations.




This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:52 PM | | Comments (2)
        

October 20, 2009

Startup Tuesday...featuring Mindgrub

If you're a startup company based in the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia area and wish to be considered for Startup Tuesday, follow the format below and send your information and photo of the founder(s) to gus.sentementes@baltsun.com. 

 

Company name: Mindgrub Technologies

Founder: Todd Marks (right)

ToddMarks.jpg

Number of employees: 11

Location/Headquarters: Baltimore (HQ), Washington DC, NYC

Field/Industry: Rich Internet Applications, Mobile Development, Social Media Marketing

Product(s) and what it does: viaPlace - is a white-label registry and mobile device framework that enables companies to deliver their points of interest to end users based on location. Edualizer - is a digital dashboard for assessing education performance by providing tools to interpret data and provide advanced analytics through visualization.

Website/Twitter/Blog links: www.mindgrub.com; www.twitter.com/mindgrub

The genesis of the idea for the company: Mindgrub Technologies was founded in 2002 by Todd Marks, a former high school math and computer science teacher turned technologist during the height of the dotcom boom. Mindgrub was created from the need to harness technology and distribute information based on the end-user experience. Its mission is to create web-based applications and mobile experiences that focus on the end-user goal of facilitating instant information travel and be able to share knowledge faster.

Most important local/regional resource  tapped to start the company: The power of word of mouth marketing and strong network contacts.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Startup Tuesday
        

October 19, 2009

Apple posts big 4Q results today

This just in....

Apple posted a 46 percent rise in profits in the 4th quarter, according to MarketWatch.

The increase was driven by the sale of iPhones and Macs, reports ABC.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:42 PM | | Comments (0)
        

iPhone creeping into the workplace?

Have you bought yourself an iPhone for personal use, only to find that you want to use it for work too? Have you been bugging the I.T. guy (or gal) at your office to let you sync your iPhone with your work email?

Apparently, this phenomenon is happening with increasing frequency -- and Columbia-based Boxtone is trying to get ahead of the curve. My story today about them showed that Boxtone, whose bread-n-butter has been helping companies manage the BlackBerrys they give to employees, is now offering iPhone support, too.

The iPhone hasn't had a history and reputation for being enterprise-worthy, like the BlackBerry -- but that doesn't matter for consumers who fall in love with the gadget and want to be able to use its email and Web browsing for their day jobs.

Tech watchers think that companies are going to have to respond to their employees by supporting the smartphones they want to use -- which could mean bad news down the road for BlackBerry, but good news for iPhone, Palm Pre and other competitors.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Smartphones
        

October 16, 2009

The "after" photo of CEO head-shaving event

Yesterday afternoon, Mike Curreri, the CEO of Baltimore-based AVIcode, made good on a promise to employees to shave his head if the staff reached 100 percent of their sales goals in the third quarter.

You can see a "before" photo here.

Below you'll find the "after" photo, taken yesterday afternoon! Awesome!

curreriAFTER.jpg


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

Amazon introduces same-day shipping in Baltimore, other cities

Amazon yesterday announced that it will offer same-day delivery on thousands of products bought off its juggernaut of a website. The Seattle-based company is rolling out the same-day service just in time for the holidays in seven cities: Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Las Vegas and Seattle. More cities to come include Chicago, Indianapolis and Phoenix.

The charge? $5.99 per item, but only if you're an Amazon Prime member. The rates are more than double if you're not. Some catches: In Baltimore, you have to order by 10:30 a.m. for you to get your purchase the same day. Similar cut-off times apply in other cities. And same day delivery isn't offered on the weekends.

For you procrastinating Christmas-time shoppers, the service will help you put off shopping till the very last minute: Amazon will offer same-day delivery on Christmas Eve.

Being able to offer same-day delivery on online purchases is somewhat of a Holy Grail for e-commerce companies who can better satisfy the instant-gratification itch of their customers. We'll see how well it pans out for Amazon. I'm sure if it works well, they'll expand it to even more cities.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:05 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Web Dev & Apps
        

October 15, 2009

Baltimore ranked in top 10 for launching a startup

In a recent survey released by CNN Money, Baltimore ranked 10th in the nation for being one of the best large regions to launch a new business. The city's Emerging Technology Center, our own incubator, got a shout-out in the ranking.

So what city was number 1? Oklahoma City.

Interestingly, there were no West Coast cities that cracked the list. The editors, in their survey methodology, explained that they placed a premium in their rankings on the foreclosure rate -- and the West Coast has been hit hard with foreclosures.

What do you think about Baltimore's ranking? Fair? Deserved? Just right?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:19 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

Baltimore's TechNite is tonight

The Greater Baltimore Tech Council tonight is throwing its annual bash, TechNite, starting at 5 p.m., at the Baltimore Convention Center.

On the agenda: a keynote by Gary Vaynerchuk, the social media guru, wine expert, and creator of Wine Library TV; awards to local Baltimore tech luminaries; some schmoozing with local companies giving presentations; and hopefully, if it's anything like last year, some good food and drink. About 1,000 people are expected to attend.

Drop a note below if you're going. Maybe I'll see you there!


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)
        

Sales bounce back; CEO to shave his head as promised

mikecurerri.jpg At 58, Mike Curreri, CEO of Baltimore-based AVIcode, seems to have a nice head of hair, right?

Well, later today, he's expected to have his employees shave it off. All of it.

Here's the backstory: Curreri's company was in the doldrums in late 2008/early 2009 due to the recession. He considered layoffs. But instead, he cut salaries 15 percent.

He then made a deal with his sales team that if they reached 90 percent of their goal for the 3Q this year, he'd give everyone their full salary back, plus a bonus to make up for the pain.

For added motivation, he vowed that if they reached 100 percent of their sales goal, he'd get his head buzzed.

Of course, the sales folks hit their mark -- and today Curreri is getting his lush mane seriously trimmed. Each employee will get to take a cut, too.

The "before" photo of Curreri is above. We hope to bring you an "after" photo when AVIcode employees are done cutting.

It's so refreshing to see employees giving their boss a hair cut, isn't it? :-)


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:24 AM | | Comments (0)
        

October 13, 2009

Startup Tuesday featuring....... MsgWorx

If you're a startup company based in the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia area and wish to be considered for Startup Tuesday, follow the format below and send your information and photo of the founder(s) to gus.sentementes@baltsun.com. 

*Company: MsgworxmsgworxLOGO.png

*Website: www.msgworx.com

*Product and  What it Does: A next generation online form of communication (see http://www.msgworx.com/demo3.html), MsgWorx is designed to meet the communications needs of companies using their own uniquely designed multi-media interactive video and presentation player. Beyond streaming video, this innovative platform gives users a person-to-person experience that puts the viewer in control of a web-based experience and helps companies monetize that experience with real-time research and results that go much deeper than reporting simple page views. Some companies using the product: Sallie Mae, AAA, and local Toyota dealers.

*Founder: Rick Otenasek

* Number of Employees: 8 full-time, 4 part-time & free-lance contributors

* Headquarters: 30 E. Padonia Rd., Timonium MD, 21093

* Field/Industry: Online Marketing and Communications

* Genesis of the Idea for MsgWorx: From his extensive experience in the cable TV industry from 1985 through 1997, founder Rick Otenasek foresaw the convergence of video and broadband. Rick left Comcast in 1997 to start his own communications company and developed a web based tool for publishing video to the web. The first version of the company’s application was launched in 2002, as a “Video-on-Demand web portal”. The second release of the application was developed in 2004, with significant enhancements that evolved beyond streaming video and incorporated rich media. The third release was launched in 2008. This third-generation application is now complimented by production, consulting & support services. In response to clients’ request for help producing their communications, MsgWorx has recruited a team of talented creative professionals to handle these productions. This multi-disciplined team works with clients to produce, distribute & manage interactive, multi-media communications that deliver measurably better results.

* Most Important local/regional resource you tapped into to start your company: In late 2007, the company brought in an investor/CEO with global experience growing early-stage businesses and managing large-scale operations. From his own broad business experience in positions up through the level of CEO, MsgWorx’s CEO Frank Otenasek understood that businesses need bottom-line solutions, not just cool technology. The CEO and the Founder recognized that companies and organizations need a better way to communicate to achieve their key business goals. 


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Startup Tuesday
        

October 12, 2009

Refreshed and back in Baltimore

gusGreece.jpg Happy Monday, friends! I'm back in Baltimore after a two-week vacation that took me and my family to the land of goat milk and honey: Greece. (Left, that's me in a national park in southern Greece).

For the most part, I managed to unplug, but not fully. I still got some use from my iPhone, which helped me find a car to rent and a hotel room to secure in Athens while we were on the go.

The mobile Internet is an amazing thing!

Here at BaltTech, life went on.

Looking back on the guest posts, I can see you were all in the good hands of Dave Troy and Mike Subelsky -- two bright, well-connected fellows with a passion for Baltimore tech. The content they put together for BaltTech was stellar. Take a glance at it if you have the time.

We learned about Beehive Baltimore, the Ignite events, the needs of our local tech culture, RailsConf, Innovate Baltimore, TedxMid-Atlantic, Maryland's open source heroes, how to raise money as a startup, and the viewpoints of threetechnologists. Great stuff.

A public thank you to Dave and Mike for keeping BaltTech online while I was offline. :-)

In fact, I liked the "Five Questions With ... " featurette so much that I'd like to continue it. If you know of a local technologist you'd like to see interrogated and highlighted, just let me know at gus.sentementes@baltsun.com.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:12 AM | | Comments (1)
        

October 9, 2009

How to raise money for your tech startup

Dave Troy here with Kris Appel, our guest blogger for today. Kris is the founder of Encore Path, a medical technology start-up in Baltimore.

As a first-time entrepreneur, raising the money to launch launch a medical device was a significant undertaking.

I am not only a first-time entrepreneur, but I chose to start a company in an unfamiliar field. I have a background in linguistics, but my company develops medical technology for stroke rehabilitation.

So I started this endeavor with two strikes against me. This month, I will close my Series A round, and my first product was launched this summer, a rehabilitation device that improves arm function in survivors of stroke and other brain injury. Here is how I was able to attract investment:

• Humility -- Everyone knows something I don’t. Why wouldn't I want to learn from them? I am thankful that people care enough about me to offer their advice and give me their time. I'm sure they have other things to do, but they've chosen to spend this part of their day with me, and I'm going to listen to what they have to say.

• Be nice to everyone, all the time -- I’ve met people everywhere who might turn out to be investors or important advisors. You never know when someone is going to help you, it could be weeks or even YEARS away, but you want them to remember you fondly, and to want to help you succeed.

• Meet with everyone who asks -- Especially early on, I met with everyone who requested a meeting with me. And I didn’t mind asking each person for something -- a referral, a market report, scientific data I couldn’t afford to buy, business advice. Some of those casual meetings turned into major investments later.

• Enter business plan competitions -- I entered, and won, a few business plan competitions. In addition to winning cash for my business, I made a lot of contacts, got some very positive press, and got a TON of free advice about my business plan.

• Let people get to know you -- All of my investors were strangers to me when I started this company. But I sought them out in the beginning as advisors, and spent time with them over months and years, talking about progress I’ve made and where I’m headed. It helped to build trust and credibility, and they eventually invested.

• Be patient -- Every single aspect of this business has taken a lot longer than I thought it would. But so far everything has happened exactly as expected, just at a different time.

• Surround yourself with supportive people -- This is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. I needed all the courage I could muster, and support from friends and family. I dropped friends who couldn’t support me, and found new ones who understood. It made a difference.

• Keep your business plan current -- This seems obvious but it’s harder than you think. Almost every month STILL I take time to update my business plan. You never know when you’ll need to email it to someone, or enter it into a business plan competition, or use parts of it for a grant or loan application.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 4:29 PM | | Comments (3)
        

October 8, 2009

Five Questions with Gabriel Weisz

gabriel weisz 

Guest blogger week here at BaltTech may be winding down, but Mike Subelsky still has a few Q&As to share with us. Here's his latest.

Continuing on with my series of interviews with local entrepreneurs, here's Gabriel Weisz (pictured at right), co-founder of Salar, Inc, a medical software company, whom I met through the Greater Baltimore Technology Council.

Q: Tell us a bit about your product.

A: Salar's flagship product - TeamNotes - is the best clinical documentation system on the market. We work with our users to get their document templates into our system so they can start using it quickly without drastically changing their workflow. At the same time, we incorporate data such as labs, medications, and test results into patient notes so they do not need to be manually copied between systems, and we encourage collaboration on documentation to improve quality and accuracy while streamlining the entire process.

Q: How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

A: I was fortunate enough to graduate from college in 1999, just before the peak of the Internet boom. As an undergrad, I worked part time at a startup, where I saw it go from essentially nothing to being bought by Microsoft for an incredible amount of money in one year. This made me think that startups were a good way to go. I joined another one immediately after graduation, but after a few months realized that if I was going to be working that hard, I may as well be working for myself. I found a few college buddies who had the same idea, and that is what led us to Salar.

Q: What's been your biggest mistake so far, or which mistake have you learned the most from?

A: We've learned that we have to be careful to ensure that all of the right people are on board with our solution in order to go through with a deal -- in any large institution, there are a lot of people who have veto power. There was an instance in which we spent months working on a co-marketing agreement with one of our large customers, where they would be an early adopter of our system and provide case studies and press releases to help us sell to other institutions, only to have it fall through in the very end because one person thought what we had was not the right thing for them. Had we realized that this person absolutely would not let us go through with the deal up front, we could have saved an enormous amount of effort.

Q: What's been your biggest or most unexpected success so far?

A: Last year we isolated a core piece of our technology - our forms engine - and packaged it up so that it could be easily used by other companies in their products, even on a Web page. There are other similar tools on the market, but we provide some really nice features that we have not seen elsewhere. While it has taken a little while to really drum up interest, we now have a few customers for this product, all of whom are quite a bit larger than our own company. The best part of it for us is that we receive license fees whenever they sell anything incorporating our technology to their own customers, and we don't have to do anything extra to earn it.

Q: If Maryland could do one thing to help your business succeed, what would it be?

A: Both the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore have been very good to us since we moved the business here from upstate New York in 2001. We spent a few years in the ETC in Canton, where we received cheap office space and tons of good advice. We've also received very cheap financing from DBED and TEDCO, which has helped us quite a bit in getting where we are today. If anything, I'd say that more tax breaks for small businesses are always welcome.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

October 6, 2009

Some of Maryland's open source heroes

Guest blogger Mike Subelsky shares with us his non-scientific findings on who's doing a lot of novel work with open source. Feel free to nominate your own "open source heroes" in the comments section of this blog entry.

I did a quick survey over Twitter of people in Maryland who are involved in open source software and was amazed at who came out of the woodwork. Here is a quick and certainly non-inclusive list of open source contributors in our state, in no particular order:

Jim Jagielski: Contributor to Apache, the most popular web server on the planet, and many other projects; also chairman and cofounder of the Apache Software Foundation

John Trupiano: author of TimeCop, a really cool Ruby gem that helps developers test code that makes time comparisons and computations

Shea Frederick: Core developer of the ExtJS framework for building rich Internet apps

Dave Troy: A fellow guest contributor to this blog, creator of Astmanproxy (VoIP), votereport, and other projects

Scott Paley: Has contributed marketing and documentation and donated staff hours to work on core components of the Plone CMS

Robert Treat: Contributor to the PostgreSQL database

Alan Viars: His OMHE (Open Mobile Health Exchange) project is getting picked up by microsyntax.org

Jason Dixon: Core team member of the OpenBSD operating system

Avdi Grimm: Author of the Ruby NullDB testing gem (Avdi's a Maryland native who lives in York, PA but frequents our tech scene all the time)

Mark Harrison: Creator of helpmeict helpdesk system

Theo Schlossnagle: Contributor to/creator of various Perl modules, Wackamole, Mungo, and other projects

Could this be a more instructive metric of Maryland technical vitality than statistical measures such as number postgraduate degree holders?


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:33 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

Startup Tuesday, featuring..... Lookingglass Cyber Solutions

* Company: Lookingglass Cyber Solutions

* Founders: Derek Gabbard (left), President and Chief Technology Officer Jason Lewis, VP of Development

lookingglass.jpg

* Number of employees:

* Headquarters: Lookingglass Cyber Solutions 2400 Boston Street, Suite 302 Baltimore, Md 21224

* Field/Industry: IT and Cyber Security Industry

* Product(s) and what it does: ScoutVision™ is the industry’s first Global Cyber Situational Awareness Platform, offering a real-time virtual, physical and contextual view of the global Internet extending into the enterprise. This software solution supports a wide range of government and commercial applications, including critical infrastructure protection, cyber intelligence, and network security. ScoutVision™ fuses global Internet data including IP routing, Geo-location, transit media (wireless, satellite, fiber), and physical infrastructure (Telco, network access points) to deliver a dynamic view of the worlds' communication enterprise and Internet activity. Malicious activity, network flow, natural disaster, and terrorist activity data is integrated via compelling visualization enabling cyber experts to analyze impacts to mission operations. ScoutVision™ helps emergency responders predict and monitor impacts to the Internet and critical communications infrastructure during physical terror attacks, natural disasters, and other destructive catastrophes.

* Website/Twitter/Blog links: www.LGScout.com; www.twitter.com/ScoutVision; 1 minute youbtube video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KneNqkZwmFE

* The genesis of the idea for the company: The need to monitor large networks that are not under one organizations control or influence. This is very complex since it requires the ability to work with vast quantities and varieties of network data whose scope and volume is always changing. The original application was directed towards optimizing intelligence community collection assets.

* Most important local/regional resource tapped to start the company: Emerging Technology Center (Canton Facility) TEDCO Grants and Funds Picture attached.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:30 AM | | Comments (0)
        

TEDxMidAtlantic adds U.S. chief technology officer to speakers lineup

Among the many hats worn by guest blogger Dave Troy, he is the lead of over 100 volunteer organizers of the upcoming TEDxMidAtlantic conference. Check out what they've got going on.


TEDxMidAtlantic, the locally-organized offshoot of the TED conference, is starting to attract serious attention as its lineup of speakers continues to grow. Now just one month out (November 5 at Maryland Institute College of Art), the event will undoubtedly generate some serious buzz for Baltimore and the region.

Speakers include economist and New York Times columnist Tyler Cowen, National Public Radio host and journalist Scott Simon, Actress from The Wire and founder of Rewired for Change Sonja Sohn, American Visionary Art Museum Founder Rebecca Hoffberger, and most recently added, United States Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. You can see the rest of the speaker lineup by visiting the TEDxMidAtlantic Web site.

The event is focused on the increasing convergence of technology, entertainment, and design, and features speakers from multiple disciplines who are challenged to give "the talk of their life" in a compact 18-minute format ideal for distribution via the Internet. Select videos from TEDxMidAtlantic will be made available through the hugely popular TED.com website, where viewership for individual videos can reach into the millions. The driving force behind TED is "Ideas Worth Spreading," and the conviction that sharing ideas can actually change the world.

The theme of TEDxMidAtlantic is "The Power of Stories," and will try to uncover the stories hidden beneath all kinds of endeavors.

Perhaps most notably, the event is being organized by a team of over 100 ad-hoc volunteers who are all contributing their time to five organizing committees. This is possible through the use of online tools like Groupsite (whose CEO Clarence Wooton was interviewed here last week), Google Groups, Google Docs, Wordpress (website), and Wufoo (forms). Without these tools, organizing an event like this would be impossible without a top-down, command-and-control style of organization, and that's not realistic when you're working exclusively with volunteers.

Instead, we're looking to capture the energy of many people when they are able to contribute it, and that gives us a lot of redundancy – when one volunteer gets busy with other responsibilities, a given task may shift over to another. And with everything available online, this is a fairly seamless transition.

If you would like to attend TEDxMidAtlantic, please be sure to visit the Web site and apply now. The event is free but space is limited, so we ask that you fill out a short application form. We hope to see you on November 5th!


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
        

October 5, 2009

Innovate Baltimore kicks off

What are you up to Wednesday night? Guest blogger Mike Subelsky wants you to check out Innovate Baltimore.

There's a promising new event debuting on Wednesday October 7th at the Gin Mill in Canton: Innovate Baltimore, described by its organizers as "an evening of fun mingling with other Baltimore area business leaders, entrepreneurs, creative and digital technology enthusiasts". It runs from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Attendance is free but the organizers say you need to RSVP ahead of time.

Even if you're a habitué of Outlet Baltimore, Refresh, or TechNite, here's why you should check it out: it's organized by two people with a background in the games industry: Benjamin Walsh, a producer at Bethesda Softworks, and Tina Tyndal, a game marketing and brand consultant who writes the blog Girls Who Game. We haven't seen much gamer involvement in Baltimore's tech scene, so I'm betting Innovate will attract some new folks.

I'm totally on board with their mission: "...providing individuals with networking and educational opportunities which will allow them to generate new ideas, foster entrepreneurship and strengthen the professional community in the region. Our meetings spotlight local businesses, talent, emergent technology and trends, all while sharing a drink (or two) with friends."


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 4:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Events (Baltimore area), Geeks, Startups
        

October 2, 2009

Five Questions with Christopher Ashworth

Here's the second of guest blogger Mike Subelsky's posts interviewing local technologists. 

christopher ashworth qlab

I interviewed a few of Maryland's most interesting technologists to find out more about their successes, failures, and lessons learned; the interviews are lightly edited and condensed by me for the blogging format. The second interview is with Christopher Ashworth (at right), creator of QLab show control software. Chris' mention of "lots of small risks" brings to mind a Tim Ferris post about Bill Gates and Dave Troy's Idea Garden.

Q: Tell us a bit about your product.

A: QLab is a tool for designing the sound and video elements of live performances. When you go to CENTERSTAGE and you hear the sound of thunder rolling down from the back of the room and around the stage, followed by a soft melody and a telephone ringing? That's QLab. There is a computer somewhere in the room that is controlling how each sound is sent to each speaker, and how each video clip fades in and out and moves across the screen. It gives a designer very precise control over how a show sounds and looks every night.

Q: How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

A: You know, I think I got started as an entrepreneur the moment people started sending me money for my software. Usually it's supposed to happen the other way around. You're supposed to have a vision for a product, build it, and then sell it, and you think of yourself as an entrepreneur right from the beginning: you're making something to sell! But I made QLab because I was unhappy in graduate school and I wanted to work on something I loved. I only figured out later that the world wanted to pay me for it.

Q: What's been your biggest mistake so far, or which mistake have you learned the most from?

A: I'm trying hard to think of what my biggest mistake might be. I've certainly made plenty of mistakes, but it's hard to pick the biggest one. After thinking about it for fifteen minutes, I'm realizing that I don't have any single biggest mistake because I split them all up into small mistakes. In other words, I'll take a lot of risks, but none of them are very big. I'm always looking for the next baby step forward, instead of the next leap. I can still get where I want to go, and any one misstep doesn't kill me.

Q: What's been your biggest or most unexpected success so far?

A: In a way, the most unexpected success so far is that I have a company at all! The entire history of my product has been a story of me underestimating how much people want to use it. This turned out to be extremely beneficial. I started out by giving a basic version away, because I didn't know if anyone would want it at all, much less pay for it.

The product was good enough that this triggered a viral spread. As I began to realize it was taking off, I added a few "pro" features, and priced them very low. Again the thinking was, "well, okay, I'll sell a few of these, but it's not going to be a real job". Meanwhile the product became more and more popular, and along with requests for new professional-level features I started getting regular requests for new professional-level pricing. In other words, I was getting complaints that my price was too low.

At first I couldn't believe I was hearing this, but then I understood that my market was telling me they understood the value I was creating for them, and they understood themselves as a market, and they wanted to make sure I had a healthy company so we could keep improving this tool they needed. It was an unexpected and wonderful feeling to realize the company had entered a real, long-term relationship with an industry of professionals. It's cool when both sides recognize symbiosis at work.

Q: What is good about Maryland's climate for starting companies like yours? What's been helpful and what's been a hindrance?

A: The tech culture here was absolutely critical, but not in the ways I think are typically associated with fostering new companies. For example, I don't need, nor am I interested in, venture capital. What I needed was a place to learn how a small tech company runs, and how smart developers work together to ship products. As I began to build my own company, I was working my day job in just such a place. I got to sit in the room with the CEOs and watch them do their thing. I, a lowly programmer, got a crash course in business and management.

That's what's so cool about the Baltimore area. We have a lot of savvy, successful little tech companies like my former employer. We've got a lot of brains around here, and a lot of access to those brains. It means that people are learning by watching others, and that's the kind of catalyst I think will lead to new companies. It's about having enough education, not about having enough money.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:37 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Startups
        

October 1, 2009

Five questions with Clarence Wooten

Guest poster Mike Subelsky is back with the first of a few interviews with local technologists

I interviewed a few of Maryland's most interesting technologists to find out more about their successes, failures, and lessons learned; the interviews are lightly edited and condensed by me for the blogging format. My first interview is with Clarence Wooten, a great role model in the Maryland tech scene. He is a serial entrepreneur whose latest venture is Groupsite.com. I think his story illustrates a kind of success that is within the grasp of more people in our area than realize it.

Q: Tell us a bit about Groupsite.

A: Groupsite.com brings the power of social networking and collaboration together to enable any group of people to communicate, share and network. Anyone can visit Groupsite.com and create a Groupsite in minutes. Currently, over 30,000 Groupsites have been created by consumers and professionals within companies, non-profits and education. Groupsites are multi-purpose and are used in a variety of ways including as alumni communities, company intranets, team workgroups, homeowners groups, social networks, member communities and more.

Q: How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

A: I've been an entrepreneur as long as I can remember. I think I was the only kid in my high school with a business card. I also come from a family of small business owners so I had role models who didn't work a typical 9 to 5. So the notion of starting a business for me came naturally. I've since realized that most people grow up in families where becoming a professional and getting a job has been the example set by their parents. I started my first real company, Envision Designs, as a freshman in college. By my senior year in college I had formed my 2nd company, Metamorphosis Studios (acquired by Metasolv in 1998). Immediately following, I co-founded and was CEO of ImageCafe.com (acquired in 1999 by Network Solutions).


Q: What's been your biggest mistake so far, or which mistake have you learned the most from?

A: My biggest mistake has also been my biggest blessing. In 1999, prior to selling ImageCafe.com, I was on the verge of raising $3 million in venture capital when the financing fell through -- my ego was partly to blame. Soon thereafter, Network Solutions expressed interest in acquiring the company. Had I taken the venture capital, I more than likely wouldn't have sold the company at that time. As it turned out, within 6 months the entire dot com industry collapsed. I learned a lot during that time regarding how best to communicate with investors, structure financings and raise capital.

Q: What's been your biggest or most unexpected success so far?

A: ImageCafe.com was clearly my biggest success so far. However, I'm expecting bigger success with Groupsite.com.

Q: How have your plans for Groupsite changed over the time you've been working on it? Have there been any pivots in your thinking?

A: My plans have evolved based on three primary factors:

1) Customer Feedback - We created a users community using a Groupsite that we setup so that our customers could speak directly to our team and provide product feedback and make suggestions on new features and to report bugs. This community is powered by a Groupsite (yes, we drink our own Kool-Aid) and is available to any of our customers to join. Their feedback has had a major impact on how our product has evolved since we launched the company 3 years ago.

2) Available Capital - Since we haven't raised significant capital (venture capital) we've been forced to really focus on what features we develop and how we market our product. Consequently, we've relied heavily on viral word-of-mouth marketing and have remained focused on core features that enable any group, regardless of type or size, to communicate, share and network. We've discovered that those three things are required for groups to make things happen collectively. The features that we chose not to add are as important as the features that we have added.

3) The Marketplace - Groupsite.com operates in a very competitive marketplace with lots of well funded competitors. However, despite the fact that we've bootstrapped the company, we are still a top platform in the $2 billion social networking and $2 billion online collaboration industries. In fact, a case can be made that we're the leading self-serve "social collaboration" platform (not to be confused with social networking). To maintain our position and further it, we recognize that we will need to continue to invest heavily in our platform. I learned from a wise old entrepreneur this year that "You must move as fast, or faster than the marketplace, or your future will be determined for you." To continue our market position and capitalize fully on our timing, we are now preparing to raise a significant financing between now and the end of this year.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Liz Hacken at 2:18 PM | | Comments (0)
        
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
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