Archives For InvestMaryland

Business owners aren’t the only ones gearing up for the 2015 InvestMaryland Challenge. Judges are also hard at work preparing to evaluate and mentor early-stage companies competing for more than $600,000 in prizes.

In advance of the Challenge’s Dec. 12 application deadline, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) hosted a Judges Forum. Judges include an array of investors, successful serial entrepreneurs, executives, consultants and other members of Maryland’s startup community. DBED praised the group for volunteering their time and provided training.

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Mobile System 7

Mobile System 7 has moved to Maryland.

Mobile System 7, a data system security provider, has moved its headquarters from Virginia to Bethesda, Maryland, and earned $400,000 in State and county investments, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) announced Tuesday.

The company’s move opened the door for a $300,000 investment by the State’s InvestMaryland program, administered by the Maryland Venture Fund (MVF). Created in 2011, the InvestMaryland program is the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland’s history, the result of an $84 million online auction of tax credits to Maryland insurance companies.

The Montgomery County Department of Economic Development also joined the financing round, investing $100,000. Private investors contributed, as well.

“We are excited to have a great partner like MVF that recognizes the value of data security to the enterprise. The proliferation of mobile devices and SaaS make enterprise data accessible, globally and around the clock. We ensure that only legitimate users have access to this data,” Mark McGovern, CEO of Mobile System 7, said in a statement. “With this investment, we will expand our team to support our growing customer base.”

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The InvestMaryland Challenge concluded this week as dozens of early-stage companies were awarded grants, business services and other resources valued at nearly $1 million.

Four $100,000 grand prizes, funded by the Maryland Venture Fund and BioMaryland Center, part of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, were awarded to companies involved in information technology hardware and software, life sciences, cybersecurity and general industry.

Find a full list of grand prize and special award winners here

Greg Merril, CEO of Brain Sentry, who won the grand prize in the life sciences category, said the competition is helping to strengthen the State’s entrepreneurial community. Brain Sentry’s flagship product is a helmet-mounted sensor which helps identify whether someone should be assessed for a concussion.

“It’s so difficult for startup companies to get the funding and support to really make an impact in the economy. The State of Maryland is doing all the right things to make companies like Brain Sentry a success,” Merril said.

For Josh Stella, CEO of Luminal, the grand prize winner in cybersecurity, the competition offered his company an opportunity to share its mission with a wider audience. The software company is building next-generation security and infrastructure systems for cloud computing.

“It is a challenge to communicate deeply technical ideas to business people who aren’t solidly technical. It’s definitely been interesting to explain what we’re doing to folks who aren’t computer geeks and computer science folks like we are,” Stella said.

“You have to have a compelling invention and you have to have a compelling business plan because the judges understand what it means to create a great company,” he added.

Find extended interviews with these entrepreneurs in the above videos. 

From among hundreds of applicants, judges selected four innovative early-stage companies to receive $100,000 grand prizes during the second annual InvestMaryland Challenge finale Monday evening.

Find a full list of grand prize and special award winners here

The contest, sponsored by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, was launched by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2012 to boost State resources for startups.

Governor O’Malley reflected on his work with Maryland entrepreneurs.

“I want to thank you for having the courage to take risks, to break the symmetry and to create new ideas and solutions to human problems, which is really what the creation of wealth is all about,” he said. ”I’ve been honored to be a small part of the great work all of you are engaged in. You are transforming our economy and you are transforming the way we feed and fuel and heal this economy.”

Maryland DBED Secretary Dominick Murray likewise praised all applicants for their efforts toward strengthening the larger economy.

“Young high-tech innovative companies like yours are vital to our economy in Maryland. The products and technologies that you have developed are keeping us safer, keeping us healthier and keeping us better connected than ever before,” Secretary Murray said.

See the above video for extended remarks from Governor O’Malley and Secretary Murray.

The second annual InvestMaryland Challenge, an early-stage business competition of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development, came to an exciting close Monday evening at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, joined by DBED Secretary Dominick Murray, entrepreneurs and business leaders, applauded the winners of nearly $1 million in grants and prizes.

“Congratulations to the winners of the InvestMaryland Challenge, all the companies that participated and the members of Maryland’s vibrant and growing entrepreneurial community that have made the InvestMaryland Challenge such a success,” Governor O’Malley said in a statement.

“Maryland is more committed than ever to supporting the entrepreneurs and innovators who develop cutting-edge technologies, start new companies and create family-sustaining jobs that will employ citizens of our State for generations to come. I look forward to watching all of the Challenge companies grow and thrive here in Maryland,” he said.

Competition judges selected four of the most promising and innovative applicants to receive $100,000 grand prizes.

$100,000 Grand Prize Grant Winners
Industry Company Company Description Company location
IT Hardware/Software ClickMedix ClickMedix enables access to high-quality healthcare through mobile health (mHealth) technologies. Gaithersburg, Maryland
Cybersecurity Luminal Luminal is a software startup company building next generation security and infrastructure systems for cloud computing. Frederick, Maryland
Life Sciences Brain Sentry Brain Sentry’s innovative helmet-mounted sensor helps identify players who should be assessed for a concussion. Bethesda, Maryland
General Industry Healthify Healthify sells a web-based platform to Medicaid Managed Care plans to screen their members in a medical setting for psychosocial needs—issues like food insecurity, substance abuse, and depression. New York, New York

In addition to the grand prizes, Cybersecurity category winner Luminal will receive free exhibit space from the Federal Business Council during the CyberMaryland Conference in Fall 2014. Healthify, the General Industry category winner, will receive an additional $2,500 cash award from the 2013 General Industry winner, i-Lighting CEO Scott Holland.

InvestMaryland Challenge sponsors have also provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, prizes and business services to participating companies, bringing the total awards available to applicants to nearly $1 million. Find descriptions of each special award below:

InvestMaryland Challenge Finalist Awards




Whiteford, Taylor & Preston

Legal services

All 12 InvestMaryland Challenge finalists



All 12 InvestMaryland Challenge finalists

Rock the Post

Discounted crowdfunding services

All 41 InvestMaryland Challenge semi-finalists



All IT Hardware/Software, Cybersecurity and General Industry finalists


Maryland Centers of Innovation Awards Winners
Sponsor Award Company
bwtech@UMBC CyberHive bwtech@UMBC CyberHive Awards: Co-working space
Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship Affiliated Services Award: Affiliated services
TowsonGlobal Business TowsonGlobal Business Incubator Award: Associate membership
ETC Incubator ETC Incubator Award: Incubator space
Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center & Rural Maryland Council Rural Entrepreneur Award: $10,000 grant
U.S. Army Research Laboratory Army Research Laboratory Awards: Incubator space and collaboration with U.S. Army scientists and engineers
Montgomery College Montgomery College Kauffman FastTrac Awards: Scholarships to Kauffman FastTrac Tech Venture course


Life Sciences and Investor Awards Winners
Sponsor Award Company
Epidarex Capital Epidarex Capital Investor Pitch Award: Pitch before venture capitalists and angel investment teams
Sterilex Corporation Women in Science & Engineering Award: $1,000 to advance biomedical
BioHealth Innovation BioHealth Innovation Commercial Relevance Program Award: Grant proposal consulting
Noble Life Sciences Noble Life Sciences Drug Development Services Award: $5,000 in pre-clinical drug development services
BuzzQuake BuzzQuake Marketing Award: Web development, content consulting and logo design services
Root3Labs Root3Lab Electromechanical Device Development Award: Electromechanical device development support
SoMax Consulting SoMax Business Consulting Award: Business consulting


High Tech Startup and Investor Awards Winners
Sponsor Award Company
New Market Ventures New Market Ventures EdTech Investor Pitch Award: Pitch before investors
Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, College Park Dingman Angels Investor Pitch Award: Pitch before investors
Baltimore Angels Baltimore Angels Investor Pitch Award: Pitch before investors
EnerTech Capital EnerTech Capital Award: $2,500 grant and mentoring
Microsoft BizSpark Microsoft BizSpark Business Services Award: $50,000 in business services
Prince George’s County Prince George’s EDI Fund Conditional Loan Award: Prequalified to receive a $50,000 loan
Prince George’s County FSC First Loan Fund Investor Pitch Awards: Pitch before investors
Partner2Partner Export Partner2Partner Export Award: Export consultation and support


LuminalCybersecurity startup Luminal has moved its headquarters to Maryland and plans to expand, thanks in part to a State investment, Governor Martin O’Malley announced Monday.

The InvestMaryland program, one of Governor O’Malley’s key economic development initiatives administered by the State’s Maryland Venture Fund, has awarded Luminal a $600,000 investment.

Previously based in West Virginia, Luminal recently moved to Frederick, Maryland. The company’s flagship product is Fugue, which brings control and security to cloud computing. The investment is part of a $3.8 million fundraising round Luminal will use to grow its engineering staff, continue product development and expand its customer base.

“The current model for computing is broken, and bad actors are racing far ahead of available defenses,” Josh Stella, CEO of Luminal and previously a principal solutions architect at Amazon Web Services, said in a statement. “We’re taking advantage of the nature of cloud computing to deliver native security, declarative control, and operational simplicity previously unattainable.”

Following its move to Maryland, Luminal became one of the first companies in the State to apply for the Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit. It was also recently named one of the top three finalists in the cybersecurity category of the InvestMaryland Challenge, an early-stage business competition offering $100,000 grand prize grants and a host of other awards and business services. The winners will be announced in May.

Governor O’Malley said he welcomes Luminal to Maryland’s growing cybersecurity community.

“Investing in young, high-tech companies is a critical piece of Maryland’s strategy to strengthen and expand our Innovation Economy, grow family-sustaining jobs, and support the development of technologies that keep us safer, healthier and better connected than ever before,” Governor O’Malley said in a statement. “We are proud to make this investment in Luminal and to have them in our State. Maryland is the epicenter of cybersecurity and we look forward to Luminal playing a significant and growing role in that community.”

Find additional information on the InvestMaryland program and other business resources through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

InvestMaryland Challenge Finale

The InvestMaryland Challenge will conclude May 19 at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

For months, competitors in the 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge have fine-tuned their business plans, developed growth goals and presented before judges. Their quest will conclude during the challenge’s finale on May 19 at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development‘s second annual early-stage business competition will award $100,000 grand prizes to businesses in four categories, including information technology hardware and software, life sciences, cybersecurity and general industry. All challenge competitors are also eligible for more than $300,000 in grants, software, lab and incubator space and other prizes.

The finale will feature Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and DBED Secretary Dominick Murray as they celebrate the State’s startup ecosystem. A reception, remarks from public officials and the presentation of awards will be followed by an opportunity to explore the aquarium.

Grand prizes winners will be selected from among 12 remaining finalists, announced in March, including:

IT Hardware and Software

Life Sciences

General Industry


Challenge applicants, judges, partners, sponsors and public officials will be admitted free but must register online. The general public may purchase tickets for $25 and exhibit tables are available for $300.

See the Eventbrite invitation for additional details and registration information.

BALTIMORE, MD (March 25, 2014) – The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) announced today that 12 startup companies have advanced to the final round of the InvestMaryland Challenge, the State’s national business competition. The finalists are competing for $100,000 top prizes in four categories — Information Technology, Life Sciences, General Industry, and, new this year, Cybersecurity. All companies who entered the Challenge are eligible for more than $300,000 in other prizes, including grants, software and lab and incubator space. The winners will be announced in May.

“Congratulations to the finalists and all the companies that advanced in the InvestMaryland Challenge. To stand out from the field of 260 applicants is an achievement in itself and a testament to the strength of the companies competing for the top prizes,” said Dominick Murray, DBED Secretary. “For two years in a row, Maryland has been named the #1 state in the country for innovation and entrepreneurship and companies like those competing in this Challenge are the reason why. They are the future leaders of Maryland’s Innovation Economy and we are proud to support them as they grow and create jobs.”

Now in its second year, the InvestMaryland Challenge drew 260 applicants, including 29 companies from 11 other states and Washington D.C. The field was narrowed over two rounds of judging by more than 80 investors, successful entrepreneurs, business executives and other members of the Maryland startup community. In early March, panels of judges interviewed 41 semifinalists — 14 in IT, 10 in Life Sciences, 11 in General Industry and six in Cybersecurity — and selected the 12 finalists from that pool. IT, Life Sciences and Cybersecurity were open to only Maryland companies. The General category was open to out-of-state companies as well as Maryland companies.

IT Finalists: Continue Reading…

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), through the Maryland Venture Fund (MVF), has invested $75,000 in CoFoundersLab, a Rockville startup that provides an online matchmaking service for entrepreneurs. The MVF investment was made with funds raised byInvestMarylandone of Governor Martin O’Malley’s key economic development initiatives. A public-private partnership between the State and venture capital firms,InvestMaryland raised $84 million to reinvigorate the State-run MVF and support the growth of young Maryland companies in biotechnology, cybersecurity, e-commerce and other high-growth industries.

“CoFoundersLab is an innovative, exciting young company and a valuable resource for their fellow entrepreneurs. Having a strong team in place is often the most important ingredient in a startup’s success,” said Dominick Murray, DBED Secretary. “Entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses are the engine that drives Maryland’s economy and keeps our State competitive. We are proud to make this investment in CoFoundersLab and look forward to their success, and the success of the companies they touch.”

“We’re delighted to gain the support of the Maryland Venture Fund to help CoFoundersLab achieve its ambitious plans for growth. InvestMaryland has proven to be one of the most progressive state programs to help foster startups activity, the engine for job creation,” said Shahab Kaviani, Cofounder and CEO of CoFoundersLab. “With this investment we’ll continue to improve our matching algorithm and launch events in more cities so the best founding teams can unite to launch new business and create jobs for Maryland and beyond.”

CoFoundersLab is the world’s largest online community of entrepreneurs and helps them discover and connect with more than 25,000 cofounders, advisers, and interns to launch and grow new businesses. Members make connections through an online matching site at and through in-person matchup events hosted in more than 35 cities across the globe. Its success stories include ReelGenie, an online service based in Silver Spring that creates videos from a customer’s videos and photos. ReelGenie received a $150,000 investment from the MVF in July 2013. CoFoundersLab has also provided Premium Memberships to all 41 companies that advanced to the second round of the InvestMaryland Challenge, Maryland’s national business competition.

Created by Governor O’Malley and passed by the General Assembly in 2011, InvestMaryland is the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland’s history. In March 2012, the State raised $84 million for the program through an online auction of tax credits to Maryland insurance companies. Two-thirds of the funding – $56 million – is being managed by carefully screened private venture firms that will invest the funds and, if successful, return 100% of the principal and 80% of the profits to the State’s general fund. The remaining third of the InvestMaryland capital is largely allocated to direct investments by the state-run Maryland Venture Fund.

The Maryland Venture Fund is a regionally recognized leader in seed and early-stage investing and a national model for state-supported investment programs. With nearly two decades of experience and numerous successful investments, MVF invests in highly innovative technology companies across the full range of industry sectors including software, communications, cybersecurity and life sciences companies in the areas of healthcare IT, medical devices and diagnostics.

InvestMaryland Challenge

InvestMaryland Challenge draws more than $600,000 in prizes

As the deadline draws near for applications for the second annual InvestMaryland Challenge, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) announced that the national business competition has already secured more than $600,000 in awards for its winners. Companies will compete in four categories to win top prizes of $100,000 each as well as smaller prizes that include grants, incubator space, and business and legal services.  For an application, or more information, click here.

Applicants receive benefits of Cofounders PRO membership

Did you know your founding team is one of the most important factors investors consider when evaluating new ventures? Tap into the largest community of entrepreneurs online who are looking to launch and join new companies at As extra incentive to apply allInvestMaryland Challenge will receive a 30% discount on Cofounders PRO.

Meet the judges behind the InvestMaryland Challenge

This year’s judges lineup includes industry leaders and experts in a variety of fields from VC & investment firms, incubators, academia, federal labs and serial entrepreneurs. For a listing of competition judges click here.

December 6th application deadline

Time is running out to submit your application for the InvestMaryland Challenge. Applications include a business profile, quad chart, executive summary and full business plan. Ready, set, APPLY!


Scott Holland, owner of i-Lighting, displays a machine that allows him to complete circuit boards in-house. The company formerly imported from China.

It wasn’t just another business competition for Scott Holland, it was the realization of a life-long dream.

Holland’s startup i-Lighting, a novel easy-to-install indoor and outdoor LED lighting system, was awarded $100,000 and other prizes in April 2013 during the inaugural InvestMaryland Challenge, a prestigious business competition by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Following weeks of rigorous judging and mentoring, his company beat out dozens of others, ranging from high-tech manufacturers to smart phone app developers, in the general category.

The i-Lighting team celebrated victory at a ceremony with Governor Martin O’Malley, along with RedOwl Analytics, winner of the information technology category, and Graybug, winner of the life sciences category.

For Holland, it was only the beginning of a new life for the company he had been nurturing since 2005. Over the course of the following six months, by fall 2013, the company experienced rapid, profitable growth.

i-Lighting Growth Since InvestMaryland Challenge Victory

Spring 2013 Fall 2013
Number of employees 3 full-time and 2 part-time 6 full-time and 3 part-time
Location and work space Home-based 1,600-square-foot space with living room office Newly constructed 5,000-square-foot office and warehouse space
Annual estimated calculated and projected revenue $500,000 in 2012 $1,000,000 in 2013$3,000,000 in 2014
Commercial product lines 3 6
Number of manufacturing machines 2 4
Work benches 2 10
Parts production outsourced to China Yes No

i-Lighting offers a novel indoor and outdoor LED lighting system.

Pre-competition, a major challenge for Holland was convincing a bank to help finance his business. He was deeply passionate about his product, but knew he needed a jump-start.

“As a small business, it’s virtually impossible to just borrow from a traditional bank. They don’t want to take the chance,” he said. “But the cash injection from the InvestMaryland Challenge gave us the funds we needed to basically take us over the hump. That was a major hurdle we overcame after winning.”

But i-Lighting’s win offered far more than the cash prize.

“The exposure has been phenomenal. We weren’t known before. Now everyone knows about us. We gained legitimacy. Sometimes home-based businesses are looked down on. Having our own facility now, we’re able to entertain clients,” Holland said.

But one of the greatest benefits of participating was how it forced the young company to streamline its goals.

“Our business plan was mostly in our heads. It was on paper but it wasn’t highly refined. In order to qualify and compete, we had to create an actual realistic business plan. It forced us to focus and develop that plan. Now we’re implementing what we developed—and that’s huge,” he said.

Holland is especially proud of the fact that his company is no longer dependent on Chinese manufacturing. While it represented a substantial up-front cost to the company, Holland purchased a new machine that allows circuit board production for the lighting system to be completed in-house.  He described the independence and reliability of using his own machinery as liberating.

“Not everything made in China is poorly manufactured, but it’s true that you get what you pay for … You don’t have control over quality, you can’t see your product being made, so you don’t know the environment it’s being made in,” Holland said. “The initial basic product might be cheaper, but by the time you pay expedited airfreight, it’s extremely expensive, and you also have to pay duties and taxes for importing it. At the end of the day, we have control and I can deliver a better quality product to the market, almost always cheaper, and I can place ‘Made in the USA’ on it.’ ”

Holland urges other startups, whether they’re already located in Maryland or interested in moving to the state, to submit their applications for the second-annual 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge.

“Even if you don’t win, it gets your name out there in front of professionals,” he said.

InvestMaryland Challenge applicants receive free admission to networking events, social media promotion, scoring and feedback from judges, and exposure to venture capital firms and angel investors. Categories have increased from three to four to include life sciences, information technology, cybersecurity and general industry. Each category winner is eligible for a $100,000 grand prize. Others will take home smaller grants, incubator space, consulting services and other cash and in-kind prizes, bringing the total available competition prizes to $600,000.

Applications must be submitted by Dec. 6.

Additional details and a video message from the governor are available on the 2014 InvestMaryland Challenge website.

November 14, 2013 (Baltimore, MD) – Governor Martin O’Malley announced today that EnerTech Capital Partners and Foundation Medical Partners (FMP) have been selected to receive funds through the State’s $84 million InvestMaryland program. The venture capital firms will invest $10 and $7 million each in young, innovative Maryland companies. As part of the agreement, the firms will return to the State’s general fund 100 percent of the principal and 80 percent of the proceeds from successful investments. Created by Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly in 2011, InvestMaryland is a historic initiative to fuel Maryland’s Innovation Economy, support entrepreneurs and stimulate job creation.

“Maryland is committed to investing in the entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses that will soon become the leaders of our growing Innovation Economy and we are excited to have EnerTech and FMP join us in that effort,” Governor O’Malley said. “InvestMaryland leverages the capital and expertise of the private sector to support young Maryland businesses as they grow and create family-sustaining jobs for the people of our State.”

“Venture capital and knowledgeable investors can mean the difference between success and failure for young companies, even those built around promising ideas and innovative technologies,” Business and Economic Development Secretary Dominick E. Murray said. “InvestMaryland is just one more advantage Maryland has in the life sciences, social media, cybersecurity, big data, green energy and other high-tech fields. We look forward to working with EnerTech and FMP as they make their investments.”

“EnerTech has been investing in Maryland since shortly after our founding in 1996. We are delighted to be selected by the InvestMaryland team and welcome their participation in our final close of EnerTech Capital Partners IV,” said Tucker Twitmyer, Managing Director of EnerTech. “The State has an impressive track record in our sector and we look forward to helping Maryland’s workforce create the next generation of real energy solutions — for Maryland and for the world.”

EnerTech invests in early to growth-stage companies that offer products or services that make energy production and consumption more efficient, reliable, and cost-effective. The firm has managed about $500 million since its founding in 1996. Its current fund, in which InvestMaryland is a participant, is approximately $120 million. EnerTech’s portfolio ranges from Tangent Energy Solutions, a company that makes industrial sites more energy efficient, to n-Dimension Solutions, a cybersecurity firm focused on critical infrastructure.

FMP invests in the healthcare technology sector, focusing on transformational technologies and services that enable value-based healthcare and leverage wireless, data and analytics technologies. Its portfolio includes a diverse set of companies specializing in healthcare informatics, medical device development and innovative diagnostic technologies. FMP is still in its fundraising phase and could not comment on its new fund.

InvestMaryland is the largest venture capital investment in history by the State. Last year, $84 million was raised for the program through an online auction of tax credits. Of that funding, two-thirds will be managed by private venture firms like EnerTech and FMP. So far, $48 million has been committed to seven firms. The remaining third is being invested by the state-run Maryland Venture Fund (MVF).

The MVF was seeded with $25 million and over its 17-year existence invested in hundreds of start-up and early stage technology and life sciences companies, generating a $67 million return, 2000 jobs and more than $1 billion in private investment. Returns from MVF investments are reinvested in the program.