New year, new moves for Baltimore startups.
2021 was one of the biggest years for VC across the US, and the Baltimore area saw historic numbers itself. Local companies counted six- and seven-figure raises galore in industries from workforce development to cybersecurity to carbon footprint data collection.
And now, after taking stock of it all, it’s that time of year again — the time when Technical.ly reads the tea leaves and picks out which up-and-coming companies are the ones to watch. It’s 2022’s RealLIST Startups.
This year is the sixth for our roundups of the region’s most promising young companies. With this edition, we’ve officially added over 100 startups to the must-watch lists over the years. Think of it as a who’s who of tech, entrepreneurship and innovation, with a focus on those best poised to make big moves in the coming year. To check out our past predictions, see the 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017 editions.
As for the series itself, we’ve found reason to expand with RealLISTs of engineers and connectors, but the list of startups remains the way we kick off the calendar year. Startups, we believe, are a prime measure of where the tech community is going next.
Just a reminder, companies chosen for the list fit these criteria:
- Be no more than three years old, based on our longstanding definition of a startup — so, every company below was founded in 2019 or later
- Make the lion’s share of their revenue from a specific product offering — no agencies
- Have not exited or undergone an acquisition, IPO or something close to that nature
So, let’s get to it: Baltimore’s RealLIST Startups 2022. These are the companies we consider most promising, and we’ll be tracking them with some added interest all year.
Cofounder Angel St. Jean with Black Brain Trust is creating a tool to measure DEI for businesses. The goal is to use it to improve equity in the workplace with an industry-specific score. A 2021 runner-up and the reader-voted winner of Startup of the Year in the 2021 Technical.ly Awards, the company is backed by digital services agency Fearless and financial institution Harbor Bank of Maryland Community Development Corporation with $150,000.
The adtech company founded by Greg Dvorken and Tracey Halvorsen, both experienced agency pros, has raised $500,000, with $200,000 of that coming from state-backed investment fund TEDCO.
Using the kind of swipe-left, swipe-right choice that was popularized by dating app Tinder, Return seeks insight on whether a person found the piece of content helpful or not, and why. The duo is looking to turn “microconversions” of customer reactions to the content in real time into valuable insight for companies looking to sell products.
This startup makes an app designed to provide incentives for eating at local restaurants, and is ramping up to make an impact on the Baltimore hospitality and restaurant industry. A 2021 RealLIST runner up, Flave has more recently been backed by TEDCO with $100,000. Flave’s founders Jal Irani and Derek Battle also participated in last year’s Towson University StarTUp Accelerator.
Astek’s diagnostic device aims to quickly identify patients with blood-borne bacterial infections. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County spinout has raised $850,000 to support its effort to revolutionize antibiotics. It got a big boost, too, by participating in the prominent national accelerator Y Combinator in summer 2021.
This company aims to steer the world from a shortage in batteries using a portfolio of lithium-ion battery tech patents offering more energy storage and lower costs to produce. AquaLith is led by seasoned entrepreneurs Ted Olsen, who led Baltimore-based pathogen detection company PathSensors to its 2020 acquisition by Smiths Detection, and Greg Cooper, the founder of Baltimore-based advanced materials company Pixelligent.
“The more support we have, the faster we can move,” Olsen told Technical.ly last year. “The faster we move, the more we’re able to impact what you hear about in the news, which is that there’s not enough battery capacity in this country.”
Second-time founder Tina Williams Koroma is using AI to create a replica of a company’s systems to help with cybersecurity. In a time when the city of Baltimore, Baltimore County and the State of Maryland’s health department can get shut down due to cyberattacks, CyDeploy is filling an integral niche.
“In the newspapers, a lot of times it can sound like there’s these savvy adversaries that are coming up with genius hacks to compromise a system, when in reality it’s because the organizations weren’t making certain security updates, configuration or design choices in the beginning that could have been pretty simple,” Williams-Koroma told us last year.
Funded with a $90,000 grant from Maryland industrial partners along with accolades from Minority Innovation Weekend and UMBC Summer Cyber Kickoff, the company has a spark that we’re booking to see set fire to the cybersecurity industry.
Founded by multi-time entrepreneur Gorkem Sevinc and fellow serial entrepreneur Daniel Roche, Qualytics is creating a tool to automate data quality checks, with a prototype for a product that acts as a “data firewall.” The young company had already grown from a two-man company to 14 employees in its first 15 months, and its founders count six companies’ worth of experience between them. They raised an undisclosed seed round in June 2021 backed by the likes of Maryland Momentum Fund, The LegalTech Fund, TCP Venture Capital and SaaS Ventures.
Using artificial intelligence, Dynamhex provides energy consumption and carbon footprint data for corporations, utility companies and the government. The company raised $1.5 million in March of last year in a seed round led by Maryland Momentum Fund and Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund.
The company earned a spot with climate tech companies in the 90-day Joules Accelerator in Charlotte, North Carolina, and its product has been used by the likes of Duke Energy, National Resource Defense Council and the City of Baltimore. In the coming year, one can expect that list will only grow as cities, municipalities and organizations start to think about their carbon footprint and see the value in reducing the effect of climate change on future generations.
The company founded by top Baltimore connector Pava LaPere builds platforms that help people navigate ecosystems, from entrepreneurial communities to corporate networks and beyond. Since its founding in 2019, EcoMap Technologies has launched a resource navigator for early-stage companies, created the Maryland Entrepreneur Hub with TEDCO and designed the Baltimore Tech Connect Portal with Fearless and UpSurge Baltimore. It’s also an inaugural member of Techstars Equitech accelerator. As the company that’s most consistently connected to the Baltimore tech ecosystem it’ll be interesting to see which companies they collaborate with next.
“If we want to use entrepreneurship as a lever for economic development, then we need to make entrepreneurship accessible to all,” LaPere told Technical.ly.
1. Youreka Labs
With 2020 being deemed the era of The Great Resignation, Youreka Labs came along using cloud and software tools to improve existing jobs, and even create more — a contrast to the typical conversation around automation and job loss. Led by longtime local tech exec Bill Karpovich, the company spun out of Annapolis-based Synaptic Labs to build from a base in Baltimore. It attracted Salesforce Ventures’ first Maryland investment.
The platform built for the Salesforce AppExchange is designed to provide a simple way for companies to build and deploy mobile services for complex tasks that might typically require a specialist. “Every business you can think of and every worker who’s not sitting at their desk can have a specialized mobile app that helps them do their job better,” as Karpovich explained.
In summer 2021, it raised an $8.5 million Series A after growing 300% by finding traction in the healthcare, energy and utilities, manufacturing and the public sectors. Notable clients like the energy company Shell, the Transportation Security Administration and the UK government show where this company has been and the growth coming in the future.
Honorable mentions, in no particular order
- Trackwell — Founded by a longtime Baltimore tech community organizer, this discovery app for cannabis will create buzz in Maryland if marijuana is fully decriminalized.
- Sicura — This cybersecurity company specializes in automating cybersecurity compliance. Before the product spun out of Onyx Point, an 11-year-old government contracting company based in Hanover, it made $1 million in revenue without a sales and marketing team.
- Offermarket — In one of the hottest home buying markets in history, second time founder Daniel Sperling-Horowitz is taking the middle man of real estate agents out of home purchasing with their digital platform.
- Dyslexia Advocation Inc. — The winner of Johns Hopkins University’s Social Innovation Lab 2021 $25,000 cohort prize is advocating for parents with neurodivergent children and filling the knowledge gap on neurodivergent people for businesses by ensuring those businesses are legally compliant and able to integrate them into the workplace.
- YoTengoBot — This $200,000 TEDCO recipient is using automated chatbots to help lawyers and clients connect.
- CurieDx — The winner of Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures’ Pitch it On Competition makes virtual diagnosis tech using AI and a phone’s camera to provide an “instant diagnosis” of common diseases. It’s well timed with the rise of the telehealth industry amid the ongoing pandemic.
- Mastermnd — Founded by former Fearless employee, Hutch graduate and 2020 RealLIST Connector Aaron Brooks, this edtech company is democratizing tech training using social media platforms Twitch and YouTube.
- Prōpa — This social media app offers a platform to find cuttings of sought-after plants, and share them as they grow.
- Elevate — This fintech company allows employees to open up accounts akin to HDHPs, HSAs and FSAs offered by employers to save funds and pay for healthcare.
- G Haven eSports — This burgeoning esports company with hopes to capitalize on the gaming space. It’s a member of the 2022 AccelerateBaltimore cohort.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.