A mark of a local tech community is not just new companies forming, but also those leaving — that is, getting acquired or going public.
So it’s with interest that we track startup exits. Even in a year of massive economic disruption, there was plenty of activity to report this year. Before the pandemic, we noted that the first outside investment deal for Columbia-based web dev and design firm Unleashed Technologies also marked its acquisition by Charlotte-based Linc Partners.
It’s always noteworthy to see a company’s early-stage cycle completed. Among those acquired were a few of the companies we’ve followed since close to their beginnings in local entrepreneurship programs.
A few years after CEO Alex Bullington wowed the AccelerateBaltimore demo day audience, Arbit’s cofounders joined New York-based Ceros to lead visual commenting platform MarkUp in a deal that saw return for investors. And Tissue Analytics was among the notable startups to build a base in Baltimore that was founded by former students in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering and Design. The wound care startup was acquired by Pittsburgh-based Net Health in May.
The year’s deal activity also showed global names getting interested in local companies.
Light Point Security made a name locally as a startup whose founders forged a path from inside the NSA to entrepreneurship, with key support from bwtech@UMBC. After an acquisition in the spring, the browser isolation product is inside household cybersecurity name McAfee. In July, pathogen testing startup PathSenors was acquired by global firm Smiths Detection, which has a U.S. headquarters in Rosedale. The next month, Fells Point-baed on-demand tech support startup Fixt was acquired by Fortune 500 insurer Assurant, with plans to keep growing.
The year capped with a couple in this category. Baltimore edtech company eThink Education was recently acquired by London-based Learning Technologies Group, essentially uniting the Betamore-incubated company with team members from 2012 local exit story Moodlerooms.
And just before the year came to a close, 24-year-old downtown lending software company eOriginal was acquired by Dutch information services company Wolters Kluwer for $280 million.
Deals can also be a step to the next milestone. Breethe, a company founded out University of Maryland, Baltimore, by surgeon Dr. Bartley Griffith saw its portable, lung-like technology acquired by Massachusetts-based Abiomed in May and the local team kept at their work. By the fall, the device received FDA clearance.
The biggest deal of the year with local impact? It was a firm developed around advances in cancer testing at Johns Hopkins. Thrive Earlier Detection Corp. was acquired by Exact Sciences in a $2.15 billion deal. While the company wasn’t headquartered in Baltimore, it maintains a sizable R&D presence at labs near Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Elsewhere in the local M&A market this year, Under Armour sold MyFitnessPal in a $345 million deal that saw the exit of one of the key fitness apps it purchased last decade.
And a couple of Baltimore firms did the acquiring.
Cybersecurity company ZeroFOX passed the 400-employee mark as it brought on the team from Cyveillance in a deal with LookingGlass Cyber Solutions. And tech and operations advisory firm Think acquired Ventrue, while partnering with Naples Technology Ventures as it set up to go deeper in the venture capital space.-30-