For startup founders seeking to build a business, the road is filled with decision points. Last year, the cofounders of Baltimore-founded startup Arbit faced one of those times.
Cofounder Alex Bullington said he and co-CEO Greg DiNardo presented it this way: “We have a very good opportunity to possibly continue to flush out Arbit, or stop and say, ‘Look, this is a good opportunity for investors to get their money back.'”
In the end, Bullington and DiNardo ended up employees of New York-based Ceros in an acqui-hire, and Arbit was shut down.
By November, they were leading a product for the content creation platform company called MarkUp that enables real-time feedback on a website. And investors such as the Baltimore-based Abell Foundation, which invested $25,000 via Arbit’s participation in Accelerate Baltimore, have just under the initial investment back; it will receive the rest, plus an additional 20% when the deal finalizes next November, according to Bullington. The company’s board agreed it was the right path, Bullington said.
For the local cofounders — Bullington is from Baltimore and DiNardo is from Salisbury — it meant moving away from a city where they have family ties, and built ties in the entrepreneurial community.
“It was quite difficult but we knew the upside presented itself in a very compelling way to go through with this move to New York, and we’ve been growing and learning quite a bit,” he said.
It wasn’t the first time Arbit made a change. After meeting while playing soccer together at Loyola University Maryland, Bullington and DiNardo founded the startup in 2016 as a social polling startup. They later moved into a B2B model using polling in the market research space, and then to competitive intelligence.
Looking back, Bullington sees time building in Baltimore through the lens of “stepping stones.”
“We’re not a home run success, but to be able to look back and say, without Accelerate Baltimore, there’s no way we would’ve gotten to TEDCO,” Bullington said. TEDCO leaders saw Bullington pitch at Accelerate’s demo day, which led to a meeting and eventual investment. It was TEDCO’s support that led to the B2B move, Bullington said.
Along the way they met Ceros, as the companies explored whether integrating Arbit’s surveys into the content marketing platform might make sense. Now, the cofounders are on a six-person team within the 230-person startup that also includes former employees of ChartBlocks, a U.K.-based company that also joined Ceros via acquisition.
“Alex and Greg are two people that we have grown to know over the last year and a half as we explored a possible Arbit integration in Ceros,” Ceros CEO Simon Berg said via email. “While we ultimately didn’t go down that path, our team always appreciated the tenacity and passion for building products that these two embodied. We believed those traits would help us on our quest to change the world of creativity. And having them oversee our new product, MarkUp, strategically aligned with that mission.”
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