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Howard County Event Connects Entrepreneurs With Investors

The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, an initiative of the Howard County Economic Development Authority, wants to ignite entrepreneurship in the county. To that end, the development authority is sponsoring its first-ever Race for Innovation, and hoping that it is the spark the sets the fire.
The event is scheduled for Tues. June 19 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel.  
The idea is for teams to work with coaches to develop ideas into business concepts, which are then pitched to investors.

"We want to drive more innovation and ideas” in Howard County, says Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, located in the development group's Columbia office. “At the same time, we want to bring intellectual property” into the county.
Gloria Jacobovitz, program director, calls the event “high energy.” Says Jacobovitz, “We came up with the idea to help business development. An event like this usually takes a weekend but we will do it in a few hours.”
Jacobovitz notes that the event gives entrepreneurs and start-up companies an opportunity to interact with investors. “They are going to work together. It will create synergy between them,” says Jacobovitz, who expects 100 participants at the event.
The Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship was launched in December 2011. The event is an attempt to branch out to the broader entrepreneurship community, says Kirk, and thus it is open to all, not only Howard County residents.
“We are hoping to start a bunch of new jobs in Howard County,” Kirk says. “That’s why we are doing this event.”
Sources: Julie Lenzer Kirk, Gloria Jacobovitz, Howard County Economic Development Authority, Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship
Writer: Barbara Pash, [email protected]

Parking Panda Drives Into Philly, San Fran, With New Funding

Parking Panda, the Baltimore startup that finds a spot to put your car, is cruising into new cities and attracting new funding.

Within a few months, it will begin marketing in Philadelphia, its third site. San Francisco, Chicago and Boston are next on the list. Last month, it expanded to Washington, D.C. The company recently received $250,000 from investors, with another $250,000 in the works, CEO Nick Miller says. Miller founded the firm in 2001 with Adam Zilberbaum, chief technology officer. 

The company doesn't have exact dates for the expansions after Washington, D.C., says Miller. In part, it depends on demand and how many parking spaces can be arranged. 
Parking Panda locates available parking spots in private driveways and garages that drivers can reserve in advance on the web or via mobile phones. In Baltimore and Washington, D.C., it is working with two garage companies, PMI and Central Parking.
In addition, Parking Panda works with private home-owners and small business to rent their driveways, parking lots and garages. “We have quite a few private driveways that are rented for Ravens [football] games,” says Miller, who tries to line up parking for other events like festivals and farmers markets.
Also, he adds, “we work with certain neighborhoods, like Federal Hill,” where on-street parking is scarce and there are no parking garages.
Miller says the price the driver pays is set by the parking garage or driveway owner. Parking Panda takes a 20 percent fee on whatever is charged.  “If they charge $10, we get $2,” he says.
Parking Panda has a few, small parking competitors in the area, says Miller.

”But no one is doing what we do, with parking garages and private parking.”
Source: Nick Miller, Parking Panda
Writer: Barbara Pash

Columbia E-Commerce Firm Hiring

Unleashed Technologies  is hiring 10 new full-time employees in sales and development. The additional staffing is the result of the Columbia, Md.-headquartered web firm’s arrangement to sell a web-based system that allows retailers to build and manage their online stores.
Unleashed Technologies designs and develops e-commerce web sites. The arrangement with SalesWarp, a storefront management system, “enables our customers to get all their e-commerce operations from one platform,” says Jen Silate, marketing manager of Unleashed Technologies.
Michael Spinosa is CEO of Unleashed Technologies, a leader in web and hosting solutions in the state and one of the state’s fastest growing web firms, according to Silate. Unleashed Technologies recently won three 2012 Blue Drop Awards, including web site of the year for its client, Eyemaginations. The awards are an international competition for companies that use the Drupal platform for development and design.
David Potts is CEO and founder of SalesWarp, developed by Baltimore's 6th Street Commerce. SalesWarp manages pricing, order processing, shipping, inventory, SEO and customer data across multiple online stores from one system.
Silate says the arrangement allows Unleashed Technologies and SalesWarp to expand. "We will be reselling SalesWarp’s platform.”
Source: Jen Silate, Unleashed Technologies
Writer:  Barbara Pash   

Number of Female Board Members Rose Last Year

The number of women serving on corporate boards in Maryland-headquartered companies is on the rise.

The number of female board directors increased a full percentage point in 2011 from the previous year, according to a study by nonprofit membership organization Network 2000. The Baltimore organization promotes the advancement of women in exective positions.
Women accounted for 10.2 percent of corporate board members in 84 companies last year. To qualify, a company must be headquartered in Maryland and be publicly traded on one of the three major exchanges.
The 2011 figure was the highest since Network 2000 began its annual census in 2005. It is the only such tally in the state.
Network 2000 is a private, membership-based organization whose mission is to encourage the advancement of women in professional and executive positions.
The census is not broken down by industries. But Ellen Fish, president of Network 2000 and executive vice president of CFG Community Bank, says that in prior censuses, professional science-oriented companies tended not to have many female members. “That had a negative effect” on the figures, she says.
The census found that of Maryland’s five Fortune 500 companies, all had at least one female board member, for a figure of 18.4 percent. In a national census of 1,400 Fortune 500 companies, 16.7 percent had female board directors.
The report also found that 42 percent of the qualifying companies had no women on their boards. The number of women of color holding board seats remained the same from the previous census, at less that two percent.
“The census helps us accomplish our mission,” says Fish.  “It allows us to raise the awareness issue in talks and programs.”
Source: Ellen Fish, Network 2000
Writer: Barbara Pash

Loyola Teams With California VC Firm to Fund Startups

Loyola University Maryland is partnering with a California venture capital firm to fund new startups and help grow existing businesses in the Govans area of York Road. Loyola and Wasabi Ventures formed a business accelerator with an office in Govans, a neighborhood in Baltimore City.

Karyl Leggio, dean of Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business and Management, says the accelerator will help revitalize the nearby York Road business corridor.

Leggio says the university bought and renovated a two-story building in Govans that is serving as the local office of Wasabi Ventures and out of which the accelerator is operating. Loyola University faculty are offering advice on business plans and marketing. About 20 Loyola students per semester serve as interns at the accelerator.

Wasabi Ventures was co-founded by T.K. Kuegler, general partner and a Loyola graduate. Wasabi is providing professional staff to manage the accelerator. Through Wasabi Ventures and its partnering organizations, funding is available for startups companies, although funding amounts have not yet been established.

Leggio said funding would be based on the level of need. She said, for example, that Loyola has funded student ideas up to $25,000 in cash and services. However, startups and businesses that use the business accelerator may need more funding than that.

Leggio said that the accelerator is interested in technology concepts and startup companies that want advice and assistance to reach the development stage, as well as existing companies in the area that want to grow.

The accelerator is starting with seven staffers, and Leggio says it may hire additional staff as the need arises.

“We are looking to help any kind of business that is willing to locate in the Govans/York Road area, not necessarily technology,” she says.
Source: Karyl Leggio, Dean of Sellinger School of Business and Management, Loyola University Maryland
Writer: Barbara Pash

Event Poses the Question: What if Baltimore Were a Startup?

In a January opinion piece in TechCrunch, entrepreneur Jon Bischke suggested the most successful urban leaders are those who view cities like startups. CEOs for Cities (http://www.ceosforcities.org), a national network of urban leaders dedicated to creating next generation cities, will examine that premise at its 2012 Spring National Meeting: The City As a Startup -- Creating Demand, Attracting Talent, Taking Risks and Going to Scale.
The meeting is set for May 17-18 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and is supported by the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. Former AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case will deliver the morning keynote and also sit on a panel conservation about Startup America. 
CEOs for Cities will also release its latest City Vitals report, a framework for measuring the success of cities. Other panels include considering Songdo, South Korea as the planet's smartest city and using the collective impact approach to catalyze social change. There will also be opportunities to tour Cincinnati attractions and examples of success.
Register here. View a draft agenda here

State Establishes New Tech Transfer Fund

The state and five universities are spending upwards of $5.8 million to help startups move from a concept to a company.  

Senate Bill 239/House Bill 442 establishes the Maryland Innovation Initiative Fund under the aegis of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, or TEDCO. The bill passed the Maryland House and Senate and awaits the signature of Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is expected to sign it. 

“Maryland has premiere research universities but it ranks low on technology transfer,” Brian Levine, vice president, government relations, Tech Council of Maryland, says of the fund, which is intended to remedy that situation.
To participate in the fund, five universities are contributing to it. Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland College Park and University of Maryland, Baltimore will each contribute at least $200,000 per year. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Morgan State University will contribute at least $100,000 per year. The state has allocated $5 million to the fund, which will begin operating July 1.
Calling the fund “a great benefit for the state,” Rob Rosenbaum, TEDCO’s president and executive director, says. “We have so much research but commercialization is needed. We have to stimulate that activity.”

TEDCO is establishing an office to administer the fund. The fund helps technology concepts reach the startup phase by providing marketing and supporting the the technology transfer offices that already exist at the participating universities.
Rosenbaum says the fund intends to work with 40 projects per year that will result in 12 to 15 new companies. Startup companies initially generate 2.5 jobs on average, with salaries the first year of more than $75,000 per job.
Rosenbaum says that “all policies of the fund have not yet been defined” but the hope is that the startups it helps stay in Maryland.
Ronald Wineholt, vice president of government affairs of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, says the legislation provides better coordination of the universities’ transfer efforts. “Now that it’s under TEDCO, it’s a state-wide effort rather than an individual university,” he says.
Sources: Brian Levine, Tech Council of Maryland; Rob Rosenbaum, Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO); Ronald Wineholt, Maryland Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Barbara Pash

Bmore Fail Conference Highlights Risk Taking

It would be hard to find a more unlikely theme but, nonetheless, the gb.tc (formerly, Greater Baltimore Technology Council) is hosting its first local “fail conference,” officially titled Bmore Fail.
The event takes place on Fri. April 20 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at an indoor soccer field, the Clarence Du Burns Area, 1301 South Elmwood Ave., Baltimore.
“The idea is to create an environment where risk-taking is okay and safe to do,” says Sharon Paley of gb.tc. “To succeed in business, you have to be prepared to fail.”
Bmore Fail welcomes entrepreneurs, investors, developers, designers, students, artists and others in the innovation and creative communities. Activities for “communal sharing” include a “failure wall,” where attendees can write about their personal experiences, and a “fail off,” where stories of failure and redemption will be told and the audience will vote.
“We’re saying, ‘This happens to everyone,’ so let’s come together and learn from each other’s mistakes,” says Paley, who expects 300 people to attend Bmore Fail.
The agenda is still tentative. There will be speakers, question-and-answer periods, breaks and a performance by the Baltimore Improv Group.
Talks will be on: “Virtues of Failure” by Ron Schmelzer, Bizelo; “Psychology of Fear of Failure” by Dr. Daniel Wagner, clinical psychologist; “Extreme Consequences” by Joe Bocuzzi, airline safety expert, and Dr. Paul Foster, GBMC; “Taking the Plunge” by Tracy Gosson; “Capital Failure” by Rob Rosenbaum, TEDCO; “Security Failure” by Hart Rossman, Cyber Security Services & Solutions at SAIC; “Learn to Fail” by Andrew Coy and Pat O’Shea; and “Peaks and Valleys” by Bryan Sivak, CIO for State of Maryland.

Source: Sharon Paley of gb.tc
Writer: Barbara Pash

Biotech Event Features Nobel Prize Winner

The man who won a Nobel Prize for developing a break-through in how scientists study cells will be the featured speaker at a Baltimore event that looks at the future of biomedical research.
Dr. Martin Chalfie will speak at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s 15th annual Life Science Symposium , which is free and open to the public. Dr. Chalfie will talk about the work that won him Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008.
The event will be held Wed. April 18, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the UMBC Ballroom, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore.
Over the years, the symposium has had a wide range of topics and speakers, but the theme is always cutting-edge research, says Caroline Baker, UMBC director of corporate relations and acting director of the career services center.
“It’s an opportunity for us to bring world-class scientists to this region,” Baker says of an event that generally attracts 200 people, among them science educators, healthcare professionals, biotechnology business leaders and members of the state’s bioscience community.
Besides Chalfie, who is a professor of biological sciences at Columbia University, the other featured speaker is Dr. Charles Bieberich, UMBC professor of biological sciences, who will talk about understanding the mechanisms and developing therapeutics for prostate disease.
Before the talks, there will be a faculty session in which UMBC faculty members doing life science research will talk about their work and recent discoveries.
“The goal is to create an opportunity for life science educators, biotech executives and scientists to come together and learn about exciting research, and to network and talk about their ideas,” says Baker.
Source: Caroline Baker, University of Maryland, Baltimore County director of corporate relations and acting director of the career services center
Writer: Barbara Pash

Entrepreneurs Start New Wine-in-a-Box Biz

Wine lovers can now taste a new local label on the market.

Open Door Cellars is offering three varietals -- chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. And the wines come in a box, not a bottle. The wines are being made at a winery in California under the supervision of Michael Fishman, a wine connoisseur and company co-founder with Greg Rochlin.
“We are starting distribution in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. We intend to make it a national brand. As we grow, we will take office space,” says Fishman who, with Rochlin, also co-owns Quarry Wine & Spirits.
Prestige Beverage Group is distributing the wines in liquor stores, wine shops and restaurants. They come in bag-the-box packaging that, Fishman says, preserves freshness longer after opening than a bottle. It's also more eco-friendly, the business owners say, yielding 85 percent less packaging compared with bottled wines. 
The boxes are available in two sizes: 3-liter (equivalent to 4 bottles), priced in the mid-$30s, and 1.5-liter (two bottles), in the low $20. The price is the same for all the varietals.
Fishman says they started Open Door Cellars in response to a need they saw in the market for such wines in the convenience and affordability of bag-in-the-box packaging.
“There are other bag-in-the-box competitors but not as this price point,” he says. “Our goal is to provide broadly distributed, high-quality wines.”
Fishman declined to provide financial figures for Open Door Cellars. The privately-held company has hired one full-time employee, a sales representative, and two part-time employees, to conduct in-store wine tastings. He expects to hire more employees as the company grows.
Source: Michael Fishman, Open Door Cellars
Writer: Barbara Pash

Political Software Company Prepares for Election Season

The Republican Party primaries kicked off the 2012 election season. State and local campaigns will soon follow and when they do, CampaignOn is ready. Officially launching next month, the campaign management company offers a software package and professional services to candidates who are running for office and incumbents who are seeking re-election.
Company President Herbert Sweren says four candidates – in state, county and legislative races – have already committed to CampaignOn, although he declines to name them until they formally declare for office.
CampaignOn is a joint venture with Weiss PR Associates. In addition to Sweren, the company’s team includes Barry Silverman, Weiss PR managing partner; Dennis Rasmussen, former Maryland State Senator and Delegate and former Baltimore County Executive; and Robert Infussi, Jr. All have extensive experience in political campaigns.
The company’s software package is tailored to the candidate and his or her voting district. Professional services range from marketing and public relations to brand creation and donor/volunteer letters. The company works with candidates of all parties.
“Campaigns find it challenging to know where to go to get these services and then pay for each separately. We have it all in one package,” says Sweren.
CampaignOn’s pricing varies. “A gubernatorial race will be more expensive than a county council race. There’s more work state-wide versus local,” says Sweren, adding, though, that the aim is to make the pricing within the means of the campaigns’ fund-raising.
CampaignOn currently has two interns from Towson University. More may be added as the election season progresses.
Source: Herbert Sweren, CampaignOn
Writer: Barbara Pash

Startup Maryland Seeks to Create a Community of Entrepreneurs

Calling all entrepreneurs.  A national organization, Startup America Partnership, is launching a regional initiative called Startup Maryland at a March 30 event.
Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship and a co-chair of the launch of Startup Maryland, says the goal of the nonprofit advocacy group is “to bring together the entrepreneurial system in the state” and to create a community of entrepreneurs.
Startup Maryland aims to provide entrepreneurs access to capital, mentoring, clients and a celebration and awareness of entrepreneurship through success stories.
While the state has “incredible resources,” Kirk says, “they’re in pockets, independent of each other and entrepreneurs are not working together.”
Startup Maryland aims to change that. “We want to leverage the best projects and promote them across the entire state,” says Kirk, noting that at the event, attendees will decide on specific projects for the future. Possibilities include a regional conference in which potential customers talk about their needs or a meeting about state and local resources.
Startup America Partnership began a year ago and the brainchild of two foundations: the Steven Case Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation. The alliance of universities, foundations and entrepreneurs are forming local chapters around the country. The White House has launched a similar initiative
Startup America does not offer funding, but it does provide access to the large corporations that are backing it. They include American Express, American Airlines, the New York Stock Exchange, Dell Computers and Microsoft.
In preparation for the March 30 launch at the University of Maryland College Park, two “town hall” meetings were held – in Howard County on February 10 and Baltimore City on March 1.
“We had 90 people at each. We had to cut off registration because we ran out of space,” says Kirk. “That told us there is interest” in Startup Maryland.
Membership in Startup Maryland is free. Register on the website. So far, even before the official launch on March, Kirk says some 200 companies have registered.
Source: Julie Lenzer Kirk, Startup Maryland
Writer: Barbara Pash

Clapp Communications Expanding Office

Clapp Communications is having a busy spring. The Lutherville marketing agency is moving to a larger office, adding new clients and employees. 

The company has added several new clients to its roster, including the Milton Inn. The agency will handle branding, social media and graphic design for the historic Sparks restaurant. To keep up with the influx of new work, Clapp Communications added two employees in February and will add more staff in early March.

Formerly known as Barb Clapp Advertising & Marketing, the company decided on a name change in November as it celebrated its 10th anniversary. The name change was intended to better reflect the firm's current purpose. Along with the name change has come expansion for the company, both here in Greater Baltimore and in a new market. The firm is expanding its Lutherville office next month. In November, it added a second office in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source Colleen Riopko, Barb Clapp; Clapp Communications 

New Tax Site Hopes To Offer Peace Of Mind

Tax time is usually stressful and harried. One new website in Baltimore, zen-40, aims to change that.

The website prepares tax returns in a self contained application that isn't accessible via the internet for people who are worried about hackers.

“I've created a tax preparation web site that works entirely on the user's computer without sending any data over the Internet," says BobFranzese, founder of zen-40. "Currently, it only handles the simplest of tax returns, but I hope to change that in the future.”

The bare-bones site was created by a tax preparation instructor and applications developer. The website proposes that it represents a more secure way to do your taxes because all of the data is kept on your computer and does not travel over the Internet. The application is an HTML file using JavaScript. None of your tax information ever travels to a server. Tax returns are then sent to your printer as an image to mask their identity. 

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Bob Franzese, zen-40

Render Perfect Changes Focus

Render Perfect Productions Inc. is changing its focus from straight video production for businesses and individuals to full service media and website production. The Towson based will now offer media production, web design and web marketing services instead of just video production.

“We have shifted our services from video production to value-added video production,” says Nikc Miller, director of post production at Render Perfect Productions. “This means that instead of simply doing video for those groups that need it, we pay attention to our clients goals and create a strategy for their video so they can get more sales. This involves getting their video more exposure via landing pages, social media, Google ad buys, whatever.”

Render Perfect is still offering video production services, but has added several services to its menu. The company is promoting video landing pages for websites, Facebook pages and other online use. The web design team has the capacity to do website coding in HTML, Cascading Style Sheets, Flash, JavaScript, jQuery, and more. The website marketing arm offers branding, search engine optimization and social media management. The company has been ramping up its service offerings for the last 12 months to complete a transformation from strict video production to a media and marketing shop.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Nikc Miller, Render Perfect Productions Inc.
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