Standing before entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley saw a room that’s pointing toward the city’s future.
“You have what we want,” he said.
Buckley kicked off the Nov. 5 demo day for FounderTrac, the 12-week accelerator program in the state capital that provides mentorship, content and community connections designed to help startups become venture capital ready. At the event inside the Graduate Hotel Annapolis, 10 startups pitched to investors to close out this year’s edition of the program.
“One of my goals is to make our city a historic city of the future,” Buckley said, before sharing some of his own entrepreneurship and leadership values, such as bringing diverse voices to the table and building resiliency.
Attracting startups that are working on secure payments for hotels, connecting talent across the world and democratization of the law is a clear step in that direction.
To kick off the pitches, Baltimore Ravens runningback-turned-entrepreneur Justin Forsett took the stage alongside cofounder and former college football teammate Wale Forrester to pitch Hustle Clean. Calling it the “Gatorade of Hygiene,” Forsett and Forrester built a brand that’s designed for people who are looking to clean up after being active without taking a shower. Their first product is a line of body wipes, which are designed to kill germs and leave the skin feeling clean, they said.
“I was looking for a founder-friendly program that was going to help us scale the business and raise capital,” Forsett said. “FounderTrac absolutely helped me move the business forward. I’m a better businessman because I went through the program.”
To close the night, Forsett and Forrester received $25,000 from the FounderTrac investment network, which Forsett said the team plans to put toward product development and marketing.
“Hustle Clean stood out to us immediately because of their traction and established brand in the performance hygiene space. Justin and Wale have demonstrated outstanding dedication and effectiveness as executives,” said Jeffrey Mund, CEO of MCVC Partners and cofounder of FounderTrac. “We saw the opportunity to be the first check in their investment round so we jumped on it.”
The second $25,000 investment on the night went to PediaMetrix, which was pitched by CEO Fereshteh Aalamifar. Drawing from personal experience, Aalamifar, who received her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, developed a web app to detect head malformations in infants. Called SoftSpot, the app offers detection, monitoring and treatment tools.
The team “has shown tremendous leadership and momentum in its mission to commercialize important image recognition and artificial intelligence technologies for pediatricians and parents to provide care for young children,” said FounderTrac cofounder Ryan Sears.
In a move that Sears said showed financial leadership and a connection across cohorts, PediaMetrix received investment from Deborah Hemingway, the CEO of 2018 investment recipient Leon Scientific and an angel investor.
Here’s a look at the rest of the cohort:
Localized: Ronit Avni pitched the platform that provided content connecting students who are expats with employers in emerging markets.
LainaPro: With a goal to democratize the law, Patrick Halasz pitched technology that uses AI to assess contracts. He said it can open up opportunity for small businesses.
SmartBridge Health: Hua Wang pitched the cancer telemedicine startup, which aims to provide easier access to expert opinions.
Avrio Software: Jason Winder pitched Sift, a cloud-based file migration software platform that helps businesses migrate digital content to the cloud securely.
Ajon Armor: After 12 years in security at Bethesda-based Marriott, John Bell developed a new tool to keep hotel payments data secure that uses a token to keep the data outside a hotel’s system.
Gravatate: Javier Castro and Rosemarie Savino pitched the private chat and collaboration workspaces.
Evidencity: Sam Logan said the company is combatting corruption with the platform for manual records retrieval that provides documents from officials in governments around the world without the need to pay a bribe.
Blankit: John Brown pitched the data-handling platform that’s designed to bring technology to the process of applying for a federal small business loan.-30-