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DC food council expands to Baltimore

A Washington, D.C., nonprofit that certifies restaurants that offer diners healthful and sustainable foods is expanding to Baltimore.
 
The United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) has certified its first restaurant in the Baltimore area, Zia’s Café in Towson, and will certify up to 10 Baltimore-area locations as part of its continuing expansion, says the food council’s Director of Marketing Chris Stemp.


Founded in 2011, the council offers the Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) certification program. It is a points-based nutrition and sustainable best practices certification similar to  the United States Green Building Council’s LEED program.
 
The food council has certified more than 30 dining establishments in D.C. via its pilot program, as well as four national corporate cafes, including Google in San Francisco. Partnerships with sites like OpenTable allow diners to search for REAL restaurants.

The food council received the majority of its undisclosed funding from one individual, as well as funding from its founding corporate sponsor, Fortessa Tableware Solutions. A three-year grant from the state of Tennessee allows expansion into the state. Establishments do pay a small fee for certifications.

To date, the council has not applied for funding from Baltimore-area investors or for city grants.

“Baltimore is a great city with a thriving food scene,” Stemp says. “DC was our pilot city and we were very successful, which gives credibility in Baltimore; many of the chefs and restaurant owners know each other.”

The food council currently has a registered dietician in Baltimore and a member of its panel of experts who helps identify potential REAL restaurants. Once a core group of Baltimore-area restaurants are established, the food council plans to hire a city manager to aid Baltimore operations. The food council currently employs 11. 

Writer: Renee Beck
Source: Chris Stemp, United States Healthful Food Council

Personal chef service PlateDate launching in Baltimore

A personal chef service is launching in Greater Baltimore in January, promising customers five-star dining in their own home.

PlateDate currently serves Howard County and Washington, D.C. Myranda Stephens, PlateDate's communications manager, says the company is still identifying which areas of Greater Baltimore it will serve, but it will likely include a stretch from Annapolis to Bel Air, as well as Baltimore City. 

Based in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood, the company employs two and relies on about 20 contract workers. It also has office space in D.C. incubator 1776. Stephens says the company will offer cooking classes and wine pairings in the future.

Riffing on the idea of a kids' playdate, PlateDate facilitates a grown-up get-together. "It's not catering or delivery," she says. "We send a chef to prepare and serve a meal." Chefs bring all ingredients and items necessary for cooking the meal with them and clean up after themselves as well.
 
Potential diners can browse from 25 different menu options online or can opt for a custom-made meal. Each PlateDate is priced per person, starting at $39 for brunch and capping at around $125 for dinner, depending on the options selected. 
 
"You’re getting a personal chef at your house," Stephens states. "A three-course meal— five-star dining—in your own home."
 
PlateDate also wants to "keep it local" whenever possible. The company is committed to promoting locally grown produce; a company partner's family owns a farm in King and Queen County, Va. "Two of the biggest crops from [the] farm are sweet potatoes and kale, which we've incorporated in several of our menu items," Stephens explains. She also says that the farm-to-table aspect of PlateDate's operation has several investors "strongly interested" in the company.
 
Currently, PlateDate has more than a dozen personal chefs on board. "It's a fun concept and it offers a lot of flexibility," Stephens explains. "Some [chefs] do have other full-time jobs. [PlateDate] is a fun way to pick up extra cash and…to do what they love to do in a different way. "
 
PlateDates are available Thursdays through Sundays for brunch and dinner. Stephens says the company would like to offer PlateDates seven days a week, and that expansion will come as the company's network of personal chefs grows. 
 
"We're always looking for talented chefs," she explains. "Having a system of chefs increases availability [for the consumer], so you're not at the mercy of a single calendar."

Writer: Allyson Jacob
Source: Myranda Stephens, PlateDate
 


O say can you see Fort McHenry's new boat tour?

As the summer tourist season gets underway, Fort McHenry last week added another attraction. For the first time, visitors to the national landmark located in South Baltimore will get the same view of the fort —from the water —  that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem during the War of 1812’s Battle of Baltimore.
 
The Fort McHenry Boat Tour: A Star-Spangled Experience runs every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, through Sept. 15 and is expected to return next summer. Seven tours depart daily, on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours leave from the Fort McHenry Pier at 2400 East Fort Ave.
 
The 45-minute narrated tour recounts Key’s experience during September 1814. There are “special audio effects. We’ve got all the bells and whistles, bombs and music,” says Lisa Lynn Hansen, director of Friends of Fort McHenry, a nonprofit that works with the National Park Service to provide educational programs and living history activities.
 
The Friends of Fort McHenry, Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine, Living Classrooms Foundation and Baltimore Water Taxi partnered to create the tour, which is expected to be an annual summertime offering.

A $33,000 grant from the the state's Maryland War of 1812 Commission funded the effort. Students from the Baltimore School for the Arts narrate the tour while El-J Productions produced the script and sound effects. Baltimore Water Taxi is providing the 49-passenger boats under a charter arrangement with Friends of Fort McHenry.
 
Fort McHenry drew 850,000 visitors last year. Hansen says the main challenge in arranging the boat tour was setting the length of the tour.  “We didn’t want to take them out on the water too long. They’ve come to tour the fort and this is an add-on,” she says.
 
Friends also wanted to make the boat tour affordable. Visitors can walk around the grounds of the fort for free. A tour of the fort costs $7 per adult, children under age 16 are free. The boat tour costs $10 per adult (age 11 and up) and $5 per child (ages 3 to 10). Tickets are sold at dockside on a first-come, first-serve basis.
 
Source: Lisa Lynn Hansen, Friends of Fort McHenry
Writer: Barbara Pash







National entrepreneurship program debuts in Baltimore

New York City nonprofit Venture for America, which provides entrepreneurship training for recent college graduates, is adding Baltimore to its roster of cities this year.
 
Venture was founded in 2011 to encourage entrepreneurship through practical experience. It officially launched last year in five cities: Detroit, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Providence, Rhode Island. This year, Baltimore and Cleveland are on board.

In Baltimore, the following companies could get access to talent through Venture: Baltimore Astrum Solar, Parking Panda, Pixelligent, Reify Health, Riskive, SocialToaster and Vigilant Medical.

The fellows, or recent graduates, are recruited from universities nationally, including the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University and, for 2013, University of Maryland Baltimore County and Loyola University of Maryland.

“We send out fellows to cities across the country that have high quality startups and, perhaps, less access to talent than major metropolitan areas,” says Mike Tarullo, vice president of corporate development. “We look for places graduates might not think of going but have great opportunities.”

Most recruits are just getting their undergraduate degree in a variety of majors while others may have already spent a year or two in the workforce.
 
Tarullo calls the selection process “competitive,” with a written application, grade transcripts and interviews on the telephone and in person with board members in New York City. About 10 to 15 percent of applicants are admitted to the program.
 
“We are looking for a high potential for entrepreneurship,” says Tarullo of the fellows, who commit to spending two years in their assigned company and at a fixed salary of $38,000 per year that the company pays.
 
Last year, Venture placed 40 fellows in the five original cities. This year, it is placing 70 fellows in the seven cities. The number going to each city depends on how many companies participate in the program and the “match” between fellows’ interests and startups’ field.
 
“We are hoping 10 fellows come to Baltimore but it depends on the number of startups that are hiring. We don’t have a limit on the number of fellows at each startup but typically it’s one, maybe two,” Tarullo says.

Tarullo says each city to which Venture sends fellows has a different focus. Baltimore is strong on cybersecurity, biotechnology and education technology, he says. “We’re excited to be coming to Baltimore.”

Tarullo credits the Abell Foundation, which gave more than $100,000, for bringing Venture for America to Baltimore. The Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO); Betamore, the work space for startups in Federal Hill; and the incubator Emerging Technology Center in Canton are helping Venture connect with the startup community.

 
Source: Mike Tarullo, Venture for America
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 

Three new companies join UMBC cybersecurity incubator

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Northrop Grumman Corp. last month expanded their Cync cybersecurity  program with three new companies, including the program’s first international one. The three firms joined the five companies currently at [email protected] Research and Technology Park in Catonsville.

The folowing three companies entered the Cync program:
  • iWebGate is relocating its headquarters from Perth, Australia, to Maryland. It is developing a multi-tenant security-tested network between private networks and the Internet;
  • DB Networks, of Silicon Valley provides behavioral analysis of database security equipment. It intends to grow its mid-Atlantic region; and,
  • Baltimore's Light Point Security, which is working on protecting corporate networks from web-based malware.

Northrop Grumman and UMBC jointly select the companies for the 18-month long Cync program, which began in 2011.
 
Chris Valentino, director of contract research and development for Northrop Grumman Information Systems in Annapolis says the program is for early-stage companies to grow and develop their cybersecurity products. He identified global security, data analytics and technology as areas that are of particular interest. Valentino says he also considers how the product fits into Northrop Grumman’s portfolio.
 
Northrop Grumman pays for Cync program companies’ office space and equipment at the UMBC incubator. Its own entrepreneur-in-residence at the incubator works with the companies on business plans and marketing.
 
Valentino says the Cync program is getting requests from companies outside the U.S. and elsewhere in the country. “They wanted to expand to Maryland specifically for the Cync program and to work with federal government,” he says of the companies.
 
Northrop Grumman provides a link to potential customers in the federal marketplace. “Our intention is to partner with the companies,” he says.
 
Ellen Hemmerly, executive director at [email protected], says there are more than 100 companies in the research and technology park. Of these, two-thirds are early-stage companies that are participating in one of its three incubators. Bwtech’s cybersecurity incubator has 35 early-stage companies and another 10 companies that are more mature businesses.
 
Of the 35 early-stage companies, eight are participating in the Cync program. She says that when the Cync program was established, there was not an absolute number set on the number of companies that could participate.

"We projected five to six companies at any one time, and we are staying within that framework.”
 
Sources: Chris Valentino, Northrop Grumman Information Systems; Ellen Hemmerly, [email protected] Research and Technology Park
Writer: Barbara Pash

Jessup IT firm ClearEdge hiring 25

ClearEdge IT Solutions LLC, a woman-owned tech firm in Jessup, is hiring 25 software engineers and cloud computing experts to join the 75-person firm by the fall. The company, which specializes in cloud computing and data analysis, moved to a new, larger headquarters in Howard County.

The move is part of an overall restructuring process that will enable the company to compete for more and larger defense contracts, Executive Strategist Nikolas Acheson says.  “We are reorganizing to maximize our abilities, and positioning ourselves for the future,” he says. “We are ramping up to compete as we move from a small to a large company.”
 
ClearEdge IT was founded in 2002. The company is currently valued at about $20 million and anticipates growing by 20 percent per year for the next five years, says Acheson. “The area of computer science that we support is expanding. Customers are looking for efficiencies, to implement new technologies and that’s where we come in."
 
Last year, ClearEdge IT left a leased building in Anne Arundel County to buy and renovate an existing two-story, 36,000-square-foot building in Jessup. Part of the staff works from new headquarters while others work on-site for federal and private customers. Acheson says its main customer is the intelligence community within the Department of Defense, as well as private customers in the defense community
 
The move also allows ClearEdgeIT to expand its certification classes in big data and cloud computing programs like Hadoop and jQuery at its Distributed Computing Center of Excellence. The company founded the center less than a year ago and currently enrolls over 100 students.
 
Classes are open to anyone. Fees range from about $1,700 for a two-day course to $495 for a several-hour course. With the move, Acheson says the company will focus on partnering with its customers to offer training and certification for their employees. A fee structure is in the works. Certification will be offered either within the particular company or to industry-wide standards.
 
“We intend to double, even triple, enrollment and the number of offerings within the next 18 months,” he says.
 
Source: Nikolas Acheson, ClearEdge IT Solutions
Writer: Barbara Pash

Canton's EntreQuest reaches out to universities to promote entrepreneurship

Canton business consulting firm EntreQuest is in talks to partner with three universities and foundations around the country this fall to promote entrepreneurship as it expands its reach in the higher education market.
 
“We want to leverage our assets and use their platforms to add value to their members, clients and students,” says CEO Joe Mechlinski, who is also a best-selling author. He declined to name the universities and foundations until deals are finalized, which  he anticipates this fall.

EntreQuest first entered the university space last December, when it launched the Growth University, an online training and certification courses downloadable from its website. Courses range from sales to leadership at a fee of $297 to $497 per individual course, or a corporate fee of $30 per month per person.
 
Mechlinksi says more than 200 people have downloaded Growth University courses since its launch. He also says that entreQuest this year plans to introduce the Growth Factor, video webinars that feature interviews with business leaders.
 
Mechlinksi’s first book, “Grow Regardless,” was published last February. That same month, it hit No. 3 on The New York Times list of best-selling business books, No. 1 on Barnes & Noble.com and No. 5 on Amazon.com.

EntreQuest offers help in sales, staffing and strategy to businesses. The entreQuest team spends 30 days at the client-company interviewing stakeholders and surveying employees, according to Mechlinksi, who says entreQuest has consulted with about 400 companies around the country since its founding in 2000. The fee depends on services and size of the client.
 
The client receives a detailed action plan for the next year. For an extra fee, entreQuest will stay on site to recruit staff, provide training and fill any other client requests.
 
EntreQuest has offices at the incubator, the Emerging Technology Center at Canton. Its staff also mentor other incubator tenants. The company has 11 employees and is currently hiring three, including a director of products, recruiting director and senior business consultant.
 
Source: Joe Mechlinski, entreQuest
Writer: Barbara Pash

UMd. researcher makes breakthrough discovery about life on Mars

A University of Maryland research team led by Shiladitya DasSarma last month revealed a type of organism that may survive on Mars and other extreme environments. The discovery is a breakthrough in methods of survival under the cold and dry conditions found in Antarctica -- and Mars.

DasSarma’s research for NASA focuses on Halorubrum lacusprofundi, a microbe that was discovered in Deep Lake, a very salty lake in Antarctica.

“It’s a good model for surviving in conditions like Mars,” he says of the microbe whose adaptations allow it to live in a cold, salty environment that is considered similar to some environments on Mars.

The National Space and Atmospheric Administration is funding the research, which was published in a professional journal, with an ongoing multi-year grant for nearly $500,000.                     

DasSarma says there is so much interest in the question of life on Mars because Mars and Earth are sister planets. Both are within the “habitable zone,” close enough to the Sun to sustain life if liquid water is present.

“Mars is much drier and colder than Earth,” he says, but photographs show seasonal flows of brine, or salty water, down the sides of a crater on Mars. “There are probably pools of brine under the surface of Mars.”

DasSarma says the NASA grant is intended to answer basic biotechnology questions.

“NASA is asking, could any organism survive under Mars’ conditions? What molecular adaptations are necessary for survival? Our research determined that certain organisms can survive,” says DasSarma, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in downtown Baltimore. DasSarma is also a research scientist with the university’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at the Inner Harbor.

DasSarma and his team have long studied organisms that grow in unusual environments. “Our specialty is understanding how they are able to survive in very dry and salty conditions,” says DasSarma, the key finding being that they have adaptations that allow them to hold onto water.

DasSarma says the microbe he is studying for NASA won't  be found on Mars necessarily. But if life is one day discovered on Mars, “they will be a salt-loving type of organism,” he says, “possibly something like it.”

DasSarma says his research may lead to the development of novel biotechnological applications for use on Earth.

Source: Shiladitya DasSamra, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 

New Hampden marketing company seeking education industry clients

Recently formed marketing company Kalix Communications LLC is going after independent schools, education and corporate clients.
 
The company has already landed two clients in the educational field. One is Notre Dame Preparatory School, a Catholic middle-high school in Towson, for which Kalix created a social media marketing campaign. It also bought radio ads and conducted market research on behalf of the school.
 
Kalix is also working with two divisions at Towson University. It conducted social media training for Towson’s Center for Professional Study’s clients, and formulated a social media strategy for Towson’s Division of Innovation and Applied Research.
 
Kalix partner and president Jonathan Oleisky formerly headed Media 924, a social media consulting firm. Ruth Eve, Kalix partner and executive vice president, was formerly vice president at Green and Associates, a media buying agency.
 
“Baltimore has many strong marketing agencies. Our challenge is how we differentiate ourselves,” says Oleisky.
 
He says Kalix has chosen to do so by subcontracting with 12 “strategic partners,” senior-level executives who are assigned to teams depending on clients’ requests, and by having a flexible fee structure, from retainer to project-based.
 
Oleisky says Kalix focuses on brand development, creative direction, social media strategy and implementation, media buying and planning and public relations. Besides the two educational institutions, Kalix’s clients include Consolidated Insurance Center, Prezmed and My Directive.
 
The privately financed Kalix launched its website this week. Oleisky projects first year sales of $500,000 to $750,000 and, based on that projection, expects to hire two to three staffers in project management and account services later this year.
 
Source: Jonathan Oleisky, Kalix Communications LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

Federal grant targets violence against women in Orthodox Jewish community

A grant from a federal agency is funding a three-year long effort to combat violence against women and girls in Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community. The U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women this month gave $350,000 via Jewish Women International to Baltimore's Counseling, Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women (CHANA), to develop an awareness and education campaign.
 
Of Greater Baltimore metro’s 93,400 residents in Jewish community, 21 percent, or 19,614 are Orthodox Jews, according to the latest demographic survey. Baltimore’s Orthodox Jews, the most traditional branch of Judaism, live primarily in the Park Heights-Cheswolde and Smith-Greenspring neighborhoods.
 
CHANA Executive Director Nancy Aiken is developing the campaign in partnership with Jewish Women International (JWI), a Washington, D.C., advocacy nonprofit that applied for and received the federal grant.
 
Located in the Park Heights neighborhood, CHANA is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. It provides counseling, crisis intervention, legal advocacy and a safe house.
 
Aiken says the campaign will be based on JWI’s “Good Guys” curriculum that JWI developed in 2008 as the first positive masculinity program for Jewish boys. Aiken intends to reach adolescent boys through male leaders in the Jewish community.
 
“Previously, this was considered a women’s issue but the thinking has changed to engaging men and boys as allies,” says JWI Director of Programs Deborah Rosenbloom. She says she sees the CHANA campaign as a national model for faith-based communities.
 
Aiken says the rate of domestic violence in the local Orthodox community is the same as in the general community. But the community met the requirements of the grant for culturally-specific communities and enables CHANA to create a campaign geared to its members.
 
“To religious communities, it is important to target the remedies to them, to make it relevant to their religious values,” she says.
 
The justice department’s Office on Violence Against Women awarded a total of $12.6 million to 20 social service agencies around the country.
 
Sources: Nancy Aiken, Counseling, Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women: Deborah Rosenbloom, Jewish Women International
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Baltimore BioWorks signs new contract with NIH

Baltimore BioWorks Inc., a company that provides on-the-job vocational training, hired its first employee from its minority-focused training and employment program last month.

Located at the University of Maryland BioPark, BioWorks plans to hire a total of 12 people in 2013 to add to its staff of four. The vocational employees get a salary and benefits during the year-long training program for biotechnicians.
 
The company’s training program is intended to be self-sustaining and depends on BioWorks’ sales, says John Powers, vice president of marketing and co-founder with president Louise Dalton. The company manufactures and distributes biomedical products for others and under its own brand. It also offers toxicology testing services. Powers says BioWorks' annual revenue is expected to clip $1 million this year, thanks to two new contracts. 
 
Powers says the company anticipates closing a contract with the University of Maryland Medical System within the next few months to manufacture and distribute latex gloves and other products. Last year, Baltimore Bioworks contracted with the National Institute of Health to manufacture and distribute products, for about $30,000 in sales per month. 
 
Powers says the company has $350,000 in annual revenue as of this month. With both the University of Maryland and National Institute contracts, sales will increase to $80,000 to $100,000 per month.
 
While the company’s training program is open to all qualified candidates, Baltimore BioWorks last year signed an agreement with Baltimore City Community College to write the program’s training material in conjunction with it.
 
“If we follow their format on classroom work, vocational employees will earn BCCC college credit as well as a salary,” says Powers.
 
Powers is in talks with the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland Inc. — a scientific training program for entry-level biotechnicians — for the same arrangement.
 
In the fall, the company leased a 14,000-square foot space at 1100 Wicomico St., for manufacturing and distribution.
 
Powers expects to hear this summer about the company’s application for state certification as a minority business enterprise. If approved as an MBE, Baltimore BioWorks would qualify to bid on state contracts that require a set-aside of up to 25 percent for minority- and women-owned companies.
 
“With MBE status, the potential is to be a $5 million company,” says Powers.
 
Source: John Powers, Baltimore BioWorks Inc.
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
 

Infertility website launching new apps for hopeful moms

My Hopeful Journey this year is expanding its market from individual users to businesses and associations. The Baltimore County lifestyle website is offering fee-based corporate memberships to clinics, pharmacies, mind-body programs and online communities as a way to reach more women.

Last year, founder Lisa Drouillard launched a free iPhone application, called the Infertility Survival Kit, to accompany the website. She also launched an app on adoption.

Harford County resident Lisa Drouillard founded the company, located at the TowsonGlobal Business Incubation at Towson University.

For corporate members, Drouillard creates a customized website and mobile application, along with a six-month free membership in My Hopeful Journey. Corporate members can co-brand the site with their logos, message and website links. A basic package costs $500.

"It is a value-added service for their members," she says.

My Hopeful Journey grew out of Drouillard's personal experience of five years of infertility treatments. As a full-time working woman, she found it difficult to keep track of daily tests and medication dosages during treatment.

My Hopeful Journey has an organizer to record appointments, medications, tests, procedures and natural tracking like body temperature. It includes content like resources, blog, task list and journal. Drouillard is continuing to market directly to individuals, who can access the website for free. Users can also sign up for a premium option with customized reports and downloadable documents, for $6 per month.

My Hopeful Journey has over 1,000 users. The Survival Kit app, downloadable from the Apple app store, has over 500 downloads since its launch less than two months ago.

Funding for My Hopeful Journey is private, supplemented by prize money the company has won in different business and pitch competitions.

“Infertility is a very complex, emotional situation. I wanted to share my personal journey, what I went through and what inspired me,” says Drouillard, who has a three-year-old daughter. “I can’t tell you how many people have contacted me to say how much they needed this website.”
 
Source: Lisa Drouillard, My Hopeful Journey
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

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






Mindgrub Makes Big Play in Mobile Games Market

Mindgrub Games next week expects to release its third mobile game, “Escape! From Detention,” developed under its own brand and in conjunction with the Howard County Library System. Mindgrub Games, a division of Catonsville mobile application developer Mindgrub, plans to release more mobile games by the middle of this year. 
 
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services gave the public library a $100,000 grant to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) laboratory for middle and high school students in the Savage Branch. Howard County then approached Mindgrub about the project.

“We created a basic game scenario and the kids were active participants in developing the game,” says Alex Hachey, lead Mindgrub Games designer. The game is downloadable for free from links on the Howard County Library System’s website.
 
The division is currently working on three new mobile games. One is a game for a client that may be announced later this month and two games under its own brand for a mid-2013 release.

Since Mindgrub Games was launched last summer, it has released two games. One, “Rescue Jump,” is its own brand. The second, “Scuba Adventures,” was done for a client, Discovery Kids, part of cable TV channel Discovery Network, and Zap Toys, a manufacturer in Hong Kong.
 
Mindgrub considered starting a games division two years ago, after an interactive festival showcased a mobile game that incorporated location technology, Hachey says.
 
“It was a spin on what Mindgrub had been doing. It got us thinking about games,” he says.
 
For “Scuba Adventures,” the division analyzed the market for competing games and worked with the client to develop a game to its specifications. The result is an educational game that sells for $1.99. Like all of Mindgrub Games’ products, it is available through Apple’s iTunes and the Android marketplace’s Google Play.
 
“Rescue Jump,” Mindgrub Games’ first product under its own brand, is a free download. It received over 1,300 downloads in its first two months.
 
Asked how the division makes money if the game is free, Hachey says, “Right now, it’s more of a learning objective. We are getting our feet wet in the game market. We are getting our name out. We can always add to or refine it [later] and then charge money.”
 
Since inception, Mindgrub Games has grown from three to seven full-time staffers. It is looking to hire Corona mobile applicaiton developers, illustrators and designers, depending on client contracts.
 
Source: Alex Hachey, Mindgrub Games
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 
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