(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
A giant sign reading “Made in America” loomed over Shelly Blake-Plock. In front of him was a group of investors from some of Maryland’s top venture capital firms.
But the founder of Baltimore big data firm Yet Analytics was looking beyond both the state and the country.
“I want to create a big company that makes big change in the world,” he said emphatically.
The ambition and passion typified the Venture Pitch Day, which was primarily organized by Betamore. The event kicked off Beta City, a daylong event that let the public into City Garage in Port Covington for the first time, and was organized by Betamore, Plank Industries, Technical.ly and Startup Maryland. It was the culminating event of Baltimore Innovation Week.
The day was a celebration of Baltimore’s startup community, and served as likely the best opportunity of the year for folks from all sides of the tech scene to get together in one room.
As a result, however, it was also a reflection that the startups that make up the scene are looking beyond the boundaries of the city as they build their products.
During the Yet Analytics pitch, for instance, Blake-Plock made the case that the big data analytics and interoperability platform the team is building at the Emerging Technology Centers’ 33rd Street campus could help the biggest companies.
At the same time, however, he said, “Everything is built in Baltimore.”
Pitching edtech startup Citelighter, CEO Saad Alam said his company has a business operations center in Betamore where the company’s sales team makes calls to companies across the country. The company, which provides resources to help students become better writers and organize papers, has also been partnering with Laureate, the global higher education network headquartered in Harbor East.
This kind of Baltimore-centric big thinking seemed to impress judges. Yet and Citelighter were picked as winners of the competition.
There was no cash award, as the point of the event was to get exposure to investors from firms like NEA (represented by Millennial Media cofounder Paul Palmieri), Grotech Ventures, Plank Industries, Baltimore Angels, Camden Partners and others.
The relatively long pitch format also allowed a fairly deep dive into each of the companies and their plans. Here are a few takeaways from the other five companies:
- Sonavex Surgical just closed a $1 million seed round. Investors were asking the Johns Hopkins spinout, which is commercializing imaging technology to detect post-surgery blood clots, about an exit.
- Alchemy Learning is looking beyond education. The company is making a virtual reality training platform that cofounder Win Butler said could be used by corporations and wellness institutions.
- Artichoke has a winning slogan. The investors were impressed by the management tool for freelancers’ tagline: “Get organized. Get booked. Get paid.” The company has been in beta over the last year, and is looking to add customers with a more visible marketing push in 2016.
- The data breaches that Protenus looks to secure medical records against are usually carried out by healthcare employees, cofounder Robert Lord said.
- Sickweather, which tracks diseases on social media, has filters for many diseases. It can even tune out the noise of Bieber Fever.
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