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Maryland/Israel Fund Invests in Speech Recognition Firm

The Maryland/Israel Trendlines Fund L.P. is making its first major investment in NovoSpeech Ltd., an Israeli developer of speech recognition technology.

The $550,000 investment will help NovoSpeech develop a new algorithm that will make speech recognition technology more accurate. The company expects to achieve greater than 95 percent success rate with its speech recognition software.

NovoSpeech is working with a major manufacturer to embed its software in its Bluetooth devices and use the speech recognition technology as firmware. NovoSpeech will be launching its first smart phone application at the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.

The Maryland/Israel Trendlines Fund is operated by the Maryland/Israel Development Center and the Trendlines Group. The Fund is designed to provide capital investment in early stage startups in Israel in the life sciences, information technology, agritech and clean tech industries.

“Speech technology is the next frontier in computing. Novospeech’s technology brings the promise of speech recognition to the market today,” says Maryland/Israel Development Center head Barry Bogage.

Source: Maayan Jaffe, The Associated
Writer: Amy McNeal

Baltimore Named Top 10 Digital City

The Center for Digital Government and Government Technology recently named Baltimore as one of the top 10 digital cities in the country. Baltimore was ranked at number 9 on the list. The survey ranks cities based on a number of criteria to determine which are using technology to the greatest benefit of its citizens.
In its eleventh year, the Center for Digital Government Digital Cities Survey is conducted annually. The survey is the first and only survey model providing a sustained assessment of city governments’ use of information and communications technology. The Center for Digital Government’s Digital Cities Performance Institute identifies and promotes best practices and emerging trends in the public sector IT community.
The survey uses a number of criteria to determine which municipalities make the cut, and which aren't quite keeping up with technology. The top 10 cities are selected in four different population based categories. Municipalities are then judged on their commitment to technology use,  the impact of technology  across multiple municipal program areas, measurable progress on technology use and initiatives from the prior year, cost savings in hard and soft dollars across the municipality brought to city programs and departments as a result of technology use, innovation in adding new technology and using new technology tools and an attitude toward technology that demonstrates a spirit of  effective collaboration.
This is Baltimore's first appearance in the top 10.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: Baltimore City, Government Technology

Dynamic Shared Services Launches

AVF Consulting founder Andrew Fass and his team have launched a new business. Dynamic Shared Services will provide accounting, membership management, dues processing, and reporting services to school systems, non profits and local unions nationwide.
“It is exciting to identify and develop new business opportunities that compliment AVF,” says Andrew Fass, CEO and founder of AVF Consulting, Inc. “As a Microsoft Silver ERP partner, AVF provides Microsoft Dynamics financial management software and services to unions, nonprofits, and other businesses. It makes sense to leverage our experience into new opportunities.”
The business emerged from an opportunity created by AVF's relationship with the country's fastest growing union - Service Employees International Union. SEIU was looking for ways to provide accounting services for some of their local union members.  
“Many organizations and small school districts do not have the bandwidth to perform all the necessary, accounting, reporting, and processing required to maintain their operations,” says Fass.“DSS’s experts are proficient at these services and can provide them at a cost savings. Because DSS is a shared service organization, our clients have access to technology that they may not have been able to afford on their own.”
Jeanette Gaines, co-founder of the new business, will be the chief operating officer of DSS.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: AVF Consulting

GiveCorps Uses Innovation to Spur Donation

GiveCorps is changing the way the non profits in Baltimore raise funds by offering charitable donors in the Baltimore area a sweet deal: give to something good, get something good.
“Our tag line is ‘Give Local. Get Local.’ The local aspect of GiveCorps is unlike other online giving platforms. For donors, GiveCorps provides an easy method to both support and learn about local nonprofits and get great discounts for merchants in return. We provide both on line and off line ways to engage in the community as well as great weekly newsletter GiveCorps Plugged In. GiveCorps offers non-profits a new vehicle for targeting younger donors, a new marketing platform and a vehicle to raise funds,” says GiveCorps founder and president Beth Falcone.
By soliciting small gifts from potential donors instead of looking for money from the same small pool of donors, non-profit organizations are able to connect more easily with the people who support them but can only offer up a small donation. Their supporters donate money through the GiveCorps site, and in return they score deals at Baltimore merchants, restaurants and attractions.
“GiveCorps is built around the notion that small gifts matter and everyone can be a philanthropist. The idea was to create a broad network of $10- $25 dollar young philanthropists who regularly visit the site, the GiveCorps Facebook page or receive and respond to the daily e-mail,” continues Falcone
Response to the site has been strong. GiveCorps has raised over $36,000 for Baltimore's non-profits, with an average gift of $36. The company hopes to expand the concept into another city in 2012.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Beth Falcone, GiveCorps


Hamilton Crop Circle Raises Funds

Even though it's fall, and most people are done with gardening for the season, the Hamilton Crop Circle is still going strong. The effort, run by urban farmer Arthur Morgan, is finding new ways to raise money for its hoop houses, fundraise for its programs and get fresh produce to Baltimore's less fortunate.
The Hamilton Crop Circle used the fundraising website Kickstarter to raise more than $15,000 in 45 days to fund its program of building hoop houses for winter growing at the Hamilton Farmer's Market and Hamilton Elementary/Middle School. Through the elementary/middle school hoop house project, Hamilton Crop Circle will be able to increase its educational programs at the school to expose children to gardening and healthy foods. The produce that is grown by the students is used in the school cafeteria, so the kids get to taste the results of their work.
Urban farmer Arthur Morgan and the Hamilton Crop Circle are also taking initiative in gathering leftover produce from area farmer's markets and farming operations to feed the hungry. Seven Maryland farms allow Morgan to glean the leftovers from their fresh crops, which he then transports to Baltimore City non profits that feed the hungry and homeless.
The Hamilton Crop Circle has also recently held several local fundraisers, including restaurant nights, happy hours and even a Tattoo Day at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Erika Alston

Bed & Breakfast Association Scores a Plum

The Better Baltimore Bed and Breakfasts Association has found success in its mission of
having November declared “Bed and Breakfast Month” in Baltimore. City Councilman William
Cole will be making the official announcement of the new designation on Tuesday, November
1st at Scarborough Fair Bed and Breakfast in Federal Hill.

Many of the Better Baltimore Bed and Breakfasts Association members have been working
to strengthen the city's tourism outreach efforts by hosting travel writers, bloggers and travel
show hosts/production companies in combination with Visit Baltimore in order to showcase
Baltimore's small inns. They have also been working on digital outreach efforts using their
own websites, events calendars and social media as portals to connect with travelers who
might not think of Baltimore as bed and breakfast kind of town.

The innkeepers of Baltimore's bed and breakfasts have been busy this year. Scarborough
Fair recently announced that their number of “Excellent” Trip Advisor rankings was larger
than any other hotel or inn in Baltimore, including the big chain hotels. The Better Baltimore
Bed and Breakfasts Association has also recently welcomed a new member, Bluedoor on
Baltimore Street.

The designation of November as “Bed and Breakfast Month" by the city will assist the Better
Baltimore Bed and Breakfasts Association in its efforts to draw attention to its upcoming
holiday and charity event in December. The Association will hold its second annual
Holiday House Tour on December 6th, with the proceeds going to benefit Moveable Feast.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Barry Werner, Scarborough Fair Bed and Breakfast


Klover Events Add Something Special

Kateri J. Harried, owner of Klover Events, got her start in the events planning business in
the fashion industry in Philadelphia. She brought that knowledge with her to the Baltimore
Museum of Art, helping to launch and run events at the museum including Free First
Thursdays, the African Spirit series and Jazz in the Sculpture Garden at the BMA.

Kateri is now putting her event planning experience to work for herself with the launch of her new business, Klover

“After more than a decade in the events business, both full-time and freelance, working with
large scale galas, street festivals, fundraisers and concerts, along with private affairs like
weddings, baby showers and parties, I wanted to take the reins and work more closely with
clients and execute their vision for well-produced events with my design sensibilities,” says

Klover Events specializes in creating memorable weddings, baby showers and corporate
events at any budget level. The start-up intends to stay a boutique firm in order to allow for
greater attention to detail for its clients' events. Still in the early launch stages of the business,
Klover Events has found success in its niche.

“Whether we are producing a conference or a wedding, our clients recognize the quality and
value in the product we provide, so we’ve seen a steady flow of business, though there are
some ebbs, here and there,” adds Harried.

Kateri also intends to continue working with her favorite local events and causes as she
builds the business. Kateri Harried will be speaking about wedding budgeting and planning at
the bridal forum at Soliloquy Bridal in Herndon Virginia in Feburary.

“The opportunity to work with executing a dynamic vision for the people in the community I
live and work in, along with the causes I care about is easily the most fulfilling aspect of what I
do,” says Harried.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Kateri Harried, Klover Events


Baltimore Celebrates 9 New Electric Vehicle Chargers

Baltimore now has 9 new chargers available for drivers of electric vehicles. Mayor Stephanie
Rawlings- Blake, Department of General Services Director Theodore “Ted” Atwood, Parking
Authority of Baltimore City Executive Director Peter Little, and John Murach of Baltimore Gas
and Electric were on hand at the dedication celebration for the new chargers. The Mayor
also took a spin in a new Chevy Volt, which is being considered as a fleet vehicle by the
Department of General Services.

The 9 new car chargers are located at city owned garages around downtown Baltimore.
Electric vehicle chargers have been installed at the Arena Garage, the Baltimore Street
Garage, the Caroline Street Garage, the Lexington Street Garage, the Little Italy Garage, the
Penn Station Garage, the Redwood Street Garage, the Water Street Garage, and the West
Street Garage.

The celebration ceremony for the 9 new chargers is a part of the city's efforts to reduce
energy consumption. During the month of October, which has been designated “Energy
Awareness Month,” Baltimore City officials have also held energy awareness and green
initiatives seminars. Baltimore's city government is also holding a City Employee Energy
Challenge, pitting different city departments against one another in a competition to
reduce energy use. According to the Department of General Services, the Baltimore City
government is on target to meet its goal of a 20% reduction in energy use by 2015.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Department of General Services, Baltimore City

Sickweather Combines Illness Mapping With Social Networking

If you're trying to beat the sniffles and sneezes of cold season, Sickweather is looking for you.
The new illness mapping social networking site offers users the opportunity to see maps of
local illness “hot spots” based on data collected from users, Facebook status updates and
Twitter streams.

“With Sickweather, we hope to offer a new and useful resource to help people stay healthy. It
really is baffling to me that people check the weather report every day before they leave the
house or before they go on a trip, but health related symptoms go ignored. If people prepare
for the weather by bringing their umbrella with them, why don't they do a similar thing by
drinking an extra glass of orange juice in the morning to boost their immune system?” asks
Sickweather COO James Sajor.

The Baltimore based start-up behind Sickweather is preparing to launch the social networking
site , which is currently in its final Beta testing phase. The brainchild of entrepreneur
Graham Dodge, formerly involved with Crime Map, and marketing expert James Sajor,
Sickweather aims to not only help healthy people avoid virulent spots, but also allow people
with compromised immune systems and their families a resource to help them avoid exposure
to a potentially life threatening germ.

“I had recently moved back to Baltimore to take care of my mother, who was diagnosed
with an advanced stage of cancer. She was going through a variety of treatments, and her
immune system was severely compromised. That meant that I could not get sick. It would
actually have been a life-and-death situation if I caught a common cold. I was extra careful
when I left the house. So when Graham approached me, I immediately saw the value in the
idea,” says Sajor.

In addition to the final beta testing of the site, Sickweather is also developing a mobile app
version for Android and iPhone.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: James Sajor, Sickweather


Friedrich Associates Forms Alliance with Promising Outcomes, LLP

Friedrich Associates is forming a partnership with Promising Outcomes. The Phoenix, MD based consulting firm will be partnering with UK/US based Promising Outcomes to offer a new service called PROMIS. The PROMIS service offered by Friedrich Associates and Promising Outcomes will allow users to regularly measure, monitor, manage and improving client relationships.

The program includes a variety of consulting services and tools. Customer surveys using a proprietary survey method that is based on Cognitive Load Theory are included in the service. PROMIS also uses Customer Expectations Theory to look into the unexpected issues that may arise between an supplier and a client and give the supplier a view of those issues from a client's perspective Expected PROMIS users include a European aerospace company, a global telecommunications equipment firm, an international advertising and events firm, and a U.S. government agency.

"We are extremely excited about our partnership since it adds significantly to our ability to provide extra value to our clients through the implementation of practical strategies that help them in this time of unprecedented economic challenges to retain, grow, and enhance their valued customer relationships," says Gerhard Friedrich, President of Friedrich Associates. Promising Outcomes has established partnerships with companies in other regions, including Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Gerhard Friedrich, Friedrich Associates

JobOn Brings Tech Solutions To The Service Job Market

A newly launched company on Kent Island aims to change the way that retail and service industry workers find jobs. JobOn is using an online platform, complete with video, to connect retail and service industry workers looking for jobs and employers looking for help. JobOn offers job seekers the opportunity to post recorded video interviews to save them the running around that can be a big part of looking for a service industry job.

"Our objective is to improve the job search experience for seekers. We no longer want them to go to multiple stores, fill out paper applications, go home and wait for a call to come back for an interview. Now, using a webcam or smart phone, they can offer a recorded interview first and send it to several possible employers. Their search is more efficient and they have a better platform to showcase their skills." says Chris Ourand, Chief Marketing officer at JobOn.

JobOn was launched on September 13th at the DEMO conference in Santa Clara, California. The company was founded by former DICE executive Jody Presti and IT expert Dave Atherton. The site offers opportunities from over 200 employers from Maryland and the surrounding area. "We are excited that we have launched at a time when the market is perfect for our product. Technology is readily available with most people having webcams and smart phones, and the need is tremendous. From the results of the last six weeks we expect the concept to take off and the business to grow steadily for quite some time," continues Ourand.

JobOn hopes to expand its service to include job opportunities from across the nation in the future.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Chris Ourand, JobOn


The Mergis Group Is Growing, Looking For Talent

The Mergis Group is adding recruiters to its team. The company is adding new recruiters to help find candidates to fill its available job openings. The Mergis Group was recently acquired by Randstad, moving it into the number two position for staffing firms and increasing its worldwide presence.

"While the overall US economy has continued in a holding pattern, we have seen increased demand for direct hire skilled professionals across the country and we believe that trend will continue. As a result, we have been consistently hiring and training recruiters and will continue to do so. Our overall recruiter headcount is up about 100 year over year and year over year gross profit growth is close to 50%, which is much stronger than anyone else in our operating space," says John Ruffini, National Director of Permanent Placement for The Mergis Group.

The Mergis Group has a large volume of available jobs in the Baltimore area. In addition to hiring recruiters, the Baltimore office is looking for accounting and finance professionals, engineers and technology professionals to place with firms looking for help. "Employers in today's market are looking to hire professionals that bring needed skills to the table. They are in search of specialized talent that can step in and add value immediately. In accounting, those professionals coming out of the Big 4 or large regional public accounting firms are in constant demand by the private sector. In technology, the demand for skilled application developers continues to be very strong," adds Ruffini.

The Mergis Group will continue to add new recruiters to its staff to search for these specialists. The company has been in Baltimore for more than 30 years and is the top firm in the Baltimore area for Accounting and Finance recruitment.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: John Ruffini, The Mergis Group


Sales Focus Launches New Group Travel Division

Sales Focus, Inc, a Marriottsville based sales outsourcing firm, is launching a new subsidiary of their Travel and Tourism division devoted to specialized business travel -- specifically meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions travel.

The new division, MICE Focus LLC, will be managed by Kevin Hichour, who previously ran the Travel and Tourism division. "Our focus into the MICE Travel sector is based on a real need that we see in the industry. At this time, no other company can offer our breadth of integrated Marketing & Advertising services to U.S. or international MICE Destinations & Suppliers," says Hichour.

The new division is intended to provided an integrated one stop shopping style platform for MICE industry suppliers and destinations to reach their targeted audience of business travelers and travel planners. The company's new MICE Travel Portal is designed to showcase the options that are available to MICE travelers, and highlight promotions and special offers.

"As we continue to expand our services in the Travel and Tourism industry, we launched a MICE travel industry-dedicated website catering to the needs of Destinations, Airlines, Hotels & Resorts, DMC's, Cruise Lines, Convention Centers and all other MICE travel suppliers who are looking to expand their strategic partner base and increase their revenues," says MICE Focus president and Co-Founder Anthony Horwath. The site will be devoted entirely to the group travel industry. MICE Focus has also formed a new travel partnership with Meeting Professionals International.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Anthony Horwath, Sales Focus Inc.


CampaignOn Launches to Change The Campaign Management Landscape

Towson-based CampaignOn, launching in November, will offer people running for office a suite of tools and the expertise of campaign management professionals in one package and at a price that most campaigns can afford.

"We really believe in the candidate who is serious and wants to run the best possible campaign. We're the game changer. This is something that will dynamically change the way that they run their race," says Herbert Sweren, President of CampaignOn.

The company's Campaign Manager Solutions suite offers office seekers several tools for success. Victory Map allows candidates to enter state-obtained information about likely voters into a program that will generate an interactive map detailing the locations and records of likely voters, with 16 options for categorization. VoterMonster makes interactive and updatable campaign sheets for use by workers detailing the locations of volunteers, donors, and signs to be placed for maximum efficiency. Town Hall Live allows candidates to conduct online town hall style Q&A meetings with potential constituents. The software contains additional tools for tracking mailers, spending, sending email, and template messages. The package also includes expert advice from the CampaignOn staff.

Formed by business expert Herbert Sweren, former Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen, and advertising executive Barry Silverman, CampaignOn aims to make the tools of professional campaigns accessible to even grassroots local efforts.

"An  average client will have a  $50,000 budget, some less. We can save them 60-70% of their operating cost, and they can put that back into things that will help them get elected. We can guarantee that they will be the best educated, best organized candidate they can be if they work with CampaignOn," Sweren continues.

IT solutions for the software were handled by Adventure Web Productions. One of the partners' goals is to use Baltimore-based service providers whenever possible. CampaignOn's Campaign Manager Solutions software launches in November. The company will be launching Chief of Staff Solutions, software devoted to helping incumbents stay in office, in the near future.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Herbert Sweren, CampaignOn

One Maryland Broadband Network Moves Forward

The Governor's office updated Marylanders on the progress of the One Maryland Broadband Network this week. The initiative is designed to provide a unified means of communication through all levels of government and improve broadband internet access for undeserved and rural portions of the state. The new broadband lines will increase access to high speed internet for more than 1,000 of what the state calls "anchor agencies" -- government agencies, community support centers,  hospitals, libraries, educational institutions, and police departments.

Initial funding for the One Maryland Broadband Network was established in late 2010. The project received more than $115 million in competitive federal grant funds through the U.S. Department of Commerce's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, one of the largest broadband grants awarded in 2010. Additional funds were raised through state local and private contributions bringing the project total to $158 million.

To date, $16 million of this money has been spent on the initial field and design engineering phase of the project, which has created 241 jobs. Engineering is underway in every county in Maryland, with an estimated 63% of the engineering completed. Construction of the One Maryland Broadband network's new broadband lines has begun in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Howard, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, and Prince Georges Counties. The remaining Maryland counties are expected to begin construction by the end of 2011.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Office of the Governor of Maryland
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