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Accelerators / Roundups / Startups

Here’s a look at the impact-minded startups that just finished Conscious Venture Lab

The accelerator's latest demo day was held Wednesday at the Parkway Theatre. The companies are working in education, healthcare and financial opportunity.

Dr. Steva Komeh pitches at Conscious Venture Lab's 2019 demo day. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A Wednesday night demo day at the Parkway Theatre brought conversations about business models and societal impact.

The evening closed out the latest cohort of Conscious Venture Lab, an accelerator that seeks to support mission-driven startups.

CVL, which was founded by Jeff Cherry and last year partnered with Joe Mechlinski and Baltimore’s SHIFT Ventures, is an access-minded program itself. Housed at Baltimore City Community College, the accelerator aims to highlight startup activity in West Baltimore. It also drew a pair of companies to the city from Atlanta for the three month program. Five of the six companies were women-led, and five were founded by people of color.

Founders pitched to a panel including ETC President Deb Tillett, Sagamore Ventures Managing Director Demian Costa and TEDCO CEO George Davis.

Here’s a look at the six startups that pitched:


Cofounders Marwa Abdelfattah and Aaron Chang are looking to expand access to early childhood education, and democratize learning. The path: dialogue. They created a platform for iPad that guides a conversation between children and teachers, parents or caregivers. The startup provides dialogue starters, and looks to emphasize the science behind the learning, with tips that help keep the conversation going.

Komesha Essentials

A registered dietitian-nutritionist, Dr. Steva Komeh created an all-natural product that contain a blend of 16 essential oils from plants that are reported to have medicinal properties such as anti-inflammatory and pain relief. Komeh has a patent, and sells directly to consumers as well as to massage therapists, physical therapists and others.


One of two Atlanta-based companies in the cohort, Veronica Berry pitched the interactive healthcare app that uses blockchain technology. Focusing on woman ages 25-35, the app allows women to create a smart health diary by providing info about health issues symptoms, family medical history and other insights. The diary is designed to offer data to health providers to help make a diagnosis and provide a more comprehensive visit.

Optikal Care

SueAnn Hollowell and Norman Stuart created a delivery service to ensure contact lenses are affordable and used properly. The subscription service covers an eye exam, an annual supply of contact lenses, care items and a backup pair. Customers can pay monthly to make the price more affordable.

Optikal Care cofounders SueAnn Hollowell and Norman Stuart. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Optikal Care cofounders SueAnn Hollowell and Norman Stuart. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Ortus Academy

Aaron Velky and Josh Massey set out to spread financial intelligence, creating a live action game called NumisMatters looks to impart lessons for 5th-12 grade students focusing on sound financial habits. The idea is to allow students to exercise decision-making ability and realize the consequences of their choices. Offered through schools and other organizations, the platform has been used by 850 students, with the cofounders seeking to expand using a tech-enabled approach.


Teresa Hodge, CEO of R3 Score (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Teresa Hodge, CEO of R3 Score (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A criminal justice advocate and cofounder of Mission:Launch, Teresa Hodge founded a startup focused on that developed a new kind of risk model to help banking professionals as they assess the financial capacity of customers with criminal records. The platform brings more nuance to a standard background check, drawing on insight into current life choices and data trends for the future. As 70 million Americans have a criminal record, Hodge said she is focused on “the power of transformation.”

Companies: Conscious Venture Lab

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