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Biotech startup seeking up to $4M in financing

Baltimore biotech firm Ocular Proteomics LLC is seeking its first round of financing within the next six months, for $3 million to $4 million in venture capital. While a closing date for the round has not been determined, the decision follows a $1.2 million federal grant the biotechnology startup recently won to begin clinical trials on macular degeneration diagnosis and treatment. The startup last month moved from Towson to UMB BioPark for larger laboratory facilities.

The venture capital financing will be used for clinical trials, marketing and new hires, according to director of business development Joshua Hines.

The $1.2 million grant comes from the National Eye Institute and National Institutes of Health, and runs for  two years, from May 2013 to May 2015. Next year, the company will apply to renew the grant and, if successful, would receive $1.5 million per year for up to five years.

The $1.2 million grant enables Ocular to start clinical trials for ophthalmic diagnosis based on the company’s discovery of biochemical markers in the vitreous of the human eye. The trials will be held at three locations -- Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland – and will involve 200 patients with macular degeneration.

Dr. Bert M. Glaser, Ocular’s chief scientific Institutes of Health officer, founded the company in 2009. Dr. Glaser heads the National Retina Institute, of which Ocular is a spinoff.
 
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among adults. An estimated 15 million Americans have macular degeneration, of whom 2.5 million have the advanced form that threatens their eyesight. If not treated, the disease inevitably leads to blindness.
 
There is no cure for macular degeneration but there is an injectible medication that stops the progression of the disease in about one-third of the patients on whom it is used. However, a patient must wait six months to a year before knowing if the medication is effective. Based on the biomarkers, the company’s focus is to determine if the patient will respond to the medication before then.
 
The privately-financed Ocular has two full-time employees. It is looking to hire two laboratory technicians within the year, and is also seeking up to three college students who are interested in unpaid internships doing eye research.
 
Source: Joshua Hines, Ocular Proteomics LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Blue Wave Semiconductors seeks first round of funding

Blue Wave Semiconductors Inc. is going after its first funding round of $500,000 next month. The Baltimore County developer of products for semiconductors, located in the incubator [email protected] Research and Technology Park in Catonsville, expects to close the round by the end of this year. It is seeking funding from angel investors and will use the money to expand sales of its product line in Europe and Asia.
 
“We have many products for the international market. We want to increase sales of existing and future products,” says founder and CEO R.D. Vispute.

Blue Wave is also awaiting approval of up to $4 million in federal grants this year, from the U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Award and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The grants are intended for product development, not sales.
 
Blue Wave makes microelectronic and nano-electronic tools for semiconductors that academic and private research centers and laboratories use.
 
“Our core expertise is extending research abilities in nano and electric material. We expand the number of materials available for R&D,” Vispute says.
 
The company has developed a dozen physical and chemical tools for the R&D market. It has already received grants totaling $2.3 million from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, to develop radiation hard coatings for space application; National Science Foundation, for nanomaterials development; and Maryland Industrial Partnership.
 
Blue Wave grew out of research by Vispute, a research scientist in the physics department of the University of Maryland College Park. Founded in 2000, he moved into the UMBC incubator in 2004.
 
In 2011, Blue Wave entered into a partnership with Seki Technology to expand product sales. From 2011 to 2012, sales almost doubled, to $1.1 million. Estimated sales for 2013 are $1.6 million.
 
Clients include the U.S. Department of Defense and the universities of Maryland and California, as well as national laboratories in Singapore, Germany, Australia and India. On the private side, clients include Sylvania R&D Lighting Division, Pixelligent Technologies, General Motors and BAE Systems.
 
Within the next six months, the company is nearly doubling its current staff of six to hire up to four employees in engineering and nanotechnology. It is a finalist in the 2013 Maryland Incubator of the Year. The award will be announced later this month.
 
Source: R.D. Vispute, Blue Wave Semiconductors Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Canton's 410 Labs raising up to $5M in latest funding round

Canton startup 410 Labs hopes to raise up to $5 million in its third round of funding this year. Founded by Dave Troy and Matt Koll, the company will use the money to refine its email management program, Mailstrom, and to double its current staff of six with design and marketing positions.
 
CEO Dave Troy says the second round of financing will be open to angel investors and venture capitalists, although he did not give a timeframe for closing the round. He also did not give a precise figure but said it would be "under $5 million." 
 
“We are focused on furthering the product,” Troy says of Mailstrom. 410 Labs introduced it last year, an outgrowth of an earlier product called Shortmail, to manage email and text messages. Since its founding in 2011, 410 Labs has raised a total of $1 million. Its first round of financing, it raised $750,000 privately and from angel investors. Another $300,000 was subsequently raised privately. 
 
In January, 410 Labs offered a free beta version of Mailstrom. The financing will be used to refine the web application for large-scale email users, or people who receive 50 and more email messages per day.
 
Since its launch as a free beta program, 44,000 people have processed 550 million emails via Mailstrom. “That gives you a sense of how much email is floating around,” says Troy.
 
Troy credits a technology blogger, Adam Dachis of Lifehacker, with the number of beta users. “When it first came out, there wasn’t a lot of notice. Then an online blogger wrote about it in February and we went from a few thousand [beta users] to 30,000 users in a couple of weeks,” he says. A mention in a story on email in The New York Times Personal Tech section didn't hurt, either.

Mailstrom is available on a free trial basis for the foreseeable future although at some point, 410 Labs will set a fee for versions with different options, says Troy.

Email was introduced in 1971. It hasn’t changed much since then, says Troy, but the mushrooming number of email has created a problem that Mailstrom is intended to solve.
 
Mailstrom works with any standard email system. It uses headers and subject lines to organize emails by a number of categories, including sender, mailing list, social network and shopping network. It can delete a large number of messages from a single sender or company, and can skim by content or time period.
 
Following the industry’s best practices for emails, the program does not open and read the message body, nor does it store the emails.
 
“It takes an initially overwhelming number and makes it actionable,” says Troy.
 
He has found that personality determines how people deal with emails. “Some delete every day, some don’t delete at all. We built an email product that works for a lot of different personalities.”
 
The company is located in the Emerging Technology Center at Canton incubator. Troy has not decided whether to accompany the incubator this fall to its new site in Highlandtown. 


Source: David Troy, 410 Labs
Writer: Barbara Pash

 
 
 

Canton e-commerce company SalesWarp seeks $10M in funding

SalesWarp recently closed its second round of financing and is planning a third round before the end of the year. The Canton e-commerce company is also adding five employees in engineering and product management to its current full-time staff of 16.
 
Private investors funded the first and second rounds, CEO David Potts says. He declined to give specific numbers but says that to date, SaleWarp has raised under $5 million.
 
He says that the third round of financing will be “more traditional,” intended for venture capital investors and with a goal of $5 million to $10 million.
 
SalesWarp’s Storefront Management System is an enterprise software product for retail environments from online stores to warehouse systems. It manages data from product to market, and processes orders.
 
“Our software filled a gap we found in the market,” says Potts.
 
SalesWarp originally worked with service providers to integrate its software with clients’ systems. However, about a year ago, SalesWarp decided to service its clients directly, “to make sure all the systems work. It gives us a higher quality product at the end of the day," says Potts. 
 
SalesWarp retains partnerships with service providers for some aspects of e-commerce like front-end merchandising and branding and marketing, if the client chooses.
 
“It allows us to offer an array of services beyond SalesWarp,” says Potts. The third financing round will be used to continue building services for clients.
 
According to Potts, sales have been growing quarter to quarter 50 to 100 percent for the past six quarters.
 
Within a year of launching its system in 2009, the company had acquired the top 10 retailers in the country as clients, he says. This summer, additional clients in the high-end fashion and shoe industries will be announced. He declined to specify brands but says their names will “resonate in those spaces.”
 
6th Street Commerce developed and is the corporate entity for SalesWarp. The privately financed SalesWarp is located in the incubator Emerging Technology Center at Canton. Potts hasn’t decided if  the company will move with the ETC to it new location in Highlandtown in October.
 
Whatever the decision, he says SalesWarp will need an office for at least 20 people. Last year, the company doubled the number of full-time employees from eight to 16. 
 
Source: David Potts, SalesWarp
Writer: Barbara Pash

VisiSonics seeks $750K in angel funding for new product

VisiSonics Corporation is seeking $750,000 in its first round of funding from angel investors so the College Park startup can launch its first software product, RealSpace, by the fall. 
 
VisiSonics produces software and hardware to improve the sound spatialization, or three-dimensional perception, over headphones and on smart phones and tablet devices.

Last year, the company changed its business direction to focus on developing and marketing its software, which CEO Ramani Duraiswami says is a bigger market compared with hardware.
 
The software, for mobile and consumer electronics, is currently in a testing stage. The goal is to make it easy-to-use and more efficient for consumers and potential industry clients like the gaming industry.
 
“Customers want better audio and music on their portable devices. Our software can be programmed into any device to make it full and rich,” says Duraiswami.
 
Founded in 2009, VisiSonics is a spinoff from the University of Maryland, College Park, and is located on the College Park campus’ incubator, the Technology Advancement Program.
 
The company originally focused on special hardware, called an “audio camera,” to capture sound, with accompanying software to analyze the sound for a variety of uses. The hardware captured sound in already-existing spaces like classrooms, concert halls, stadiums and work environments.
 
Duraiswami says the company had over $500,000 in sales of hardware, from customers like the University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, Stanford University and the US Naval Research Laboratory.
 
“If they were designing a concert hall, for example, the hardware would determine if and where the sound was appropriate,” says Duraiswami. “It helped customers to characterize the sound environment.”
 
Last month, the Baltimore-based University of Maryland Ventures chose VisiSonics as the first winner of a newly created Start-Up Prize to help startups commercialize their products.
 
UM Ventures is the first joint partnership between the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park. The UM Ventures prize is intended to bring innovative technologies to the market.
 
James Hughes, director of UM Ventures and president of Research Park Corp. says the criteria for the Start-Up Prize is a combination of the potential impact of the startup’s technology and how far the startup has come since founding, especially in the last year. VisiSonics was a semi-finalist in this year’s Investment Maryland Challenge.
 
Hughes says the prize will be awarded annually and with a dollar amount at least equal to the $5,000 VisiSonics received. VisiSonics also received a $75,000 loan from the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) for commercialization.
 
VisiSonics has six full- and part-time employees. It is looking to hire up to four staffers, in software and business development, this year.
 
Sources: Ramani Duraiswami, VisiSonics; James Hughes, University of Maryland Ventures
Writer: Barbara Pash

Biomedical startup OptiCul seeking $5M in funding for new product

OptiCul Diagnostics Ltd. this month submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval of its first product, a device that tests for bacterial presence and promises to shorten hospital stays. Upon regulatory approval, which is expected this year, the Rockville biomedical startup with ties to Baltimore plans to market the device next year.
 
The startup is also seeking $5 million in funding from angel and venture capital investors this year, says CEO and Co-founder Israel Gannot. His wife Gallya Gannot is president and co-founder. Last year, the company raised $400,000 from angel investors.

The startup has eight full- and part-time employees. It plans to hire an additional eight employees, in engineering, marketing and sales, this year in preparation for selling the device in 2014.

Called an Optidet, the device OptiCul is developing can determine if a patient is carrying bacteria and if so which kind within three minutes. 

“The device helps with diagnosis and allows you to treat patients quicker, resulting in shorter hospital stays,” says Gannot, professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a professor at Tel Aviv University.
 
The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development awarded grants totaling $300,000 for research, which OptiCul conducted with the University of Maryland microbiology and chemistry departments.  
 
OptiCul Diagnostics was founded in Israel in 2008 with seed money from the Israeli government. In 2010, it opened its American headquarters and main laboratory to the William E. Hanna Jr. Innovation Center, an incubator in Montgomery County, where it is still located.
 
Gannot says the device, about the size of a small box, is designed to be placed in a hospital laboratory and used multiple times. The samples, about the size of business cards, are disposable. The device is priced at $10,000 and the samples at $3 each.
 
The initial marketing focus will be the I-95 corridor, Boston to Washington, D.C.,  where, by Gannot’s count, there are 2,500 hospitals with laboratory facilities.
 

Source: Israel Gannot, OptiCul Diagnostics Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 

Towson startup builds a better bridge inspection system

Towson engineering startup Sustainable Infrastructure of North America LLC is going after its first round of angel funding of $115,000 by the middle of this year. The startup will seek to close on its second funding round of $500,000 by the end of the year. The company's goal is to have raised $1.3 million by early next year, primarily from investors and loans and, possibly, its first product. 
 
Founder and Owner Tom Greene, says the money will be used to produce aesir, a computer system intended to replace existing bridge inspection equipment. By 2015, he plans to produce another four aesirs.
 
The aesir system will contain three-dimensional, ground-penetrating radar, laser profiling and digital imaging. The system will be mounted on top of a van that is driven on or under a bridge. Scanning the bridge in a 3-D format allows the inspector to find defects below the surface, where deterioration typically starts.
 
The system’s data will then be analyzed to pinpoint where and what the problems are, and to compare it with previous bridge inspections for rate of deterioration.
 
Greene says technology like 3-D and lasers already exists, and aesir will integrate it into a single system. A Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPs) grant for more than $400,000 is funding development of the system Greene says.
 
There are more than 600,000 bridges in the US, of which about 159,000 are in urban locations. The bridges must be inspected annually or every two years depending under whose jurisdiction – local, state or federal – they fall.
 
Greene expects to price the aesir, which can be used multiple times, at about $400,000. He will initially market it to government agencies and, subsequently, to engineering firms that are often hired to inspect bridges.
 
“The infrastructure is aging while the traffic is increasing. You have the same number of bridges from the 1970s but traffic volume is six times greater and trucks are much bigger,” he says.
 
Greene founded Sustainable Infrastructure in 2011. A year later, the company moved into the TowsonGlobal Business Incubator at Towson University. The company has a staff of three.
 
“Aesir has potential use in tunnels but right now we’re focusing on bridges,” he says.
 
Source: Tom Greene, Sustainable Infrastructure of North America LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 

Life sciences company developing device to prevent blindness caused by diabetes

Early-stage medical device company Vasoptic Medical Inc. is conducting tests on a device to detect and prevent a progressively worsening eye condition that leads to blindness.

The tests, being held at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, are required for federal Food and Drug Administration approval. When done in 2014, the Columbia company will seek FDA clearance to market and sell the device.

CEO and general counsel M. Jason Brooke estimates it will cost $7.5 million to bring the device to market. The federal National Institute of Health last year awarded the team a $225,000 development grant. The company next month will apply for a $1 million to $1.5 million NIH Small Business Innovation grant, which is intended to help speed commercialization of promising technology.
 
Johns Hopkins has a $180,000 multi-year grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, part of which goes to Vasoptic for commercialization. Vasoptic has received a $75,000 grant from Maryland Technology Development Corp., or TEDCO, for commercialization. It is also one of 33 finalists in the state’s InvestMaryland Challenge, the winners and cash prizes to be announced next month.
 
Brooke says the company is considering an angel financing round this year for $500,000.

“We are starting to get recognition of the value of technology among investors,” he says.
 
Brooke and Chief Technology Officer Abhishek Rege are Vasoptic’s current staff. Depending on grants, the company will hire two to four research engineers this year. The company is located in Howard County incubator, the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.
 
The so-far unnamed device is intended for the early detection of diabetic retinopathy, a condition caused by both Type I and Type II diabetes. One in nearly three diabetics, or six-to-eight million people, has some form of diabetic retinopathy. Another eye implant invented by Hopkins scientists and manufactured by a California company recently received FDA approval. 
 
In the US, 25 million people have diabetes, seven million people are undiagnosed diabetics and another 80 million people are pre-diabetic. The condition causes reduced blood flow to the tissue of the retina that leads to severe visual impairment and eventually blindness.
 
Brooke says the recommended treatment is regular eye exams to detect the condition and better management of one’s diabetes to slow its progression.
 
Vasoptic is not the only technology to screen for the condition. But other technologies require an ophthalmologist to analyze the images, says Brooke. Vasoptic’s technology is designed to be used by the primary care physician.
 
Vasoptic’s hand-held device captures anatomical images and physiological information like blood vessel flow that its accompanying software analyzes. The device not only detects the existence of the condition but predicts the risk of the diabetic developing it as well.
 
“It’s not hard for an ophthalmologist to detect the condition in its early stage but half of diabetics don’t receive the recommended eye exams” because of the expense and inconvenience, Brooke says . “Our focus is the primary care facility and keeping the device low cost,” likely under $10,000 each.
 
Rege developed the technology while working at the Johns Hopkins department of biomedical engineering. Hopkins filed patent papers and entered into a licensing agreement with Vasoptic to commercialize the device.
 

Source: M. Jason Brooke, Vasoptic Medical, Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 

Entrepreneur matchmaking service closing angel funding round

CoFoundersLab, a startup that matches business partners with one another, says it will close an angel investing round of about $500,000 next month and is expanding its reach in the U.S. and abroad.

Headquartered in Rockville and with extensive ties to Baltimore, CoFoundersLab connects entrepreneurs with one another and hosts targeted networking sessions to introduce founders to investors and partners. It is now adding 10 more US cities to the 20 in which it already has a presence. Internationally, it is launching in London, Tel Aviv, Singapore and Sao Paulo. CoFoundersLab is recruiting volunteer partners in its new domestic markets of Houston, Dallas, Detroit and Nashville, among others, as well as abroad.

CoFoundersLab already operates in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles. In New York City, for example, CoFoundersLab partners with a team at New York University’s Stern School of Business. In Baltimore, it regularly hosts events at Betamore and the Emerging Technology Center @ Canton and the University of Baltimore.
 
“We are looking for partners whose access to the community we can tap into,” says CEO Shahab Kaviani, co-founder with Culin Tate of a company that calls itself “matchmaking for entrepreneurs” in search of business partners.
 
Kaviani says the company’s partners are generally an accelerator or the coworking space of a university, where it hosts events that bring together entrepreneurs and investors/business partners. Its website also serves that purpose.
 
“The first challenge an entrepreneur has to overcome is finding the right business partner," Kaviani says. "In the past, you went to friends or networked. We are creating a large pool online."
 
CoFoundersLab began in 2010 as a part-time service to host events for start-up companies. In 2011, it launched its initial version of the online match-up website. In 2012, financed by The Fort Accelerator in Washington, D.C. and angel investors, it became a full-time service.
 
Kaviani isn’t sure of the number of match-ups for which CoFoundersLab can take credit.  He believes it is in the low hundreds. “Some we hear about, others we don’t,” he says, pointing to Kithly, an application company that was formerly housed in a Baltimore incubator and whose founder met his business partner through CoFoundersLab.
 
 It is also in the process of reorganizing its website. Currently, the website is accessible for free but Kaviani says a paid membership, with advanced features, will be introduced this year. Membership prices haven’t been finalized.
 
Next month, too, CoFoundersLab will find out if it has been chosen to advance to the final round of the state-sponsored InvestMaryland Challenge that culminates in April. It is currently one of 61 finalists in three categories for the $100,000 prize.
 
CoFoundersLab has a staff of five. It is hiring two staffers this summer, in marketing and technology development.
 
Source: Shahab Kaviani, CoFoundersLab
Writer: Barbara Pash

Educational tech company raising $5M and hiring

Educational technology startup 1sqbox LLC says it expects to wrap up its second round of angel financing of $5 million by the middle of this year and is tripling its staff of five. The downtown Baltimore company is hiring seven salespeople, three support staff and a chief financial officer.

In its first round of angel financing last year, 1sqbox raised $330,000, to get the company off the ground, CEO Granville Templeton III says. After its second round of angel financing, 1sqbox will seek venture capital.

The company sells Android-based tablets to school systems for kindergarten through 12th grades. The tablets have proprietary software geared for administrators and for teachers and students. Templeton bills the company as a “one-stop shop” for educators. 

“We use the school system’s and/or other companies’ educational content. We are the platform” for the content,  says Templeton, who cofounded the company with chairman and CTO Alexis Coates in 2011.
 
The same tablet is used for all grades. Every student in a class gets a tablet. Via his or her tablet, the teacher inputs lesson plans and other material like textbooks, quizzes, homework assignments and comments.
 
“It’s an intuitive management system that allows teachers to use technology for their classrooms,” says Templeton.
 
School principals can monitor teachers via the tablet. A software platform allows them to view teachers’ lesson plans, assignments and other information.

Templeton says 1sqbox is in the process of refining its software for easier use. It is also adapting its platform  for district-wide use. “Now, each school can monitor itself. We are adapting it so each school in a district can be monitored,” he says.
 
Last year, 1sqbox launched a pilot program in City Springs Middle School, a charter school in East Baltimore. The Abell Foundation funded the purchase of 100 tablets. Templeton says the tablets average $349 each, depending on amount ordered.
 
Dr. Walter Amprey, former superintendent of Baltimore City Public Schools, this year became associated with 1sqbox, “to introduce the company to school systems around the country,” says Templeton.
 
The company sells directly to school districts, which then distribute the tablets to users. The marketing focus so far has been Baltimore City and Maryland along with nearby states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. 
 
Templeton says 1sqbox has contracts with six schools, among them four in Baltimore City and two in Tennessee. The Baltimore schools are City Springs Middle School, Heritage High School, Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women and Rosemont Elementary and Middle School. The tablets stay at the school, and do not go home with the students.
 
Source: Granville Templeton, III, 1sqbox LLC
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

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

UMBC Life Sciences Startup Launching First Product

Life sciences company Plasmonix will begin selling its first product, QuantArray, early this year. The Baltimore County startup plans to commercialize two other products later in 2013, the QuantaWell 100 and the Quanta NP, and will seek $2 million to $3 million for another round of financing, CEO William Gjust says.

Plasmonix develops support tools to detect cells in medical research and clinical diagnostics by enhancing luminescent and fluorescent signals using metal nanoparticles. QuantArray, its latest product, has various applications in performing assays, a test that analyzes components, and enhances luminescent signals hundred-fold over conventional methods. The technology can be be applied not only in the life sciences, but also apparel, paint and cosmetics. 
 
QuantaWell 100 also enhances signals hundred-fold but in a different format than QuantArray. Quanta NP is a supplementary solution that is used to improve the efficiency and sensitivity of commercially available assays.
 
“It’s a rarefied field. There is no direct competition that we are aware of,” says Gust of Plasmonix’ products. 
 
Gust says potential customers are any company or institution that performs assays, from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to academic facilities. Market research showed that the average price for standard assays is $25 per substrate microscope slide. Gust says he has not determined a price for QuantArray but it is likely to be slightly higher than the standard assay.
 
In 2011, Plasmonix received $1.5 million from venture capitalists in its initial round of financing. It has also received $200,000 from the Maryland Biotechnology Center and $100,000 from the Maryland Industrial Partnership, to be used by its academic collaborators.
 
Plasmonix grew out academic research, primarily at the University of Maryland Center for Fluorescence Spectroscopy. The company was formed in 2009. In 2011, it moved into the incubator, [email protected] Research and Technology Park, where it occupies a 1,500-square-foot office. The company employs four.
 
“We are translating academic research into robust, reproducible commercial techniques,” says Gust.
 
Source: William Gust, Plasmonix
Writer: Barbara Pash

Noxilizer Expands Medical Device Production

Noxilizer Inc. expects to more than double its manufacturing capacity of its proprietary sterlization units for medical devices, thanks to its recent move to a larger production facility.
 
Maura Kahn, vice president business development and marketing, says Noxilizer’s relocation from the incubator at University of Maryland, Baltimore County to the University of Maryland, BioPark in downtown Baltimore allows the company to manufacture five to six units, rather than one to two, per year. Kahn says customers include medical device manufacturers, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, such as the Catheter Research Center in Indianapolis.
 
“We have roughly the same amount of office space but double the laboratory space. Moving to a larger lab facility allows us to expand our microbiology operations and to build our sterilization units,” Kahn says.
 
Noxilizer’s manufactures its RTS 360 Sterilization Unit on premise, with subcontractors in Maryland completing the assembly. The first units went on sale in 2011. The units employ a gas-based, room temperature process that allows them to be used for new medical devices that can’t be sterilized by the traditional method.
 
Noxilizer’s sterilization units cost $250,000 each. The company offers a three-year service contract for $40,000.  To run the unit, customers purchase sterilants from Noxilizer at a typical cost of $2000 to $2500 per month.
 
Noxilizer, a privately-held company, was founded in 2004. It originally had offices in both Bethesda and Baltimore. In 2010, the two offices were combined into one and moved into the incubator [email protected]
 
The company employs 19 full-time and two part-time workers. Last year, it added six new employees and is currently looking to hire a director of quality. The company also employs four-to-six paid interns per year, usually from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Stevenson University, who are often hired as full-time employees after graduation.
 
Noxilizer recently raised $3.5 million in a financing round via the Maryland Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit program. It also received $500,000 from The Abell Foundation. Last year, the company was named Maryland Incubator Company of the Year in the life sciences category.
 
Source: Maura Kahn, Noxilizer Inc.
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Startup Hopes to Raise $1.5M for Health Inspection Data Website

Baltimore startup HD Scores has launched its first round of financing this month in hopes of raising $1.5 million to support its main product, a website that it bills as the most comprehensive health department inspection data from jurisdictions in the US and Canada. HD Scores launched the site in May and plans put the data on the website in early 2013 and sell the data to clients.
 
Operating out of a virtual office, the company is currently hiring two key personnel, a chief technology officer and national vice president of business development.
 
The idea for HD Scores came to Matthew Eierman, a trained chef, when he sought health inspection information about a restaurant in Annapolis that friends were considering opening. It took Eierman, founder and CEO of HD Scores, almost three hours to track down the data, “and I knew where to look,” he says. “I thought, there’s an issue here."
 
HD Scores is collecting data from 3,200 counties around the US and Canada. The publicly available health department inspection data comes from local and state governments.
 
HD Scores will publish the data in its raw form, directly from the database, which will be available for viewing free. The company will also standardize it, meaning that, based on proprietary algorithms, the raw data will be put into an easy-to-read format searchable by multiple platforms.
 
Eierman says HD Scores expects the standardized data to be used for marketing and/or research. Potential clients include advertising applications and web platforms; government and media groups; academics; and commercial entities and restaurants. He declined to provide pricing information.
 
In January, HD Scores will launch a consumer feedback column on its website in which 30-second videos taken on smart phones will be posted. It also is putting together a panel of experts in food service and health inspection to devise its own independent rating system for restaurants, school and hospital cafeterias, and any commercial kitchen.
 
Source: Matthew Eierman, HD Scores
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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