Accelerators / Communities / Marketing / Science / Startups

Power Moves: These Baltimore tech firms are growing sales and biz dev teams to start 2021

Plus, meet the latest cohort of Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab.

The 2021 JHU Social Innovation Lab cohort. (Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, new gig or promotion? Tell us:

Ernesto Chanona joined Glen Burnie-based CSSi LifeSciences as its director of business development.

The organization works with companies to advance drugs and medical device technologies from discovery to commercialization.

“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed business growth throughout the industry, and as such, CSSi LifeSciences is poised to expand in 2021,” Chanona said. “Initially, I’ll be focusing on managing the company’s early-stage clients, housed at incubators all over the world. Growing the pipeline through strategic partnerships with economic development agencies, incubators, universities and startups is also part of the plan.”

He will also be part of marketing effort, “helping shape the company’s message to target the wide range of audiences we cater to, including companies in all phases of product development, global governments, academic researchers and incubators,” he said.

Ernesto Chanona. (Courtesy photo)

The Pigtown resident started his scientific career during undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute.

Chanona became a familiar face throughout the community of biohealth innovators in the state through his previous role leading business development in biotech and medtech with the Maryland Department of Commerce.

“My tenure at the Maryland Department of Commerce was invaluable for this new role,” he said. “I expanded my network throughout the industry, nationally and internationally, and developed expertise in the business side of biotechnology. I was able to grasp the commercialization process at a 10,000-foot level and learn about the types of support the government can offer to our sector. At CSSi LifeSciences, I am very excited to continue developing my expertise by taking part in the process.”

Whenever we all get back to seeing each other in person, he’ll still be around: He plans to remain active in the local biohealth community.

“To increase the visibility of the company in our community, I plan to continue to participate as an active member of the Maryland Technology Council, and to serve as a strategic partner to our major players, like the Federal Lab Consortium, BioHealth Innovation, AURP, TEDCO, the Maryland Department of Commerce and our universities. I look forward to ‘seeing’ everyone at our local conferences sometime down the road,” he said.


Venture studio Early Charm Ventures is kicking off the year with growth on its team.

Early Charm, which has a portfolio of companies working in technology areas including drug design, custom materials, aquaculture technologies and machine vision, said it hired Chris Ewing as director of sales and marketing.

Ewing brings 15 years of experience both in sales and marketing, as well as managing business operations. He’s also an entrepreneur, having founded and led companies including Hungry Media, CrunchGrowth, Leadefie and Reviresco Development. The latter provided services to Harbor Designs and Manufacturing, a longtime Early Charm business partner and neighboring company at Pigtown’s 1100 Wicomico. That’s where Early Charm is moving its HQ next month.

“With three portfolio companies generating recurring revenue, others obtaining initial sales and more nearing product launch, we have to take our sales and marketing processes to a new level,” Early Charm cofounder Ken Malone said in a statement. “Chris’s skills and experience are a perfect fit to transform our selling processes.”

Joining the team as manager of federal partnerships is Cameron Childs.

A former nuclear engineer with the U.S. Navy, Childs brings career experience centered on commercialization with the U.S. Department of Defense. Along with Navy service, he has worked with the Army Research Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and D.C.-based DELTA Resources, Inc.

“Flame retardant military uniforms, chemical agent filters, tissue engineering scaffolds and high-resolution imaging are among the products that Early Charm portfolio companies have developed in partnership with U.S. national security interests,” Malone said. “Cameron is ideally suited to manage these existing partnerships and develop new ones.”


Kathy Couser joined the Hampden-based company that’s growing BenefitsApp, a mobile app where employers can engage members on benefit questions, as director of sales.

“As we respond to significant interest from employers and brokers interested in BenefitsApp to enhance communications post-open enrollment and our COVID-19 Toolkit, Kathy Couser adds great depth to our team with 20+ years at United Healthcare working with human resource officers to maximize the value of their employer-sponsored benefits and manage employee expectations regarding back to work strategies during these stressful times,” CEO Rich Wiklund said.

Wiklund told us about how the app got started and the features it added during the pandemic last year.


A December kickoff welcomed a new cohort of impact-focused ventures entering the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab, and it was the first for the program’s recently hired director.

Madison Marks. (Courtesy photo)

Madison Marks. (Courtesy photo)

Madison Marks stepped into the lead role for the Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures-run accelerator as it began to seek applications for the cohort in the fall.

She moved to Baltimore from Dubai, following three years of work to support entrepreneurs in the Middle East. This included helping resources focused on women entrepreneurs, including a network of founders and an accelerator. Seeking to return to the U.S., Marks said the role at Hopkins combined experience in areas like partnerships, marketing and communications, and program management.

“This was a role that I think combined a lot of my strengths, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to move into it,” Marks said.

The program, which is open to ventures founded by members of the Johns Hopkins community as well as all Baltimore residents, received more than 60 applications this year. With programming virtual as 2021 gets underway, they’ll be meeting weekly and learning in areas customer discovery, finance, and marketing and communications. They will also be working with design strategists in residence, and consultants from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Community Consulting Lab.

Here’s a look at the cohort:

  • Bloc by Block News — Founded by Kevon Paynter, Ptosha Davis and Christina Sturdivant, the media co-op offers a mobile app for news and information in Maryland.
  • COVIDSMS — The SMS system is designed to provide COVID-19 related information, without requiring internet access. The founding team includes Serena Wang, Hannah Chiu, Oren Wei, Kriti Lalwani, Paige Vinch, Estelle Yeung, Christina Wong and Hana Hogan.
  • Dyslexia Advocation Inc. — Winifred Winston founded the organization, which provides tools for adults and parents of children with dyslexia.
  • Elevated Soups — Jeffrey Griffin and chef Steven Allbright founded the soup and stew business, which is a social enterprise of the Franciscan Center. It reinvests funds into homeless outreach programs in the region.
  • Federate Association to Innovate Rental Housing (FAIR Housing) — Founded by Brian Wojcik, Carmen Fields, Jack Tomalis and Michael Salonish, FAIR Housing is using innovating thinking and technology toward the goal of eliminating evictions.
  • Menti — A teletherapy platform that “connects womxn of color to womxn of color therapists.” The founding team includes Meghna Kumar, Edo Ighodaro and Maya Foster.
  • Restoring Inner City Hope (RICH) — Michael and Danielle Battle founded the nonprofit, which runs a young leaders program working with youth in Cherry Hill.
  • SpreadKarma — A social donation-based crowdfunding platform for “changemakers creating positive social impact in underserved and underrepresented communities.” The founding team includes Kellie Brown, Sherman Barkdale, LeMar Moore, Love Joyner and Adrienne Coverdale.
  • Taara Projects — A fashion-based social enterprise that embraces sustainable and ethical practices through its supply chain. The founding team includes Shanthi Ramakrishna, Saisri Gussenhoven, Fatima Elzamzami, Castalia Vidaurri, Michelle Tu and Keerti Soundappan.
  • WeGo Foundation — The foundation offers “telepresence robots” to provide pediatric hospital patients with virtual tours of attractions. The founding team includes Galen Shi, Pavan Shah and Hayden Dux.
Companies: Early Charm Ventures / Johns Hopkins
Series: Power Moves

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