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November 25, 2009

Look who's growing: Social Solutions

Social Solutions started up in 2000 with three co-founders and has steadily grown to about 90 employees. The company outgrew its space at the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore's Canton neighborhood.

And perhaps most importantly for many of you, it is hiring. A lot.

My story today talks about Social Solutions -- their work, their growth, their hiring plans. It's a positive story about a startup that's been succeeding in a very tough economy by providing nonprofits with software that helps them run better.

Check out the story here.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:19 AM | | Comments (0)

November 23, 2009

Top 10 consumer mobile applications by 2012

Gartner Inc, the tech research company, recently put out its list of top 10 consumer mobile applications by 2012. The list is below; if you want to see Gartner's pros and cons for the future of each type of app, check out the full list here.

I get excited by the idea of using SMS to facilitate money transfers, which is Gartner's No. 1 on their list. I just don't see it being made available in the United State by 2012, unfortunately.

No. 1: Money Transfer

No. 2: Location-Based Services

No. 3: Mobile Search

No. 4: Mobile Browsing

No. 5: Mobile Health Monitoring

No. 6: Mobile Payment

No. 7: Near Field Communication Services

No. 8: Mobile Advertising

No. 9: Mobile Instant Messaging

No. 10: Mobile Music

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:37 AM | | Comments (0)

November 20, 2009

Three local companies employees may look to for jobs

There is a growing list of alumni from who have gone on to start or take leadership roles in busy and growing startups.

As AOL plans its spinoff from Time Warner next month, company officials are planning on axing 2,500 employees from the workforce (a cut of about one-third). AOL is offering voluntary severance packages to its employees, which include the 400 at here in Baltimore.

We don't know yet if there's a target number for reductions in the Baltimore office. But I was told by a source this morning that as many as a dozen employees were already laid off last week.

So, are there any local companies that may instinctively turn to for jobs, especially in this tough economy? I've found three companies that have alumni and that may offer current workers a safe haven if they have to leave:

1) Millennial Media -- Based in Canton's Can Factory complex, this 60-person company is growing fast and is at the top of its game, with several former execs in its ranks. It's an ad network that serves up content to mobile phones, and it's one of the biggest in the country, if not the world right now. Its main competitor, AdMob, was just snapped up by Google for $750 million last week. And Millennial is about to go on a hiring spree after raising $16 million in its latest venture capital financing round.

2) -- Located in Elkridge, this startup was founded in 2006 by Andy Monfried, a former senior executive of The company mines social media networks and other online sites for demographic data and behavioral targeting campaigns, and has venture capital backing.

3) TidalTV -- This start-up online video advertising network, based here in Baltimore, was founded by Scott Ferber, who was one of the co-founders of TidalTV, with a nine-person executive leadership team, also has an office in New York. It's in the middle of organizing a round of financing, but there's little doubt in observers' minds that Ferber would be interested in bringing about some former people.

Any other local companies out there in the Baltimore area that might offer a home for recent refugees?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:09 AM | | Comments (0)

Tough choices coming for employees at

Employees at Baltimore's must be feeling a profound sense of personal and professional agony right about now as they face some tough decisions for their careers. Their parent company, AOL, is set to spin off next month from Time Warner, and AOL's CEO Tim Armstrong will cut one-third, or 2,500, of the one-time Internet giant's workforce.

AOL, which is trying to reposition itself as a content and advertising network, hopes to achieve most or all of those cuts through voluntary layoffs. But 2,500 volunteers? That's a lot of people who must consider voluntarily leaving a company in this economy.

The Wall Street Journal's Boomtown and MediaMemo blogs have some details of the layoff package that will be offered to AOL employees, which could include volunteers from

Basically, if an employee chooses to leave, he or she could get anywhere from 3 months to 9 months of severance, "compared to one to four months for employees laid off in the first quarter of next year," according to the WSJ.

So, you can leave and take your chances in this economy, with some severance under your belt. Or stay and risk a layoff with about half the severance you would've gotten if you voluntarily left.


An AOL spokesman told me that employees were eligible for buyouts, but wouldn't say if there was a specific number of workers that needed to be cut here in Baltimore.

If any insider wishes to share information about what's happening at, feel free to email me at

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:29 AM | | Comments (0)

November 19, 2009 to be included in AOL job cuts


AOL will be trying to reduce its workforce next month by one-third through a voluntary layoff program that will be open to all employees, including 400 people in its office in Baltimore, according to a company spokeswoman.

The voluntary layoff program will begin Dec. 4 and last through Dec. 11. AOL's owner, Time Warner Inc., is expected to spin off AOL into an independent entity on Dec. 9.

The company is looking for 2,500 volunteers to leave, and if they don't reach that number, they will need to do an involuntary layoff, according to Tricia Primrose, the AOL spokeswoman.

[I am seeking tips and insight from anyone who knows what may happen to workers at AOL's division here in Baltimore. Email me at]

News: The New York Times (via Reuters) is reporting this morning that AOL plans to cut one-third of its workforce, or about 2,500 jobs
AOL's owner, Time Warner, plans to spinoff the company on Dec. 9, and expects to take restructuring charges of up to $200 million. is the company's advertising network and considered to be one of the "crown jewels" of AOL. It remains to be seen if any of's 400 employees in Baltimore will face the cuts.

I pondered these potential cuts in a blog post in June, when an AOL spokeswoman called "a jewel in our advertising portfolio."

According to the Reuters report, AOL has asked for volunteers and if enough people don't step up, they'll resort to involuntary terminations.

Anybody know what's gonna happen in Baltimore????

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Jobs & Recruiting

Why are utility apps so juicy for advertisers?


One of the more interesting nuggets to come out of Millennial Media's latest monthly report (called S.M.A.R.T.) on smartphone ad-market analystics was this above chart showing average click-through rates in five (not four) app categories: games, social, entertainment, utility and navigation.

The chart above compares the smartphone platforms of Apple, Google's Android and Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry.

A click-through rate of 2 percent for ad campaigns is considered "very successful." So which category blows the others out of the water? That's right: utility. All three smartphone platforms showed a high click-through rate for advertisments that ran in utility apps.

I'm a newbie to these ad analytics for mobile, but I'm very curious to peel back a few more layers of this onion, to see why smartphone users are more inclined to click on in-app ads in the utility apps, compared to the other categories.

So how about that Millennial and MobClix? What are your theories on what's going on with these utility apps and why are smartphone users more inclined to click on in-app advertising with them?

(Note: Millennial's monthly S.M.A.R.T. report was put together with statistics from MobClix. The above data are year-to-date figures.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Media, Research, Smartphones, Wireless

November 18, 2009

Hey Maryland TechCrawl: here's some love from the Baltimore Sun

Maryland TechCrawl from ETC Baltimore on Vimeo.

Surprise: Another tech event!

The Emerging Technology Center (Baltimore's tech incubator) is partnering with two of its companies, SmartLogic Solutions and, to host the first annual Maryland TechCrawl on Dec. 16.

They're calling it a technology show-and-tell event where 20 companies will give 60-second pitches to anyone who steps up to "the plate" in front of their booths to listen to the pitch. (Now do you understand the opening segment where the little Flip camera "walks" up to the plate?)

In the video above, a certain someone from (ahem, Nate Mook) holds up a sign that says: "Why no love from Sun or BBJ" [Baltimore Business Journal], while MP3Car's Heather Sarkissian speaks.

Now, I can't speak for the BBJ, but consider this blog post to be some lovin', Mr. Mook. ;-)

I plan on attending.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:44 PM | | Comments (0)

The CEO with the public cellphone number

MICROSCeo%20002.jpg A.L. "Tom" Giannopoulos (left) is the CEO of MICROS Systems Inc., based in Columbia. The company has worldwide operations, with 4,700+ employees, and is a leader in the point-of-sale terminal hardware and software business.

There's a good chance that if you've stayed in a hotel or eaten at a restaurant, your reservation or food order was completed with the help of a MICROS system working in the background.

It's a company that's had steady growth in revenues and profits since the early 1990s, and now sits on $525 million in cash reserves.

So, in short: Giannopoulos and his people are working hard. Which is why I was recently surprised to see Giannopoulos's work phone number, cell phone number and email address at the bottom of the homepage of MICROS's Website.

"Is this for real?" I thought. The thought of dealing with the public riff-raff usually causes many CEOs to writhe like vampires in the sunlight. Here's one who sorta welcomes it.

So I called the cell one afternoon last week. I left a voicemail where I introduced myself and said I'd be interested in meeting with him to talk about his company.

The next morning, I had a message from an assistant who was ready to set up a time to meet.

That time turned out to be today. In a conference room with him earlier this morning, I asked him (among other questions) why he puts his contact information out there so publicly and if it's really his cell phone.

He insisted it was, and that he'll sometimes take calls from MICROS customers at 3 a.m. (Now I know when to call him.)

But it got me thinking: How many CEOs of large companies put themselves out there so publicly? Sure, we're seeing CEO and corporate leaders dipping their toes in the Twitter and Facebook waters, but how many are authentic about it?

Just a few weeks ago, Giannopoulos said he got a call at 1:30 a.m. from a hotel employee, who told him she called the first number she could find on the Website for support. He helped her by connecting her to right support hotline.

For Giannopoulos, putting his contact information out there is a deliberate tactic he employs to get close to any problems his customers may be having. It's an end-run around the command-and-control hierachy that MICROS, like any corporation, builds for information to flow from the bottom up to its leadership team.

"My staff don't want me to have the phone number, but what better tool to find out about problems," Giannopoulos told me. "It's a very nice vehicle to find out what you're organization is doing."

Most of the calls, though, are on the positive side, he said, and the public phone number also generates sales leads, believe it or not. An interested business owner called his cell two weeks ago, and a conversation with Giannopoulos led to a new deal for MICROS.

All because of a cellphone number and a Webpage.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:53 PM | | Comments (6)

Towson U., National Federation of the Blind re-invent CAPTCHA


Researchers at Towson University and the National Federation of the Blind, based here in Baltimore, have come up with a new and more accessible twist on the CAPTCHA services -- you know, those squiggly, hard-to-read letters us humans are forced to enter in a Web application to verify that we're human and not malicious bots.

CAPTCHA technology has been around for more than 10 years and its history has been a sort of arms race between security geeks and hackers. New types of CAPTCHAs are devised, but hackers can write programs that can "read" the letters and numbers. Meanwhile, people with disabilities can struggle with trying to get past the CAPTCHA security, because they have trouble seeing or hearing the CAPTCHA codes.

Computer viruses have an easier time than people with disabilities in getting past some CAPTCHA systems, according to Towson professor Jonathan Lazar, who worked on the new system with the NFB.

"Unfortunately what happens is it becomes very often not a test of if you're human, but a test of whether you can see," Lazar said. "Basically, computer viruses are twice as successful as blind people on the old captchas. It's a problem, and that's why we've been working on building this."

Here's how the Towson system works: The user is shown both a picture and a sound of an easy to identify object. In the case above, we see birds, drums, lion.

Corresponding sounds for each object are then played for the user, who types in what she hears. Lazar said their algorithms can accept variations of the user input, such as plurals, i.e. bird/birds, drum/drums, lion/lions. This type of security approach works because humans are still far better than computers at recognizing sounds and putting names to them, according to Lazar.

The Towson researchers recently filed a patent application for their system, which they call HIPUU (Human Interacting Proof Universally Usable.)

Who knows -- maybe sometime soon this will become the new standard.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:18 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: *NEWS*, University Tech, Web Dev & Apps

November 17, 2009

Good read: hackers simultaneously hit 2,100 ATMs worldwide

This is interesting semi-old news: The FBI details an investigation into a plot, started by hackers in Russia and Estonia, to break into ATM networks, create fake cards, and steal $9 million via simultaneous transactions around the world.

The plot was carried out a year ago. It's a good read:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:28 AM | | Comments (0)

November 16, 2009

Two guys, some cargo ships and one audacious idea

luiselizondoJohnRobertSMALL.JPG Luis Elizondo (right) and John Robert (left) haven't worked in the cargo shipping industry before, but they've studied it feverishly for the past four years. And they think they've come up with a game-changing idea.

Their thinking: Why not look at cargo ships the way we look at rail cars and tractor trailers? Rail cars get decoupled from their engines and trailers get decoupled from the tractors that pull them. Why can't ships' hulls -- in a similar fashion -- be decoupled from the superstructures (wheelhouses) that house the crew?

Their vision is a port that cuts down dramatically on wait times for ships to unload their cargo, and is turning around crew quickly and putting ships out to sail in a matter of hours, not days.

Watch a video animation of their idea here.

This year, Elizondo got a patent for the idea, and he and Robert formed a company called Never Ship Empty. They're about to start pitching it to leaders in the industry. And they're embarking on a feasibility study with the University of Houston to test out how efficient the new process could be for a port.

They'll have to persuade a lot of skeptics. But if the numbers and efficiencies hold up, we may be looking at a possible new way that the cargo shipping industry can go about its business -- thanks to these two guys from Maryland and their audacious idea.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas

Millennial Media scores new round of funding

millennial-media.gifToday, Baltimore's Millennial Media, which started up in 2006, announced it raised $16 million in new financing from some venture capital firms, including New Enterprise Associates. (Check out my story here.)

Last week's news that Google was buying mobile advertiser AdMob for $750 million probably didn't cause venture capitalists to throw money at Millennial (such deals usually take more than a week to put together), but it also probably didn't hurt the growing little firm.

The conventional wisdom now is that Google's purchase of AdMob "validates" the nascent mobile advertising industry. When a big company like Google drops a ton of dough on a small company in a still-emerging market, you know that will attract many more serious investors and players to the industry.

According to eMarketer stats via the Interactive Advertising Bureau, here's what the mobile ad market looks like:  



I'm gonna bet that the Google-AdMob acquisition, though the first big one in the mobile ad space, won't be the last. My guess is we may be a few months, perhaps even weeks, away from similar acquisitions of smaller mobile ad firms by big Google-esque-like competitors. What do you think?

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November 12, 2009

FYI: "Startup Lab" in Rockville....TONIGHT

Here's part of a press release -- heads up: there's a $35 entrance fee to attend if you're not a MITEF member:

The MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) will hold a “Startup Lab” for emerging businesses and entrepreneurs. Presented by Rockville Economic Development (REDI) and the MIT Enterprise Forum, from 6:30- 9:00 pm at the Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology (CARB), 9600 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville.

This event offers an unusual opportunity to observe one company’s presentation and the resulting critical feedback from a panel of management, marketing, scientific, and investment executives.

Unyos, LLC is the featured company at the Startup Lab. Unyos, LLC provides a highly-secure suite of business-to-business communication and social networking tools for driving new revenue streams and improving internal operations. John Guthrie, Unyos’ COO/CFO, and Larry Jones, Vice President of Business Development, will make the presentation. Three panelists will help assess the company and provide feedback: Rick Geritz, President of Business Social, a recently-launched media company; David Littman, a twenty-year veteran of technology investment and Director of Strategic Planning at DB Capital, a boutique Rockville-based investment firm; and Andrew Rudin, President of Outside Technologies, a consulting firm that advises technology companies on sales strategies and tactics.

The MITEF Startup Lab begins with a networking session from 6:30-7:00 pm. The event will be opened by Steve Silverman on behalf of County Executive Isaiah Leggett and is open to the public. Admission is free for MITEF members and $35 for all non-members.

For more information or to register, visit or call REDI at 301/315-8096.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:49 PM | | Comments (0)

R&D dips for Ciena, slightly up for other Md tech companies


Many companies may continue to plow money into their R&D efforts, despite a weak economy, because they believe innovation and new products will help get them out of the slump.

Figuring I'd get a snapshot of how some local tech companies have reacted to the recession with regards to R&D spending, I pulled the 3rd quarter SEC filings of four public companies: Ciena Corp., of Linthicum; MICROS Systems Inc. and Sourcefire Inc., both of Columbia; and TeleCommunication Systems Inc., of Annapolis.

It's interesting to note that three of the four companies saw a relatively modest increase in R&D spending, while only Ciena saw a dip. Ciena swung from a profit to a loss in the quarter, a fact the company attributed to weak markets for their telecom gear since big companies were tightening their spending in the recession.

Some background on the companies (Note: I purposely did not target biotech companies -- their R&D efforts are worthy of another blog post):

* Ciena, which makes equipment and systems that increase the capacity of networks, had revenues of $164.8 million in the 3Q this year, compared with $253.2 million in last year's 3Q. The company lost $26.5 million in this year's 3rd quarter, compared to a profit of $11.7 million in the same quarter last year.

* MICROS makes point-of-sale purchasing software for the restaurant and hospitality industries. Their 3Q 2009 revenue was $212.5 million vs. $244 million in 3Q 2008. Their profit was virtually flat for the quarter: $25 million this year compared to $25.3 million a year ago.

* Sourcefire makes and sells intrusion prevention software and services, helping large networks -- including large government agencies -- maintain their security on the Internet. Their 3Q revenues were $27.4 million, an increase of 35 percent year-over-year, and profit was $2.7 million, compared to a $1.7 million loss in the 3Q of 2008.

* TeleCommunication Systems Inc. makes software and systems for mobile communication networks, and has been busy as the large wireless networks continue to add to their capacity to handle increasing phone, text message and data traffic. Their 3Q 2009 revenue was $71.6 million, compared with $56.5 million in the last quarter. Profit nearly doubled to $5.4 million in 3Q 2009, compared to $2.8 million in last year's 3Q.

Source: Corporate SEC filings, company websites

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Research

Are you Binging more?

It's not all the marketing hype that's gotten to me when it comes to Bing, Microsoft's upgraded search engine (er, excuse me, I mean: decision engine.) It's the quality of the results.

More and more, I'm starting to feel lucky whenever I use the search engine. Yesterday, I noticed that it indexed a blog post I wrote for BaltTech quicker than Google did. If Bing can do that consistently with blog posts, that's a win for it.

It's nice to see Bing integrating with Twitter and offering robust video and image search options. But its meat and potatoes will have to be raw, un-gimmicky search. News that it's going to offer Wolfram Alpha search results (which broke yesterday) is nice, but I doubt that that feature will mean that much to most users.

I can't even estimate how often I use Google in a day to search through news, blog posts, videos, and images. But Google -- which seemingly has ventured into all sorts of new businesses this year -- has a competitor on its home turf, IMO.

Now it's time for a poll:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Web Dev & Apps

November 11, 2009

West-side story: Biotech education and jobs in Baltimore

biotechlabLSI.jpg It's not very often, I think, that you see higher ed officials put pride and bureaucracy to the side to work together on a project that is beneficial to students and the community.

In this case, I'm talking about the Life Sciences Institute, which opened its doors at the University of Maryland's BioPark on the west side of Baltimore.

The LSI is run by the Baltimore City Community College, though its new home is in the University of Maryland Baltimore's research park.

UMB wants to make the BioPark a "one-stop shop" for the biotech industry. Bringing in a program such as BCCC's LSI that could train a workforce of biotech workers was instrumental to UMB's long-term goal of offering it all -- from startup companies to research labs to students in training -- under one large roof.

On a recent tour, I saw earnest students working in labs and sitting in lectures in classrooms on the floor of the LSI.

There are jobs to be had in this field, and companies and research facilities are constantly soaking up trained and competent workers in the region, I was told by the LSI's director, Dr. Kathleen Kennedy Norris.

For more, check out my story today on the program and some of the people in it.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BioTech

November 10, 2009

New business formation in Maryland declines


The formation of new businesses, in the form of corporations and limited liability companies, has been in decline in recent years, according to state figures.

New corporate charters were at a five-year high, back in fiscal 2005, with 16,127 filings, but have declined to 10,882 through fiscal 2009. (The fiscal year starts July 1 and ends June 30.)

New limited liability companies (LLCs) climbed to more than 29,000 in 2006 through 2008, but declined to 25,442 in fiscal 2009, the statistics show. The LLC is the preferred type of business entity in Maryland by filers.

These figures, which come from the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, show the impact that the recession has had on the formation of new businesses in Maryland.

Some may argue that the figures help prove the oft-mentioned point that Maryland has an anti-business climate. But the LLC figures, which reflect the preferred type of entity for business owners, really just took a dive in the last year after cresting the previous three years. 

What do you think?

UPDATE: I'm still unearthing similar new-business data from other neighboring states, which don't appear to offer such information on their websites. So, it's taking some phone calls. For Maryland, I got 2008 and 2009 via a telephone conversation with an SDAT official, and 2005-07 figures from the SDAT annual report, which is available online.

Update 2: Here's a link to some Virginia data that I did find online, for years 2007 and 2008:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:28 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*

Holiday cheer: Google offering free Wi-Fi at BWI

Starting Monday, Nov. 16, Google will be offering free Wi-Fi at BWI Airport and 46 other airports across the country.

The free Wi-Fi program will last until Jan. 15, 2010, and is cast as a holiday promotion. Google is also giving passengers on Virgin America flights free Wi-Fi, as part of a promotion that was announced earlier.

You can get more details on the Google promo at

I'm gonna bet that Google will continue with these Wi-Fi promotions as they push to grow their mobile search business

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:22 AM | | Comments (1)

Seeking Startup Tuesday candidates

Are you a startup business in the tech arena that's been around a couple years? Help me tell your story. I'm looking for startup companies and entrepreneurs to feature in this space on Tuesdays. I'm able to feature companies from Northern Virginia to Philadelphia -- my focus for this feature is on the Mid-Atlantic region!

For past examples, check these out.

Contact me at gus.sentementes(at) Thanks!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Startup Tuesday

November 9, 2009

Bill Me Later exec to share startup story at Baltimore's ETC

This Friday, you may want to stop by the Emerging Technology Center in Canton to catch Mark Lavelle speaking about his company, Bill Me Later.

Bill Me Later last year was bought by eBay for nearly $1 billion. It was a huge win for Baltimore's tech startup community and for this company that got its start about nine years ago.

Lavelle is head of corporate development for Bill Me Later. Personally, I'd like to stop by and listen to their startup story because, frankly, we have not written enough about this company's history and track record. (For a taste, read VentureBeat's Q&A with the CEO last year.)

The event starts at noon and requires registration. For more details, see here.

UPDATE: 4:20 p.m..... I just learned that Mark Lavelle of Bill Me Later can't make the Friday event and event organizers will have to reschedule, probably for December. Stay tuned!

Update #2 -- The event has been rescheduled for Dec. 4th, at NOON.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:48 PM | | Comments (0)

TedxMidAtlantic: spreading the message

tedxmidatlanticPic.jpg The beauty of TedxMidAtlantic wasn't just that it was a compelling, full-day event for the speakers and participants, with talks and presentations that were food for the mind.

The organizers and participants also did a great job of making the event resonate beyond the walls of MICA's theater where it was held. If you couldn't attend Tedx on Thursday, you could at least watch a live video stream of the event.

As each speaker finished, the organizers were able to instantly archive each talk, so that it was available on the Web site. Pretty impressive stuff.

A good, written play-by-play of the event can be found at the Inside Charm City blog, for those who want an indepth feel for how the event flowed through the day.

Over on Twitter, participants were posting their thoughts using the #tedx and #tedxmid hash tags.

The Flickr group for TedxMidAtlantic photos had 570 submissions as of this morning.

Several people blogged about the experience attending TedxMidAtlantic, including:

* Scott Paley

* Russell Heimlich

* Tyler Waldman

* Jim Doran

* Annmary Liu (handwritten notes!)

What other content is out there? Drop some links in the comments below! (Above, Flickr photo of Anna Vidovic by The Plan8 Podcast)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area)

Key software patent battle heads to U.S. Supreme Court today

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Bilski vs. Kappos -- a critical case that could decide the future of how patents are issued in the 21st century as the Internet plays a larger role in technology and innovation.

At the heart of the issue is whether a patent can be issued for software, and business methods and processes that are part of the software. Dozens of big companies have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case.

The Christian Science Monitor does a nice job of fleshing out the details of this story. Stay tuned.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*

November 6, 2009

The new Verizon Droid: perfect for the AT&T haters?

 Verizon’s new high-powered smartphone, the Motorola Droid, is a fun little device and a worthy opponent to Apple Inc.’s hit iPhone.

The Droid, which went on sale today for $199, is the first smartphone to incorporate the latest version of the Google Android operating system. Motorola did a fine job of integrating the operating system with the phone’s hardware, making phone-calling, emailing, Web-surfing and media playing all fairly intuitive -- though ultimately not quite as slick as what the iPhone offers.

For Verizon, the stakes are high as AT&T has posted a growing subscriber base, thanks to the new iPhone 3GS, which also sells for $199.

Verizon is widely considered to have a very good network, while Motorola has had strong-selling phones in the past. But both companies have struggled in recent years to come up with a response to the popular iPhone – that is, until this Droid.

I got a demo unit today and have played with it for several hours. Sure, the Droid is boxy and slightly thicker and heavier than the sleek, svelte iPhone. But it’s a solid device with an easy-on-the-thumbs touchscreen and user interface.

It has a five megapixel camera, with a flash and zoom function and which also shoots video. The iPhone’s camera, by comparison, is 3 megapixels and has auto-focus, but it doesn’t zoom. Yet the Droid’s camera moves too slow in taking a picture after you press the touch-screen button.

Moving through the screens and opening up the applications, the Droid feels almost as fast as the iPhone 3GS, Apple’s latest model. In a side-by-side comparisons of the Droid and the iPhone 3GS, the YouTube app actually opened a few seconds quicker on the Droid than the iPhone, and streamed a high-definition video in crystal clarity.

The Droid connects to’s digital music offering. The iPhone, however, tightly integrates with iTunes and, has the edge in user interface for media playback. Same with Web browsing: Apple’s Safari browser on the iPhone is a little more snappy than the Droid’s browser. But honestly, expect Web browsing on the Droid to get better as Google updates the platform.

Perhaps the killer app that defines the Droid right now is Google Maps and its new navigation offering. This free functionality turns the phone into a virtual GPS unit, giving the user turn-by-turn voice navigation. No longer do you have to take your eyes off the road to look at a small screen -- all you have to do is listen to the guiding voice. motorolaDroid.jpg

An optional bracket allows you to mount the Droid in the horizontal position on your windshield, for easy use while driving.

It remains to be seen if Google will make the same navigation app available for free on the iPhone. If so, such a free app would undercut other, pricey paid apps that offer similar GPS functionality through Apple’s App Store.

Some more features that help it stand apart from the iPhone: The Droid offers a replaceable battery and a slot for removable memory card. So the phone comes with a 16 gigabyte SD memory card, but you can expand it to 32 gigabytes with a new card.

The iPhone 3GS comes in two models – a 16 gigabyte and a 32 gigabyte – and their memory is not removable.

The Droid has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, while the iPhone does not have a physical keyboard. The Droid’s keys however, are a little small and flat – for those of you with chubby, stubby thumbs and fingers, beware. It can get cramped when you’re typing. The iPhone's touch-screen keyboard has a better feel and responsiveness than the Droid's offering.

Perhaps the big difference between the two phones: their respective application offerings. Apple now offers around 100,000 applications through its App Store. Google’s Android Market, by comparison, has around 10,000. But you can expect more and more developers to fill in the Android Market with their app offerings.

For many consumers, 10,000 apps may be more than enough to convince them to buy a Droid.

(photo credit: AP)

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:47 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Smartphones

November 4, 2009

Two Washington-based tech blogs to read

On Monday, I had the chance to meet two very smart tech reporters who are plugged into (bad pun...sorry) the Washington tech-and-policy scene: Kim Hart and Cecilia Kang.

Hart, until a few months ago, was a tech reporter at the Washington Post who wrote a column (which I followed) called The Download. She is now at a congressional daily paper called The Hill, covering technology and writing a tech blog called Hillicon Valley (great name.)

Kang is a Post reporter who is covering tech policy and recently start her blog, PostTech. In a previous job, she wrote about the dot-com boom and bust for The San Jose Mercury News.

Congrats to both reporters for carving out this niche of the tech beat in our nation's capital and launching blogs to keep us all updated. It's absolutely necessary. They are playing to the strengths they have in their backyard, which is access and proximity to the politicians, lobbyists and tech-geeks who are instrumental in shaping technology policies across the country.

Good luck, Kim and Cecilia!

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Media

TEDxMidAtlantic: behind the scenes


You may have heard about the big TED conferences that are organized around the world every year around the slogan: "Ideas Worth Spreading." At these events, hyper-smart people give talks on cutting edge -- or sometimes obscure but interesting -- topics, and the audience members are given lots of time to talk and network amongs themselves. The talks are video recorded and made available for free on TED's Website.

That basic format is coming to Baltimore's Maryland Institute College of Art, and it's called TEDxMidAtlantic. I wrote a story today that talks about how more than 100 enthusiastic volunteers came together to organize the free all-day event. The photo depicts several organizers, including Dave Troy in the middle, whose idea it was to bring the event to Baltimore.

It's gonna be a packed house. Stop and say hi if you see me!

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

November 3, 2009

Black & Decker is a top patent-getter in Maryland

The news that Connecticut-based Stanley Works is buying (er... merging with) Black & Decker, based in Towson, dropped like a big bomb yesterday afternoon. We covered it and so did just about everybody else with half an interest in business news.

One angle that we've pursued is the potential local impact that the move of the corporate headquarters from Baltimore County to Connecticut may mean. Black & Decker has been a prolific innovator in the realm of power tools and hardware, and such innovation typically means smart people and well-paying jobs for a region.

The companies said Monday that Black & Decker's Power Tools division will remain based in Towson. But it remains to be seen whether its Maryland location will continue to innovate at the same level after next year's merger.

I pulled some patent data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and discovered that Black & Decker ranks third in the state in terms of patents granted from 2004 to 2008. See the full state figures below.

Maryland Patent Grants, 2004 to 2008

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:31 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Research

November 2, 2009

I no longer delete my email

I have a confession to make: I have a Gmail account and a Yahoo email account and, about a month ago, I just gave up. I gave up trying to obsessively keep my inboxes clear and free of unnecessary clutter.

I whacked away at emails: the spam and the bacon (i.e. newsletters I subscribe to but never read) and the back and forth strings of conversations that took up a few kilobytes here and there.

But no more. It was like trying to cut down bamboo, frankly. Considering that Yahoo appears to offer unlimited email storage, and Google's storage -- at least for me -- is over 7 gigabytes, I've all but given up deleting emails.

In fact, the only place I must obsessively delete email now is at work, where we have a few megabytes of storage for our accounts. If we have too much, our accounts freeze up and we have to delete old emails before we can new ones. Grrrrrr....

Anybody else out there just stopped deleting emails? I found that I was spending many minutes every day sifting through and deleting. No more.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:00 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Big Ideas

The Mid-Atlantic Biotech Conference this week

A big annual conference for the biosciences industry and its investors will be at the Washington DC Convention Center from Wednesday to Friday. Hundreds of companies, experts, investors, and policy wonks will be in attendance.

Anybody from the Baltimore-area biotech scene going? Drop a note in the comments below if you are.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events (DC/No. Va. area)
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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:

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