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February 1, 2012

Facebook files for IPO, seeks to raise $5 billion

At 4:47 p.m. today, Facebook Inc. filed its S-1 registration statement as it seeks to go public and raise $5 billion.

Some key facts: from the filing:

* The Web 2.0 company has 845 million monthly active users. It had revenues last year of $3.7 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in 2010.

* It had a profit last year of $1 billion last year, compared to $606 million in 2010.

* Facebook has $3.9 billion in cash in the bank.

* Founder Mark Zuckerberg controls 36 percent of Class A shares. Baltimore's T. Rowe Price Group, a mutual funds investor, holds 5.2 percent of shares.

* Here's a monster number: 483 million daily active users (DAUs) on average in December 2011, an increase of 48% as compared to 327 million DAUs in December 2010.

* Zyngaville! Facebook says its relationship with Zynga accounted for 12 percent of its revenues. A healthy amount, but not surprising.

* The filing says Facebook plans to list its stock either on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange (You mean they haven't decided yet?)

* VERY interesting: Because Zuckerberg controls so many shares, the company is "not required to have a majority of our board of directors be independent, nor are we required to have a compensation committee or an independent nominating function."

* Total cost and expenses for running Facebook quadrupled to nearly $2 billion in 2011, from $515 million in 2009.

* Here's a chart of Facebook's history, from the filing:


facebook-history-chart.PNG


This is an archived version of the technology blog.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 4:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast
        

January 31, 2012

Look at how easy it is to organize a tech event in Baltimore

There's been a flowering in Baltimore in the area of event planning and organizing, among the tech/entrepreneurial crowd. Social media has really connected people like never before. One of the more dynamic groups at the moment is the Baltimore Tech Facebook group, which is an organic mass of 600+ members. (Are you a member yet? And while you're at it, follow BaltTech on Facebook too, for news updates from me.)

One of the points I make in today's article is that some of the traditional groups normally behind Baltimore tech events -- TEDCO, Emerging Technology Center, and the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for instance -- find themselves attending as many, or more, independent community events as they now organize for the community. Such as yesterday's Practice Your Pitch event, organized on the Facebook group and held at Naden/Lean in Cockeysville.

Monica Beeman tweeted about Practice Your Pitch here. And I expect local video tech guru Eli Etherton to post a video soon of all the pitches and feedback. I'll post it here when he does.



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

January 6, 2012

Fun facts from Millennial Media's IPO filing

Did you hear? Baltimore's Millennial Media filed to go public yesterday, letting everyone know they hope to raise $75 million from Wall Street to fuel their mobile ad business's growth (and make its founders and early investors rich.)

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Up above, those are co-founders Chris Brandenburg (left), chief technology officer, and Paul Palmier, chief executive officer.

Below are some fun facts from Millennial Media's S-1 registration statement with the SEC for its initial public offering:

* Quite literally, the money paragraph (note the improvement in gross margin) and the rapid closing of the gap from a $7 million loss in 2010 to a $417,000 loss in the first nine months of last year: "From 2009 to 2010, our revenue increased from $16.2 million to $47.8 million, or 195%, our gross margin improved from 29% to 34%, our net loss improved from $7.6 million to $7.1 million and our adjusted EBITDA improved from a loss of $7.0 million to a loss of $6.4 million. For the nine months ended September 30, 2011 as compared to the same period of 2010, our revenue increased from $29.1 million to $69.1 million, or 138%, our gross margin improved from 33% to 39%, our net loss improved from $5.4 million to $417,000 and our adjusted EBITDA improved from a loss of $4.9 million to earnings of $650,000."

* Employee growth: "We grew from 54 employees at December 31, 2008 to 190 employees at September 30, 2011." And more up to date: "As of December 31, 2011, we had 222 employees, of which 72 were primarily engaged in product and technology and 69 were engaged in sales and marketing."

* Fascinating chart of the ramp-up in spending among the top 100 advertisers with Millennial over the last three years:


millennial-media-advertisers-spending.PNG

* The top four executives at Millennial are all over 30 -- and the CEO Paul Palmieri and COO Stephen Root are over 40. (Sorry for pointing this out, Paul and Stephen. But I think it should be made clear Millennial's success as a startup so far is because of some relatively veteran executives, not fresh-faced kids out of college.)

* Those four executives earned this much money in 2011:


millennial-media-compensation.PNG

* Co-founders Paul Palmieri and Chris Brandenburg own 11.3 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively of outstanding shares in Millennial. Investment firms Bessemer Venture Partners and Columbia Capital are tied for the top shareholder spot, at 20.6 percent each.

* Millennial's five-year lease at the American Can Co. complex in Canton is up in July 2013. It's paying between $21 and $22 per square foot for 16,000+ square feet of space. It's annual lease has gone up from $201,000 in the first year, to $361,000 in its final year of the lease.


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

November 30, 2011

Baltimore startup Woofound raises $750K

A Middle River start-up, Woofound, raised $750,000 in equity financing recently, according to an SEC filing today.

That's a good chunk of money for a startup in Baltimore. That's what 410Labs, co-founded by Dave Troy, raised several months ago.

The Middle River-based company has built a web platform that seems to help people identify their interests in the world using a straightforward ME/NOT ME dichotomy. The company is calling it "intelligent discovery," which seems to be made possible by tagging experiences.

Hmm. I'm eager to try it. Especially on mobile.

For the moment, the website is still in beta (I signed up; waiting approval to join). They've got a mobile site, and are working on native smartphone apps for iOS and Android.

So who's behind Woofound? Daniel Sines is one of the folks listed on the SEC filing. Here's some info about him over at BaltimoreTech.net.

Here's their video describing the product.


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 3:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

November 29, 2011

Geek On A Train: Surveying the East Coast Startup Scene by Rail

geek-on-a-train.jpg

The East Coast tech scene is a pretty silo'ed place. You obviously have entrepreneurs and investors up and down the coast, from Boston to New York to Baltimore to DC. But everybody usually seems to play in their own market, for the most part.

Some in Baltimore (including yours truly) are yearning for a more regional perspective. After kicking around some ideas on a Facebook group, a Baltimore tech geek named Mike Subelsky (that's him above, in my own mockup illustration -- hope you don't mind, Mike!) came up with an idea:

Why not ride an Amtrak train up and down the East Coast for a day, talk to startups along the way, and blog, tweet, video, podcast like a crazy fool about the "Amtrak Corridor" tech scene?

"My idea was to meet with at least one tech leader in each city," Subelsky said. "Maybe somebody you don't normally hear from, the on-the-ground entrepreneurs."

It's an idea, I posit, that could only come out of Baltimore. This city is basically at the crossroads of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. We don't think we're at the center of the universe. We're open to getting to know our neighbors well. For now, Subelsky's calling it "Geek(s) on a Train" -- which makes reference to another nerd effort called "Geeks on a Plane," which takes entrepreneurs and investors to visit tech companies in foreign lands.

I spoke with Subelsky today and he's lined up a sponsor to cover his Amtrak ticket for a day. He's got an itinerary planned out, with stops in cities such as Washington, Baltimore (obviously), Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

He's looking to undertake the trip in January and, most importantly, he's eager to hear from startups up and down the East Coast from Washington to Boston. He hopes to spend an hour at each stop, conduct audio interviews with entrepreneurs, and then hop back on the train and post updates by blog and Twitter. He's also planning a podcast that'll cover his entire trip.

If you're on the East Coast between Boston and Washington and want to be a part of Mike's "Geek on a Train" adventure, he'll take your email at mike@subelsky.com. And feel free to cc: me on it, too, over 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

November 23, 2011

Facebook buys Baltimore company that sued it: report

hardebeck-whoglue.JPG

Sometimes the surest way to get noticed by a giant is to just sue them.

A small Baltimore company that sued Facebook two years ago was reportedly acquired by the mega-social-networking company earlier this month.

WhoGlue Inc., a company owned and operated by Jason Hardebeck (that's him above), said in an interview this morning that he sold his company for an undisclosed amount to Facebook in early November. The lawsuit that he had filed against Facebook -- for infringing on a patent titled "distributed personal relationship information management system and methods" -- was settled last year in a "very positive" way, Hardebeck said, and he and Facebook execs kept in touch.

"It's not typically how you introduce yourself to someone, to serve them with papers," Hardebeck said. "My experience with Facebook was very positive, very surprising, given its perception in the press and certainly from the movie [The Social Network]. It turns out that they are really good guys."

Facebook has bought several companies over the years. The WhoGlue acquisition appears to be the first acquisition by Facebook in Baltimore. [List of Facebook acquisitions.]

WhoGlue specializes in designing private social networks, for member groups, such as alumni associations. Hardebeck sees a future where public social networks interact with private networks more seamlessly.

He declined to comment on what exactly Facebook acquired from WhoGlue Inc. As part of the deal, Hardebeck ended up buying back some assets, trademarks and customer relationships from Facebook, and formed a new company, WhoGlue LLC, that can continue to operate the same business. WhoGlue had about a dozen shareholders, including the big tech company Siemens, which created the technology in the patent that WhoGlue held.

Hardebeck declined to say if the patent was sold as part of the Facebook deal. But he made clear that his company's sale didn't mean an early retirement for him. He intended to keep working in the same industry.

"Where we intend to go is where the world is going," Hardebeck said. "Eventually, public social networks will need to interact with private social networks."

"What we've beeen working on for 12 years just gets accelerated," Hardebeck said. "There's a very good chance now that we go out and get big fast."

WhoGlue consists of just two full-time employees, Hardebeck and a developer in Berlin. The company also works with contractors, he said.


I have a request for comment into Facebook. The deal was first reported by the Baltimore Business Journal.


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

November 16, 2011

Baltimore's 1st EduHackDay: the results

This past weekend, Baltimore's first "EduHackDay" was held over at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore.

Educators teamed up with computer geeks to build web and mobile apps for education. In many ways, Baltimore is becoming a little hotbed of education technology, and this grassroots effort to percolate ideas was a great effort.

I didn't get a chance to go to the event, because I was out of town. But with the help of Mike Brenner, one of the co-organizers and an advocate and conncector of startups in Baltimore, I'll share some details.

In Mike's words, here's how the weekend-long event unfolded:

We had roughly 70 attendees: ~ 40 developres, 20 designers, 10 teachers. We let the teachers pitch their ideas, read some some educator ideas that were pitched on our wish list from a global pool of teachers, and then let developers come up and pitch their own ideas. From that, we ended up voting on our favorite ideas, ending up with 10 ideas to work on throughout the weekend.

[On the] last night we had the 10 teams demo what they built to a panel of judges and the results are below.

Quick take away from me: I wanted to stimulate more activity from within our entrepreneurial community and thought education was a worthy customer / product to go after. I didn't expect folks to reinvent curriculum this weekend but I wanted to put the right problems and people in the room to show that there's a viable opportunity to build education technology products here in Baltimore. We need to be building less photo sharing apps and instead, more things that are meaningful.

The judges were:

Frank Bonsal, general partner at New Markets Venture Partners
Matt Van Italie, CAO of Baltimore City Schools, KIPP, McKinsey
Brian Eyer, Principal at Digital Harbor High School
Tom “TK” Kuegler, GP at Wasabi Ventures
Tom Murdock, Founder at Moodlerooms
Bill Ferguson, State Senator for Maryland
Scott Messinger, City Schools Teacher & Ed Tech Founder

The winning app ideas:

1st - Digital Harbor

2nd - Pluck

3rd - Pedante

4th - ParentConnect

5th - Board Speak

6th - CheckPlus

7th - Hey, Teacher

8th - What's Due?

9th - Baltimore School Watch

10th - Toader, a MakerBot project

Below are some screen shots of some of the projects:


ParentConnect%20Dashboard.jpg


Baltimore%20School%20Watch.jpg


pluck.png


harbor-screenshot.png


check-plus-screenshot.png


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

November 7, 2011

Uppidy raised* $300K in equity for text message app

joshua-konowe.jpgA Northern Virginia and Columbia-based firm that markets the Uppidy app on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry is seeking to raised $300,000 in equity financing, according to an SEC filing today. according to company founder Joshua Konowe.

* Update: Konowe reached out to me to update with some more facts, after I initially reported in this post that Uppidy was in the process of raising $300K. He said that Uppidy has already raised the $300K.

The investors are Fortify.Vc of the Washington area, Paul Silber of Blu Ventures of Northern Virginia, and an angel investor group from Silicon Valley. They'll be spending the money to round out the tech team, and add premium services and game mechanics "to speed viral growth," says Konowe. What's interesting is that Uppidy has "spent $0 on marketing" so far, and has thousands of users, Konowe said. 

Uppidy, which is led by entrepreneur Joshua Konowe, is an app that allows smartphone users to "share, search and store text messages."

It's basically an app for managing your mobile messages, offering users a dashboard and even a hashtag service (#upp) that they can use to post messages on Uppidy's own Twitter-like site: Uppidy Live.

For people who are heavy texters (not me), it sounds like this app is a big help. TechCocktail has more details on the tech 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 4:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

October 10, 2011

Technology, social media disrupt Baltimore's tech association

sharon-webb.PNG I recently caught up with Sharon Webb, the new-ish CEO of the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, for a nice long chat about technology, the GBTC, and entrepreneurial activity -- oh, and raising multiples. (She's a parent of triplets and I have twins.)

Since I've been covering local tech the last 2+ years, I've definitely noticed a big surge in networking and startup events. The GBTC is sometimes involved, sometimes not.

So the main line of questioning I took with Sharon was: Can the GBTC be relevant in a world where anyone (with a half decent reputation and set of connections) organize meetups, talks, breakfasts, panels and events.

Here's the full interview with Sharon. Take a look.


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

August 29, 2011

Hacking email, government: a conversation with Dave Troy

 


I recently sat down for an interview with Dave Troy -- CEO of 410Labs and longtime Baltimore-area entrepreneur -- over Skype. You'll see a tightly edited portion of that interview in the above video.

A more in-depth representation of the interview can be found at this link.

Troy is not your ordinary computer geek. He's a bit of a Renaissance man, in fact. His interests vary from computer programming to the environment to politics. At the intersection of many of his interests is his belief in the power of technology and the Internet to improve society, and specifically, the functioning of government, for the people, by the people.

I've thought some about how technology impacts government, and I've taken to heart one of the central points of Evgeny Morozov's recent book, "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom." Morozov gives examples of how the Internet was used in other countries, not only by government critics and revolutionaries, but by the established government power structure to further monitor and repress people.

This is the larger debate we face as a society. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus are all wonderful tools for connecting people. But there are also powerful interests -- governments, corporations, etc. -- that are increasingly handling their dealings with individuals with more sophistication.

Case in point: Techdirt today reports on a DOJ report obtained by security blogger Chris Soghoian that showed requests for warrantless "emergency" ISP requests quadrupled in 2009.

And in other news: The Obama Administration refused to release the Bush Administration's legal rationale for allegedly illegal wiretapping of Americans.

So yes, the power of the Internet cuts both ways for us, at the same time enabling and hindering our freedoms in the hands of different players.


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 11:11 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks, Startups
        

August 9, 2011

Baltimoreans can rent out their parking spots thru Parking Panda

parking-panda-image.gifHey Baltimore: Here's your chance to make a buck off your own parking spot.

Parking Panda, a Baltimore web startup, recently went live with its website -- parkingpanda.com -- which can also be accessed by mobile phone browsers.

Parking Panda is kinda like the Airbnb (a site that lets people pay for or rent out homes and apartments for travelers) of parking.

People who are looking to make a little extra money off their unused or lightly used parking spot can list it for rent on the site. And people who are looking to park in city neighborhoods -- perhaps during big events such as baseball or football games, or the upcoming Grand Prix -- can turn to it to find a spot they can rent with their smartphone.

The site is the work of Nick Miller and Adam Zilberbaum, two young guys from Baltimore who won a startup competition in the city in the spring. They are currently working on their startup in New York City, at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, but they plan on returning to Baltimore to jump-start their business.

[I wrote a story about Parking Panda and the trend of business accelerators recently.]

And they're hoping the Grand Prix, over Labor Day weekend, will generate demand for their app as people struggle to find parking downtown.


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

August 8, 2011

Baltimore-based Localist scores 8 university contracts

Localist.com, a Baltimore-based startup that's developed a social calendar platform, announced today that it had scored deals with eight universities which will use its platform for connecting students with events.

Here are the universities:

* DePaul University - Chicago, Ill.
* Emmanuel College - Boston, Mass.
* Georgetown University - Washington D.C.
* Towson University - Towson, Md.
* University of Delaware - Newark, Del.
* University of Rhode Island - Kingston, RI..
* Virginia Military Institute - Lexington, Va.
* Williams College - Williamstown, Mass.

In addition to these eight, BaltimoreCollegetown.com is also using Localist's platform. Eleven other universities are currently using the Localist platform.

This is more good news for Localist, whose founders used to operate it as a consumer-facing Website, but switched gears last year to sell it as a white-label product to universities and other organizations. They're now serving 105,000+ students.


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 12:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

June 30, 2011

Shortmail: A Baltimore-grown email service

Shortmail.jpgThere's a new email service on the block as of today, and it's called Shortmail. But do we need another email program? you ask.

Well, if you're overwhelmed with spam, tired of long-winded dissertation-type emails, and suffering from inbox overload, maybe you do.

Shortmail, created by 410Labs, is the latest offering in the nascent trend of short email services. It's somewhere between traditional email and Twitter. Whereas Twitter has a 140 character limit on messages, Shortmail has a 500 character limit. It integrates nicely with Twitter, too.

For instance, my Twitter account is @gussent, and my Shortmail address is automagically gussent@shortmail.com.

You can merge your Gmail and Twitter contacts into your Shortmail contacts.

But I think one of the most useful features of Shortmail is that you can keep a message private, or make it public, via your own Shortmail personal page (i.e. shortmail.com/gussent.) This can definitely come in handy, especially in my job as a journalist.

The folks behind 410Labs include Dave Troy, an entrepreneur and vocal advocate for Baltimore's tech scene, and Matthew Koll, a veteran entrepreneur.

The company also makes other other social communication products, including Replyz.com, which helps you get answers to questions in a social-y, Twitter-y way, and Mailstrom, an inbox analytics tool that aims to be the Mint.com of your email life.

For more details on Shortmail's launch, which happened officially in San Francisco this week, check the news release 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 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

June 27, 2011

Bam! A Glen Burnie tech company just raised $35M

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It's not everyday -- or every week -- that a Maryland company can boast that it raised $35 million from investors. Honestly, I can't say I see that kind of private money tossed at a company much at all here in the Free State, as someone who follows this kind of stuff. (Oh, but how I wish it were more frequent....)

But today at least, Glen Burnie-based Novasom Inc. can be the braggart. For people who suffer from sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, Novasom has a gadget for you.

The company has a device on the market that measures and diagnoses sleep apnea in a suffering sleeper. These devices are not sold to the general public, but rather shipped to patients at their homes, and covered under certain insurance plans (Novasom essentially makes money from "renting" the device as a service to patients who are covered by insurance.)

The patient uses the device to take measurements when they sleep at nigh over three dayst, and then ships the device back to the company, which shares the data with your medical providers.

Here's what's cool about Novasom: this company is actually making a device, a piece of hardware, and they have a business model. They've hired a 100+ people in the last few years. And did I mention they're actually making a tangible product, and not just another Facebook competitor?

Making an actual piece of stuff doesn't guarantee success in the U.S., and software has been insanely popular lately (App Store anyone?). But economists like to see hardware getting made, especially since it can lead to demand for more and new software.

A few months ago, I was told by Roger Richardson, Novasom's vice president of operations, that the company is making a next-generation device that will enable the electronic delivery of your sleep data over a wireless telephone connection, i.e. a 3G network. No need to wait till it gets shipped back for a data download. And yes, this device has all the regulatory approvals for use.

Imagine if Novasom can get approval to do other sorts of medical-related-things with their wirelessly connected devices. There's a bigger market potential here than just sleep apnea sufferers.

So, the news today is that Novasom raised a new round of investment -- $35 million worth -- led by Safeguard Scientifics Inc., with participation from existing investors including TPG Biotechnology II Fund and Quaker BioVentures.

It plans to use the new money to "fund growth, expand its leadership position in payer and provider markets, and develop additional innovations within the company's proprietary NovaSom(R) diagnostic medical device and cloud-based MediTrack(R) Patient Management Portals."

Novasom, which used to be known as Sleep Solutions Inc., has been around since 1992 and had been based in California. The company moved to Glen Burnie in 2008 and uses a Baltimore County company, Zentech, as its contract manufacturer for its devices.


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

June 22, 2011

UMBC biotech startup raises $1.5 million

Plasmonix Inc., a biotech startup whose technology comes from research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, this week announced it raised $1.5 million of a planned $2 million Series A equity offering.

The investment was led by the Maryland Healthcare Product Development Corp. Plasmonix is working on commercializing a technology called Metal Enhanced Fluorescence, which was developed at UMBC.

Basically, the technology enables super-fast detection of heart attacks, sexually transmitted diseases, salmonella -- within 20 seconds.

Watch the Youtube video of founder and MEF inventor Dr. Chris Geddes (Other founders include William M. Gust II, President and CEO and Dr. John Holaday, Chairman.)


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 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

June 13, 2011

NEA Partner: Creating a "virtuous cycle" of investment in Maryland

david-mott-NEA.jpgNew Enterprise Associates is one of the heavyweights in the world of venture capital and, lucky for me, they're right in my backyard here in Maryland.

I had a wide-ranging interview today with David M. Mott, NEA partner and former head of MedImmune, the biopharma success story based in Montgomery County, Md.

Mott and NEA invest billions far afield from Maryland, hunting for promising companies across the country and around the world. Lately, he and NEA have been doing deals in India and China, getting involved in services and infrastructure business in those developing countries, such as outpatient treatment centers for oncology and diabetes, Mott said.

Back home in the U.S., Mott observed that Maryland needs more big company success stories such as MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences, where top management and entrepreneurial thinkers from such organizations spin out and start their own businesses.

We've seen some of this effect in Baltimore with the success of Advertising.com, and the spinoff of talent that have led to some new businesses, most notably Millennial Media.

In Montgomery County, this type of "virtuous cycle" has started taking root, according to Mott. Baltimore, not so much -- yet. But Mott touched upon something that I tangentially covered, coincidentally, in my latest story this weekend about startups and business accelerators.You need  entrepreneurs and trained leadership talent -- those who have the "social capital" to convince weary investors of investing in them --  to roll up their sleeves and embark on new startup projects.

What Mott and others at NEA look at when they invest are the quality of management teams. They like to cultivate entrepreneurs and even new technologies, according to Mott.

What may not be as well known is that NEA funds its own virtual incubators, where talented brains work on new medical devices in-house at NEA, leading sometimes to funding and new companies.

"Over half of our investments are internally generated by entrepreneurs in conceptual virtual incubators," Mott said. "We back them to come up with ideas."

NEA has had six medical device companies spin out into their own businesses in the last few years, Mott said. NEA also has launched a seed fund to make investments ranging from $50,000 to $500,000, according to VentureWire.

Mott couldn't talk publicly about the seed fund, but it looks like the kind of move that NEA is making to compete in the angel and "super-angel" end of the investment pool, where there's a lot of activity at the moment.

Startups are also going from conception to high-flying much more quickly, so NEA and other VCs apparently see some necessity in interacting with some of these young companies just as they're forming.

Wait too long as a VC and suddenly, before you know it, startup valuations are through the roof.

I asked Mott the cheap nickel-and-dime question that every tech journalist is asking today: are we in the midst of another tech bubble?

He said he mostly didn't think so. Valuations are wild in a few specific niches, such as social media, but others, such as biopharma and healthcare (his specialty area), are fairly normal, he said.

"These businesses, unlike back in 1999, have some significant revenues," Mott said. "They're becoming big businesses in very short periods of time...and with relatively little capital in a very short period of time, you can build a deep business."


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

June 7, 2011

Groupon in Baltimore: hot and cold experiences?

My Baltimore Sun colleague -- and cubicle neighbor -- Jay Hancock has an interesting column that takes a look at Groupon from the local perspective. What are some restaurants' experiences with the social deal website?

He talked to a bunch of restaurants and got their experiences with it, good and bad. It's an interesting topic that's come to the fore again, as Groupon last week filed to go public in an IPO in the future. The company is pulling in tons of revenue, but is not profitable. (Some in the tech world are even calling the company "Grouponzi." Ouch.)

I'm wondering what the perspective on Groupon is from consumers in Baltimore? Do you find yourself buying -- and actually using -- Groupons? Are you happy with the service you receive at places where you redeem a Groupon?

Shoot me a tweet via Twitter at @gussent.

(Sorry...Our comments are temporarily disabled due to spam.)


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 1:14 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, Startups
        

May 27, 2011

Tech boom hits New York -- can Baltimore feel the aftershock?

The headline reads "New York startups ride tech boom."

It's the Wall Street Journal, and it's declaring that New York is experiencing boom times in its startup scene. Some may automatically -- and skeptically -- wonder that when a newspaper declares a boom, you know a bust isn't too far behind. I'm not ready to be that skeptical, yet.

As the article points out, there are a couple of different pieces in play in New York right now that's working in Silicon Alley's favor. There's talent, a mix of relative success stories, and a community of eager entrepreneurs fueling the ecosystem. Just as importantly, investors from Silicon Valley and elsewhere are now checking into the New York scene to grab on to any shooting stars that fly out of there, according to the article.

If there's a boom going on in New York, here in Baltimore, the startup scene is hoping for some positive aftershocks. There's still a fair amount of investment dollars flowing into the Washington-Baltimore region, but most of the money is going to that Northern Va./Washington corridor.

Many in Baltimore's tech scene were looking forward to the Startup City -- a business accelerator -- acting as a sparkplug for entrepreneurs and investors. But alas, that program has been postponed because enough investors couldn't be lined up, and the organizers are going back to the drawing board.

My rough sense about Baltimore is that investments are being made in biotech, cybersecurity and other targeted areas where there's money to be made, i.e. health care. Local angel investors seem to be less inclined to invest in popular consumer-facing apps and tech that captivate the general public, such as "the next Facebook" or "the next Twitter" or "the next Foursquare." The scene here is more B2B than B2C, which is fine, because there's money to be made in B2B -- it's just not as sexy to the average joe.

When you look at the latest stats from the National Venture Capital Association, the reality is that investments in New York and the DC-Metroplex (that includes us) were actually down in the first quarter this year.

You know who's up? Silicon Valley. And Texas (Austin, anyone?). And Philadelphia (kudos to our neighbor's startup scene). And the U.S. southwest.

Here are investment numbers for the 1st quarter of 2010, from the National Venture Capital Association:


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Now here are similar stats for this year's first quarter:


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These numbers make me wonder if venture capital is just heating up in Silicon Valley, driving valuations ever northward, and forcing VC's and angels to go looking for smart companies and smarter deals in other tech hotbeds.


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

May 26, 2011

Moodlerooms Inc., a Baltimore startup, raising $1.5 million

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Moodlerooms Inc., a company that got its start in Baltimore's Emerging Technology Center incubator, disclosed with the SEC today that it is raising a $1.5 million round of investment in the form of debt and unsecured promissory notes that will turn into equity.

Moodlerooms is a company, based in South Baltimore/Federal Hill, that is using the open-source online education platform Moodle and offering add-on services and support to its institutional clients, which range from public schools to colleges and universities. Moodlerooms is competing against such heavy hitters as Blackboard and K12 Inc.

And yes -- I've written about them before.

So far, Moodlerooms has raised $425,000 of the planned $1.5 million.

This is the third time the company has sought to raise money. Last year, the company -- on two separate occasions -- raised $750,000 and $7.1 million. The money has fueled its expansion and growth -- the company moved its headquarters from the ETC offices on E. 33rd Street down to South Baltimore, and it hired more people.


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 4:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

May 19, 2011

LinkedIn IPO launches into stratosphere

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Buckle in, folks! It's gonna be a wild ride from here on in.

LinkedIn Corp., the social media network for workers, went public today and its shares, which started out priced at $45, zoomed up to $90.50 in morning trading. It's currently at around $85, as of 10:40 a.m. today. That means, on paper at least, LinkedIn was valued upwards of $8.5 billion.

The Wall Street Journal story this morning noted that investors are hungry for similar IPO stories. By "similar stories," the WSJ probably means everyone is waiting to see how IPOs for Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga might do.

LinkedIn has been the under-rated, less sexy social media company, compared with those other four. But it was the first one to go IPO. I'd hate to be the last of those companies doing an IPO. Who'll have money to invest at that point?

Seriously though, I have to wonder if how well LinkedIn performs in the next couple of quarters will either whet investors' appetites for more social media companies on Wall Street, or turn them off on such company stocks. It's not a given that a big first day in the stock market for LinkedIn presages successful IPOs for Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga. LinkedIn, for one, has a lot of work to do for those investors who bought in between $45 and $90 today.

As Michael Moe, chief investment officer of GSV Capital Management in Woodside, California, told Bloomberg News yesterday: “The valuation for LinkedIn is rich. To earn the valuation, it has to continue to grow very, very fast.”

A lot can happen in the next couple of quarters. Internet competitors and the speed in which the market changes is faster than the speed at which Wall Street bankers operate. If LinkedIn knocks it out of the park the next couple quarters, that bodes well for its peers. If not, well, maybe we'll see more IPOs. Or maybe instead we'll see some acquisitions and mergers.


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

May 18, 2011

LinkedIn IPO frenzy -- would you buy the stock?

The coming LinkedIn IPO -- expected tomorrow -- may be a resounding success, as frothing-at-the-mouth investors appear eager to throw their money at big social media companies. The company is expected to prices its shares tonight and make them available on the stock market tomorrow, under the New York Stock Exchange ticker LNKD.

Potential share price: $42-$45.

Potential valuation: ~$4.25 billion.

So, here's the question: Would you invest in LinkedIn? This Reuters article outlines some of the risks in the marketplace for LinkedIn, including the fact that it has struggled with losses and profitability.

What happens when LinkedIn becomes directly accountable to Wall Street when it's public? Will it cut expenses and investment in future growth drastically to produce better profit margins?

In this Bloomberg video, Jonathan Merriman, a tech investor, explains the LinkedIn IPO and talks about the risks. Interesting stuff:



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

May 13, 2011

Stolen laptop recovered with help of technology, Twitter followers

Sean Power (or @seanpower) riveted the Twitterverse last night with his play-by-play of his efforts to use technology and the Twitter crowd to reclaim his stolen laptop.

His computer had been stolen days before in New York City and Sean had to fly to Canada in the meantime. But on his computer, he had free, open-source location-tracking software, called Prey, that alerted him when his laptop was being used. His laptop's webcam took pictures of the alleged thief, and tracked him as he surfed the Web, used Skype and even logged in to his bank account!

Sean ends up calling the guy and arranging for his computer to be given to two people, who apparently heard about the drama as it unfolded on Twitter, and offered to help Sean.

It's a crazy tale of high-tech and, um, crowdsourcing, I suppose, your stolen laptop's recovery. Hit up the links over in Geekwire to dig further into the story.

Here's a question: how popular is the Prey software today after Sean's story?

Here's their video of how the software works:

Prey Project introduction from Carlos Yaconi on Vimeo.



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

April 22, 2011

Mobile apps, mobile work, mobile life: the rise of digital nomads

There are tons of success stories of developers who've built killer smartphone apps into thriving little businesses. But I'd bet there are fewer stories out there like the story of Jen Harvey and Steven Hugg.

This couple helped me kick off the beginning of my story about the rise of digital nomads, or people who increasingly work and live wherever they choose, thanks to mobile connectivity and the Internet. Harvey and Hugg run Voxilate, a company whose had great success with an iPhone/Android app called HeyTell.

Harvey and Hugg ditched their Bethesda lives early last year and went completely mobile, living in short-term rentals and traveling the country whenever they felt the urge to visit a place or visit with friends and family. And they've managed the sharp growth of their successful app (5+ million downloads) and their business while on the road. They're currently in San Diego.

I spoke with other traveler/workers, too, including Heather Van De Mark, a designer with Groove Commerce in Baltimore. She started traveling in August, and works on website designs for Groove from wherever she chooses to open up her laptop.

I also spoke with Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy, two very experienced digital nomads -- or technomads, by their term -- who've been working in software and traveling the U.S. for the past four years.

It's becoming more viable to do this kind of work/travel arrangement, thanks to advances in Internet and mobile communications. But do you have the boss -- or the business -- that will enable you to do it? What's more: is constant travel really appealing to you?

Below: Heather Van De Mark in Chapel Hill recently, where she is house-sitting.


vandemark_chapelhill.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 1:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Smartphones, Startups
        

April 19, 2011

410Labs: Baltimore startup attracting outside investors

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We've seen Dave Troy roll up his sleeves and help coordinate and promote Baltimore's tech scene over the last couple years, helping pull off such events as TedXMidAtlantic and BarCamp Baltimore.

He's also dabbled in politics lately, with a public endorsement of Otis Rolley, who's running for mayor in Baltimore.

But the local entrepreneur, who founded and sold ToadNet, an ISP, is coming on strong this year with a new startup venture. It's called 410Labs. The company is all about building nimble communication tools that make managing your flow of digital information better, whether its with Twitter or email.

A new tool that Troy and his colleagues demo'ed at the Baltimore Startup Weekend event is called Mailstrom, which helps people analyze and manage their email inboxes.

Last week, Troy tweeted that his company was receiving some investments to keep doing its thing. So far, 410Labs is about halfway through a $500,000-plus angel round of investing. And its attracted investors from San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC and possibly even New York.

Here's a short Q&A I did with Dave recently:

Q) Who are the principals in 410Labs?

A) David Troy, CEO; Matt Koll, Chairman (sold two companies to AOL). We also have two full-time developers and one part-time employee who have a stake in the company.

Q) What do you build?

A) We're building products that add value to people's lives using technology. So that's pretty broad. Our first product, Replyz, helps people find answers to questions. Our second product, Shortmail, is experimenting with innovations in email, which hasn't seen much innovation in a very long time. We anticipate having about four products in our portfolio by the end of the year.

Q) Why take investment?

A) We're not taking much, and the investments are strategic in nature. We want to build support within our industry, both in San Francisco and here in Baltimore. So it's really more about relationships, but this will also allow us to hire people and move faster than we have been. We also appreciate the vote of confidence and insights that we gain by working with outside investors.

Q) How much currently raised and how much targeted?

A) We are raising $500-$600K in this current round and are about half done. As I said, the investments we have secured so far are firmly in the "Angel" category.

Q) Who are your investors? (Is it Twitter and Living Social, per se, or individual executives from those companies?)

A) I can't speak to it in full before we close the round, but individuals at both Twitter and Living Social have committed to angel investments in the company. It's going to be a nice mix of people in San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC, and probably New York.


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

April 18, 2011

Baltimore's Startup Weekend -- the winners!

So this weekend, I ran a few errands: I went to the bank, dropped off recycling, cleaned my house, worked, and tried to pay some fatherly attention to my kid.

Sounds like a typical weekend for a lot of folks, right? Well, not for the uber-ambitious people who spent 2 1/2 days of their lives breathing, eating and sleeping the Baltimore Startup Weekend experience. That's some of them below.

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I wrote a story about the event for entrepreneurs and techies here. But it didn't quite do it justice. There were a TON of great ideas there, and super-motivated people who made a lot happen in a weekend. I saw prototypes, alpha versions, beta versions, and almost-ready-for-primetime versions.

In the 2+ years I've been covering these types of events in the Baltimore area, I have to say that, in my outsider's view, this was perhaps the strongest one, in terms of raw idea power and get-up-and-just-do-it initiative.

Baltimore's tech scene indeed has come a long way.

It helped that about half of the crowd seemed to be coming from out of state. This is, net-net, not a bad thing. We want outsiders being attracted to Baltimore. Let them move here. Let them connect with talented folks here. And hopefully, let them find some office space to call home here for their business. It is a good thing when Baltimore is seen as a place that's friendly to the shiny brightness of risk-taking entrepreneurs.

That said, Startup Weekend was a competition and there were winners. Here they are:

* 3rd place: @Dapprly, an app that enables people to crowdsource opinions of their outfits before they go out on the town, and @talkchalkco, a powerful Facebook app that enables teachers and students to do their work on the social networking site.

* 2nd place: @ispylocal, AKA Localize, AKA Proportunities, which enables owners of vacant buildings to essentially poll the neighborhood for ideas on what businesses should move in to the empty space, via text messages.

* 1st place: @Parking_Panda, an app that enables people who own driveways to rent them out, to make a little extra cash and help alleviate parking problems in the city.

If anybody puts together a list of all the ideas and pitches that came out of Baltimore's Startup Weekend, please let me know and I'll re-post here.


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

April 15, 2011

Lessons learned? Twitter's original angel investors who sold out early

oops-image.jpgThe Business Insider published a really interesting look at how a bunch of original Twitter investors feel about cashing out of the hot social media startup at its really early stages.

They sold out for $5 million five years ago, and now Twitter has reportedly received valuations of up to $10 billion. Yikes!

Here's the link: http://www.businessinsider.com/odeo-investors-who-sold-twitter-2011-4?op=1

As you might expect, some of the investors have gone with the flow and seem to have accepted how life and startups work out. Others seem more bitter about missing out on a crazy growth opportunity.

Twitter is a funny beast. Unlike Facebook, which seems like everyone introduced to it early on knew it would be a huge success, Twitter seemed to skyrocket thanks to the early, passionate adoption by users, especially by journalists and civic-minded folks who started using it as a breaking news tool.

It gained momentum that completely surprised Twitter management.

So really, if you're to believe the narrative the tech press is currently spinning about Twitter, then it may be safe to say that Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey are not only smart, they're also pretty darn lucky that they somehow managed to create a product that really resonates with people.

Smart AND lucky is a great combination for startups!


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 11:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups, West Coast
        

April 12, 2011

Maryland motion-control tech company raises $5.5 million

Loop-pointer.jpgHillcrest Labs brought us the Loop -- a circular device that you hold and use to control your PC while it's hooked up to your TV. That's it on the left.

Now the Rockville, Md.,-based company has just raised a good chunk of money, presumably to expand and bring more cool gadgets to market.

According to a Securities and Exchange filing today, the privately held company has raised $5.5 million in an equity round of investment.

The firm touts itself as creating the world's first motion-controller for television, the world's first complete Web browser for television, and the world's first cursor-controlled apps for television (huh? who really wants a cursor controlled app on their TV? I'm confused). Anyhow....

Hillcrest made headlines three years ago when it filed a patent infringement suit against Nintendo, for its Wii controller. The company has had millions in investment pumped into it from major venture capital players, including NEA and Grotech, both local-regional firms.

Hillcrest has partnered with LG Electronics and Logitech on products, among others, to develop cool new tech.


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 3:52 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

April 5, 2011

Baltimore's Tixato: Ticketmaster, beware

Chris Ashworth's small Baltimore company -- Figure 53 -- has already scored a huge hit in the niche field of theater show management software, with thousands of paying customers and even more users of its free product. QLab is a "live show" controller that makes it possible for theater geeks to control all their multimedia special effects from their Macs. BaltTech covered QLab's success last year.

Now Ashworth and his motley crew of computer geeks have built a new Web-based product: Tixato. It's an online ticketing service for small theater and event companies -- and it's entering a highly competitive field that ranges from TicketMaster to smaller regional and local players.

But QLab is such a beloved piece of software in the independent theater community (oh, it's used on Broadway, too) that Ashworth has the kind of street cred among theater geeks that may be missing from certain competitors.

I spoke with Ashworth this afternoon and he said he thinks there's good potential for crossover in theater customers who use QLab and those who may be in search of an inexpensive box office solution. He sees his company building out a suite of features for small theater operators looking for affordable software and online products to run their businesses.

"Our approach is to pay attention to the smaller guys, because we are a smaller company and we can afford to do that," said Ashworth.

If Tixato takes off as well as QLab has, Ashworth and crew might be on to something big.

Alas, Figure 53 ain't THAT small anymore. On Friday, Ashworth moved the five-person company to a new office on St. Paul Street in Baltimore's Charles Village neighborhood. Before that, they had been working out of his house in Charles Village.

Here's Ashworth explaining how the QLab software 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 11:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Web Dev & Apps
        

March 8, 2011

Baltimore becoming a "Startup City"

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Many places, such as Baltimore, have the elements of a successful startup scene in place, but they may be missing a spark that create a chain reaction of invention, investment, financial success, and cyclical growth. Programs that jumpstart technology entrepreneurs with small infusions of cash and lots of mentoring have been sprouting up in places around the country the last few years.

Now, Baltimore is getting a program of its own.

Leading the development of the Startup City are two Baltimore tech scene raconteurs: Mike Subelsky, co-founder of Ignite Baltimore, and Monica Beeman, regional director of FundingUniverse Maryland.

So what's Baltimore's Startup City plan about? There's a background and details document here. In its own words:

Startup City will help create those initial successes via a twelve-week program for ten companies that offers each company:

* $15,000 in seed capital
* Weekly master classes with experienced entrepreneurs
* Regular access to mentors
* Introductions to potential customers and follow-on investors
* Free, beautiful office space collocated with the other participating companies
* Legal, accounting, marketing, and technical assistance from Baltimore’s Emerging Technology Center
* Vigorous coverage of their stories in our blog via video and written profiles
* Exposure to investors, journalists, and business leaders at a Demo Day occurring at the end of the 12 weeks

The founders of each company are required to reside in Baltimore between 7/1/11 and 9/30/11. After that they are free to go where they want, but we hope they will have such a good experience that they will decide to stay in the city.

Each Startup City investor will contribute $16K to the fund in exchange for equity in the portfolio (about 5-10% of each company). 15K of the funds go to the companies and 1K is used for administrative costs such as leasing office space.

Investors are invited to attend all Startup City master classes and events, and we'd like to be able to call upon them for advice if any particular company in the portfolio gets stuck on something.

Budget permitting, we plan to arrange a second demo day in New York City to give the Startup City companies exposure to their robust investment community and startup sector.


Want to read more about Startup City? Bmore Media has an article, too.


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

January 28, 2011

Howard County-based Internet video distribution startup raising millions

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A startup named LiveTimeNet Inc., of Savage, Md., has filed to raise $5 million in its latest round of financing efforts, according to Securities and Exchange documents.

LiveTimeNet, which was founded in 2007, specializes in Internet video content transport and delivery, using its own nationwide managed IP network, according to its website.

It boasts that its service outperforms both satellite and terrestrial transport services. The firm has two patent applications for its technology. And it's raised millions in financing over the last two years. In its latest round of financing, LiveTimeNet is seeking to raise $5 million in equity, and has already raised $1.37 million.

Last year, it raised $3.5 million in equity financing. And in 2009, it raised $2.5 million, according to SEC filings.

Clearly, somebody sees something special in this company, which currently appears to consist of three executives: Malik Khan, co-founder, chief strategy officer and chairman of the board of directors; Yousef Javadi, co-founder, chief executive officer and president; and Professor Yair Amir co-founder and chief science officer.

All three men appear to be experts in broadband communications networks, and Amir is also a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University. Any companies out there using LiveTimeNet's services?


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 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Venture Cap
        

January 24, 2011

O'Malley's plan to jump-start venture capital in Maryland

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It's not every year we get to see a big plan for small start-ups in Maryland. But that's what Gov. Martin O'Malley will be unveiling today, with his "InvestMaryland" proposal. It's a $100 million infusion over the next five years of state tax revenues into small Maryland-based, technology-based startups. It's not a total giveaway of revenue; rather, the state will be taking stakes in dozens of small companies over the next several years, and then hopefully, watching their investment grow as these companies grow and raise more money, merge, get acquired or go public with an IPO.

I took a close look at the plan in this article over the weekend. Below are the opening paragraphs:

Hoping to spur jobs, innovation and economic growth, Gov. Martin O'Malley wants to tap tax revenue to invest $100 million in fledgling technology, life sciences and other companies across the state.

O'Malley, a Democrat, plans to unveil details of the "Invest Maryland" program Monday as a centerpiece of his economic agenda in this year's General Assembly session. The state would invest in small businesses and start-up companies — partially through the dormant Maryland Venture Fund — and would reap both the risks and rewards.


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

January 13, 2011

10-20 Media raises $800K to continue home and garden data venture

10-20 Media, a Howard County firm, this week raised $800,000 in debt financing, which it will apparently be pouring into its business as a "home and garden marketplace data aggregator," according to an SEC filing this week.

The company has an iPhone app called GardenPilot, which puts 14,000 choices of flora from multiple retailers into the hands of consumers. It also builds online tools that helps retailers show off their offerings on their websites.

The $800,000 round is the latest of multiple investments in 10-20 Media over the past two years. The company has raised a combined $1 million in debt through three previous filings.

By the way, the term 10-20 is a trucker/CB radio term signifying your location.

Below is a snapshot of the Garden Pilot app.

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

January 5, 2011

Baltimore biotech Gliknik raises $3.5 million

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More good news for a Baltimore startup today: Gliknik Inc., which is based in the University of Maryland BioPark, announced that it completed a $3.5 million equity financing raise. The money was raised over the course of the past seven months, the company said.

Gliknik is a biopharmaceuticals company that plans on using the new funds to initiate a clinical program in autoimmune diseases for its Stradomer platform, which are recombinant drugs. The company is working to create new treatments for cancer and immune disorders.

"An infusion of investor funding highlights a growing vote of confidence as we continue to develop new therapies for patients with cancer and autoimmune/inflammatory diseases," said David S. Block, Gliknik's president and chief executive officer. (Block is pictured above.)

Over the past six months, Gliknik has also received an additional $1 million in competitive grant funding from a federal program, a U.S. Army subcontract, and a Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development research award.

Gliknik also announced that it received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for one of its drug programs for fighting cancer.


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 11:26 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, BioTech, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Research, Venture Cap
        

Millennial Media, hot on mobile ad trail of Google/Apple, raises $27.5 million

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Pictured: Millennial Media co-founders: Chris Brandenburg (left) and Paul Palmieri



Millennial Media, a Baltimore startup that's a top player in the growing mobile advertising industry, said Wednesday it raised $27.5 million in new investments from several venture capital firms, which it will use to continue to fund its growth.

The new funding round was Millennial's largest since it was founded more than four years ago. It has raised more than $65 million from investors. The new money comes from several existing investors in Millennial, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Columbia Capital, Charles River Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.

The company said that it plans to use the new equity investment to fund the company's global growth plan this year. It also plans to build on its acquisition of TapMetrics, a mobile analytics company it acquired last year, and consider additional acquisitions this year.

The new funding comes as Millennial, which is competing toe-to-toe in the mobile display advertising market with Google Inc. and Apple Inc., said it tripled revenues last year, though the privately held company does not disclose specific revenue figures.

A recent report by market research firm IDC showed that Millennial had 15.4 percent of the mobile display advertising market, behind Google (19 percent) and Apple (18.8 percent). Mobile display ads are showed to cell phone users while they are perusing other content, usually on mobile websites.

The company says its mobile ads reach more than 85 percent of mobile users in the United States. The total mobile ad market was estimated at more than $1 billion last year, and is expected to grow quickly over the next few years.

The mobile ad market attracted Google and Apple, who have both bought competitors of Millennial for hundreds of millions of dollars. Several months ago, Millennial was rumored to be in acquisition talks with Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry smart phones, but the negotiations reportedly fell through.

Paul Palmieri, Millennial's chief executive and co-founder, sees the mobile advertising industry applying to many different kinds of devices, from smart phones and tablet computers to appliances.

"The mobile model continues to expand beyond the phone, and is becoming the new, device based Internet via apps on everything from refrigerators to tablets to televisions," Palmieri said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun.

Millennial currently has offices in New York, London, and San Francisco, plus sales offices in Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.


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

January 3, 2011

Baltimore's tech community and its rising political voice

I've been keeping this blog for about 18 months now, and I've noticed one overarching trend during this time in Baltimore: the "tech" community is expanding and pulling in excited people from all walks of life in the metro area. Social media (Facebook/Twitter, mainly) are connecting locals more than ever before.

Perhaps most importantly, the still-relatively-small community of tech/social media geeks are organizing for different goals, from business-oriented networking events to social projects. The fact that such organization is happening, so efficiently and quickly, leads me to believe in one thing: the Baltimore tech community is developing its own influential voice -- so much so that politicians are noticing.

It may not be one unified voice. But great power potentially resides in those who know how to maximize the use of technology and the Internet.

It is nowhere more apparent than last year's local effort to organize a Baltimore application for the Google Fiber for Communities project. It started as a grassroots effort that grew to the point where it made sense for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to embrace it. Suddenly, Baltimore was gussying itself up trying to impress Google, a West Coast company who's looking to build a spanking-new fiber optic network as a test bed for new technologies.

(We also shouldn't forget how, statewide, the tech community organized to defeat passage of a tech services tax a few years back -- one of the organizers was Tom Loveland, Baltimore's "Google Czar.")

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Now we see another step in the political awakening of Baltimore's tech community: Dave Troy's endorsement of mayoral candidate Otis Rolley on Jan. 1. Troy (pictured) is a Maryland Renaissance man, dabbling in various entrepreneurial and startup projects, public/social endeavors, and big-idea thinking. He's got the business chops and the technology chops to make stuff happen, and increasingly, he's paying attention to who's politically in charge. (And politics watcher Adam Meister is now watching him.) Troy helped pull together Baltimore's Google Fiber effort, along with Tom Loveland.

And Dave, mind you, is well-connected to geeks across the land, not just Maryland. Geeks know how to work the Internet and social media -- and political candidates like Rolley and Rawlings-Blake, I think, recognize that they'll increasingly need the geeks in their corner.

President Barack Obama tapped the geeks for his campaign, with great success.

"[T]he use of the Internet for political and community organizing will usher in an era of unprecedented change in American cities," Troy writes. He says of Rolley:

I support Otis Rolley in his candidacy for Mayor of Baltimore in 2011. At 36, Otis is part of the new guard. He’s qualified – he has a masters’ degree in City Planning from MIT. He has been in Baltimore since 1998. He served 10 years in the public sector and two in the private sector. As an executive, he led the Baltimore City Department of Planning and – shockingly – produced the city’s first actual master plan in 39 years.

If more geeks, in addition to Troy, break Rolley's way, we could see a very interesting and robust Internet-based campaign season break out in Baltimore for the mayoral election later this year.

Rawlings-Blake, for her part, has pushed for more transparency in city government using technology. The last we heard, her administration is working to unveil large sets of data from city agencies that will give the public -- and eager tech geeks -- material to create new Web mashups that inform the public about government operations.

For more info:

* Rolley's Website.

* Rawlings-Blake's Website.


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

Amy Webb bringing Awesome to Baltimore

amy-webb-awesome.jpg


Hey, Happy New Year!

Did you catch the Q&A I did recently with Amy Webb, digital media consultant with Webbmedia Group in Baltimore? She's bringing something called the Awesome Foundation here to Baltimore. And she's an interesting and ambitious individual to boot.

Read on:

Amy Webb believes in the power of awesomeness so much that she wants to bring some to Baltimore.

As the founder of Webbmedia Group, a Baltimore-based digital media consulting firm, Webb moves in technology circles, where the idea for the Awesome Foundation originated.

The Boston-based foundation, begun in 2009, is encouraging the creation of chapters around the world. The idea is that a "dean" and 10 trustees at each chapter give $1,000 grants every month to a project in their community that they deem, ahem, awesome. Each board member is required to donate $100 a month to fund the grants.

Webb is the dean of the Baltimore chapter and is now recruiting trustees to help her fund Baltimore-based community initiatives each month.

A graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Webb is a former reporter for Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal in Asia, where she covered emerging technology. When she's not volunteering on boards and organizing events in the digital media world, she's advising corporate, nonprofit and government clients on how to harness the power of the Web and social media.

In a recent interview with The Baltimore Sun, Webb talked about the Awesome Foundation, her work and technology trends.

Question: Tell us about the Awesome Foundation. What's it about?

Answer: Rather than trying to reward people for huge projects that could take a long time to implement or ultimately not work out, the idea is to give people a chance to come up with something creative that somehow makes the city more awesome. The way we think about it is if the MacArthur Foundation had micro-grants to award for geniuses.

It's not a gigantic initiative. It's a way to help creative communities flourish and bring creative ideas into a city. People feel excited about the project. A thousand dollars is not a ton of money, but it's meant as a way to help get ideas off the ground.

Continue reading "Amy Webb bringing Awesome to Baltimore" »


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December 14, 2010

Growing Bwtech@UMBC, from life sciences to cybersecurity

Frank Turano was a biology and genetics researcher and professor tied to George Washington University, while his wife was a professor specializing in sensory systems at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

When it came time for the couple to launch their own startup, they looked around Maryland for public and private incubators and ultimately decided on Bwtech at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“We looked for support to grow a business,” said Turano, who launched Plant Sensory Systems three years ago, a small firm that investigates how to modify plant genes so they produce more biofuel and require less fertilizer. They have five full-time employees now.

“We liked the track record here,” Turano said.

While the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Hopkins have attracted headlines in recent years for developing bioparks in the city, the Bwtech Research and Technology Park has been chugging along for more than two decades, steadily expanding the number of companies and employees that call it home.

More recently, Bwtech officials are targeting cybersecurity, striking a partnership with Northrop Grumman last month to attract researchers and experts who could launch their own companies.
Cybersecurity is currently white-hot in academia, at least among Maryland’s public campuses.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration is trying to push the state into the forefront of the industry, drawing on key government facilities in Maryland, such as the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

The University of Maryland, College Park recently created the Maryland Cybersecurity Center to promote education, research and technology in the sector. The University of Maryland University College this year launched bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in cybersecurity.
Bwtech@UMBC — as it is known in shorthand — is among 20 publicly sponsored incubators across Maryland.

Across the country, incubators have grown popular as a way to counteract the effects of a punishing recession. With some early funding, hardworking entrepreneurs and investors are taking bets on future growth during a down economy.

Startup companies are attracted to incubators for a variety of reasons, including the potential for low rent, a collaborative working environment with like-minded professionals and guidance from industry veterans.

The Bwtech park, spread across six buildings on two campuses on more than 40 acres, has focused on helping launch startups in the life sciences industry and clean energy. Five of the buildings in the Bwtech North campus, in Catonsville, have been built within the past decade and feature newer office space.

A sixth building, Bwtech South in Halethorpe, was formerly the Martin Marietta research lab, which the state bought in the mid-1990s. The sprawling building near Route 195 is home to Bwtech’s life sciences incubator companies. This building houses companies that have a need for lab space.

Three years ago, the companies that were based at Bwtech numbered more than 900 employees. Today, more than four dozen companies and research organizations employ more than 1,200 people, officials said.

Fifty-two companies, or 91 percent of Bwtech’s incubator companies since 2000, are either still in operation or have been sold, while a small percentage went out of business, according to program statistics.


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

December 13, 2010

Catching the 3D wave: Direct Dimensions' cool tech

michael-raphael.jpgMy colleague, Jamie Smith Hopkins, had a great one-on-one with Michael Raphael, the president of Direct Dimensions, a 3D imaging company based in Owings Mills.

The company has created digitized 3D images of everything from submarines to sculptures. At the moment, the firm is digitizing portions of the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

It plans to spin off a company called ShapeShot, which will specialize in digitizing/3D-izing people's faces for use in online communications and video gaming.

Imagine inserting your face into a video game or even a movie?

Here's the interview.


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 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Gadgets
        

December 3, 2010

Wikileaks: the free press fight of our time?

wikileaks.jpg

Don't be confused by the new battlefield of the Internet, Wikileaks's ability to continue publishing is shaping up to be a traditional free press fight of our time.

"If this were a newspaper and the government shut down its printing presses, there would be an national outrage, and that's precisely what's happening here," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University.

To put it in some perspective, imagine this scenario:

A U.S. newspaper received hundreds of documents that exposed the inner workings of government decision-making at the highest levels, and published a compendium of the documents, using its own printing press.

As the newspaper special edition started to roll off the press and onto the trucks, the truck drivers found that the streets in front of the printing facility were blocked by big trucks and public works crews who suddenly decided to tear up the street without notice.

The newspaper delivery drivers, ever resourceful, used a rear exit and started delivering the papers to their on-the-ground delivery people in neighborhoods across the city. But those people were constantly getting pulled over by local police for minor traffic infractions. Others followed the delivery people and picked up every newspaper that was tossed on the front lawns. Most subscribers never got their morning paper.

At the newsstands, shadowy people either stole newspapers out of the boxes, or simply nailed them shut.

Back in the newsroom, a computer hardware company informed the editor-in-chief that it was coming to collect the computers that the newspaper leased to put out the newspaper. The reason: using the technology to publish documents that supposedly weren't rightfully theirs to publish.

The action was effective: this newspaper with a circulation of 500,000 people only managed to get this special, newsworthy edition out to only a tenth of its subscribers.

Freedom of the press? Sure, this newspaper has the right to run its own presses. The government and its partisan supporters would never interfere with that process. (Or would they?)

But they could make it difficult to disseminate the information.

Take this scenario and apply it to Web publishing. I would argue that this is exactly what we're seeing now with Wikileaks, the secrets-spilling Website that's been at the center of massive leaks that are exposing U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents are helping people to judge whether or not the U.S. government's public statements square with its behavior behind the scenes.

I don't think that Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, has yet said Wikileaks does not have the right to publish, though the Senate foreign intelligence committee is apparently calling for Wikileaks' founder, Julian Assange, to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. We'll see if the U.S. Justice Department can do that.

But there are government and economic forces at work that appear to be putting pressure on the infrastructure that underpins Web publishing, in the case of Wikileaks.

We are seeing the outer limits of freedom of speech and the press being tested right now. Are Web service providers hiding behind the language of their "terms of service," rather than wrapping their enterprise in the cloak of the First Amendment?

In the past few days, Amazon has booted Wikileaks off of its servers for not following its "terms of service."

"It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content," Amazon wrote.

But generally speaking, the U.S. government does not have copyright protections for the work its officials produce.

Moving on past Amazon, another web service provider, Tableau Software, which allows users to post charts, was asked by Sen. Joe Lieberman to take down some charts depicting Wikileaks' references to countries. The information itself was not secret or classified per se.

But the senator put government pressure on this Seattle company, which caved, and took down the charts, according to this MSNBC report.

Next up: a web service provider called EveryDNS. Blaming web attacks that are destabilizing its infrastructure, EveryDNS stopped doing business with Wikileaks, which effectively took the site offline until it had to switch to a service in Switzerland. Instead of using Wikileaks.org, the site is now available at Wikileaks.ch.

Reuters reports that the French government is also looking at ways to deny Wikileaks use of web servers in that country.

This is all troubling behavior, in my book. What do you think? Let's kickstart a conversation about this critical topic.


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 10:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Good Reads
        

November 23, 2010

KEYW: "Embrace the Parrot"

KEYW is a curious lil' company in Maryland. It works in the super-secret world of electronic and signals intelligence as a government contractor to defense/intell agencies, but it is -- as of last month -- a publicly traded company, with all the public disclosures that that status brings.

The company's executives, including the CEO Len Moodispaw, have an affinity for Key West. Hence, "KEYW." It seems to be a light atmosphere at KEYW's headquarters in Hanover, with stuffed parrots perched around Moodispaw's office. Last Thursday, the company rang the NASDAQ opening bell and gave investors and analysts a briefing they dubbed: "Embrace the Parrot." Seriously.

Anyhow, here's the story I wrote about KEYW today. Check it out. Below are the first few paragraphs:

Several big investment banks advised Leonard E. Moodispaw that he shouldn't do it — but the CEO of KEYW Corp., a cybersecurity company in Hanover that's been in business for just two years, wouldn't listen.

Restless and eager to expand quickly, Moodispaw took KEYW public last month — after canning the Wall Street naysayers who told him to wait for a more hospitable stock market. The company, with the help of smaller investment banks, raised $89 million on the day of its initial public offering. Within weeks, its market cap rocketed to about $300 million.

"We fired the big guys and did just fine without them," Moodispaw said in a recent interview.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:17 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Government Tech
        

November 16, 2010

Diamond Fans unite on Facebook -- thanks to a Baltimore jeweler

diamondfanslogo.jpg One of the most popular destinations on Facebook with ties to Baltimore isn't connected to a sports team or a national brand, but to a downtown jewelry shop.

Ron Samuelson, of Samuelson's Diamonds on West Baltimore Street, operates the “Diamond Fans” page on Facebook, which recently surpassed more than 500,000 fans and is now the largest jewelry page on the social media site.

By comparison, Zales Jewelers, a national chain, has 27,000 Facebook fans, while Kay Jewelers has fewer than 600 fans. Another local company, Baltimore-based Under Armour Inc., has 390,000 Facebook fans, while the Baltimore Ravens football team has 252,000 fans.

The most popular page is Texas Hold ’Em Poker, with 27 million fans of the Facebook game.

 “It’s just so incredible,” Samuelson said. “Here we are sitting on Baltimore Street and we have the largest jewelry page on Facebook.”

AllFacebook, a website that tracks Facebook news, recently ranked the “Diamond Fans” page as the 63rd most popular page in the fashion category of Facebook, beating out Hugo Boss, Levi’s and Versace.

Thousands of small and large businesses, pro athletes, celebrities and nonprofits maintain fan pages on Facebook. Facebook users become “fans” of the pages to keep up with news, events and promotions that are offered through the pages. Increasingly, having a Facebook fan page is an integral part of a company’s marketing strategy.

Samuelson claimed the “Diamond Fans” page about 2 1/2 years ago, and he has been diligently updating it with photos and links to news, facts and trends in the world of diamonds. He does occasional promotions through the page for products for sale at his Baltimore store — but pushing advertising about his business isn’t the main purpose of the page, he said.

Instead, Samuelson is using the page to build a worldwide community of fans of diamonds, who incidentally might choose to buy jewelry from his store. He regularly polls the fans of the page to gauge changing tastes and trends in jewelry. For instance, do they prefer yellow or white gold, or platinum settings?

His Facebook fans can tell him which kinds of products to focus more on selling in his bricks-and-mortar store, he said. Online revenue from leads generated from the Facebook page is still small, he said.

“This page, much like social media, is not about pushing deals in people's faces,” Samuelson said. “Much like any other medium, it’s all about establishing trust and communicating with people, and then the business comes.”

Samuelson’s grandfather opened the shop in 1922, and the grandson has taken the family business into the age of social media. An early adopter when it comes to Facebook and Twitter, Samuelson has used the services to build the brand reputation of his jewelry business. Thousands of followers of the Diamond Fans page live abroad, he said.

Samuelson also has a Facebook page and a website for his own business, under the name Baltimore Diamonds. But when you search for just diamonds on Facebook, Samuelson’s “Diamond Fans” page is typically the first one that shows up.

Samuelson’s strategy “looks brilliant, to use a term for diamonds,” said Jeff Davis, partner with Sawmill Marketing Public Relations, a Baltimore firm with an expertise in social media.

Davis said that Samuelson was smart in claiming the generic name “diamonds” on Facebook, because that term would be searched more than his business’ name.

Looking at the degree and quality of interaction on the Diamond Fans page, Davis said it appears that Samuelson is having great success with his followers.

“That’s an incredible number of people ‘liking’ the fan page,” Davis said. “So obviously they've seen value in the content.”

(Below, the Samuelson's Diamonds store in downtown Baltimore.)

samuelson-store.jpg


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:06 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media
        

November 15, 2010

Baltimore's ZeroChroma launches: unique cases for mobile devices

I did a Q&A with Brian Le Gette, original co-founder of 180s (you know the company that makes those funky behind-the-head ear warmers) and we talked about his latest venture: ZeroChroma.

Le Gette (below left) teamed up with Dave Reeb (right) to design a patent-pending collapsible swivel stand that pops out of the back of a flat case. The design has great potential for many different kinds of applications, but for now, Le Gette and Reeb are focused on the mobile device case market.


legette-and-reeb.jpg


The pair are doing a product launch push this week and, early next year, their hope is that their cases for Apple iOS devices are stocked in the Apple Store and Best Buy.

For those investment banker types out there, ZeroChroma is a self-funded operation that's based here in the Baltimore area but does manufacturing in Taiwan. Le Gette said their goal is to keep the company small and nimble and largely "virtual" and "in the cloud." They don't have a fancy headquarters office yet, in other words.

So far, I've tried out their cases for the iPhone and iPad and have been impressed with their finish and functionality. I particularly appreciate the iPad case, which is flexible enough to rotate from portrait to landscape mode. If you find yourself watching a lot of video while sitting at a desk, or in an airplane, this case may be for you.


zerochroma-back.JPG


You can even lower the iPad to a gentle typing level, which is very useful for those of us who do a lot of typing on the iPad. The cases range in price from $35 to $70.

zerochroma-side.JPG


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November 9, 2010

WellDoc, a small Baltimore tech company, partners with heavyweight AT&T

welldoc-phone-image.jpgWellDoc Inc., a Baltimore health care technology company, has hit some key milestones since it was launched five years ago. It has raised millions in venture capital, received FDA approval for its mobile phone-based diabetes management software, and even expanded operations to India, where diabetes is a burgeoning problem.

But perhaps the company’s biggest news is its recent partnership with AT&T Inc. The telecommunications giant launched a new business segment last week that will focus on technology solutions for the health care industry. And WellDoc’s software will be pitched by AT&T’s huge marketing muscle to commercial clients ranging from hospitals to insurers to employers.

“We knew we needed to have a partner to scale our solution,” Ryan Sysko, WellDoc’s chief executive, said Monday. “We can continue to focus on clinical application, and they [AT&T] could be our partner to bring it to market.”

WellDoc is on the cutting edge of the fast-growing mobile health field, where mobile phones, the Internet, smart software and medical devices are merging to improve health care. The company’s flagship product is web-based chronic disease management software that works with mobile phones, so that those with certain diseases, such as diabetes, can better manage their care.

The health care industry is experiencing a confluence of technology trends. More and more consumers are using the Internet and mobile phones to track and personalize their health care. For instance, applications abound for smart phones, such as Apple’s iPhone, that enable people to track their weight and calorie counts, or their exercise regimens.

At the commercial level, health care providers such as hospitals and insurers are increasingly adapting to new state and federal guidelines that require using technology to share patient data and diagnoses more efficiently and securely.

This is the profitable, multibillion-dollar niche that AT&T is trying to target with its new ForHealth business segment. AT&T believes the health care information technology market is worth about $34 billion. The telecom company said its own revenues from that market were $4 billion last year.

To use WellDoc, diabetes patients take blood readings with a wireless-enabled glucometer (example), which beams the data to the person’s cell phone. The patient then shares the data with WellDoc’s computer system, which tracks and analyzes the information, and then gives diabetes-management advice to the patient — all via cell phone.

A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project last month found that 17 percent of adults with cell phones have used their mobile devices to access health or medical information. That percentage was higher — 29 percent— for cell phone users between the ages of 18 and 29, the survey found. And nearly 10 percent of cell phone users have apps on their phones that help them track or manage their health, according to the survey.

Some examples of health care solutions that AT&T is offering, in addition to WellDoc, include medicine bottles whose caps glow and beep to remind patients to take pills; home-based devices that monitor patients’ heart levels; and audio and video feeds that can replace doctor’s office visits.

“We’re very excited to have that strategic alliance with” WellDoc, said Adena Handley, AT&T’s marketing director for health care. “Now that we have WellDoc as part of the entire ForHealth practice, it brings even more credibility to what we’re trying to do from a company perspective.”

Financial terms of the partnership between WellDoc and AT&T were not disclosed. WellDoc, which is privately held, expects to have revenue of more than $10 million this year, Sysko said. The company has five corporate clients and 20,000 users of its software, he said.

WellDoc was founded by Sysko and his sister, Dr. Suzanne Sysko, who was an endocrinologist at the University of Maryland and worked at the university’s Joslin Center for Diabetes.

Two pilot studies conducted by the company with partners such as CareFirst and Johnson & Johnson have shown that using WellDoc’s mobile phone-based program to manage diabetes brought dramatic improvements and stability to patients, according to Ryan Sysko.

In August, WellDoc received Food and Drug Administration approval to market its software for treatment for Type II diabetes. The company hopes to expand its offerings beyond diabetes management to cover other chronic diseases, such as treatments for cancer, congestive heart failure and respiratory diseases, Sysko said.

The company has 75 employees, 45 in Baltimore and the rest in Bangalore, India, Sysko said. WellDoc wanted to be in emerging markets overseas, Sysko said, because diabetes is a big chronic health problem in China and India.

In the United States, diabetes affects about 12 percent of the population, but the disease is growing rapidly in India, where it afflicts 7.1 percent, and China, where 4.5 percent suffer from it, according to the International Diabetes Federation.


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: *NEWS*, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

November 3, 2010

Baltimore inventor wants to give away his patents

My colleague, Lorraine Mirabella, had a great little story this week about a Baltimore inventor who's willing to give away his patented inventions in hopes they will come to market.

Here's the beginning of the story:

Inventor Mario P. DiForte has spent more than four decades thinking of ideas for gadgets, tools and products. If there's a better way to practice baseball, drive a car, talk on a cell phone, prevent illness on airplanes or rescue a person from drowning, DiForte thinks he has a solution in his arsenal.

Now, at 66, DiForte is battling heart problems and fears that nearly two dozen unsold inventions may never do more than gather dust on the shelves of his Glen Arm home. That worry has sparked what DiForte believes could be his biggest concept of them all: He intends to give his ideas away.

The catch: DiForte says he will hand over patents, including pending and provisional ones, on 22 products to "legitimate" companies only if they agree to make the products and create jobs. And he wants to shepherd his brainchildren through production as a paid consultant, even if only on a part-time basis. It's a sweeping offer. It means he would agree to take no licensing fees or royalties from product sales.

To read the entire story, here's the full page.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Gadgets
        

November 1, 2010

College a la carte: StraighterLine's $999 online first year

burck_smith.jpgImagine if the first year of college, you took courses entirely online and potentially saved yourself thousands of dollars. StraighterLine wants you to imagine that future.

Yesterday, I wrote a story about StraighterLine, a Baltimore-based startup tackling the higher education market with cheap online first-year courses and a subscription pricing model. The company does not confer degrees, but has agreements with 22 accredited colleges and universities who grant credit for the StraighterLine courses. The company's courses are evaluated and recommended by the American Council on Education, which 26 Maryland higher education institutions use as a standard for granting transfer credit.

Below is the story:

 

 

StraighterLine's challenge to the rising cost of college

Baltimore startup offers 'first year of college' online for $999

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

After putting off finishing her college degree for more than two decades, Elizabeth Smith this year needed just one more class — an algebra course — to earn her bachelor's degree in theater arts.

The full-time worker and single mother of two didn't have time or money to spare, so she signed up for a course offered by Baltimore-based StraighterLine Inc. She finished the course in seven days over the summer, working on her laptop as her kids frolicked in a pool. And the course cost only $138 — a fraction of the price for a similar course at a four-year or community college.

At a time when a year of college can cost as much as a luxury car, StraighterLine Inc. offers a cheap alternative: online courses starting at $138 a month, or $999 for a year of "101"-style classes typically taken by freshmen, ranging from mathematics to English to business statistics.

The startup has high hopes of altering the economics of higher education by solely offering online courses a la carte — and no degrees. It joins other for-profit companies that offer online education to students seeking lower prices and flexibility in course schedules.

StraighterLine and its competitors aim to become even more appealing to recession-weary students who continue to see huge tuition increases at traditional brick-and-mortar colleges, including some adults returning to school in hopes of making themselves more marketable in a tight job market.

"Most people now are really looking for the flexibility," said Smith, a 42-year-old Northeast Baltimore resident. "Online learning, to me, is natural. If I can shop at midnight, why can't I do my coursework then? I would much rather be using my computer to expand my horizons than buy a pair of shoes."
 

Continue reading "College a la carte: StraighterLine's $999 online first year" »


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

October 12, 2010

Baltimore startup Videntity wins $10K prize

videntity.gifA Baltimore startup named Videntity, which is based in Canton, won a $10,000 prize last week in connection with a software developer challenge in San Diego.

Videntity, which is run by Alan C. Viars, won the prize from the West Wireless Health Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization that's promoting the application of wireless technology in health care. [Full press release]

For the contest, Viars' company integrated consumer devices that generate real-time health data, such as a Wii balance board, with a social network (Facebook). In short, Viars created a demo where you can step on a Wii and it uploads your weight to the Internet.

And he also made a Facebook app for walkers to share their pedometer data with their Facebook friends. Viars, a computer scientist, has developed an open-source framework that enables medical devices and communication devices to communicate with each other. (I.e. a blood pressure monitor that can text message your reading? Viars has figured out how to do that.)

The implications of making this technology possible are vast. People -- and companies and even our government -- could start to use this new technology in social gaming tied to their health, nutrition and dieting efforts.

Viars is also taking advantage of an effort in health care information systems to give people and patients more access and control over their own health data.

From a health care and healthy living perspective, "the government and managed care providers are very interested in behavior change from a cost saving perspective," Viars told me.

The good news about Viars' work so far is that it's all open source, meaning that other software developers can take his programs and start to build their own applications with 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 9:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

October 7, 2010

CashFlow: Who's getting pumped with cash

I'd like to start a new, occasional feature for BaltTech called CashFlow, where I'll list the technology startups from around the country that have recently raised significant amounts of financing, according to the Form D's they file with the SEC.

It won't be an exhaustive, complete list of companies -- just a selection of those I find interesting every couple days. Here goes:

* Grandparents.com LLC -- A website for grandparents, parents and grandkids, recently raised $868,000. It's based in New York.

* PixSpree -- Founded in 2010 in California, this startup so far only has a one page website, and raised $100,000. The company "works with a network of top online content publishers turning rich media into shopping opportunities by matching clothes and accessories in the images with actual products." (I wish they had a demonstration of what they did on their site.)

* Social Stay LLC -- This California company also has a one-page website, but it also offers a well-made video on what they do. They're a platform for hospitality industry companies who are seeking to offer advertising and marketing messages through mobile phones. They've raised $100,000 and are seeking to raise another $200,000.

* PopTent -- This California company -- with offices in Pennsylvania -- has just raised some serious cash: $6.8 million. They've got a network of over 20,000 creative filmmakers/producers who "are connecting to each other and to companies that want to pay them for their talents." (Interesting biz model, I think.)

* Graphic.ly -- For comic book fans, a Colorado company that provides "an immersive social experience and marketplace around digital comics and associated merchandise," according to its Twitter. It raised $1.3 million.


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 11:19 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

October 4, 2010

Vote for Baltimore's Extraordinary Technology Advocate (BETA)

:: Become a friend of BaltTech on Facebook::

On Thursday, the Greater Baltimore Technology Council's TechNite will be held at Ram's Head Live in Baltimore. For the uninitiated, TechNite is the annual "who's who" event of the technology community in the greater Baltimore area, with guest speakers and presentations and awards doled out in abundance. 

If you can go, it's a good place to meet technologists and entrepreneurs and get a feel for those who are moving and shaking and aspiring in Baltimore's technology scene. Yes, indeed, there is a scene here, folks.

One of the new TechNite features this year is the inaugural Baltimore's Extraordinary Technology Advocate (BETA) 2.0 Award -- for the "individual who supports and moves forward the growth and success of the technology community in our region, while continuously connecting people and technology." 

The BETA 2.0 Finalists are:

newt_fowler.jpg• Newt Fowler, Partner, Rosenberg, Martin, Greenberg LLP. Newt loves working with startups and entrepreneurs.

 

johansson.jpg• Christian Johansson, Secretary, Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development. The secretary is a big promoter of the region's tech entrepreneurs.

 

• loveland.jpg Tom Loveland, CEO, Mind Over Machines. Tom is Baltimore's "Google Czar" for the Google Fiber project.

 

subelsky.jpg• Mike Subelsky, works at OtherinBox.com. Mike is the founder of Ignite Baltimore, a hugely successful speaker series that brings together Baltimore's technology, design and media communities.

 

dave_troy.jpg• David Troy, President, Roundhouse Technologies. Dave is doing everything from investing in local startups, to building big tech-related events, to working with city leaders on technology initiatives.

Anybody can vote for one of these finalists at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/26M5XVS

For information about the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, visit: http://www.gbtechcouncil.org.


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 2:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Events (Baltimore area)
        

September 14, 2010

Beer tap tables -- bottom's up!

draftmaster.jpg


I had a chance recently to see the Draft Master beer tap table in action and, let me tell you, it sure poured some smooth, tasty Guinness.

Writing about how these tables are hitting American soil from Ireland definitely was one of the more delightful assignments I've had for the paper in recent years. That said, rest assured, I did not perform any acts of journalism while inebriated.

The Irish company behind the tables, Ellickson International, has some grandiose visions for the tables. For one, it hopes to be building beer tap tables that are connected to the Internet and allow for gaming and ordering food and performing other Webby activities (Facebook at your beer table, perhaps?)

We'll see if their vision ever becomes reality.


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 10:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Gadgets
        

August 24, 2010

Batter up: "pitching" at Maryland TechCrawl East

In a Major League Baseball town such as Baltimore, perhaps it is no surprise that a budding technology event has been built around a batting analogy.

The “pitchers” at the Maryland TechCrawl East on Sept. 16 will be startup entrepreneurs. They’ll be pitching their business plans to each “batter” — skeptical investors, journalists or technophiles — who step up to the “home plate” at each company’s booth to hear the 60-second presentations.

The event, in its second year, now has its sights set beyond Baltimore. The last TechCrawl event was held in December and attracted 20 pitching companies, 20 investors and 200 guests. This year, the event’s founders want to attract startups from all over the East Coast. (Follow their Twitter here.)

Already, startups from New York, West Virginia, New Jersey and Philadelphia have applied to give pitches. Organizers are hoping to attract 50 companies to present.

“The primary goal is to strengthen technology companies,” said Heather Sarkissian, co-founder of the TechCrawl and chief executive of Baltimore-based MP3Car.com. “It’s not just about getting investment; it’s about forging relationships.”

Startup companies are often lacking for cash, connections and a polished pitch and product.

Sarkissian said that entrepreneurs can come away from the TechCrawl with potential improvements in all four areas. They could meet new investors, network with peer companies, refine their presentation skills and get early feedback on products.

“This is about getting everybody in one room for one night and establishing relationships,” Sarkissian said.

The Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, a booster for the region, is a new event sponsor. Tom Sadowski, the organization’s president, said the group is trying to get more involved with entrepreneurs and startups in technology.

“We need to connect all the dots, from the biggest companies down to the startups,” Sadowski said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for new tech development.”

This year’s TechCrawl will take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Morgan Stanley building in Fells Point, in the 900 block Thames St.


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

July 22, 2010

Right Side Capital: Making seed stage startup funding more efficient

rscm-logo.png The guys behind Right Side Capital Management believe the early seed stage of funding for technology startup companies is very inefficient.

Kevin Dick and David Lambert, two of the three founders of Right Side of San Francisco, were in Baltimore today to pitch their investment fund to some of the city's most eager startup entrepreneurs at the Emerging Technologies Center in Canton.

They're traveling all over the country with their pitch, talking to both startups and larger investors and technology companies who are excited about getting access to a pipeline of new little companies that they could perhaps invest in.

Here's what I gathered is Right Side's vision and strategy:

1) Any tech startup can apply to their group for funding.

2) Each company investment will be in the $50,000 to $1 million range, with the median around $250,000.

3) They'll give the entrepreneur a decision (yay or nay) in two weeks -- so no waiting for months on end for an answer.

4) They'll value your company and you'll get notice of their investment, which is pretty much non-negotiable.

5) They'll standardize all the legal stuff, to drive down deal costs by about 70 percent -- which means more money in the startup's pocket.

6) They'll like to see a good, competent team with at least some solid operational experience.

7) They'll take a preferred equity position in your company, usually no more than 30 percent, but won't sit on your board.

8) Oh, and they want to invest in 100 to 150 startups a year, which is ambitious. But for their investment model to work, they have to go for that scale.

Basically, the reality for most early startups is that they are little more than an idea on paper, or perhaps a little more.

Such individuals and companies are looking for an infusion of capital to hire a couple of people and get to work on an early version of their product.

Another reality, on the investment side, is that angel investors and venture capital firms may only do a handful of deals a year.

But Right Side is looking to do more with more -- the more they diversify their investments, the greater the chance they'll get decent returns for their investors when the company you started sells for a couple million a few years from now.

Yet, Dick and Lambert expect 50 percent of their investments to be duds. It's the other 50 percent that they hope to make a killing on.

What do you think? If you're an entpreneur with an idea for a new business, what more information would you want to know about Right Side?


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 2:57 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

July 12, 2010

Biotech: Baltimore needs its own MedImmune?

In yesterday's Sunday Business cover story, I looked at the state of Baltimore's biotech industry, and compared it to its larger cousin to the south, in Montgomery County. Take a read.

david_block_gliknik.jpg




What Baltimore's biotech industry needs: an 'anchor'
Young biotech startups hope to grow into major players, fueled by state tax credits and research from Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland


By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

July 11, 2010

Baltimore's biotechnology industry has made strides. Two biotech parks by the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland now anchor the east and west sides of the city. A few dozen biotech startups have made their home here.

But Baltimore's nascent biotech industry doesn't yet have a breakout company — a darling of venture capitalists and Wall Street that has grown past the risky and unprofitable startup phase to achieve a steady stream of revenue and products in the pipeline.

A company like MedImmune in Montgomery County, which produces an H1N1 flu virus vaccine, among others.

"There's no giant here, but it would be nice to have one," Aris Melissaratos said about Baltimore. He's a special adviser for enterprise development at Hopkins and a former head of the state Department of Business and Economic Development. "Every company that starts up strives to do that. Very few succeed."

The future of Baltimore's biotechnology industry remains to be seen. Industry observers put the city up to two decades behind the biotech hub that has taken root along the Interstate 270 corridor in Montgomery.

While Baltimore's bioparks are still being built, Montgomery planners are moving forward on a $10 billion "science city" with 17.5 million square feet for research and development. That county has more than 250 of the state's 380 bioscience companies, with such heavy hitters as MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences. Baltimore has about 40 biotech companies.

But Baltimore has scored some wins recently, by landing the new headquarters of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, with its $100 million endowment, at the Hopkins Science + Technology Park. And the University of Maryland BioPark is planning a third building for young biotech companies.

Another indicator of how well Baltimore is faring in the intrastate biotech race is an annual Maryland tax credit that lets investors recoup half their investment — up to $250,000 — in a biotech company. Over the past year, 14 Maryland companies were able to attract investors who tapped the credit. Five were based in the Baltimore area.

The companies, by virtue of being savvy enough to attract investors in a tough economy, are some of the bright spots in the industry — and potential future breakouts.

In biotech, success can beget success. MedImmune, which was bought by AstraZeneca International in 2007 for more than $15 billion, has spurred new companies to locate nearby, to do business with it or tap into its talent. The company employs 1,400 in Gaithersburg, and several hundred more at a manufacturing facility in Frederick.

Continue reading "Biotech: Baltimore needs its own MedImmune?" »


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May 24, 2010

Connections Academy of Baltimore in the spotlight

barbara_dreyer.jpg

I recently did a Q&A session with Barbara Dreyer, the CEO and co-founder of Connections Academy, a fast-growing Baltimore company specializing in K-12 online education. It's part of a growing trend of online learning that's really seeping into all levels of our society and economy. Here's the original link -- and I republished the interview below:

Virtual education firm making real-world progress
Barbara Dreyer, CEO of Connections Academy

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

May 23, 2010


Barbara Dreyer runs a virtual online education company that the longtime entrepreneur and educator hopes is making a real-world impact.

As online universities soar in popularity, Dreyer's company, Connections Academy, is one of the leaders in the field of K-12 online education and partners with public and charter schools; it also offers its own online private school. It employs about 1,000 people nationwide, with nearly 300 in the Baltimore area at its headquarters in Baltimore and at a warehouse in Elkridge.

Dreyer, 55, co-founded Connections Academy in 2001 and has guided it to steady growth. It briefly operated a pilot program in Baltimore County and now operates in 17 states, with more than 20,000 students taking online courses through its programs.

Connections Academy has grown quickly as more states explore online learning programs. The private company's annual revenue now stands at $120 million and has risen an average of 35 percent a year, according to Dreyer. The Baltimore Sun caught up with Dreyer to talk about how Connections Academy operates, what it offers parents and students, and its future in Maryland.

Question: How does your industry fight against a perception that virtual education isn't as "real" as a traditional brick-and-mortar education?

Answer: Nowadays, there's a lot more open consideration of it, but there are still people uncomfortable with that model. You remember, there were those same debates on whether you could take an online course in college. Today, there are plenty of people at very prestigious universities who are taking classes online. It can be a very powerful facilitator.

Q: So what's a typical day for a Connections Academy student who is in, say, the fifth grade?

A: A fifth-grade student is probably going to have, and should have, a parent or some other adult available to them daily. You would expect to see Mom and Dad or other relatives available, or people who do this as a cooperative.

We're going to tell you the classes and the content you have to cover, but we're going to allow you to have some flexibility. If you need to do five math periods in one week, some students may want to do them all in one day. You can't do that in traditional school. … What happens if you're a particularly bright kid? You can go ahead. In a traditional school, the child can get bored sitting there with his book closed.

You're going to work a specific amount of time, depending on the school district you're in, say 5.5 hours. We're going to fill your day with that amount of classes. But there's variability in when you start. We have families who start school at 6:30 in the morning. We do not have the kind of homework that a traditional school has. What we found for the most part is that you can get what you need done during the school day. We build in the homework through the course of the day. There's a lot of stuff in school that's built in that takes extra time, such as assemblies.

We can take that day and make it really focused on instruction. Oftentimes, your assignment will send you offline. We send you physical science supplies. You're outside, writing a journal. It's important to let people know that [their child] will be online part of the time but also offline a good part of the time.

Continue reading "Connections Academy of Baltimore in the spotlight" »


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:34 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

March 24, 2010

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day

Heatherscrop.jpg

Ada Lovelace is considered by many to be the first computer programmer, dating back to the 19th century. Ada Lovelace Day has become a day for bloggers to celebrate women in technology. In that spirit, Baltimore techie Mike Subelsky (co-founder of the Ignite Baltimore speaker series and OtherinBox.com) offers this guest post on a young woman who's very active in the Baltimore tech scene. Here's Mike:

 

Today is Ada Lovelace day which aims to draw attention to women in the science and technology fields.  As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to write about Heather Sarkissian (it's more like I'm writing about Heather to draw attention to the day!).  

She's the CEO of an important mobile computing technology company here in town, mp3Car.com, which Gus has written about before.  The company combines several different facets in a compelling way: it's a popular forum, a crowd-sourced design company, a consultancy with Fortune 500 customers, and a niche ecommerce store.  Their office in the Emerging Technology Center includes a small warehouse of electronic parts, making it one of those rare web businesses that has actual inventory and real-world relevance.  They do it all with a small staff led by Heather.

 

Heather is a very active member of the local tech community.  We first met at the SocialDevCampEast unconference, which mp3Car had sponsored, and the company has supported many of our other tech community organizing efforts including my own project, Ignite Baltimore.  Heather took on a lot of the burden for Ignite and is in charge of securing sponsors.  Each Ignite costs over $2000 to produce so that is no easy task!  She's become such a big part of Ignite that she recently became a full partner and co-organizer in the event.

Drawing on her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, last year Heather started BmoreSmart, a group of social entrepreneurs and technologists in Baltimore aiming to make the city a better place.

So you can get a sense of Heather and her leadership in the mobile computing industry, we did a short interview.

1) Where does mp3Car see the mobile computing market headed and where do you see the company fitting in?

In the longer term, the next 5-10 years, the mp3Car team sees devices converging - phones, netbooks, laptops, etc -  all having the same core component that is the size of a penny.  We don't think that people really want 10 devices that do 10 different things, but do each of them really well.  Consumers will want simplicity with choice, which means that they want one core device which does everything fairly well.  But there is a market for upgrades, attachments or even docks.  For example, why the Kindle and an iPhone?  Simple, because there is no attachment for the iPhone yet that allows you enlarge the screen.
 

Continue reading "Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day" »


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

March 8, 2010

Startup story: Millennial Media

I interviewed Millennial Media's Paul Palmieri and Chris Brandenburg for a story that appeared in the Baltimore Sun's Sunday's Business & Jobs section.



Millennialfounders.jpg

Sipping a venti coffee at a Starbucks in Timonium, Chris Brandenburg, a computer engineer and caffeine junky, was ready for a new challenge – and Paul Palmieri was about to give him one.

On that day in April nearly four years ago, the men were at a crossroads in their lives: Brandenburg (pictured left) had just left Advertising.com and Palmieri (pictured right), a veteran wireless industry executive working for an investment fund, was hungry to make his mark with a startup.

Palmieri had several ideas, but the one he talked about most during their coffee shop meeting was an advertising network that would tap the nascent market of advertising on cellphones. Brandenburg was game. Within two weeks, he would go on to build a rudimentary computer server that could dish ads to cellphones – and showed it off to Palmieri.

“He walked me through the demo and it was just like, ‘Wow, we’ve gotta do this. We’ve gotta go hard after this,” Palmieri said.

Soon after, Millennial Media was born.

In less than four years, the Baltimore company has raced to the top of its industry. Millennial Media has raised $40 million from investors, including several million during a brutal economy, enabling it to expand and hire this year. Two of its biggest competitors were recently bought by Google and Apple for hundreds of millions of dollars each – which has driven Millennial’s own worth up, analysts say.

The company is positioned at the forefront of an industry that many say has excellent long-term growth potential. For Palmieri, launching Millennial was the culmination of a long obsession with the combination of wireless technology and marketing.

Millennial’s successful growth thus far is largely a Baltimore story. Several of the company’s top executives are refugees of Advertising.com, which is owned by AOL. The company’s offices are in the city’s incubator space in Canton. When technology observers talk about the next local startup company that could attract a generous buyer or unveil a lucrative public offering, Millennial is usually at the top of the list.

“They are a high-flying company and I think they have great upside potential; they have the talent, they’re building a great team,” said Steve Kozak, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, an association for local tech companies.

Kozak compared Millennial to Timonium-based Bill Me Later – “a quiet little company that nobody knew about”—that ended up getting bought by eBay in 2008 for $945 million. “I don’t know what their exit plan is, but I would not be surprised if some really good news came out of that company,” said Kozak.

What has fueled Palmieri’s vision for the company is his belief that mobile advertising is a new, largely unexplored world compared to traditional online advertising. People interact with their cellphones and smartphones when they’re on the move in unique ways, and the gadgets themselves can do things a desktop computer can’t, such as offer location-based services.

But the industry is still young and fragmented, with wide variations in technology, offerings and marketing adoption.

For years, industry prognosticators have talked about the money-making possibilities in mobile advertising. The platform itself offers various choices for marketers, such as text-message campaigns, or advertising within applications or on mobile Web sites.

But it’s only been in the last year or two – with the growing adoption of the iPhone and other high-powered smartphones – that industry analysts see mobile advertising beginning to fulfill expectations. The Interactive Advertising Bureau has projected that the mobile advertising industry will grow from $416 million in 2009 to $1.56 billion in 2013 – fractions of the many billions spent on online advertising in general.

Both men had worked at Advertising.com for a time, but didn't know each other well while there. Instead, they got hooked up by a mutual friend at the company after they had both left. Here's a little background on them.

(click through to read more)

Continue reading "Startup story: Millennial Media" »


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:36 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups, Wireless
        

February 17, 2010

CrowdPitch comes to Baltimore

funding_universe.pngFundingUniverse, an organization that helps entrepreneurs analyze their prospects and apply for funding, is hosting a "CrowdPitch" event in Baltimore on Feb. 25th at the University of Maryland BioPark, on the west side of the city.

Here's the link to the event.

Basically, entrepreneurs will be able to stand up and give a 4-minute pitch to a panel of judges and an audience.

The panel will ask questions and the audience will be given "fun money" to bet on the entrepreneur whose idea they like.

The two winners will get $10,850 worth of services from the event's sponsors.

(The services seem like they'd come in quite handy, too, if you're just starting out with your business plan.)

Any Baltimore-area entrepreneurs thinking about attending, either to participate or watch?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:37 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Events (Baltimore area), Geeks
        

January 15, 2010

Twitter to launch Facebook Connect copycat?

Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch says that Twitter will soon debut a set of tools that will allow web developers to tightly integrate the service into their websites -- much like Facebook now offers through Facebook Connect.

The new Twitter product will allow sites to authenticate users, pull data and then publish back to Twitter, we’ve heard. All of these features exist today via the Twitter API, but the slick Facebook Connect-like packaging and easy-to-use widgets don’t exist yet.

Arrington notes that Facebook says 80,000 websites have added Facebook Connect, and 60 million Facebook users engage with Facebook connect on these third party websites each month.

Generally, I think I would be much more inclined to connect to a site via a "Twitter connect" feature than Facebook Connect. I have far less personal information associated with my Twitter account than with my Facebook account.

I know we're all supposed to be living in a post-privacy Internet (according to Facebook), but I still think a lot of people want a way to connect with others without sharing all sorts of private information with third parties.

Will Websites be as willing to integrate Twitter as they are with Facebook?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:18 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast
        

January 6, 2010

Baltimore's QLab rocking the sound design world

It's great to hear stories about how a piece of software can change the world -- or at least a small part of it. Chris Ashworth, 30, of Baltimore, has that story to tell with his QLab software, which is used to orchestrate big and small live event productions. It's used in theaters across the U.S. including Tony-award-winning Broadway plays, and in London.

You can find my full story on Chris and QLab, originally published today in the Sun's business section. (And back in October, guest blogger and Otherinbox.com founder Mike Subelsky did a great little Q&A with Chris.) Below, you'll find a short video of Chris demo'ing QLab in his Baltimore home for BaltTech.

One thing I want to highlight about Chris and QLab: Chris appears to have a very friendly, loyal and enthusiastic customer base who seem to be big fans of his software.

Yesterday, when I was looking for professionals to interview, Chris put out a request on his Website's discussion forum for customers to contact me. My inbox quickly began filling up with people from all over the world raving about Chris's customer support, attention to detail, and great software in QLab.

Here's one bit of an email (without the person's name, since I didn't get his permission):

As a designer, QLab has been a game changer for me, not so much because of its capabilities, but because of the price those capabilities are available at. Various types of sophisticated systems for both projections and audio playback has been available since the late 1990s in various forms. The problem is that the earlier systems were extremely expensive, prohibitively so for any production done on less than a commercial scale budget. Now don't get me wrong, these tools are great, but great was so expensive that it was rare that I was able to use them.

Here's a shot of Chris and his QLab logo:

QLabChris.jpg


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:57 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks
        

December 30, 2009

Renaming and rebranding your company: The story of MP3Car.com

Have you ever been tasked with trying to come up with a new name for a company? (Or a website or a product?) It ain't easy. You have all sorts of issues to consider, i.e. Website domain availability, trademark issues, and what the name and brand might look like five years into the future. mp3car.jpg

I was intrigued about how a company handles such a task when speaking about it with Heather Sarkissian, CEO of MP3Car.com. The company started off as an online community and retail store geared toward selling mobile computers and parts to hobbyists.

But they quickly developed expertise in the field, and started to build systems for companies and governments looking to install them in their fleets of vehicles.

This new part of their business has been booming in recent years. Suddenly, a name like MP3Car.com doesn't quite fit, as some seem to think all they're really about is helping people listen to MP3 music files in their cars. Not so.

Have you and/or your company gone through a renaming/rebranding initiative? Let me know how that worked out in the comments below. Hit the jump for the full story on MP3Car.com's experience:

Continue reading "Renaming and rebranding your company: The story of MP3Car.com" »


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Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks
        

December 23, 2009

Why you can't ignore the email newsletter as an online publishing model

I spent several days recently researching a story about the business of email newsletters. Greg Cangialosi, CEO of Blue Sky Factory, an email marketing agency in Baltimore, gave me some great insight. gregcangialosi.jpgI asked Greg (pictured left) about the business model approaches of email newsletters vs. Websites, from an advertising and monetization perspective.

He said, in a nutshell: "The difference between Website and email advertising is the targeted nature of the [email] list of people. If that list demographic fits the target of the advertiser, they're going to get a good response rate."

Greg pointed to successes like Daily Candy and Thrillist as successful email newsletter companies, and talked about two of the local ones his company provides email newsletter services to: CityBizList in Baltimore and ExecutiveBiz in Washington D.C.

One of the big advances in recent years in email newsletter technology, Greg said, are the features involving sharing with a social network.

Companies disseminating email newsletters can embed them with options that allows the user to share the information on Twitter and Facebook, thus helping them grow their email subscriber base organically and through word of mouth. Pretty cool stuff.

Hit the jump to check out my full story on the topic.

Continue reading "Why you can't ignore the email newsletter as an online publishing model" »


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December 4, 2009

Startup lessons from Bill Me Later's success

bill-me-later.pngToday I attended a talk given by Mark Lavelle, one of the four co-founders of Bill Me Later -- a Baltimore area online payments company that was snapped up by eBay/Paypal for $945 million last year. (Yes, that would be almost one billion dollars.)

He was speaking to a group of ambitious entrepreneurs at the Emerging Technology Center in Canton, sharing some nuggets of wisdom about his company's startup experience, growth and eventual big payoff-sale. He and the three cofounders were in the banking business but left it to start their own company in the 1990s. They each had different skill sets, but knew they wanted to do something that involved online transactions, because of a lucrative potential market. Launching in 2000, their first office space was in the Renaissance Harborplace hotel in downtown Baltimore.

Here are some of the "lessons learned" by Bill Me Later, according to Lavelle, who is VP of business development:

* For startup businesses, you have to double or triple the timeline to self-sustainability and quadruple the cash you think you'll need. "That's exactly what happened to us," he said.

* "Don't underestimate the time you'll have to spend pitching your product." Lavelle said he probably spent 80 percent of his time on pitching the company to potential customers and investors.

* Focus on the team. "If you have a partner, make sure it's the right partner." Also, know how and when to hire as your company grows. Many entrepreneurs can have a hard time letting go of control.

* Doing a startup is a commitmen, "so you have to be all in and you have to be in it for something other than an exit or money."

* Speed: You can move quickly and push your company hard, but sometimes progress and new business will happen at its own pace -- and you can't sometimes control that.

* Integrity -- you don't want to damage your reputation with partners and clients. So don't over-hype or over-promise what your product can do. Before the company was finally bought by eBay last year, it had raised $300 million in venture capital over an eight year period.

Lavelle said he probably pitched 300 venture capital firms in an effort to raise money. In the end, only three jumped in with Bill Me Later. That's a 1 percent success rate. "That one percent was tough," Lavelle said.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:27 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

November 16, 2009

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:  

emarketerMobileAdstats.bmp

 

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?


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

November 4, 2009

TEDxMidAtlantic: behind the scenes

tedxvolunteers.jpg


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: baltimoresun.com/balttech

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
        

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
        

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:

Continue reading "How to raise money for your tech startup" »


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.

Continue reading "Five Questions with Gabriel Weisz" »


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
        

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 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.

Continue reading "Five questions with Clarence Wooten" »


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)
        

September 30, 2009

What does our local tech culture need?

Our guest blogger for today is Mike Subelsky, an organizer with Ignite (which David Troy just wrote about in a BaltTech guest post) and co-founder of OtherInbox.com. Chime in with your ideas on what the Baltimore tech scene needs to thrive.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that Baltimore has a vital and thriving technology culture. We have many good companies, events and organizations in town in various stages of growth, and it's a very creative time for starting new things. The activation energy for a new tech culture project is getting lower all the time!

This is my attempt to add fuel to the fire: a list of things our tech culture would use. I don't claim ownership or authorship of any of these ideas, and I really hope someone will see one of these and get it going. If you do you'll find a great deal of support and encouragement from the whole scene!

Continue reading "What does our local tech culture need?" »


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 (8)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Geeks, Research, Startups
        

September 25, 2009

Sticky situation: WhoGlue v. Facebook

whoglue_100.gif

By now, you may have heard about WhoGlue Inc., a tiny Baltimore tech firm, launching a lawsuit this week against Facebook for infringing on a key patent that essentially covers social networking and privacy features. (Here's my original story from yesterday.)

The patent at issue is titled "Distributed personal reationship information management system and methods," and was first filed in 2001 -- three years before Facebook was founded. It's worth noting that Facebook doesn't hold any patents currently.

In my interview with WhoGlue's founder, Jason D. Hardebeck, he made the point that much of what social networks now provide in terms of online privacy controls was something that his patent and technology has covered since 2001. The U.S. Patent Office issued the patent, after a lengthy review, in mid-2007.

So who is Hardebeck? At 44, he's a serial entrepreneur, meaning he's been involved with starting up a bunch of companies in his life. He was Maryland's first "entrepreneur in residence" in the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. And he's executive director of the Maryland Business Council.

His company, WhoGlue, has a big minority stakeholder: Siemens, the tech giant.

Hardebeck did his undergrad at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he was trained as a nuclear engineer. He later received a graduate business degree from Johns Hopkins. He's worked for Black & Decker in the past. In addition to running WhoGlue, which builds membership sites for associations and nonprofits, he's run market development for a Boston-based startup company called Ze-Gen.

"I pretty much keep my fingers in a lot of different pies," Hardebeck told me. 

On patents:

I spoke with Max Oppenheimer, a law professor and patent expert at the University of Baltimore, about the world of patents.  We talked about how sometimes, a technology becomes so widely used and accepted that it's hard to think that somebody may have a patent claim on it from years before. That's the case here with WhoGlue v. Facebook.

A patent filing can take 2-3 years to make its way through the system, and WhoGlue's seems to have been more complicated because it took 6 years. So, by the time the company was awarded the patent, the process and method that it had patented was being used by others.

"If the (patent) examiner looks at your application and thinks you have something new and nonobvious, then they're supposed to issue the patent to you," Oppenheimer told me. "By the time it comes out, it may be something commonplace."

Pretty messy, huh?

 


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 10:25 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers
        

September 4, 2009

Innovation in Maryland -- through the eyes of Johns Hopkins business dean

If you haven't read it yet, then run -- don't walk -- to Jay Hancock's latest, most excellent column where he talks with Yash Gupta, dean of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. yashgupta.jpg In it, Gupta (left) talks about the difference in the innovation economies and cultures of Baltimore and Southern California's Silicon Valley.

He makes some interesting points. And, it seems there's a call to action somewhere in there for our business and political leaders to wake up and smell the Old Bay right under their noses.

I may be oversimplifying it, but Gupta seems to say that entrepreneurs are overly dependent around these parts on the federal government as a cash cow for contracts. Such dependence can be both financially and professionally rewarding, but stultifying -- partly because the government market is a different animal than the consumer and business market.

It was also refreshing for Gupta to point out that California has high taxes and a tough regulatory environment, and yet its Silicon Valley is still synonymous with business innovation -- so the excuse that Maryland isn't tax-friendly to businesses may be just that: an excuse.

Yet, the other side is hard to ignore, when billions of federal dollars are staring your local/regional economy in the face.

In an interview I did awhile back with Christian Johansson, the state's secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, he essentially noted that the federal government is the big gorilla in the room that businesses around here can't ignore.

If the Maryland companies don't take advantage of the steady spigot of contracts that are made available each year, than other companies in other states most certainly will.

What do you think?

 

(photo credit: JHU)


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

August 25, 2009

Poll: Maryland's startup climate

Alright all you techies, entrepreneurs and risk-takers here in Maryland...Now is the time to vote your peace. Do you think Maryland has the right climate for nurturing startups?

Vote here, and tell us why you voted the way you did in the comments below.


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 9:11 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: East Coast, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups
        

July 15, 2009

"Hire Me" Nation: Using the Web & social media to get a job

My story today about people launching "hire me" Websites was sparked by "retweets" last month about Matt Bivons, who launched an online drive to get a job at Blue Sky Factory, a Baltimore-based email marketing firm. He calls it BSFShouldHire.me.

Who was this guy? Why was he doing this? Will we all eventually have our own "hire me" Websites? I spoke to Matt early on, and then ruminated on the phenomenon for a few weeks, poking around here and there and trying to see if anyone else was doing this. I started finding more and more sites like Matt's when I simply Googled "shouldhireme.com" or "hireme.com." (Here's a short list of some I perused.)

Quickly, I learned that Jamie Varon, a 24-year-old from California who launched TwitterShouldHireMe.com, may have been among the first -- if not the first -- to do something like this (at least since Twitter and Facebook have been around.)

Two people I interviewed who didn't make it into my print story were Susan Lewis and Eric Barker. But it wasn't because their efforts and ideas weren't remarkable. On the contrary:

Susan, 39, a marketing pro from Dallas, launched SusanHiresABoss.com, which turns the typical job hunt on its ear. If you're a boss, you can't hire Susan. She's gonna hire you. She graduated from Seth Godin's informal MBA program in New York this year (a six-month boot camp for smart, social-media-savvy people) and launched her site.

Susan told me about 30 companies expressed interest in her (30!), and she's narrowed the field down to about three potential employers. "Some (opportunities) could be project work," Lewis said. "There's one I might end up making an offer to."

Eric Barker, 36, of Los Angeles, told me how he's been running inexpensive ads on Facebook to target employers he wants to work for. The way it works is he puts up an ad that he targets to employees of a particular company who happen to be on Facebook. When you buy an ad on Facebook, the site offers you granular tools to target your ad to people, say, who claim they work for a certain company. The ads get him noticed and he gets calls from recruiters.

Barker, a former Hollywood screenwriter with an MBA, said his Facebook campaign has cost him little more than $100. He's targeted ads to Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Youtube and IDEO -- basically companies that are in media. He's gotten contacts and interviews, ironically, with other companies who were impressed by the ad.

He said he "went nuclear" with the Facebook approach because of the rough job market and he needed to get attention quickly. "My background is in Hollywood," he said. "Nothing in Hollywood gets done effectively through formal channels. Everything is done by friend of a friend and reputation. The real world is not that much different."

His dream job would be something in product marketing and/or development, he told me.

About his Facebook approach, he said: "We're all marketers now, like it or not. Getting access [through the Web and interactive social media tools] is easy. It's now all about marketing and branding yourself."

If you're curious about using Facebook -- and even LinkedIn -- as ways to advertise yourself to a new job, you should check out some tips from Willy Franzen over at the One Day, One Job blog.

Let me know if you have success with your online campaigns to get the job of your dreams (or even just a job your mildly happy about, especially if it involves decent pay and health bennies.)


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

July 10, 2009

Working for the cult of Mac

Two local businesses shared their stories with me on how they're making a pretty decent living servicing Apple products to different kinds of customers in the Baltimore area.

One is MacMedics, which has been around for 20 years and is based in Millersville. The other is Chesapeake Systems Inc., which is based in Hampden.

Here's the top of my story, which ran in yesterday's print edition, and is online here:

Dana Stibolt was in his early 20s when he started seriously tinkering with Apple computers at his parents' computer shop in Severna Park. It was the late 1980s and the computer that he taught himself to fix was called the Macintosh Plus.

What's interesting to note is that both of these businesses have done well because they've specialized in some areas of Mac product expertise. MacMedics offers consulting on networking, including integrating Macs and PCs; while Chesapeake has expertise in Apple's video hardware and software offerings, i.e. Final Cut Studio, and building out enterprise systems for companies that do a lot of video work.


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 7:43 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Gadgets
        

July 1, 2009

An Italian biotech consultant's shock, awe and questions

Last week here, I wrote about a rush of small Maryland start-up biotech companies to get in line for a generous state tax credit that was available for investors in the nascent industry. ("Maryland biotech companies crazy for tax credits!")

An Italian biotech consultant saw my post and was shocked -- shocked! -- by what we were doing here in Baltimore, Md. She wanted to know more. (She shot me an email. You'll see it below.)

To quickly recap: biotech companies started lining up Friday morning at the University of Maryland's BioPark in Baltimore to wait in line. The tax credits are doled out by the state every year on a first-come/first-served basis. Last I heard yesterday, 17 companies had stationed representatives in line, in an auditorium at the BioPark, to camp out for five days -- just so they could submit their applications for the tax credit this morning at 9 a.m. (I'm still waiting for the final headcount on how many submitted today.)

Several of the company reps I interviewed lauded the state for offering big tax breaks to drive investment in biotech here. One company, Noxilizer, told me how they were able to attract investors who live in other states, because of the tax credit. Few states have anything like this "Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit" program to kickstart the biotech industry, they told me.

About $36 million has gone into funding biotech startups over the past three years -- with half of it tax-free for investors, according to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

What's happening in the state's biotech industry will eventually come under more scrutiny in the future (Gov. O'Malley has a Bio202 initiative to build up the industry over the next 10 years), as the public, politicians and business leaders will expect concrete results after all this investment, including new job creation and blockbuster products. (Mary Spiro ponders this future in her post on Maryland biotech's "boom or bust.")


Now, for the email from Valeria Spagnoli, a self-described biotech consultant in Italy who wants some more insight from biotech companies in Maryland on how they're going about getting funding from the state. Who wants to help her with her questions?

Hi,

I’ve just read the article about tax break for biotech investors on the BIO smartbrief newsletter. I found it amazing that companies line up days before the application time opens up, they just sign their names on a blackboard…In my country we are overwhelmed by the so-called red tape procedures, papers and papers to fill in, this is why I would appreciate if you could provide more detailed information to this regard, such as: how are companies selected as beneficiaries? Just the first come first served basis ensures they are granted the money? How long does it take to become eligible?

Thank you so much for your kind reply!
Have a nice day!
Valeria

P.S. to Valeria: As my full story points out, there's only a limited pool of money -- $6 million this year -- so once it runs out, no one can get more funding. Each investor is entitled up to $250,000 in tax credits and no company can claim more than 15 percent of the total tax credit pool of $6 million. That said, there are some other nuances that maybe others closer to the process can jump in and explain for all of us.

(Published June 1, 2009)


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 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BioTech, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups, Venture Cap
        

June 3, 2009

Video: The Home Servidor

I met an interesting chap last week: Donavon West. He's an independent software developer who works out of his home in North Baltimore. He's also a tinkerer, with a fascination for both new and old tech -- and how to combine the two, at least aesthetically.

I wrote about one of his creations, which he's calling the Home Servidor. Take a look at the video below (BaltTech blog's first video!) for a little tour of it. (Note: no cigar was harmed in the making of this video and I don't condone smoking them. <cough-cough>)

 

To celebrate the spirit of hackery, anybody else out there doing interesting mashups of new and old tech? Drop a note in the comments. Maybe I'll show up at your front door with a video camera. ;-)


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 10:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, For The Home, Gadgets
        
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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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