Beta City returned for its third year under the big tent at City Garage Thursday night, as Betamore and Sagamore Ventures teamed up to unfurl a full night of celebrating Baltimore tech and entrepreneurship.
The events kicked off inside City Garage in the afternoon with a pitch competition featuring six health-focused startups from across Baltimore. Mayor Catherine Pugh joined a group of investors on the judging panel, asking questions about business models However, the winner didn’t have to travel far.
Hungry Harvest, which is based in City Garage, took home the $25,000 in cash. Founder Evan Lutz showed the pitch skills that helped him win a deal on Shark Tank, describing his startup’s service that provides “ugly produce,” as well as efforts to address hunger by bringing it to food deserts.
As far as new developments, Lutz said the company is looking to expand to Raleigh, North Carolina. Closer to home, the company is also looking to establish a warehouse fulfillment center in the DMV and hire about 20 people to work there.
“There are a lot of problems we can influence in our city just through food,” Lutz said in a victory speech. “We want to introduce healthy food into everyone’s lives. That’s our mission, and this award helps us do that.”
Out on the floor, there were plenty of demos and chances to meet startups working in the city.
— Champion Studio (@ChampionStudio) September 29, 2017
A big section of the demo displays were dedicated to the entrepreneurs in the first Maryland cohort of the iFundWomen Maryland program. It links the group of startups with a crowdfunding campaign to raise money, and formally launched at the event.
In all, the cohort has 16 startups. We saw some familiar faces, including:
- Tammira Lucas, who is raising money for The Cube, a coworking space with childcare.
- Jasmine Simms of Scrub Nail Boutique.
- Lida Zlatic of edtech startup ClassTracks.
- Kathleen Mazurek of DecodeMe Space,
We also met Deborah Owens of WealthyU. She created an app to help spread knowledge about finances and investment to close the “wealth gap.” Working with iFundWomen allows her to raise money, as well as help with development.
“I want to get at least 500 backers, because I want those backers to become my beta testers,” she said.
For Iyonna Woods, the program is about helping the city along with growing a business. The medical laboratory scientist and founder of Fancy Free for Hair and Skin currently produces beauty products that don’t have harsh chemicals out of her kitchen (which has necessary approvals for the operation). With more funding, she wants to expand manufacturing outside her home and offer training to youth in the city to provide exposure to STEM.
“My goal is to teach them marketable laboratory skills…and show them how science really is the basis behind the beauty industry,” she said.