VIDEO: Judges prepare for 2015 InvestMaryland Challenge

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.

“Getting involved in startups is my way of giving back, but it also gets me excited about my business and new opportunities,” said Paul Ausley, founder and president of Ausley Associates, Inc. and a Challenge judge.

“I think we’re in a phase of innovation, not just in the State of Maryland but across the country,” said Vernon Lee, managing partner at Brightwood Management Partners and a Challenge judge. “As a judge, being able to contribute through feedback, through mentoring, through coaching, through scoring and evaluation, is a unique opportunity,”

Multiple judges reflected on the Challenge’s role in growing the State’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We applaud the State of Maryland for galvanizing the business community to support entrepreneurs,” said John Backus, co-founder and managing partner of NAV.VC and a Challenge judge. “While venture capital plays an important role in getting emerging companies off the ground, government initiatives like the InvestMaryland Challenge provide an important springboard. Maryland is a strategic geographic hub for cybersecurity and I’m looking forward to hearing entrepreneurs present on the Defense and Security track.”

“The InvestmentMaryland Challenge provides growth companies with valuable exposure and feedback from judges representing a broad array of expertise,” said Ian N. Nabb, Senior Associate at Camden Partners and a Challenge judge. “Camden is honored to participate in the IMC and excited for the opportunity to connect with the applicants.”

Additional judges include investors Chuck Cullen (Grotech Ventures), Gabe Goldhirsh (Synerjent Ventures), Elana Fine (Dingman Angels), Bill Kingsley (EnerTech Capital), Matthew Miessau (Epidarex Capital), Greg Cangialosi and Sean McElroy (Baltimore Angels), and staff of the Maryland Venture Fund and Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO). Other judges include Mojdeh Bahar, Assistant Administrator for Technology Transfer, USDA Agricultural Research Service; Zeki Mokhtarzada, CTO of; Robert Snyder, president of the Maryland Business Incubator Association; and 10 U.S. Army Research Lab experts in fields ranging from neuroscience to materials engineering.

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