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Deep space startup readies launch of first product

Solar Systems Express this summer plans to launch its first product, a software platform that works with open-source hardware to support manned space missions. The Baltimore startup expects the product, called a gravity development board, to be the first in a series of products to support deep space exploration.

The gravity development board is a reconfigurable system that allows individuals and small technology firms to create real-life space hardware for a variety of tasks.  "The board has the building blocks for any electrical and mechanical system. You can make an arm for a robot or develop solar uses," says Blaze Sanders, CEO and chief technology officer.

Solar Systems Express is currently located in the Emerging Technology Center @ Johns Hopkins Eastern in Charles Village. When it graduates from the incubator at the end of this month, the startup is moving to Mohave, Calif., which has become a hub for small businesses involved in the deep space industry, says Sanders. 
While the company will no longer be located physically in Baltimore, it will maintain its connection to the city. The American Technology Corp. in Baltimore will assemble the gravity development board and it will be sold from Baltimore, says Sanders, a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration employee.
Sanders co-founded the startup in 2010 with Emily Moser, chief communications officer, and Kunal Ajmera, chief business development officer. The company spent a year in the incubator.
The company is marketing the product, which cost $105 each, to undergraduate engineering and other college students and sold via the company’s website.
Sanders says Solar Systems Express joins a growing number of small businesses in the burgeoning deep space industry. Over 300 space-related businesses have been formed in less than a decade, he says.
Besides its own product, Solar Systems Express offers electrical engineering consulting services for other space industry companies. Among its clients is Juxtopia, a Baltimore startup that is developing augmented reality goggles.
The company has about $50,000 in private funding. In Baltimore, the staff consists of the three co-founders and two part-time employees. It is planning a financing round after the move to California.
“We have enough money to get the first boards out. After that, sales will keep us going,” says Sanders.
Source: Blaze Sanders, Solar Systems Express
Writer: Barbara Pash

New Baltimore startup is selling crowdfunding investment insurance

A local startup backed by serial tech entrepreneur Clarence Wooten will help investors in crowdfunding projects hedge their bets.

Founded last month, Asurvest provides investment insurance for private and professional investors in Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms, CEO Luke Cooper says. The company will open an office in Baltimore over the next few months, hiring three to five analysts and marketing specialists.

Cooper says Asurvest is looking to partner with established crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter.comFundable.com and Gofunding.com.

“These groups are highly visible. They attract investors. They have strong business models,” Cooper says, although exactly how the partnership would work has yet to be determined. “We are in an incremental improvement mode,” he says of Asurvest.
Cooper, Co-founder Sudhir Shandilya and Wooten have all invested an undisclosed sum in the company. Cooper's Baltimore investment firm Performant Capital Partners also backs the company. Cooper declined to say how much funding they have raised to date.

Wooten is a Baltimore native who is founder and chairman of social networking firm Groupsite.com. He's known best for co-founding ImageCafe.com during the dot-com boom and selling it to Network Solutions/Verisign for $23 million. An advisor to Asurvest, he now resides in Silicon Valley and will launch a new company, Progressly Inc., in the middle of this year. 

Crowdfunding is in its infancy, but growing rapidly. Recent federal legislation makes it permissible for private individuals to invest in crowdfunding platforms.
With that, however, comes a tremendous need for assurance that even small investors who spend $1,500 or $2,000 feel comfortable. "We seek to fill that need and to protect them from risk,” says Cooper.
Based on its proprietary statistical and risk management models, Asurvest says that it can accurately quantify certain kinds of business risks. It will provide default risk insurance at premiums that range from two to 20 percent of the initial investment. The founders haven't decided yet whether Asurvest would underwrite or broker the insurance policies.

Cooper says the company is still working out how it would operate for an investor. "There will be a cost for the investor, depending on the investment profile," he says.
Despite the federal legislation, states have their own regulations and Asurvest has to be licensed in each. Cooper is currently working with the state of Maine to draft legislation. He says the founders chose Maine as the starting state because it has a business-oriented regulatory environment.
He expects to get approval from Maine within the next few months. He will then turn his attention to Maryland, working with the Maryland Insurance Administration on the appropriate applications.
After Maryland, he says Asurvest “will look at where investors are coming from, what parts of the country, and pursue licensing in those states.”

Source: Luke Cooper, Asurvest
Writer: Barbara Pash

Johns Hopkins med students' startup launches new product

Ahead Research, a life sciences startup founded by two Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine students, is launching its second product, Medassure, this year.

Craig Monsen and David Do launched the health information company in Fells Point in 2012 along with its first product, Symcat. 

Symcat allows users access to medical information and to assess the state of their health. Available on the web or as an application on a mobile device, the program asks users to enter their medical symptoms, then provides information from the federal Centers for Disease Control's database on the most likely diagnosis. Symcat is available as a free download on any smart phone, both iPhones and Android devices.

Medassure takes Symcat a step futher by providing information on medications to take for the diagnosis and analyzing possible interactions with the users' other medications. The founders say they plan to merge the two products together and market under the single name of Symcat.

Tolu Babalola, the company's head of growth, says Ahead Research launched Symcat with little fanfare but plans to market it aggressively this year. “We did some marketing and advertising of Symcat but this year we are spending money on a marketing campaign,” he says. 
Monsen and Do, now in their final year at Johns Hopkins medical school, developed Ahead Research in a health technology incubator, Blueprint Health. The company's funding comes from a $30,000 award from the Cigna Health Innovation Challenge and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant for $100,000.

In December, Ahead Research signed a memorandum of understanding with nonprofit BioHealth Innovation to accelerate the commercialization of Symcat. With offices in Rockville and Baltimore, BioHealth may launch a healthcare accelerator this year. 
Ahead Research has a full-time staff of three. The company expects to hire an undetermined number of software engineers in the next 12 to 18 months. It is also starting an internship program for college undergraduates in the local area.
Source: Tolu Babalola, Ahead Research
Writer: Barbara Pash

Columbia analog chip startup signs deal with Silicon Valley company

Columbia startup MIE Labs Inc. has signed a strategic agreement with Silicon Valley semiconductor company JVD Inc. to share design and back-end resources. The agreement allows the Columbia firm to expand its services and gives it a physical presence on the West Coast.

MIE Labs provide analog and mixed-signal integrated circuit design services, primarily to businesses. Integrated circuits are a set of electronic circuits on one small chip of semiconductor material. Because of their size and low manufacturing cost, integrated circuits are used in virtually all electronics. MIE Labs works with customers to design and develop their analog chips in order to speed the manufacturing process.

“We help other companies develop their hardware. It is not our goal to develop our own chips,” says Chalfin of analog chips that are used in cellphones and smart phones, computers and radios.

As part of its agreement with JVD, MIE is designing the chips while the California firm is producing them, says CEO Edward Chalfin. 

"The agreement is a way for smallish companies to address bigger opportunities," Chalfin says.

Chalfin founded MIE Labs nine months ago. The serial entrepreneur sold his former company, Integrated Circuit Designs Inc., to Texas Instruments. As part of the deal, Chalfin stayed on with Texas Instruments until last year.
“I did okay but not enough to retire to the Caribbean,” says Chalfin of his sale of Integrated Circuit. He founded it in 1995 and grew it to a 16-person staff before selling to Texas Instruments in 2007. 
Chalfin expects to hear in early 2013 from potential customers to whom he has submitted proposals. Customers include electronic systems manufacturers and companies that design and develop digital circuits but don’t have experience in analog. 

MIE is an affiliate of the incubator, Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship. Chalfin is the sole employee of the privately funded MIE. He is subcontracting with designers and vendors until contracts allow him to hire staffers.
Source: Edward Chalfin, MIE Labs Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Pay-by-phone parking service expanding in Maryland

Pango Mobile Parking, a pay-by-phone parking service, plans to debut in several cities in Maryland and in Washington, D.C., early this year. The downtown Baltimore company is currently in negotiations with four cities throughout the state, and will hire four to 15 people in each city to serve as its "street team" to introduce the service to the public. Pango head Dani Shavit declined to identify the cities until the deals are signed.

Shavit says the people chosen for the street teams are usually local residents. Pango Mobile Parking has a staff of five employees and, besides the temporary street teams, is looking to hire an additional one to two employees to manage the new service-areas.

Pango Shyyny USA is the corporate licensee of Pango Mobile Parking, which launched its first service in the US last year in Latrobe, Pa. Shavit, principal and CEO of Pango Shyyny USA, says the company will expand into other Pennsylvania cities in 2013.
Users sign up for the free pay-by-phone service, either via a downloadable application for smart phones or via the Pango website or by calling the toll-free number 1-877-myPango (1-877-697-2646). When users park on-street, parking lot or parking garage, they enter the area's designated zone number to activate parking charges. When they return, they stop the parking service and receive a bill from Pango for their parking time.
Pango identifies parking locations, offers promotions and discounts, and has a code that allows users to open and close parking gates from their devices. If users park in a limited-time area, they get a text message 15 minutes before the time expires.
Pango works on a city-wide basis with parking garages, local municipalities and state parking authorities. “We offer a revenue-sharing arrangement and a full management package. We have comprehensive solutions for municipalities and parking operators for both on-street and off-street parking,” says Shavit.
Pango was founded in Israel in 2005, where, according to Shavit, more than half of all parking on that country’s city streets is Pango-serviced. The company entered the European market in 2007, with service in Germany and Poland.
The privately funded Pango entered the American market in 2011. 
Source: Dani Shavit, Pango Shyyny USA
Writer: Barbara Pash

TowsonGlobal kicks off business plan competition

The incubator at Towson University, TowsonGlobal Business Incubation, recently kicked off its third annual business competition, open to anyone in the Baltimore-Washington area who has an innovative business idea. Winners get cash prizes and free incubator membership.
“The goal is to promote and engage people in the region in entrepreneurship and innovation, and in taking the route of starting a small business,” says Darlene Ugwa, the incubator’s program coordinator. “It doesn’t have to be a product. It could be a service.”
The competition has two rounds. In the first round, participants submit a three-to-five page executive summary of their idea. A panel of judges winnows the participants to five finalists. In the second round, the finalists submit a detailed business plan, including research, marketing and financials. A panel of judges determines first and second place winners.
The deadline for round one, the executive summary, is Feb. 11. Finalists in round two have until the end of April to submit their business plans. Winners will be announced May 1.
Although prizes for this year’s competition are still being determined, last year’s first prize winner received $4,000 and free incubator membership for a period of time; the second prize winner received $1,000 and an associate membership.
The competition has grown since it started. There were 12 submissions the first year; 24 submissions the second year. Entrants ranged from a video gaming company to a medical diagnostic application and a website to rent power tools.
Besides presenting their business plans to the panel of judges, all the finalists give a presentation at a Towson University reception open to the public. Over 100 people attended last year’s event.
Source: Darlene Ugwa, TowsonGlobal Business Incubation
Writer: Barbara Pash

Md. Firm Signs $1M Contract With Homeland Security

The US Department of Homeland Security last month gave Robotic Research LLC the go-ahead to develop the next-generation robot for emergency medical personnel.

The engineering firm signed a two-year, $1 million contract to design and build a robot that can sense its environment and function with minimal operator control. Headquartered in Gaithersburg with a maritime research facility in Baltimore City, Robotics Research designs software and systems for robots. 
The current contract is phase two of the homeland security department’s Small Business Innovation Research Program for the Maryland company’s Sensor-Smart Affordable Robotic Platform. In phase one, the company received $100,000 for a prototype. Upon completion of the current contract, the Robotic Research may commercialize the product, President Alberto Lacaze says. 
The Sensor-Smart program is a family of small, mobile robotic platforms with three-dimensional adapted components for specialized missions. The 3-D components allow the robot to adapt to the different conditions an emergency medical technician would encounter. For example, different sensors can be used to determine toxins in the air or to start a video system for rescue operations.
“We are expanding the functionality of the robot with sensors, tailored for particular applications,” Lacaze says. “It’s almost like the robot can modify itself to different situations.”
Robotic Research also manufactures components of robots, either prototypes or final products that are put into other robotic devices. Its customers are primarily the US military and homeland security department.
Among its products are a control system for the recovery of unmanned boats, in collaboration with General Dynamics Robotic Systems and sponsored by the US Naval Sea Systems Command; and an indoor mapping and visualization robot for Global Positioning System-denied terrain and buildings, sponsored by the US Army.
It's conducting an ongoing project for the US Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the company’s research facility, located on two boats at the Baltimore marina at Fells Point.
Founded in 2002, the privately owned Robotic Research employs 25. It has ongoing paid internships for college students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Source: Alberto Lacaze, Robotic Research LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Canton startup seeks funding for new social media venture

Baltimore tech startup SameGrain Inc.  plans to launch its first round of financing, for $500,000, this year.

Founder Anne Balduzzi calls SameGrain a “social discovery” platform, a new form of social media that connects people to each other for business and social purposes.

The Internet platform is private and anonymous, unless clients choose to reveal their names. “You can go online and find people like yourself or who attended the same schools  –  people with the same interests, same educational background, same health issues, and much more,” she says. The company is signing up early people willing to be beta testers on its website.
“We match people to other people, whether in the same city or elsewhere, for careers, business networking, shopping and similar life experiences,” says Balduzzi, whose background includes stints at Quantum Computer Services, the precursor to AOL and as the first product manager for Apple’s first online service.
Founded in 2011, SameGrain is located in the Emerging Technology Center at Canton.  In 2012, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, known as TEDCO, gave the company $75,000 in seed money. SameGrain is applying for other state agency grants and soliciting financing from angel investors.
Balduzzi says the beta testing, a standard step for startups, will serve as market research and help it build a user base. Once the beta testing and funding are wrapped up, SameGrain will make an official marketing push, hopefully this year. 

SameGrain has already won several awards. It won first place in last summer’s Washington Post’s Capital Business “pick your pitch” competition, receiving more than 6,600 online votes. It won the StartRight Business Plan competition last summer. And, last fall, it was one of eight finalists in StartUp Maryland "Pitch Across Maryland,” chosen by a panel of entrepreneurs and investor experts.
The company has a staff of three full-time and four part-time. It is interviewing people with programming and design experience for possible future employment.
Source: Anne Balduzzi, SameGrain Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

US Energy Department Backs Company's Energy Efficient Technology

In an effort to find ways to lessen the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, the US Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory has awarded a $150,000 research grant to Pixelligent Technologies to further develop its technology to make industrial and automotive lubricants more efficient. With the prospect of commercializing a product from the research, the Baltimore nanocrystal additive manufacturer is planning to relocate to a larger facility this year although details were not yet available.

The energy department’s Small Business Innovation Research Grant was awarded less than a month after it signed a two-year, $500,000 Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Baltimore company for the Argonne Laboratory to analyze and test its proprietary nanocrystal technology. Pixelligent and Argonne will split the cost of the research project.
The Cooperative Research and Development Agreements are intended to speed commercialization of private sector technology. Craig Bandes, president and CEO, says that both grants are helping the company to reach its goal of commercializing a product, possibly a low-friction oil, out of nanocrystal additives this year.
Bandes says Pixelligent is one of several different technologies the government is looking at, including companies that use other types of additives and biofuels.
“We are not the only technology in the area, but we have attracted a high level of interest from the energy department,” says Bandes.
In preliminary testing with Argonne, results indicate that by dispersing nanocrystals into oil, there is a significant reduction in engine and equipment friction. Doing so prolongs the life of both, improves the efficiency of both and reduces fuel consumption.

“It’s not just that the oil is improved and gas mileage goes up,” says Bandes, “the department of energy is looking for next generation technology.”

Pixelligent was founded in 2000 in the College Park area. The company moved to an 11,000-square foot building in Baltimore in 2011 that allowed it to develop laboratory and manufacturing facilities. The company manufactures specific nanocrystal additives and polymer nanocomposites for the electronics, semiconductor and industrial markets.
Bandes expects to grow the current staff of 26 to 40 to 50 staffers this year. He is currently recruiting for five positions in manufacturing, engineering and business development.
Besides the energy department funding, Pixelligent has received $12 million from the US Department of Commerce and the National Science Foundation, and $8.5 million in angel investments.
Source: Craig Bandes, Pixelligent Technologies
Writer: Barbara Pash

Johns Hopkins Spinoff Readies Medical Device For Sale

Clear Guide Medical LLC is readying its first product, a medical device used in minimally invasive ultrasound surgeries that will be for sale in early 2014. Federal and state grants received this year aided the commercialization process for the Johns Hopkins spinoff, which hopes to receive another state grant early next year. 
The Baltimore life sciences company received a total of $550,000 from the federal National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, in 2011 and 2012, and $125,000 from the Maryland Technology Development Corp. in 2010 and 2012. It is waiting to hear about another grant from the latter, for $100,000.
“We are developing a medical device that will lower health care costs by allowing [procedures] to be done quickly and at less cost,” COO Dorothee Heisenberg says. The device clips onto an ultrasound probe and provides guidance to surgeons before and during minimally invasive procedures like needle biopsies, needle nerve blocks and vein catherizations. The device provides such information as the angle to hold the needle and how far to push to reach the nerve or vein.

Heisenberg says the advantage of the device is that it makes it easier for surgeons to learn how to use ultrasound, for which they need special training. She also sees a benefit for rural areas or areas where there aren’t a lot of medical facilities. Local physicians and clinics may be able to do a biopsy, and then consult with medical experts for a diagnosis.
Heisenberg expects Clear Guidance’s device to cost in the $12,000 to $15,000 price range. 

Clear Guide Medical was founded in 2010, a spinoff from the Johns Hopkins Department of Computer Science and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s radiology department. In 2012, it was the first company to move into the Johns Hopkins accelerator, located on the Homewood campus, Heisenberg says.
The company has five employees. It is in the midst of applying for a worldwide patent that covers the US, nations in Europe, Japan, Canada and Israel – countries that are most likely to develop competing devices. Johns Hopkins is paying the patent filing and application expenses, about $80,000, for which Clear Guidance will pay back in time.
“We want to sell our product without complications,” Heisenberg says.
Source: Dorothee Heisenberg, Clear Guide Medical LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Carroll County IT Firm Adds New Clients

Skyline Technology Solutions LLC expects to sign six new contracts next year, expanding its market reach. The Carroll County IT company currently has customers in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
President Brian Holsonbake says the additional customers will result in a 10 to 15 percent growth in sales for Skyline, which averages over $35 million in sales per year. Most of the new states are located along the East Coast, although he declined to identify them until the contracts are signed.
The company offers fiber-optic cabling as well as inside and outside plant cabling; networking, customized software development and back-end application services for federal agencies, state and local jurisdictions and commercial customers; 24/7 managed services at its network operations center; and hosting services.
Holsonbake says the company is continuing to expand its video-interoperability product line, an appliance or cloud-based solution that enables different agencies to share live-streaming video at different locations simultaneously. The solution works with traditional and mobile devices.
Among its customers are the Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., departments of transportation, City of Annapolis police department, and bus and transit companies in those jurisdictions. Commercial customers include companies in the financial and medical sectors.
The privately financed company was founded in 2004 with one employee. It now has 112 employees and is hiring 16 more, in software development, network engineering and VoIP engineering.
As the company has grown, it has added offices. In 2007, the company opened an office in Eldersburg, which remains the corporate headquarters. In 2009, it opened a 15,000-square foot office in Glen Burnie, Ann Arundel County, to which it later added 3,000 square feet. In 2012, it added a second, 9,000-square foot office in Glen Burnie. The company currently occupies three offices, two in Glen Burnie and one in Eldersburg.
Skyline Networking Solutions is a Knowtion Group company.
Source: Brian Holsonbake, Skyline Technology Solutions LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Vircity to Offer Startup Crash Course and Event Planning

Vircity LLC, the Baltimore back office resource center, will launch a startup crash course and is expanding into event planning next year. It plans to hire up to half a dozen workers to spearhead these projects. 

Janine DiPaula Stevens, founder and president, says she is hiring up to three people to organize a "startup program" launching in the second quarter of 2013. 

The program will provide a template, tools and workshops for people who are starting a business. “You can take courses but some people don’t want to do that,” says Stevens, who is considering what workshops to include in the program and how much it will cost.

Stevens says she will hire people with graphic design and event planning experience or recent college graduates to handle future events. She says that in working with nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurs, she noticed that they needed help coordinating and completing their events.
Stevens says one staffer had been doing event planning before. The expansion allows her to bring in larger events that require more staffers and more detail. She is expecting event-planning contracts to come in within the next two months..
Stevens founded Vircity in 2005 and moved to its location in Canton in 2006. The business is located on the ground floor at 2400 Boston Street, a retail storefront at the Can Company that gets thousands of walk-in customers per year.
Vircity provides a variety of back-office services for customers, including administration, bookkeeping, graphic design, digital and offset printing, high-speed scanning, packing and shipping.  Customers may also use Vircity’s address as their corporate address. Post Office boxes do not accept packages, Stevens explains, but Vircity’s mailbox does.
Stevens says fees depends on services. Customers can pay an hourly rate or per project. The annual fee for mailbox and faxing service is $300 per year; basic administrative support runs $40 per hour. For example, a nonprofit with minimal staff may hire Vircity to print, merge and post “thank you” letters to donors, at $40 per hour.
The privately financed Vircity is a Baltimore City-certified woman-owned business. Stevens was director of marketing at the Center Club before founding Vircity.
Source: Janine DiPaula Stevens, Vircity LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore County Wireless Firm Moves Into DC Market

Believe Wireless Broadband is expanding its delivery area into the Washington, D.C., market and will install equipment on the roof of Union Station, Amtrak and commuter railroad station by Jan. 1. The Internet service provider is expanding from its current coverage area of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and parts of Anne Arundel and Howard counties.
Believe is also in the process of installing equipment on a tower on MD Route 100 in Howard County, to be finished in 2013.  It already has equipment on an existing tower on Moravia Road, Baltimore County. 
“This expands the areas we are able to serve. We are creating a multi point network,” Believe Vice President Marian Huller says.
Wireless broadband, aka fixed wireless broadband, connects to the Internet via a radio connection to its equipment. Believe offers business Internet services, wireless networks, voice over IP phone and point to point links of up to one gigabit per second.
Believe was founded in 2002. At the time, high bandwidth was not available in Baltimore City, and wireless provided a solution. The Baltimore County company’s mailing address is Owings Mills but its physical office is located in Towson.
The company has four full-time employees and is looking to hire a network administrator.
At a gb.tc event last month at downtown Baltimore's Lexington Market, the company installed Wi-Fi, the first time the market had been wired. After the event, Believe left the Wi-Fi in place, providing free wireless in the market’s seated area and conference room.
“The market holds lots of events. On one night I was there, students from the University of Maryland law school were giving free legal aid,” says Huller. So the company stole a page from the students by providing free wireless. “It was our way to give back to the community.”
Source: Marian Huller, Believe Wireless Broadband
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Life Sciences Startup To Develop Animal Health Test

InstantLabs Medical Diagnostics Corp. is entering the animal health/veterinary medicine field next year, with plans to develop a variety of tests for the detection and diagnosis of dangerous pathogens in animals.
CEO Steven Guterman says the tests will be based on its general purpose molecular diagnostic test kits, which can be refined for different markets. Located at the University of Maryland BioPark, InstantLabs commercialized its first test kit this year for the food safety market and currently is developing a test kit for the human health/hospital market.
“Our goal is to change the way people do food testing," Guterman says. "We spent a lot of time building a device with the power of molecular testing that is small, affordable and easy to use.”
Food companies typically send samples to an outside laboratory for testing, a process that can take three to five days for results. InstantLab’s test, for both extraction and identification, can be done on-site, with test results within 12 to 24 hours.
Customers include poultry processors, fish farmers and nutritional companies that use the kits to detect different and dangerous bacteria like salmonella, listeria and e-coli.
The food safety kits were first sold commercially in spring of 2012. So far, more than a dozen have been sold, half in the US and half overseas. By early 2013, the company will also have a test for the bacteria Vibrio.
In human health/hospitals, InstantLab is developing a test kit for MSRA, an antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus infection. It received a $100,000 award from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships to develop a test kit for the detection of MSRA.
The company is working with Jennifer Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, on the test. It should be ready by the end of 2013, after which the company will begin human trials and seek US Food and Drug Administration approval.
InstantLabs was formed in 2008. In 2010, it moved to the University of Maryland BioPark in order to grow internally and have its own laboratory. In 2011, it moved to a larger space in the BioPark, doubling the size of its office.
The company has five employees in Maryland. Guterman says it is looking to hire a senior molecular biologist in 2013 for its entry into the veterinary field.
Source: Steven Guterman, InstantLabs Medical Diagnostics Corp.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Columbia IT Services Company Expects to Triple Sales This Year

A $12 billion federal program is having a big impact on a small company. Howard County IT services provider 7Delta Inc. has more than doubled its staff, expects to triple sales and is hiring another dozen workers, thanks to work it is getting from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA is spending $12 billion over the next five years on a variety of tech projects. 7Delta is one of 15 companies that the Department of Veteran Affairs chose in summer of 2011 to participate in its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Program.  The 15 companies compete on contracts as they come up.
The Columbia firm has already won $100 million in contracts that it will fullfill over the next three years and is bidding on others,  says Mike Sawyers, president and CEO who founded 7Delta in 2005.
While 7Delta primarily provides IT services for the federal government, the company also services products for storage solution company EMC Corp. 
It has federal certification as a service disabled veteran-owned small business, meaning that 51 percent of the company is owned by a disabled veteran, according to Sawyers, a former chief information officer for the US Army Medical Service Corps.
The federal government has contract goals for certified companies. Specifically, 50 percent or more of the work must be done by a certified company or a combination of certified companies to reach the 50 percent mark.
7Delta originally began as a home office, then in 2008 moved to a 3,700-square foot office in a building in Fulton. This summer, it relocated to a 15,000-square foot office in Columbia thanks to the VA contracts' growth spurt.
In 2011, the company pulled in $15 million in sales, compared to a projected $48 million in 2012. The staff grew from 80 employees in 2011 to its current 183 employees. Sawyers expects to hire another 10 to 20 employees before the end of 2012, primarily IT professionals like project managers, software developers, code writers, and business developers.
The privately held 7Delta won the 2012 Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the technology entrepreneurship category, from the Maryland Center of Entrepreneurship and the Howard Technology Council, initiatives of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
Source: Mike Sawyers, 7Delta Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash
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