12 finalists named in InvestMaryland Challenge

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:

Life Sciences Finalists:

General Finalists:

Cybersecurity Finalists:

The state-run Maryland Venture Fund and the BioMaryland Center are funding the $100,000 top prizes. The list of special prizes is topped by two Army Research Lab packages that will provide office space in Adelphi and Aberdeen incubators, opportunities to collaborate with Army scientists and engineers and exposure to potential government and military customers. Other special awards include TowsonGlobal incubator memberships for three companies, consulting services from BioHealth Innovation Inc., a software package from Microsoft BizSpark, opportunities for three companies to pitch the Baltimore Angels investing group, and a $10,000 grant for a rural Maryland entrepreneur provided by the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Council and the Rural Maryland Council. One of the first Challenge winners, i-Lighting, is also contributing a $2,500 cash prize.

The first InvestMaryland Challenge awarded $425,000 in prizes. The category winners were RedOwl Analytics (Baltimore, IT), GrayBug (Baltimore, Life Sciences), and i-Lighting (North East, General Industry). In addition to fueling entrepreneurship, the Challenge helps build a pipeline of innovative companies for the State’s InvestMaryland program, the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland’s history. Created by Governor Martin O’Malley and passed by Maryland’s General Assembly in 2011, the program raised $84 million to support small, high-tech startups. 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.

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Nick Sohr

Nick Sohr