These 8 MICA startups show how art school is getting entrepreneurial

It's not just painting anymore. A productivity app, an urban agriculture startup and audio textbooks were among the ideas.

Winston Frazer pitches Danae Prosthetics at Up/Start 2016. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Creativity is just as necessary to a startup as tech and business know-how, so it makes sense that the Maryland Institute College of Art is developing entrepreneurs as well as artists.
Some of the new ventures cropping up around MICA were on hand last week to pitch to an auditorium of students and startup community members. It could find a home among any Baltimore pitch event, with health, edtech, fintech and hardware all represented. In each pitch, however, there was an example of how design and artistic acumen can be applied to tech.
The UP/START competition was announced along with a grant from the Ratcliffe Foundation earlier this year, meaning five of the companies also got some money to help develop their ideas.
Here’s a look:

1. TNP Studios

Jay Jackson pitches TNP Studios.

Jay Jackson pitches TNP Studios. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The cheers that greeted his pitch showed Jay Jackson had a lot of fans on hand, and his pitch showed that the traction spread beyond the Brown Center. The episodes on politics, film and comic books that make up TNP’s Nerdpocalypse podcast series averages 100,000 monthly downloads. Now Jackson and his three cofounders are looking toward film and community dialogue. The $30,000 prize they picked up on Thursday will help.

2. Modernature

Julie Buisson pitches Modernature. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Julie Buisson pitches Modernature. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A trailer in Better Waverly is one of the promising sites of urban agriculture in Baltimore. Julie Buisson and Mark Verdecia are growing microgreens there that they’re looking to provide to local restaurants. The tiny produce grows faster and contains many times more nutrients than its large-leaf relatives. They’ll keep building out the operation with the $30,000 they won from UP/Start.

3. Two Bolts Studios

Sam Acuff pitches Two Bolts. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Sam Acuff pitches Two Bolts. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Sam Acuff and Brendan Choi believe the new wave of furniture design will come from handcrafted material made from local goods. They set up a custom fabrication studio near Highlandtown, and are looking to get more people involved. Their pitch won second prize for $25,000.

4. Joint Youth Movement

Juansebastian Serrano, Renz Balagtas and Sam Rietenbach believe local artists can benefit from the city’s efforts to turn vacants into working spaces. To help the amount of showspaces in Baltimore keep pace with the amount of art that’s being created, they want to build out a space for local artists to show their work. They call it the JYM. The project picked up a $15,000 third-place prize.

5. Pi

Jordan Bradley knows you want emojis in your daily schedule. With Pi, he’s building an app that includes the communication we’re all using now, and applies a daily planner to work-life balance. Sleep has a place in a productivity app, he says, because getting enough of one helps the other. Bradley won the audience vote and picked up $5,000.

Here are the three others:

  • Bringing audiobooks to the academic textbook industry, Olivia Lindsey’s edtech tool is designed to help save students time.

Danae Prosthetics

  • Winston Frazer’s 3D-printed prosthetics are designed to reduce the cost of replacement limbs, and make them more aesthetically pleasing.

Klink Mobile

  • A mobile wallet to allow a seamless exchange of money, both in the country or internationally.
Companies: Maryland Institute College of Art

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