Archives For Christian Johansson

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

Plasmonix and Bambeco have received the latest investments through InvestMaryland, the Department of Business and Economic Development announced Thursday.

The state made equity investments of $100,000 in Plasmonix and $200,000 in Bambeco, which also received $400,000 through InvestMaryland last month.

“Companies like Plasmonix and Bambeco continue to shape the future of Maryland’s economy by growing the jobs of tomorrow,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said. “These are the first of what will be dozens of investments over the coming months thanks to InvestMaryland’s significant impact on our State’s innovative companies.”

InvestMaryland is the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland’s history. In March, the State raised $84 million for the program through an online auction of tax credits to Maryland insurance companies.

Two-thirds of the InvestMaryland funds will be managed by carefully screened private venture firms, who will invest the funds with a commitment to return, if successful, 100% of the principal and 80% of the profits to the State’s general fund. Grotech Ventures was tapped last week as the first InvestMaryland partner and received $12 million to invest on behalf of the state. The remaining third will be invested by the state-run Maryland Venture Fund.

So far, the state has made eight investments through InvestMaryland. DBED has also launched the InvestMaryland Challenge, a business competition that will award three $100,000 top prizes and about $150,000 worth of in-kind business services to other entries.

Applications for the competition are due today (Thursday 12/13) by 11:59 p.m. EST.

“The speed with which the InvestMaryland funds are being disbursed and the strength of the companies in which we are investing show how critical this program is to the State’s entrepreneurs and start-up community,” DBED Secretary Christian Johansson said. “Investments from programs like InvestMaryland and its partners in the private sector can propel entrepreneurs from innovation to commercialization to company formation to job creation.”

Plasmonix, is a biotechnology company specializing in metal-enhanced fluorescence, which is used in cell detection for medical research and clinical diagnostics. The technology has potential applications across the life science, as well as in cosmetics, apparel, paints and lighting.

“Plasmonix is grateful for the continued support from the Maryland Venture Fund and the Department of Business and Economic Development,” said William Gust, president and CEO of Plasmonix. “These funds are critically important to the ongoing development and commercialization of Plasmonix’s technology and we would not be where we are today without this support. We hope to repay the confidence demonstrated in Plasmonix by adding jobs and growing the company here in Maryland.”

An online retailer of sustainable products, Bambeco’s catalog includes solar-powered tea lanterns, recycled scrap steel trash bins, bicycle chain bottle openers and briefcases made from recycled truck tires with seatbelt shoulder straps. The company has 24 employees and expects to double its staff in the next two years.

“We are honored to be a recipient of venture capital funding through InvestMaryland,” said Susan Aplin, Bambeco president and CEO. “Forty percent of annual retail sales in the United States occur during fourth quarter. These funds allow Bambeco to secure the necessary inventory for our planned holiday sales. We are thankful for the additional investment from InvestMaryland and thank Maryland Venture Fund, the Department of Business and Economic Development, and Governor O’Malley for their continued support as we work to create jobs and help grow Maryland’s economy.”

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

Grotech Ventures, a local venture capital firm, will invest $12 million on behalf of the state through the InvestMaryland program, the state announced Thursday.

Grotech is the first venture partner for InvestMaryland.

The Maryland Venture Fund Authority, which oversees InvestMaryland, tapped Grotech “because of its long history investing in early stage technology companies in Maryland and overall solid record of investment,” said authority Chairman Peter Greenleaf, who is also president of Gaithersburg-based MedImmune.

InvestMaryland, created in 2011 raised $84 million in March to invest in promising young Maryland companies in life sciences, cyber security, information technology, green energy and other targeted industries.

Private venture firms will invest two-thirds of that money, returning all of the principal and 80 percent of the profits on successful investments. The state will invest the rest.

Grotech’s $12 million is a little more than 20 percent of the $56 million that will eventually be disbursed to private venture firms.

“Through partners like Grotech and other venture firms that will invest these funds in the jobs of tomorrow, we continue to prove that Maryland remains on the cutting edge of innovation, and that our greatest assets are the talents, skills, creativity, ingenuity, and education of our people,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said.

Grotech was founded in 1984 and has operations in Maryland and Virginia. Its investment portfolio includes technology companies such as Advertising.com, Living Social, MicroProse, Zenoss and CDNow.

“Our goal with InvestMaryland is to plant the seeds for the next generation of innovative companies – the next Google, the next Microsoft – right here in Maryland,” said Christian Johansson, secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development.

InvestMaryland builds on the success of the Maryland Venture Fund, which will receive most of the state’s share of the $84 million. The fund was seeded with $25 million 17 years ago and has made more than 100 investments, generating returns of more than $67 million, creating 2,000 jobs and spurring more than $1 billion follow-on private investment.

So far, four companies have received investments through InvestMaryland. Brainscope, of Bethesda, received $250,000 and Rockville-based Maxtena, $560,000. Two Baltimore companies, Bambeco and PathSensors, received $400,000 and $200,000, respectively.

InvestMaryland funds will also be awarded through the InvestMaryland Challege, a $425,000 business competition open to Maryland companies and others willing to move to the state. Through Tuesday, the Challenge had 156 applicants.

The state will give away three $100,000 prizes, one each in life sciences, IT and a general, open category. Entrants can also win $125,000 in in-kind business services.

Grotech Ventures was unable to comment due to legal restrictions on public statements during their fundraising period.

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

The Department of Business and Economic Development has invested $1.1 million in three more Maryland companies through the InvestMaryland program, DBED Secretary Christian Johansson announced Tuesday at TEDCO’s Maryland Entrepreneur Expo.

“InvestMaryland plays a critical role in taking an idea from innovation to commercialization to company formation to job creation,” Johansson said. “Our investments through this program will attract significant follow-on capital from the private sector, create well-paying jobs and support a wide range of companies in biotechnology, cyber security, green energy and other targeted industries.”

Maxtena, of Rockville, received a $560,000 investment. South Baltimore’s Bambeco got $400,000 and PathSensors, located in the University of Maryland BioPark in West Baltimore, got $200,000.

These commitments follow InvestMaryland’s first-ever outlay, a $250,000 investment in Bethesda-based Brainscope in September.

“When we make strategic investments in cutting-edge companies like Maxtena, PathSensors and Bambeco, we are strengthening Maryland’s leadership in the Innovation Economy,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said. “With a total of $84 million to invest in the State’s best and brightest start-ups, we are stimulating our economy and creating jobs not just for today, but for generations to come.”

InvestMaryland was the governor’s top economic proposal during the General Assembly’s regular session in 2011. It set aside $100 million in insurance premium tax credits to be auctioned off to raise money to make venture capital investments in young, high-tech Maryland companies. DBED’s first-of-its-kind online tax credit auction in March raised $84 million, $14 million more than expected.

Two-thirds of the $84 million will be managed by private venture capital firms on behalf of the state and the rest will flow into state financing programs, including the Maryland Venture Fund, which made the three investments announced Tuesday. Last month, a 2005/2006 MVF investment in Fidelis Security, a cyber security company, returned $2.2 million to the fund.

Today’s Announced Investments

Founded in 2006, Maxtena has become a global leader in the development and production of miniature antennas for satellite phones, military radios, handled navigation devices, GPS trackers and other wireless devices. The MVF led a Series A preferred stock investment round in Maxtena.

“This funding award will support our growth in the areas of advanced antenna and wireless communications and will allow us to continue developing novel technologies that we hope will drive the new internet infrastructure with smaller and higher efficiency devices,” said Stanislav Licul, Ph.D., president and CEO of Maxtena.

PathSensors has developed a pair of products that detect biological threat agents in food and the air. BioFlash-E and BioFlash-AF rapidly identify pathogens in near real-time. The Maryland Venture Fund invested $100,000 in the company in 2010.

“PathSensor’s CANARY technology is providing rapid pathogen testing that ensures a safe and reliable supply of food products for the world’s growing population,” said Ted Olsen, CEO of PathSensors. “These funds will support the development of new products for the food processing industry.”

Bambeco CEO Susan Aplin shows off one of her favorite products, solar-powered Aurora Glow String Lights.

Bambeco is an online retailer specializing in eco-friendly home décor. The company is expanding, taking over more office and warehouse space as it adds to its staff of 24 employees. Bambeco’s products have been featured by USA Today, Every Day with Rachael Ray, People Magazine, The Today Show and the Emmy-winning sitcom Modern Family. The MVF invested a total of $300,000 in Bambeco during two earlier fundraising rounds.

“As a result of the investment, Bambeco is moving into a new 22,000- square-foot facility this month. We’re hiring people now and plan to double the size of our staff in the next 12 months,” said Susan Aplin, CEO of Bambeco. “The continued state support through the Maryland Venture Fund and InvestMaryland has been essential to our growth.”

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development was awarded more than $650,000 by the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide export assistance to Maryland companies, the department announced Wednesday.

The $656,181 will fund ExportMD, a program that gives small and mid-sized businesses up to $10,000 and 40 hours of one-on-one assistance to assist with their international marketing efforts and attend overseas trade shows.

DBED Secretary Christian Johansson said the federal grant will help Maryland companies land space at “several major international trade shows, including MEDICA 2012 and the Paris Air Show in 2013, which will help promote Maryland as an ideal location for foreign-owned companies, but also give our small businesses a unique opportunity to connect with partners all over the world.”

(MEDICA is a medical device and technology conference held in November in Germany.)

“The Export MD program is one of the state’s most effective tools to help small and mid-sized businesses explore new international avenues for their products and services,” Johansson said.

Maryland was the recipient of one of dozens of State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grants totaling $30 million that SBA made Wednesday.

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the United States, exporting gives small businesses the opportunity to reach new markets, increase sales and create jobs,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said.

Maryland received a $585,000 STEP grant last year, too. That helped 38 Maryland businesses boost their exports by $75 million and create 200 jobs, according to DBED.

State leaders in government, education and business have also visited in recent years top overseas markets for Maryland products. Gov. Martin O’Malley led trade missions to Asia — China, South Korea and Vietnam — and India last year. He is scheduled to lead another to Israel at the end of November.

Maryland also opened its first foreign trade office in Africa in August. In addition to the Nigeria office, the state runs trade offices in China, Colombia, France, Israel, India, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Montenegro in the Western Balkans. All but the China, India and Israel office are run on a contingency basis where representatives are paid only if they land deals for Maryland.

Last year, Maryland exports grew 7 percent to nearly $10.9 billion.

Canada was once again the state’s largest export market, accounting for nearly $1.7 billion, or 15.45 percent of goods shipped overseas. China, the state’s second-largest export market, was the destination for $666 million worth of goods from Maryland, up from $573 million in 2010. Exports to South Korea, the fourth-largest market, rose to $538 million, up from $480 million.

Exports to India rose last year to $252 million, up from $232 million in 2010.

Vehicles represented the largest slice of Maryland exports in 2011, with $1.7 billion worth leaving the state for foreign destinations.

Electric machinery and machinery were the second- and third-most valuable export sectors, respectively, followed by aircraft and spacecraft in fourth place. Maryland exported $783 million worth of aircraft and spacecraft in 2011, a 52 percent increase over the $513 million in 2010.

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

BrainScope, a Bethesda company developing technology to quickly diagnose traumatic brain injuries, was awarded the first $250,000 investment from the state’s InvestMaryland program, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Monday.

“We believe in the potential,” O’Malley said. “We believe in the need and we believe in the job creation.”

The governor also launched on Monday the InvestMaryland Challenge, a business competition that will award three $100,000 grants to promising young companies in information technology, life sciences and a general, open category.

“We are searching the country for some of the most promising small businesses — and small business ideas — that are willing to create jobs here in Maryland, including Maryland companies that want to be a part of this,” O’Malley said.

The IT and life sciences categories are open to only Maryland-based companies. Those outside of Maryland may compete in the general category, but must move their business to the state if chosen for the top prize.

The winners will be announced in March.

The twin announcements Monday mark major milestones for InvestMaryland, the largest-ever single infusion of capital into the state’s economic development efforts.

Approved by the General Assembly last year, InvestMaryland raised $84 million by auctioning tax credits to insurance companies in March. That money will be invested in seed- , early and growth-stage Maryland companies.

The Maryland Venture Fund Authority is in the process of picking private venture firms to invest two-thirds of the money — the state will receive all of the principal and 80 percent of the profits of successful investments — and the Maryland Venture Fund will invest the bulk of the other one-third of the funds, including the $250,000 for BrainScope.

State officials expect the program to make investments in hundreds of Maryland companies and attract billions of dollars in private, follow-on venture capital.

Economic Development Secretary Christian Johansson said the program would help the state take advantage of the wealth of research and development done in Maryland and spin those discoveries into businesses.

“InvestMaryland was really created with companies like BrainScope in mind,” Johansson said.

The announcement Monday brings the state’s total investment in BrainScope to $500,000. The Maryland Venture Fund also invested $250,000 last year.

BrainScope, just six years old, employs 25 and has received “upwards of $10 million” in contracts from the Department of Defense, said Michael Singer, BrainScope’s president and CEO.

The company’s aim is to create a small, highly portable, non-invasive scanner that will allow soldiers, doctors, medics and first responders to diagnose and gauge the severity of brain injuries on battlefields, in hospital emergency rooms and in other settings.

“What we’re using the money for is to further develop the technology and for clinical trials. That’s what it’s all about for us, is clinical proof,” Singer said. “Beyond the military we have a substantial amount of interest in the civilian world, both for emergency room use, as well as for sports.”

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

Maryland has opened a foreign trade office in Nigeria, the Department of Business and Economic Development announced Wednesday morning.

The office is the state’s first in Africa. DBED runs a dozen other foreign trade offices around the globe.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is the second fastest growing region in the world and it is a market that we want to explore,” said DBED Secretary Christian Johansson. “With this new office, we will not only be able to promote our state as a gateway to the U.S. market and attract African companies to Maryland, but also provide expert guidance to our businesses that want to access the African market.”

The regional office covers Nigeria, Ghana, Niger, Djibouti, Tanzania, Mozambique, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali.

According to the African Development Bank, the continent’s middle class has tripled over the last 30 years to 310 million people, nearly a third of Africa’s population.

Grid2Grid, of Washington D.C., runs the office for DBED on a contingency basis. The company will be paid only if it is able to woo companies and jobs to Maryland.

“As an American company that specializes in emergent markets with a focus on Africa, we have been helping companies develop trade and investment projects on the continent for many years,” said Asoka Ranaweera, Grid2Grid’s managing partner. “We are pleased to have been chosen to represent the State of Maryland and look forward to helping Maryland companies do business in Africa.”

In the last year, Maryland has attracted 15 foreign-owned companies that could create nearly 300 new jobs. In that time, Gov. Martin O’Malley led two trade missions that took delegations of business leaders, government officials and academics to China, South Korea, Vietnam and India. Those missions helped land $145 million in trade and investment deals as well as spark relationships that will continue to bear fruit for Maryland companies.

DBED has trade offices in China, France, Colombia, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Vietnam, Russia, Israel, Montenegro and other countries.

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

Ringed by a panel of Maryland business leaders, Michael MacDonald laid out an ambitious plan for Medifast Inc.

“Our goal as a company over the next five years is to grow to a billion dollars,” the chairman and CEO of the weight-loss company said Thursday. “Our goal is to be a Baltimore-based company that gets to a billion dollars over a five-year time horizon and we’re making the investments to build that type of infrastructure within the company.”

Companies like Medifast, of Owings Mills, will play a key role as Maryland and the country grow out of the recession and recover the millions of jobs claimed by the downturn.

“Medifast, a fast-growing firm, we’re very proud of them,” said Dan Gundersen, Baltimore County’s director of economic development.

“There are other fast-growing firms in this county and every county in the state,” he said, addressing the Maryland Economic Development Commission at Medifast’s headquarters. “Some of the recent estimates are these fast-growing firms, the fastest of the fast … represent some 85 to 90 percent of all new jobs in any economy, and yet they represent less than 1 percent of the entire employment base.”

Christian Johansson, Maryland’s secretary of business and economic development, said manufacturing is “an area that has been a strength for Maryland, but it’s also, because of a larger global shift, an area that might be coming back in a much bigger way.”

As China’s currency appreciates, wages there rise, the cost of oil goes up and European crises persist, manufacturers may look more favorably on the United States.

“That all drives manufacturing potential for Maryland over the next few years,” Johansson said.

Medifast employs about 1000 people nationwide, including 600 in Maryland. It produces all its products in the United States. About half of its output comes from Maryland.

MacDonald said the company has partnered with Productos Medix S.A. de C.V. to distribute Medifast products in Mexico in its first major international push.

“The international opportunity for us is going to be tremendous over the next five years,” he said. “Mexico is the first place we’re going and then we’ll look at Canada and we’ll look at other parts of the world to move to as we build our manufacturing and distribution capacity.”

Medifast will keep its manufacturing operations here, MacDonald said, both to maintain tight control over its production lines and because the search for overseas sites for manufacturing facilities is fraught with uncertainty.

“I think what people need to stick to is, even if you pay a little bit more money to stay in a given area, stick to your strategy,” he said. “Don’t act on impulses, thinking that’s the cure-all to move to that cheap area.”

Maryland has renewed its efforts to nurture the state’s storied manufacturing sector. Gov. Martin O’Malley revived the Maryland Advisory Commission on Manufacturing Competitiveness in July.

“The recovery in the U.S. economy is still fragile,” said Jeff Fuchs, chairman of the commission. “But one of the pillars of that recovery has really been manufacturing and manufacturing is poised for a resurgence in this country.”

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

Gov. Martin O’Malley tapped a panel of experts on Tuesday to advise him and other state leaders on ways to support and spur growth in Maryland manufacturing, a sector he called essential.

The move revived the Maryland Advisory Commission on Manufacturing Competitiveness, which was created 1994 but fell dormant in the early 2000s.

“I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that if we’re going to have a growing economy, it also has to be a diverse economy,” O’Malley said. “Part of that diverse economy must be a manufacturing base. I don’t believe you can long have a growing and functioning economy without a manufacturing base.”

The governor urged the commissioners to give him and lawmakers ideas on how to keep manufacturing competitive in Maryland.

“The legislature is always looking for ideas and guidance and I’m looking for ideas and guidance,” O’Malley said.

Jeff B. Fuchs, director of Maryland World Class Consortia, leads the 25-member commission. MWCC is a nonprofit economic development organization.

“We’ve got a tremendous opportunity, both as a commission and as a state. Despite the decline of industrial activity nationwide over the last few decades, manufacturing is making a resurgence,” Fuchs said. “It’s an impressive comeback.”

Indeed, Maryland has not been spared the outsourcing of manufacturing operations to countries with cheaper labor. The state has, however, scored wins in recent years that build on its rich history of manufacturing steel, spices, sugar, medicines, military equipment and other high-demand products.

When General Motors was looking for a site for its first stateside electric motor manufacturing facility, it chose White Marsh. The plant’s headcount of 200 employees will double next year when the expanded facility opens.

Vorbeck Materials Corp., based in Jessup, revealed plans in June to open a 42,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Pocomoke City on the Eastern Shore. The facility will employ up to 50 people as the company, a leader in the development of graphene nanomaterials, expands.

Vorbeck uses graphene, a lattice of carbon atoms, in applications in communications, energy, transportation and beyond. Vorbeck uses graphene to make conductive ink for printing components for the electronics industry and to develop high-performance lithium ion batteries.

According to the company, smartphones using Vorbeck’s battery technology will charge in 10 minutes and last a full 24 hours. The same technology would quadruple the range of electric cars that now get 100 miles out of 10 to 12 hours of charging.

Tuesday’s kickoff of the manufacturing commission was held in Cockeysville at the MarquipWardUnited plant. The company employs 340 people and plans to expand its staff this year, said Jerry Solomon, vice president of operations.

Marquip makes machines that make cardboard boxes.

“Approximately half of them leave this country, whether it’s Russia, China, the Middle East, South Africa, Brazil, what have you,” Solomon said. “We ship machines from Baltimore, Md., all around the globe.”

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

Johns Hopkins University and Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute of Berlin inked a deal last month to jointly develop technology that could reduce the time and money required to perform a wide range of medical tests.

The international collaboration between the major research institutions will investigate the potential medical applications of integrated optical sensors — small, highly sensitive devices that researchers say can recognize diseases.

Researchers hope the sensors will make testing cheaper and quicker. That, in turn, would make testing available to broader populations and treatments more targeted, which could cut down on the spread of drug-resistant strains of diseases.

But, while the technology holds promise, Fraunhofer and Hopkins need more.

Their work would linger on the lab bench without the timely injections of capital that move innovations from the drawing board to the marketplace.

Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Christian Johansson met with the partners shortly after the collaboration agreement was signed at the BIO International Conference.

“They said ‘What can you do to help?’” Johansson said, recounting the meeting.

“We were able to have a conversation and for the first time really be able to say ‘We have a pathway of capital to get you to a place where you can turn this into a company where you can raise more private capital, where you can actually have a product,’” Johansson said. “In the past, what we could do to help was, frankly, very limited. We certainly didn’t have readily available tools to help new technologies that weren’t ready for seed financing yet.”

As a first step, Johansson suggested applying for the Innovate Maryland program, an initiative of Gov. Martin O’Malley approved by the General Assembly this year.

A partnership between the state and public and private research universities, including Hopkins, Innovate Maryland is designed to commercialize 40 discoveries a year by providing funding for prototypes and other proof-of-concept work.

Innovate Maryland should catapult worthy ideas to the level where InvestMaryland can take notice. Another O’Malley priority, InvestMaryland, was created in 2010 and seeded this year with $84 million raised in a first-of-its-kind tax credit auction.

Together, InvestMaryland and Innovate Maryland were cited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when it ranked Maryland No. 1 for innovation and entrepreneurship last month.

DBED’s Maryland Venture Fund will invest about one-third of the InvestMaryland money in seed-, early and growth-stage companies and private venture firms will invest the rest of the money on behalf of the state in early and growth-stage businesses.

A company could receive a Maryland Venture Fund investment, grow, prove successful and later catch the eye of a venture fund investing more of the state’s dollars.

The first investments will likely be made this summer.

“There’s a continuum of capital and opportunity that didn’t exist before,” Johansson said. “We’ve built a runway that can take a project from an innovation occurring in our universities through commercialization to company formation and job creation. That is something that didn’t exist before we got here. It’s practical. It’s happening. It’s not science fiction anymore.”

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

John and Tom Knorr have been on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for 16 years. They started with one restaurant — The Red Roost — and added others over the years. Now, the centerpiece of their operation is in Maryland, too.

Owners Tom (left) and John (right) Knorr outside the new home of Evolution Craft Brewery Co. in Salisbury.

Evolution Craft Brewery Co. moved to the state in April, settling into a 30,000-square-foot building in Salisbury after uprooting from a space one-tenth the size in nearby Delmar, Del.

“We’ve driven by this building for years,” John Knorr said, standing outside of the brewery’s tasting room on Tuesday. “It was an abandoned ice factory. It turned out one of our friends owned it and was trying to sell it.”

So the Knorr brothers bought it and, with $1.5 million, including about $650,000 in bridge financing from a Salisbury Wicomico Economic Development fund partially seeded by the state Department of Business and Economic Development, outfitted their new brewery, restaurant and tasting room.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and other state officials, including DBED Secretary Christian Johansson, visited Evolution Tuesday for a tour and a taste on Tuesday.

O’Malley lauded the success of the Knorr brothers, who own five restaurants locally — as well as a French bistro in Guatemala — and the brewery. They employ 350 people in the area and plan to add 10 to the brewery’s staff of 51 this year.

“These guys had the vision, these took the chance, these guys risked their own dollars on investing in Maryland,” the governor said. “We were there to help them with partnership, with people helping at every level.”

The extra space came just in time.

Evolution, or EVO for short, brewed 4,000 barrels, or about 124,000 gallons of beer last year. Tom Knorr said they expect to do about 7,000 this year and, if all goes right, 10,000 to 12,000 in 2013.

“It could be more,” he said.

For now, the Knorr brothers said every case of Evolution is already sold, even before it’s made. They’re working on expanding their reach into more of Pennsylvania and Virginia while keeping suppliers in Maryland well stocked.

Evolution is part of a growing cohort of small craft breweries that every year are taking a larger share of the American beer market. According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewer industry group, craft brewers sold 11.46 million barrels of beer in 2011. That was an increase of 15 percent over 2010 even as overall beer sales were down 1.3 percent that year.

Evolution’s portfolio includes five main beers, including Primal Pale Ale, Exile ESB, Lucky 7 Porter, Rise up Stout and the top-selling Lot #3 India Pale Ale.

“People just really, really like our beers,” Tom Knorr said. “That’s how we’ve grown it, is grass roots.”

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

The Maryland Venture Fund Authority will tap a handful of venture capital firms by early July to invest the lion’s share of the state’s $84 million InvestMaryland program, authority Chairman Peter Greenleaf said Thursday.

“You can feel comfortable that the range of investments [is] what we’re looking at, from early to late stage, across all areas of technology and entrepreneurialism in the state,” Greenleaf told some 200 entrepreneurs and investors at a forum in Rockville.

On June 28, the authority will receive recommendations from a consultant as to which firms to invest with and then will announce its decisions by the first week of July, according to Greenleaf.

Private venture capital firms will invest $56.4 million, or about two-thirds of the money raised for InvestMaryland, the largest capital program in the State’s history.

The authority expects to choose between five and eight firms that would receive between $7 million and $12 million each from the program. Those firms will invest in seed, early stage and growth companies, with a focus on information technology and life sciences. They will return to the state all of the principal and 80 percent of the profits from successful investments.

Another $20.7 million will be invested by the state’s Maryland Venture Fund, which will direct attention to seed and early stage startups. The fund, originally seeded with $25 million, has seen returns of about $64 million and helped create 2,000 jobs over its 17 year history.

“The goal [of InvestMaryland] is to create thousands of jobs,” said Christian Johansson, secretary of the Department of Business and Economic development and the architect of the venture capital program. “The goal is to position Maryland as a leader in science, security discovery, innovation.”

The remaining $6.9 million will go to the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority, another DBED business finance program.

State officials expect the InvestMaryland program to deliver much-needed capital and financial assistance to 200 to 400 businesses and spark interest from outside investors in individual firms and the state’s startup community as a whole.

The investments of the Maryland Venture Fund have been followed by $1 billion in private capital, according to Johansson.

InvestMaryland is a much larger injection of capital into the market. The program raised $84 million — $14 million more than expected — by auctioning $100 million in tax credits to insurance companies.

The state received the first $28 million payment this month, and will receive the same amount in 2013 and 2014.

“We’re trying to not just create assets, but create long-standing, lasting impact to the state, which will include jobs that reside here,” said Greenleaf, who is also the president of MedImmune.

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

Gov. Martin O’Malley recognized four entrepreneurs on Thursday as part of the state’s first business pitch competition on Pinterest, the social networking site.

The businesses range from a middle school student who makes duct tape wallets to BeerGivr, a website that allows users to buy each other drinks remotely.

O’Malley lauded the entrepreneurial spirit behind each.

“The jobs that were here 20 years ago aren’t the jobs that are here today,” he said. “And the jobs that will be here 20 years from won’t be the jobs that are here today. There’s a constant need to hit the refresh button.”

BeerGivr took first place in its category, winning a MacBook Air donated by the Baltimore Angels, an angel investor network in the city, as well as promotion by the governor through his Pinterest page.

“If you want to say happy birthday, but you can’t make the party … you can send a drink,” explained Sean Kennedy, one of BeerGivr’s founders.

Users choose how much to spend on the beer, which is sent to the recipient via Twitter or text message. Participating bars then knock that much off the recipient’s tab.

Second place, and an iPad, went to Mission: Launch, a nonprofit run by Laurin Hodge that focuses on prisoner reentry programs. Plans call for a co-working space that would hold classes on different jobs skills and promote entrepreneurship.

Grady Booth, the student behind GB Wallets, won first place in the student entrepreneur category.

His wallets are in the back pockets of students and adults alike, and are sold by Fun for All! Toys in Annapolis.

Discreet Secrete Solutions, a wife-and-husband team that has developed a discrete, comfortable breast pump for working mothers, took second place in that category.

A panel of entrepreneurs and officials and academics charged with supporting the state’s business community offered contestants advice.

“It’s a lot cheaper to learn on someone else’s dime,” said Christian Johansson, secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development. “It’s a lot cheaper, if you’re a young entrepreneur, to join someone else’s startup and see how it’s done.”

Jason Hardebeck, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, urged the entrepreneurs to “always focus on the market and need” for their products.

And Elana Fine, associate director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, College Park, left them with a simple charge.

“Always be pitching,” she said.