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The second annual InvestMaryland Challenge is in full swing. If your business is in need of a jump start, check out this site for more information about the national business competition. The Challenge offers applicants free admission to networking events, social media promotion, scoring and feedback from judges, exposure to venture capital firms and angel investors and the chance to compete for more than $600,000 in prizes. Winners of the Life Sciences, IT, Cybersecurity and General Industry categories will each win $100,000 awards. Others will take home smaller grants, incubator space, consulting services and other cash and in-kind prizes. Applications are due by Dec. 6.

Judges include a distinguished lineup of industry leaders and experts in a variety of fields. Meet a selection of judges below.

Meet The Judges:

IT-robDoub

ROBB DOUB

Robb Doub joined New Markets Venture Partners in 2003. Robb is the lead administrative partner and serves as a board director for eCoast Sales Solutions and Appfluent Technology, and is lead partner or board observer for K2 Global, Kroll Bond Ratings, Navtrak, Three Stage Media, CSA Medical and TidalTV. He also serves on the board of Egeen International and the Conflicts Advisory Board of the off-shore hedge funds.

IT-daphneDufresneDAPHNE DUFRESNE

Daphne Dufresne joined RLJ Equity Partners from Parish Capital Advisors, where she was a Venture Partner managing the direct investment and co-investment program. Formerly, Ms. Dufresne was a Principal at Weston Presidio Capital with $3.4 billion of assets under management. She also served as Associate Director in the Bank of Scotland’s Structured Finance Group. Ms. Dufresne received her B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

LS_Christy_W_WyskielCHRISTY WILLIAMS WYSKIEL

Christy Williams Wyskiel is an entrepreneur and investor with 20 years of experience focused on the life sciences and healthcare industries. Previously, Christy was Managing Director at Maverick Capital, an equity hedge fund with $12 billion under management. She co-founded GrayBug, an ophthalmic drug-delivery company. In 2012, Christy joined the Johns Hopkins Alliance, a board charged with evaluating the commercial viability of research projects at JHU.

CS_Frederick_FerrerFREDERICK J. FERRER

Frederick J. Ferrer has over three decades of experience in the National Security, Intelligence Community (IC), Homeland Defense and Cyber. Mr. Ferrer holds a Master’s of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University and serves in a number of leadership capacities, including the Maryland Commission on Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence; National STEM Consortium Advisory Committee; and Chesapeake Regional Tech Council.

GEN_Deb_TillettDEBORAH TILLETT

As the Executive Director and President of the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore, Ms. Tillett is responsible for management of budgetary, administrative, programmatic functions and strategic planning. Prior to joining ETC, Ms. Tillett served as president and co-founder of Immersive 3D, LLC, a technology start-up providing web-based 3D computer gaming solutions for K-20 education and offering contract-based technology services.

See the full list of judges and submit your application on InvestMarylandChallenge.org.

Whether you prefer them sunny side up or whipped into an elaborate souffle—eggs play a major role in Maryland’s agriculture economy.

As May is National Egg Month, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is celebrating the Maryland farms that produce nearly 71 million dozen eggs a year. According to the department, Maryland’s combined poultry and egg industry accounts for the state’s largest farm revenue category, measured at $784,237,000 in 2011.

“Eggs are a commodity that can work for both large and small scale producers,” MDA Secretary Buddy Hance said in a statement. “Only nine Maryland egg producers have flocks larger than 3,000 birds. We have another 500 small-flock producers. Together, they produce about 71 million dozen eggs a year while Maryland consumers purchase 72 million dozen a year. We’re very proud of our farmers, large and small, who produce nutritious eggs to help meet the demand in our state.”

Maryland’s Best, a website managed by the MDA, recently produced a behind-the-scenes video at Sauder’s Eggs and Sunnyside Farm in Carroll County, that both produce and process eggs in Maryland.

Find more information, recipes and a prize drawing through Maryland’s Best.

Marylanders celebrated the new super post-Panamax 400-foot cranes at the Port of Baltimore's Seagirt Marine Terminal.

Marylanders celebrated the new super post-Panamax 400-foot cranes at the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal.

Soaring above the Baltimore skyline, four new 400-foot cranes stand ready to move containers from some of the world’s largest ships.

A widened Panama Canal, expected to be completed by 2015, will allow super post-Panamax ships to travel through Central America. The recent crane installation at the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal makes it one of just two East Coast ports able to accept and load these container ships, capable of carrying at least 8,000 20-foot containers, at a width of 22 containers or more.

Super post-Panamax ships are already widely used throughout Asia, although access to the East Coast has been stifled by the Panama Canal’s current restrictive width and a scarcity of updated crane and port systems. Improvements in both Panama and American ports are expected to lead to a boom in international trade.

Baltimore’s new cranes are the result of a public-private partnership between the Maryland Port Administration and Highstar Capital’s Ports America Chesapeake. Over the next 50 years, the partnership is projected to generate up to $1.8 billion in total investment and revenue for the state of Maryland and to create a total of 5,700 jobs.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined private investment partner Christopher Lee, chairman of Ports America Chesapeake and founder and manager of Highstar Capital, and others during a celebration of the cranes on Wednesday morning.

The governor focused on the port’s role as a job creator.

“When it comes to job creation, Maryland is a net winner in trade and that’s why we make this investment. That’s why we crow about the fact that these men and women smoke the competition at 37 lifts an hour. We had the best year on record last year in the Port of Baltimore. More cars, farm machinery and construction equipment came through the Port of Baltimore than any other port in our country, thanks to these men and women. And more imported sugar, aluminum and forest products arrived here than any other port. And out of the 60 ports across the country, we were No. 2 in terms of the amount of coal and iron ore that came through our port. These rankings are important for one reason, and one reason only, and that is jobs—jobs, jobs, jobs,” O’Malley said.

Find video of a portion of the governor’s speech below.

The use of a public-private partnership to facilitate port expansion is historically uncommon, but Baltimore will likely become an example to other states and cities, Lee said.

“This success occurred because this governor didn’t just talk about it. He didn’t just wail and moan and lament the lack of public money. He mobilized the public sector to partner with the government to provide the investment dollars to open this great port to more ships, more economic development and most importantly, more jobs. It was a win for workers, a win for investors and a win for the tax payers and citizens of Maryland,” he said.

Lee said his firm was attracted to investment in the port because it represents long-term stability. ”A port, by definition, is a key strategic asset. We’re the principal port to Washington, D.C., so the revenues here are pretty stable. We also have a 50-year concession from the state, so it’s perfect for what our investors are looking for,” he said.

His interest in the project is personal, as well. Lee, a longtime Baltimore resident and community activist, spoke extensively about the port’s historical significance. He also dedicated one of the cranes to his wife, Susan Ginkel.

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Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit

Governor Martin O’Malley signs the Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit.

Governor Martin O’Malley on Thursday signed legislation intended to foster Maryland’s cybersecurity industry through a new Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit. The governor also signed legislation that modifies the state’s InvestMaryland program to make it easier to negotiate with venture capital firms. The bills represent major priorities of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development.

Funded at $3 million, the Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit provides a refundable tax credit to qualified Maryland cybersecurity companies that seek and secure capital from an in-state or out-of-state investor.

“The passage of the bill is very exciting. It’s going to reinforce the dynamic nature of what’s happening in this industry. We started out largely with government-driven activity in cybersecurity. Now we have a lot of new companies that are developing cybersecurity products for both federal government and government in general, as well as banks, utilities and retailers. And yet, venture capital investors don’t really know much about what’s happening in this community. This is really a way of increasing our profile with those investors, and that’s going to be one of the biggest benefits with this tax credit,” said Ursula S. Powidzki, Maryland DBED Assistant Secretary of Business & Enterprise Development.

Maryland DBED Secretary Dominick Murray said the legislation complements the industry’s comparative advantage in Maryland.

“Cybersecurity is one of our strengths and you always capitalize on your strengths. We have that critical mass here, including one of the most highly educated workforces, especially in math and science. We’ve got the land, air and sea covered, but now there’s this extra domain on the Internet, and Maryland will be able to participate in protecting our nation and our state,” Murray said.

The tax credit also specifically encourages out-of-state investors to contribute to Maryland cybersecurity companies. ”We don’t have all the capital here in the state of Maryland, so we’re encouraging worldwide investment,” he added.

The governor also signed into law changes to Maryland DBED’s InvestMaryland Program Initiative

“We want to make it easy to invest in venture funds that will in turn partner and invest our money in Maryland companies,” Murray said.

Since 2012, select Maryland companies and venture capital firms have benefitted from the program, funded by $84 million raised by the state’s first online auction of premium insurance tax credits. Legislators approved adjustments to the program during the 2013 session to ensure proper authorization of investments and allow for easier negotiations with participating venture capital firms.

Find a wrap-up of business-related legislative priorities signed into law by the governor here.

Governor Martin O'Malley signs adjustments to the InvestMaryland Program.

Governor Martin O’Malley signs adjustments to the InvestMaryland Program.

Governor Martin O’Malley announced that Media Rights Capital started filming the second season of the Netflix series House of Cards in Maryland.

“We are pleased that House of Cards, a critically-acclaimed and ground-breaking series has returned to Maryland,” said Governor O’Malley. “Season One had an economic impact of more than $140 million and provided jobs for more than 2,200 Marylanders. Together with our leaders in the General Assembly, we’ve expanded the Film Production Tax Credit, and as we welcome the cast and crew back, we also look forward to more job creation and economic opportunity to come.”

Find more information from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development here.

Learn more about the economic impact of the Film Production Tax Credit here.

Moscow, Russia and Baltimore, Maryland are separated by language, culture and nearly 6,000 miles, yet similarities emerge within each city’s concentration on the life sciences industry.

Thanks to a recently signed memorandum of understanding between Russia’s Pushchino BioTech Cluster and the BioMaryland Center, common ground between life sciences companies in Maryland and regions across Russia is expected to grow. The Pushchino district, in the suburbs of Moscow, represents Russia’s second largest in terms of academic research, with 100 laboratories and 2500 research scientists working in the field of biotechnologies and bio-pharmacology. Likewise, Maryland is home to more than 500 life sciences companies, 59 federal labs and several additional academic and research institutions.

The signing followed a three-day visit by the Innovation Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, created by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Innovation Working Group members—led by the Russian Deputy Minister of Economy Oleg Fomichev and Special Representative for Business and Commerce of the U.S. Department of State Lorraine Hariton—gathered on April 26 to visit the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark to explore opportunities for collaboration. They were joined by leaders from the Pushchino BioTech Cluster, several representatives of Maryland and Russia biotech firms and Evgeny V. Chuprunov, the rector of Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod.

Dr. Bruce Jarrell, Chief Academic/ Research Officer, Senior Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland, Baltimore; and Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs, welcomed the delegation. Dr. E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, Distinguished Professor, and Dean UMD School of Medicine also spoke to the delegation during a special reception.

The program on April 26 included several presentations and tours of the BioPark facility and Maryland Forensic Medical Center.

“We are very pleased to welcome the Innovation Working Group to Maryland, and have the opportunity to showcase our world-class universities and expanding life science community, as well as share approaches to economic development,” said Dr. Judith Britz, Executive Director of the BioMaryland Center, said in a statement. “As a global bioscience leader, Maryland is looking forward to collaborating with the Pushchino BioTech Cluster to identify opportunities for partnering together on joint research and economic development initiatives.”

“We are very elated to see that one of the Innovation Working Group initiatives has come to fruition,” Svetlana Infimovskaya, Deputy Executive Director, Association of Innovative Regions of Russia, said in a statement. “Collaboration of Pushchino BioTech Cluster and BioMaryland Center will open an opportunity to join efforts in research and economic development.”

“We are proud to have the BioMaryland Center and Pushchino as partners in the U.S.-Russia Innovation Working Group,” Lorraine Hariton, Special Representative of Commercial and Business Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, said in a statement. “These types of partnerships between regions in the United States and regions in Russia exemplify the very best of the Bilateral Presidential Commission. We hope that the BioMaryland Center-Pushchino memorandum of understanding will serve as a model for other regions.”

Find highlights from program’s presentations in the above video. 

Staq, Baltimore

Staq is a Baltimore-based advertising management system.

Staq, an InvestMaryland Challenge finalist and incubator-grown startup, recently raised $1 million in seed funding from The Hive, a California-based investment firm, the Baltimore Business Journal reported.

Staq was founded in 2012 and developed at the Betamore incubator by CEO and co-founder James Curran.

In a recent question and answer with MDBIZ News, Curran compared his product to Mint.com, except instead of aggregating all of a user’s bank account and loan information, Staq aggregates all of a company’s advertising accounts.

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InvestMaryland

InvestMaryland is the largest venture capital fund in Maryland history.

The Maryland Venture Fund is adding a new team member to assist in sourcing and evaluating equity investments in Maryland life sciences companies. Alastair Mackay, a cell biologist by training, has been named the Senior Life Sciences Principal, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development announced Thursday.

“Working at Johns Hopkins and then at Osiris Therapeutics, I learned first-hand of the tremendous practical impacts of scientific discoveries,” Mackay said in a statement. “I hope to spot early stage Maryland companies that combine promising technology with clear, achievable plans for bringing their innovations to market.”

Within the InvestMaryland program, Mackay will focus on channeling funding toward the state’s most innovative and promising life sciences companies. His extensive industry experience stretches from the lab to the board room.

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3D Printed InvestMaryland Challenge Awards

Resting on pillars during the culmination of the InvestMaryland Challenge were three ivory-colored grand prize awards, swirling upward like the leaves of a springtime perennial and topped with the symbols of each winning company’s industry.

While the awards went to a trio of Maryland’s most innovative early-stage businesses, the awards’ creators, Jessica Searfino and Amanda Paunil, likewise felt honored to see their designs showcased at the event.

Both women are Towson University students studying interdisciplinary object design, and they created the awards out of plaster using the university’s 3D printing lab.

See additional photos of the printing process below. 

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GrayBug

GrayBug won the $100,000 grand prize in the life sciences category of the InvestMaryland Challenge.

Entrepreneurs often follow a rough road to success, but on Monday evening, state officials and business sponsors proved there is help along the way.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge culminated with the announcement of the three $100,000 grand prize-winning companies and presentations of in-kind awards worth a combined value of over $125,000. Participating companies represented some of the most innovative early-stage operations from Maryland and beyond.

Find a full list of winners here.

Governor Martin O’Malley, who welcomed grand prize winners to the stage inside the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Brown Center, said he identified with the start-up spirit of contestants.

“I’m an entrepreneur trapped in a public servant’s body. I believe in doing the things that work. I don’t have time for ideology. I don’t like bureaucracy. I’m not into process and I’m not into hierarchy. I’m into doing things that work, less of the things that don’t and putting together common platforms that allow people to come together and collaborate and innovate,” O’Malley said.

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InvestMaryland Challenge

From over 250 applicants, judges have chosen the final winners of the first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development.

Representing some of the most innovative early-stage companies from Maryland and beyond are the three $100,000 grand prize winners in each competition category.

InvestMaryland Challenge sponsors have also provided thousands of dollars in grants and business services to several participating companies.

Find descriptions of each special award below:

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Finalists in the information technology category of the InvestMaryland Challenge represent some of the most innovative start-ups in Maryland and beyond.

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