Applications are closed for the InvestMaryland Challenge, but now the hard part begins.
This week, judges will get their first look at the roughly 200 applications in the first round of judging, which runs through Jan. 31. The second round takes place in March, after which, the judges will select their top three.
“It is a long process, but it’s needed to sort of find that diamond in the rough,” said Michelle Jackson, who runs the program at the state Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED). “It’s a good way to really showcase the technologies that are out there.”
"Everybody wants to walk away with $100,000 but a lot of these applicants are hungry to get some feedback on their ideas."
This year’s judges include Ian Nabb of Camden Partners, Elana Fine of Dingman Angels, Greg Cangialosi and Sean McElroy of Baltimore Angels and Maryland Venture Fund and TEDCO staff.
“The InvestmentMaryland Challenge provides growth companies with valuable exposure and feedback from judges representing a broad array of expertise,” Nabb said in a release.
This year’s applicants compete in four categories — information technology, defense and security, life sciences and sustainability and exploration. The winner in each category gets a $100,000 grant from DBED. Other prizes include incubator memberships at the Army Research Lab, pitch opportunities, smaller grants and consulting services.
This year’s competition saw two major changes — the elimination of the general category and the acceptance of international applications. The challenge has gotten applicants from Israel and Brazil, Jackson said. As long as a company has fewer than 25 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue, they may apply for the challenge. The catch for out-of-state and international winners is that they must set up an office in Maryland and use most of the prize money in the state.
Applications are about on pace with last year’s total, DBED says.
“Most of the companies are now technically based,” Jackson said.”There are a lot of disruptive technologies, a lot of different types of innovative concepts, adtech, food tech, edtech.”
And almost as important for these companies as the $100,000 prize is the feedback and advice from judges that could help lead them to success.
“Everybody wants to walk away with $100,000 but a lot of these applicants are hungry to get some feedback on their ideas,” Jackson said.