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Motionsoft’s management software provides solutions for the wellness industry. Photo courtesy of Motionsoft.

The Maryland Venture Fund (MVF) has invested $600,000 in Rockville-based Motionsoft, a leading provider of management software to gyms and fitness clubs.

The investment comes as part of a $10 million Series B investment round led by Route 66 Ventures and included Edison Ventures as a co-investor. The State of Maryland’s investment is part of a multifaceted effort led by Governor Martin O’Malley to stimulate growth and job creation among high-tech startup companies in Maryland.

“Today’s investment is part of our focus on innovation — we are committed to supporting our entrepreneurs, innovators, startup companies and small businesses like Motionsoft because, in addition to being the future leaders of our economy, they are creating the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Governor O’Malley.

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Sitting down and having a conversation with a person, face to face, it tends to be fairly obvious if a person is feeling satisfied or frustrated, and whether a statement has real significance or is simply a passing observation.

But when communication is reduced to a quick online exchange in the form of a Facebook post, a tweet or a review, understanding significance and emotional context can be incredibly difficult, even more so for companies and organizations that process hundreds or even thousands of these feedback messages per day.

Synapsify, a technology company based in Bethesda, Maryland has a solution. The company has developed a unique tool for interpreting and prioritizing text and making analytical recommendations. It goes beyond categorizing positive, negative and neutral sentiment. Instead, it qualitatively scores and indexes text and patterns in terms of relevance, narrative and underlying thematic concepts.

The company’s innovative approach to managing feedback has attracted national media attention. Forbes named Synapsify one of the Top 10 Data Startups to Watch in 2013 and Gigaom awarded the company its Structure Award for Text Analytics.

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The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation awarded its first Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Loan to the owners of Brick House, LLC.

The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation awarded its first Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Loan Fund program loan to the owners of Brick House, LLC.

As Maryland’s casinos continue to grow in popularity, so do their contributions to the State’s Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Loan Fund. The program receives 1.5 percent of video lottery terminal revenue and has already approved 77 loans totaling $7.8 million.

Loan and investment recipients have included a limousine and sedan service, a caterer, a home health care company, an art gallery and several restaurants. All of these business loans are helping to grow Maryland’s economy, but none would be possible without the fund managers that approve and distribute the loans.

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) announced Wednesday that four new fund managers have been approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works, including:

They will join existing fund managers Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. and Meridian Management Group Inc.

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Salsa Labs

Salsa Labs

Salsa Labs, a marketing software provider for nonprofit organizations and social and political campaigns, has received the largest-ever investment from the State-run Maryland Venture Fund. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) announced the $1 million investment on Thursday. Edison Ventures, an information technology investor, led the $5 million round.

Company officials have committed to moving Salsa Labs and its 50 employees to Maryland, from its current offices in Virginia and Washington, D.C. Founded in 2004, the software serves more than than 2,000 organizations and 15,000 campaign managers. Nonprofit clients, ranging from the Sunlight Foundation to Aid for Africa, have raised more than $280 million and driven more than 36 million actions online.

“Online engagement is key to a nonprofit’s long-term success, and we have built a comprehensive, easy-to-use solution focused on enhancing how the nonprofit organization connects with its donors and activists,” Salsa Labs CEO Scott Stouffer said in a statement. “With this funding, we will continue to invest in supporter-centric product innovation that furthers our clients’ missions.”

“We are proud to make the largest-ever Maryland Venture Fund investment in Salsa as they bring their cutting-edge technology and exciting growth to Maryland,” DBED Secretary Dominick Murray said in a statement. “High-tech and innovative companies like Salsa are critical for the health of Maryland’s vibrant Innovation Economy, and we are committed to support them as they expand and create family-sustaining jobs.”

Brush up on your business development skills with help from the U.S. Small Business Association. Several events are planned to celebrate National Small Business Week, May 12-16, with additional events through the summer. 

How SBA Loan Programs Help Lenders Expand Access to Capital

  • What: SBA’s Baltimore District and West Virginia offices will offer training to commercial lenders on how SBA loan programs can help provide more access to capital for their small business customers. Commercial loan officers, relationship managers, bank managers and resource partners are encouraged to attend.
  • When: May 13, registration begins at 8:30 a.m., workshop runs 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
  • Where: University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, 32 W. Washington Ave. Room 124 and 125, Hagerstown, MD
  • Registration: Free admission, registration available by contacting Diane McFarland of the Maryland Small Business and Technical Development Center by email at dlmcfarland@frostburg.edu

30th Annual Maryland Small Business Week Awards Luncheon

  • What: Meet the winners and hear their inspiring stories. Network with other small business owners, lenders, resource providers and government representatives.
  • When: May 15, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
  • Where: Martins West, 6817 Dogwood Road, Baltimore, MD 21244
  • Registration: Tickets start at $60 per person, find additional information on the event website

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The Maryland Venture Fund has invested $100,000 in Bethesda-based BioDatomics, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development announced Tuesday.

BioDatomics is revolutionizing genomic research through bioinformatics analysis software and services. The company’s flagship product BioDT reduces turnaround times for analysis of genomic data from days or weeks to mere hours.

“The Maryland Venture Fund is a regionally recognized investment leader able to provide us with significant value beyond its financial investment,” Alan Taffel, president of BioDatomics, said in a statement. “As the need for faster, more intuitive data analysis platforms grows, this commitment serves as a testament to the strength of our technology and market strategy.”

DBED Secretary Dominick Murray said he is looking forward to BioDatomics’ expansion in Maryland and reaffirmed the state’s commitment to entrepreneurship.

“BioDatomics operates at the intersection of two of Maryland’s fastest-growing sectors—biotechnology and big data. We are proud to make this investment in BioDatomics and look forward to their growth and success in Maryland,” Secretary Murray said in a statement. “Supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in high-tech, high-growth fields is critical to the success of our economy and State. Companies like BioDatomics are facilitating the development of cutting-edge medicines, vaccines and technologies that keep us safer, healthier and better-connected than ever before.”

Find additional information on the Maryland Venture Fund and BioDatomics in the full announcement through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

From Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, an elite group of small businesses are setting new standards for excellence in their fields. Among them are 14 Maryland business leaders, winners of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2014 Maryland Small Business Week Awards Program.

The SBA’s Baltimore District Office recently announced the following winners:

Category Business leader Location
Accountant Advocate of the Year Donald Cunningham, Donald Cunningham, CPA LLC Millersville
Attorney Advocate of the Year Chad Malkus, Esq., Michael Hodes, LLC Cambridge
District Director’s Unsung Hero Award Rich Loeffler, Maryland Small Business & Technology Development Center Wye Mills
Entrepreneurial Success of the Year Danny Farrar & David Posin, Soldierfit Frederick
Family Owned Small Business of the Year Kim Lawson, Fishpaws Marketplace Arnold
Financial Services Champion of the Year Steve Primosch, Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. Annapolis
Home-Based Business Champion of the Year Barbara Zimmer, B. Zimmer & Co. Pasadena
Insurance Advocate Nancy Ann Nicklow, Huff Insurance Pasadena
Maryland Small Business Person of the Year Stephanie Novak Hau, Chesapeake Environmental Management Bel Air
Minority Small Business Champion of the Year Charles Ramos, CR Dynamics Baltimore
Small Business Exporter of the Year John Doran, Centreville Trailers Centreville
Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year Joe Giordano, Project Opportunity Salisbury
Women in Business Champion of the Year Shabri Moore, Moore Wealth, Inc. Frederick
Young Entrepreneur of the Year Matt Wyble, Champion Realty Severna Park

The honorees will be recognized at the 30th Annual Maryland Small Business Week Awards Luncheon on May 15 in Woodlawn, Maryland. Find additional details and ticket information on the SBA’s website.

Learn more about how the State of Maryland works with the SBA to support entrepreneurs through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Venture capital provides essential funding to sustain young, high-growth companies. Recently released data shows it is on the rise in Maryland, according to a MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), based on data from Thomson Reuters.

Total annual venture capital funding in Maryland increased by about 63 percent, from $407,752,600 in 2012 to $663,413,200 in 2013. The number of total deals rose by roughly 25 percent, from 57 deals in 2012 to 71 deals in 2013.

Maryland far outpaced the national average increase year over year, the MoneyTree Report shows.

Nationally, venture capitalists invested $29.4 billion in 3,995 deals in 2013, an increase of 7 percent in dollars and a 4 percent increase in deals over the prior year, according to a statement on the report.

As in 2012, the software industry remained the single largest investment sector in 2013, followed by biotechnology. Internet-specific companies also reached their highest investment levels since 2001. Networking and equipment, financial services, and business products and services also saw significant year-over-year gains, the statement showed.

Information on the industry sectors receiving venture capital funding in Maryland was not released in the report.

Find quarterly data for Maryland below:

Venture Capital Funding in Maryland 2012-2013
 
Year Quarter Funding Deals Annual Total Funding
2012 Q1 $119,745,400 16 $407,752,600
Q2 $50,448,400 9
Q3 $161,558,900 22
Q4 $75,999,900 10
2013 Q1 $148,278,200 13 $663,413,200
Q2 $320,180,000 13
Q3 $140,490,000 26
Q4 $54,465,000 19

Source: MoneyTree Report Regional Aggregate Data

You have big plans for your startup—you’re looking to succeed well beyond your own neighborhood, city and even country.

For businesses with plans to expand internationally, TowsonGlobal Business Incubator is now offering the chance to win a 90-day incubator membership and cash. The incubator’s annual 2014 Business Plan Competition is accepting executive summary submissions until Feb. 10, 2014.

Five finalists will be selected and notified on Feb. 21. They will then attend a presentation boot camp on March 3. Finalists will present in front of judges and attend a networking reception on May 1 at Towson University.

Further details on the contest are available online. Applicants are limited to those living in the mid-Atlantic region and surrounding states, including Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, New York and New Jersey.

TowsonGlobal, located in Baltimore County, is part of Towson University’s Division of Innovation & Applied Research (DIAR) and has built a reputation for “helping early-stage businesses bridge global markets,” according to the incubator’s website.  

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 CoFoundersLab.com. 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! InvestMarylandChallenge.org

Credit MEDICA 2013

Credit MEDICA 2013

A growing number of firms in the medical device industry call Maryland home. But this week, a select group has ventured across the globe to participate in MEDICA, the world’s leading trade fair for medicine and medical technology.

Between Nov. 20 and Nov. 23, international medical market leaders, including 4,641 exhibitors from 66 countries, are descending on Dusseldorf, Germany for a range of MEDICA events. The BioMaryland Center, through the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, is a state exhibitor, promoting Maryland’s medical-friendly business environment and also sponsoring attendance from participating companies.

“It really is a global event. We’re going to have probably over 150,000 visitors to our state booth,” said Carey Esslinger, regional manager over Europe, Russia, FSU, Latin America and the Balkans for Maryland DBED.

Maryland companies in attendance include Harmans-based AIV Inc.; Hanover-based BTE Technologies; Ijamsville-based BioAssay Works, LLC; Frederick-based BioElectronics Corporation; Annapolis-based Compass Languages; Westminster-based ImmunO4; Bethesda-based Dimetek Digital Medical Technologies Ltd.; Landover-based Man & Machine, Inc.; Germantown-based Medispec Ltd.; Rockville-based Tetracore, Inc.; and Pasadena-based Moss Inc.

Roughly half of the companies are showing in the Maryland booth, while others have “graduated” to become individual exhibitors, Esslinger said.

In recent years, Maryland’s participation in the show has planted the seeds for exporting agreements and foreign investment deals.

“It’s a perfect platform for Maryland companies looking to expand their sales internationally,” Esslinger said. “We have a number of Maryland companies attending the show this year, including manufacturers such as Man & Machine, who design water-proof keyboards used in hospitals, and Tetracore, which has developed a field testing kit for biological agents.”

The state, now considered a regular on the show floor, has developed a global reputation.

“Maryland’s strengths—such as proximity to federal facilities like the FDA, state of the art medical institutions like Johns Hopkins University and a highly educated workforce—are recognized and respected internationally,” he said.

Credit MEDICA 2013

Credit MEDICA 2013

Credit MEDICA 2013

Credit MEDICA 2013

The next time you’re filtering through airport security, consider that the equipment scanning you and your luggage was likely produced right here in Maryland.

Smiths Detection, with its U.S. headquarters in Edgewood, is the world’s leading supplier of an array of tools used to detect weapons, explosives and chemical threats.

“Talk to any of our employees, we take great pride in keeping people safe,” said Mike Castek, site head of the Edgewood plant. Smiths Detection employs roughly 230 Marylanders, about 10 percent of the global division’s workforce, operating within United Kingdom-based Smiths Group.

While the majority of Americans will interact with a Smiths Detection scanner or x-ray machine at an airport, products also cater to elite security groups like the United Nations’ Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Weapons inspectors used Smith Detection products during their most recent investigation of chemical warfare in Syria. The group’s mission helped secure them the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

The focus on chemical weapons detection is part of the rationale behind its Edgewood location. Aberdeen Proving Ground, just a stone’s throw from the plant, houses the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, which uses several Smiths Detection products. Military and first responders to chemical threats have utilized the company’s unique Chemical Biological Protective Shelters.

“It’s crucial to be close to our customers and to be able to get the products to the right place as quickly as possible,” said Brian Boso, chief scientist at the plant.

Leadership at the Maryland location also take advantage of their proximity to Washington, D.C.

“We talk to the CIA, TSA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals and the Department of Defense on a constant basis, trying to work with them to figure out what the future threats are and to develop new techniques,” Boso said.

“Unfortunate events” have contributed to Smiths Detection’s rapid growth in recent years, company leadership said.

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, threat detection equipment represented a very small portion of Smiths Group’s global operation. Through acquisition of another company, it then produced 100-150 desktop explosive detectors per year. Three months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, however, the Transportation Security Administration placed an order for 6,000 desktop explosive detectors to be issued at airports across the nation.

“It’s a very event-driven industry. As the terrorists change their mode of operation, we have to adapt,” Boso said.

Increased demand for security equipment caused Smiths Group to name Smiths Detection a separate division in 2003. In recent years, the Edgewood plant’s footprint and workforce has doubled.

Smiths Detection was at the forefront of developing on-site detection tools for “white powder incidents,” often suspected of involving anthrax, he said. More recently, the company has developed a scanner for liquid, which will enable TSA to restrict only threatening liquids carried on by passengers, clearing harmless ones.

The Edgewood plant’s workforce reflects the changing face of new-age manufacturing, where the laboratory is as important as the factory floor.

A large number of employees are electronic test technicians, who typically have a two-year associates degree with an electrical engineering focus. Members of the research and development staff tend to have advanced degrees.

“It can be a challenge sometimes to find highly technical scientists, but we’ve been able to take advantage of Maryland’s educated workforce and also attract people here,” Castek said.

As opposed to historic perceptions of a dangerous factory, Smiths Detection’s next-generation manufacturing methods focus on protecting the employee.

“The workplace is designed around the people as much as it’s designed around the equipment, which was not the case years ago,” Boso said.  “We pride ourselves that our products help keep people safe, so we certainly don’t want anyone getting hurt building our products.”

Smiths Detection is poised for growth in Maryland. Already, its technology is used at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, BWI Fire & Rescue Department and fire departments in Harford County, Cecil County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore City. Multiple courthouses and federal buildings in Maryland also use Smiths Detection weapons scanners.

Boso said the company is well integrated with governmental and public safety institutions across the country, but there are new opportunities emerging in commercial and critical infrastructure markets.

Corporate headquarters, schools, mass transit stations and prisons are becoming customers for threat detection equipment, including x-ray machines, metal detectors, scanners used to secure checkpoints.

“We see a fair amount of expansion in those areas, for sure. Smiths is optimistic about the future market,” Boso said.