November 29, 2011

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


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 And feel free to cc: me on it, too, over at

This is an archived version of the technology blog.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

June 28, 2011

Big BIO in Washington D.C. -- one Baltimore man's journey to the heart of BioPharma


Today, I was at the 2011 BIO International conference, one of the world's largest bio/pharma gatherings, in Washington DC, and I happened upon the Pfizer booth.

I asked the two Pfizer men there, "So, how often do people come up and ask for free Viagra as a joke?"

The two guys rolled their eyes. A Pfizer woman nearby shot me this look like I was touching upon a sore subject, like I was about to beat a dead horse, for the 117th time.

It was a big lame joke for awhile and it peaked a decade ago, one Pfizer guy said, tracing his finger in the air in an upward trajectory, like an imaginary fever chart. For the past several years, he said, people haven't been cracking the joke so much at conventions, they said. We figured out the jokes probably peaked around 1999-2000, held strong for a few years, and then dwindled away. Sorta like a .... oh, nevermind.

Plus, Pfizer can't really give out free samples of Viagra at conventions, he said. You need a prescription, silly!

So, there you go. Save the Viagra free-sample jokes when you see the Pfizer folks -- they won't think you're funny.

But I wasn't in D.C. to schmooze with Big Pharma. I was there to take a look at "BioMaryland."

Maryland's biotech industry this week is abuzz this week with involvement in the BIO conference in D.C.

I hung out at the Maryland pavilion, a patch of Old Line State in a sea of national and international exhibitors. It really took seeing scores of states and countries represented at this convention to bring it home that, by golly, biotech is a huge worldwide industry, and not one that the U.S. should take for granted in terms of competition.

Gov. Martin O'Malley came down from Annapolis and presented a state-of-the-industry report on Maryland's biotech sector (in a nutshell, the industry is stable, despite the recession, and employing people with good pay.)

There were a bunch of companies in the Maryland pavilion that you may or may not have heard of, such as Human Genome Sciences (makes a lupus drug and has a long history of working with human DNA), Dynaport Vaccine Co. LLC (makes vaccines for flu, plague and botulinum), and Integrated Biotherapeutics (makes an Ebola vaccine and staph infection treatments), to name a few. Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland system were well represented, as were economic development folks from Annapolis, Frederick and Hagerstown. Who did I miss?

This convention is HUGE. About 15,000 people attend it every year. And it's known for being not just a place to network, but also a venue for wheeling and dealing. In addition to thousands of square feet of exhibition space, state agencies and companies had an entire other hall dedicated to business development meetings. Here's a photo I took of one of the series of office spaces for the biopharma mover-and-shaker dealmakers.


If all goes well, the state organizations and companies that are representing Maryland will be able to walk away from this conference with the early beginnings of some fruitful deals in the future.

I took some photos of the Maryland pavilion and of its neighbors, including several Mid-Atlantic states that were staked out around the Maryland booths. Have a look on the jump:

Continue reading "Big BIO in Washington D.C. -- one Baltimore man's journey to the heart of BioPharma" »

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (DC/No. Va. area)

November 5, 2010

TEDxMidAtlantic TODAY in Washington DC

Last year, the first ever TEDxMidAtlantic was held in Baltimore. This year, the event -- which features innovative speakers and performers -- is being held in Washington DC. Below is a live video feed. Enjoy!

Watch live streaming video from tedxmid at

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (DC/No. Va. area), Geeks

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 “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:

November 4, 2009

TEDxMidAtlantic: behind the scenes


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

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

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

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

November 2, 2009

The Mid-Atlantic Biotech Conference this week

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

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

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

October 30, 2009

Bootstrap Maryland recap

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

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

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

October 29, 2009

Men are for Playstations, women are for Wiis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 28, 2009

Bootstrap Maryland tomorrow

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

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

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

The speakers are pretty experienced folks.

They include:

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

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

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

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

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

September 29, 2009

Ignite events help build regional buzz

Here's another dispatch from David Troy of Beehive Baltimore to shed some light on what Ignite is all about.

If you had 5 minutes on stage and 20 slides that rotate automatically every 15 seconds, what would you say? That's the question that 48 presenters will answer at three upcoming Ignite events in Annapolis, D.C., and Baltimore.

Ignite was started in Seattle in 2006 by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis, and is overseen by the technology book publisher O'Reilly. Since the founding of the program, hundreds of five minute talks have been given across the world.

Continue reading "Ignite events help build regional buzz" »

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Liz Hacken at 11:16 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area), Events (DC/No. Va. area), Geeks

September 2, 2009

TedxMidAtlantic announces first batch of speakers


TedxMidAtlantic, a locally-organized conference, last night announced the first five speakers for the all-day event in early November.

The conference will take place at MICA, at Falvey Hall, on Thursday, Nov. 5. Something like 20 some-odd speakers are expected to be lined up: all smart people with something innovative to share.

The conference is organized around the theme of "the power of stories" -- so it should be an interesting day. You may wish to take the day off from work if you're planning to attend. Why not?

In case you don't know, TedxMidAtlantic is organized by local folks under a license from TED, the larger international conference. TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, but the four-day conference encompasses many more disciplines. The speakers and audience who attend these events usually interact closely.

TedxMidAtlantic is free to attend, but you have to fill out an application first.

Below are the speakers they've lined up so far:

* Tyler Cowen, economist, professor at George Mason University and author of Create Your Own Economy and Discover your Inner Economist, among others

* Bob Duggan, founder, Tai Sophia Institute, a leading educational institution for the study of wellness

* Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director, American Visionary Art Museum, one of the nation’s premier museums celebrating art produced by self-taught artists

* Naomi Natale, TED Fellow, artist, and Founder and Director, One Million Bones as well as The Cradle Project

* Sonja Sohn, actress (played Det. Kima Greggs on The Wire) and founder, Rewired for Change, a nonprofit organization that works to empower young people living in the most underserved communities across the country through education, media advocacy, and street-based intervention.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area), Events (DC/No. Va. area)

July 8, 2009

TED conference coming to the Mid-Atlantic


::Updated at 4:25, with embedded video below of Clay Shirky giving a TED talk on how "social media can make history."

::@TEDxMidAtlantic news breaking on Twitter now....

The TED conference has been licensed to some independent organizers who want to bring a version of it to the Mid-Atlantic in November 2009. And by "Mid-Atlantic," they mean Baltimore, hon.

Here's the Website:

Admission will be free but limited to about 250 people. No word on location yet. The theme of the conference, according to @TEDxMidAtlantic's Twitter feed: "The Power of Stories" - Humans organize the world in stories; it's how we perceive design and art. Every design tells a story.

So what's TED? From its website:
TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

The event is being pulled together by Dave Troy, a Baltimore-based entrepreneur who helped organize the recent Barcamp Baltimore event. Troy has also started the Beehive Baltimore, a coworking space, and the Baltimore Angels, an investor group focused on funding promising Baltimore-area startups.

It's the latest event we've seen in the Baltimore area that's targeting the region's creative and entrepreneurial classes, to pull them together to bounce big ideas off each other. (We've had SocDevCampEast, Ignite Baltimore, Barcamp Baltimore, WordCamp Mid-Atlantic -- all in the span of about 18 months.)

How badly does Baltimore need stuff like this? What do you think?

Meantime, you can watch Clay Shirky talk about how social media is transforming our society.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:24 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Events (Baltimore area), Events (DC/No. Va. area)
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

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

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