The scales have shifted and there’s more of 2022 behind us than in front. Looking back on how we thought the year would pan out, and how it’s actually going, reminds us to see where the dreams and the reality of the market intersected over the past year for some of Baltimore’s most promising startups.
Back in January, we released our annual list of startups to watch, called RealLIST Startups. These startups represent some of the best in class under the criteria of being less than three years old, making their revenue from a specific product offering and not yet experiencing an exit, merger or acquisition.
2022 was a very different business landscape than 2021. Despite existing in a world less concerned with COVID-19, the general market was more fiscally conservative than before, crypto markets crashed and valuations returned to earth. In this time of quiet quitting and major tec1h companies freezing hiring, we asked these local companies from the medtech, DEI, data analytics and cybersecurity fields: Where do you stand, and have you grown?
10. Black Brain Trust
We didn’t hear from the DEI tech-focused company about what it’s been up to over the past seven months. But its cofounder did respond to Technical.ly’s June 23 e-newsletter prompt, for the close of our third annual Racial Equity in Tech Month. We asked: “What do you think is the single biggest hurdle to achieving true racial equity in Baltimore’s tech scene? And how would you go about fixing it?”
Black Brain Trust’s cofounder Angel St. Jean told Technical.ly via email, “While there are no silver bullets, I believe the biggest hurdle to achieving racial equity in Baltimore’s tech scene (and any other scene in Baltimore and beyond) is having a methodical, and measurable, way to work towards racial equity over time.”
St. Jean sees the EquiScore BI, a tool to collect and analyze comprehensive DEI data for businesses, as the best way to achieve substantial change toward equity in the Baltimore tech ecosystem. She’s still pushing for local companies to adopt her tool and try a more systematic approach to addressing diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Baltimore’s tech scene won’t become racially equitable by doing things that feel good and hoping it works,” said St. Jean. “We invite tech companies to recognize that when they properly define and measure D, I and especially E, and put a system in place to continuously improve it over time, they can (and Baltimore can) finally see a return on their DEI investments in the form of a more racially equitable tech scene (and their bottom lines).”
9. Return Solutions
This company recently closed a $1.1 million pre-seed round and is looking to prove that its product can disrupt current thinking in marketing and sales data analytics by taking on large-scale enterprise clients like Virtusa Corporation.
Return Solutions is also looking to scale from 12 to 30 people by the end of the year if all goes well and sales targets are met.
The startup, which was creating an app to bring more attention to local restaurants by gamifying patronage, has inked partnerships with Visit Baltimore, Braintease Trivia and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington in an expansion to DC.
The organization plans to expand to Ellicott City, Annapolis and Columbia in the coming months. Founders Jal Irani and Derek Battle are also gearing up to find investors for their first funding round in early 2023.
7. Astek Diagnostics
In the last six months, the med tech company added two engineers to the team and took up residence at the University of Maryland BioPark.
The company has also communicated with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about submitting its medical device, which aims to quickly identify patients with blood-borne bacterial infection, for the agency’s Q2-2024 submission timeline. The feedback from the FDA has been positive, according to Astek Diagnostics CEO Mustafa Al-Adhami.
Through a partnership with Baltimore-based manufacturer Key Technologies Inc., the medical device company is set to manufacture its single-use cartridge device to detect sepsis starting early next year.
Leadership at the battery tech company didn’t respond to Technical.ly’s outreach.
News has been quiet on what’s next for the University of Maryland College Park spinout, but we’ll continue to keep an eye out for the innovations coming from companies with roots at the R1-status research institution.
The team at the cybersecurity firm has grown by four. Founder Tina Williams-Koroma has hired a president of engineering, front-end developer, AI/machine learning developer and operations lead.
The organization has been accepted into many accelerators, including Google for Startups —Women Founders, Techstars Founders Catalyst Program, Amazon Web Services Impact Accelerator and the Black Ambition Prize Futurist Program.
Williams-Koroma’s company has launched its product and is currently onboarding clients. Before the year is done, she plans to launch a seed round and continue scaling the company through hiring, customer acquisition and product development.
This company was recently accepted to VC firm Engage’s enterprise go-to-market cohort in Atlanta, Georgia. Through Engage’s corporate partners, Qualytics CEO Gorkem Sevinc plans to bring its tool for automating data quality checks to market.
The blockchain ecotech company has been a part of TEDCO and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) proposal lab cohort. The org has also participated in the Bethesda Green Innovation Lab.
2. EcoMap Technologies
The digital ecosystem builder closed a $3.5M oversubscribed seed round led by Las Olas Venture Capital in June. With those funds, the company hired 10 additional team members, bringing the full-time headcount to 27 and wrapping up the seed round hiring. Pava LaPere, CEO of EcoMap, wanted to note that 74% of the team identified as female or a person of color (44% POC and 51% women, when separated).
30 ecosystem navigation platforms are live or in implementation, according to LaPere, and the organization is planning to move to a new HQ in the Bromo Arts District in September.
1. Youreka Labs
In April, Youreka Labs was acquired by B2B software solutions provider Dispatch. All of the mobile automation tech company’s employees moved over in the deal, and the offices in Baltimore remained.
Dispatch’s CEO Pat Burns told Technical.ly around the time of the merger that Youreka Labs will continue to have a strong presence in Baltimore. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if “we outgrow [the office] and have to get a new one in Baltimore soon.”
There’s no word of a new office at present, but the year’s not over yet.
Lastly, check out updates on some of these honorable mentions:
- Sicura, a cybersecurity company, closed a seed funding round in March to grow its sales, business development and marketing operations throughout the year.
- CurieDX won seed funding from the Bisciotti Foundation Translational Fund at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The fund awards in the range of $25,000 to $100,000 for innovative technologies.
- Mastermnd has recently partnered with Betamore to create a six-month software engineering training program.
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