This startup is taking the shock out of training your dog | By Morgan Eichensehr, BBJ

July 6, 2017

A Baltimore startup, backed by over $140,000 in funding, is gearing up to test its prototype smart collar, that helps train and control pets without the need of a shock collar.

Barttron Inc. has developed a tech-based pet collar called "Chord" that is designed to use a combination of vibrations, voice commands and positive reinforcement training to help owners train their pets and eliminate unwanted behaviors, even when the owners are not around. The startup has built on the combined knowledge of engineers and animal behaviorists to create its technology.

"Basically, it's like you are with your dog 24 hours a day, always there to monitor behavior, even when you're at work for eight or nine hours," said CEO Jared Marmen, a computer and electrical engineer. "But it's not a shock collar. No one really wants to hurt their dog, so this uses a different kind of reinforcement to get rid of those unwanted behaviors, like climbing on furniture. "

Barttron is now working Blue Line K-9, a dog training business in Aberdeen, to test its prototype collar. The tests will look at how dogs respond to the sound and vibration commands from the collar across several variables — including different ages and breeds of dogs, time of day and environment. The tests will be the next step in the commercialization process, as Barttron moves toward commercial sale of its collars in the fall.

The company is named for Marmen and his wife's first dog, Bart. Marmen said he has put about $45,000 of his own money into the business so far. The startup recently received $25,000 in seed funding as part of Emerging Technology Centers' 2017 Accelerate Baltimore cohort. Barttron also won an extra $100,000 from the ETC, as the winner from its cohort pitch competition. Another $19,000 from Maryland Technology Development Corp. will be used to test and further develop Chord's technology.

About $6,500 of the TEDCO funding will go directly to Blue Line K-9 to plan, conduct and report on the testing of the prototype collar, Marmen said. And $12,500 will be used by Barttron to fund the cost of materials and fabrication of the components of the collars.

Barttron has three full-time employees and about 11 part-time employees. Marmen said he ultimately wants to grow the company as it proves out its technology and starts scaling up production. The startup is currently accepting online pre-order requests for Chord.

The Chord technology is app-based and owners can program virtual boundaries and unwanted behaviors into the app. So if you don't want your dog on the couch, Chord will know that and alert your dog when he gets to close or give him a command using your recorded voice telling him to get down.

"People always say things like 'I can't train my dog, my dog can't learn those things,' and we know that's not true," Marmen said. "Successful training is about having the right motivation. We think this can make the whole process easier for both the pets and their owners. They are working together to learn good and unwanted behaviors."

Marmen said he started working on the idea for the Chord collar back in 2014. He had moved into a new home and wanted to let his dog run around outside, but he did not have a fence and didn't want to buy a shock collar either.

The collars will start out as basic training assistance devices, but Marmen said he eventually hopes to build in features like virtual yard boundaries, which will keep dogs safe without the need for an electric fence.

*This article originally appeared on the Baltimore Business Journal. View the article here

Accelerate Baltimore Grads in the News

It’s hasn’t even been a month since the Accelerate Baltimore Investor Pitch Night and the 2017 grads are already making waves in the news. If you haven’t been keeping track of their progress, here’s a rundown on what they’ve been up to:

 

Chord in Technical.ly Baltimore

If you haven’t heard already, AB company Chord won $100,000 from the Abell Foundation at Investor Pitch Night last month. Chord also picked up recognition at Pitch Across Maryland’s finale, as well as FounderTrac’s demo day in Annapolis, according to Technical.ly.

Chord’s founder, Jared Marmen, explained during his pitch that the additional funding will help the company move out of testing phases with the product—a smart collar and the app, which train pets through positive reinforcement with invisible leashes and fences.

 

GunBail in the Washington Post

Trevor Brooks, GunBail’s founder, explains to the Washington Post what the app does, what the company’s goals are, and the hurdles they still need to overcome. According to Brooks, “The biggest challenge for GunBail has been navigating the political decision-making process in each municipality. Our customers are municipalities and police departments, and they are also our partners. We need their cooperation in setting up the infrastructure to receive the weapons.”

The board chair of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, Liz Sara, advises that GunBail should focus their initial efforts in Baltimore, and  “carefully document the entire process — especially when you pull in each stakeholder...After your first few city pilots, you’ll see some trends emerging which will help shorten the sales cycle in future cities.”

 

Reciprocare in Technical.ly DC and Technical.ly Baltimore

Reciprocare recently came out on top at the D.C. regional finals of InnovateHer 2017, and is on to the next round of InnovateHER, the annual national pitch competition organized by the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Along with completing the Accelerate Baltimore program, Reciprocare also completed the Aging 2.0 Baltimore accelerator, and won $5,000 at the A2B Demo Day. The startup is looking to launch its service, which will connects agencies with caregivers and help low-income women find jobs.
 

Arbit in the Baltimore Business Journal and Funding Sage

Alex Bullington, CEO of Arbit, told the BBJ that the goal for the app was to connect fans to their favorite actors and athletes, and, at the same time, give brands the opportunity to get real-time feedback and data from their audience. Plus, he shared that Arbit’s user base has grown to include NBA star Dwyane Wade, and actor Mark Wahlberg.

Additionally, Bullington explained the potential impact of Arbit to Funding Sage. “If a company had a product decision to make, whether it be a certain color on a pair of Under Armour shoes or a new design of shirt for a clothing brand, consumers can be a part of the strategic decision making process for companies. These businesses could in turn save millions of dollars in market research and poor product delivery just by testing market sentiment before they release something.”

 

Wealthy Life in Forbes

Forbes featured an in-depth profile on Wealthy Life founder Angel Rich, including her many accolades and experiences in the realm of marketing. The article also explains how Wealthy Life’s financial literacy game, Credit Stacker, works. Credit Stacker teaches budgeting, saving, investing, credit management, banking, car financing, financial aid, taxes, real estate, entrepreneurship, academic planning, and career readiness. According to Forbes, “It’s useful for planning for your newborn’s financial future or for your retirement.”

 

Swaggle in Best Techie and Technical.ly DC

Eric Niu, founder and CEO of men’s clothing consignment app Swaggle, told Technical.ly that with Swaggle, there’s no need to browse. You can search for the item you’re looking for, and easily swipe through the options to make a choice. Once you’ve reached an agreed price for the item, you purchase it, then choose between mail delivery, an in-person handoff or pick up at a local consignment shop.

Swaggle was also featured as one of the style apps that will change the way people buy clothes in Best Techie.

Accelerate Baltimore's Additional $100,000 in Funding to be Awarded to Baltimore Based Chord

Baltimore, MD (April 24, 2017) – ETC (Emerging Technology Centers), Baltimore City’s leading technology and innovation centers, announced the winner of the Accelerate Baltimore program’s additional funding of $100,000 was Baltimore based company Barttron with its product Chord. Each year, Accelerate Baltimore (AB) awards six companies $25,000 each in seed funding and provides an intensive four-month program to help them move their businesses forward.

ETC President and Executive Director, Deb Tillett commented, “The addition of the $100,000 follow-on funding opportunity has really put Accelerate Baltimore, ETC and Baltimore City on the national stage; the quality of applicants was very high this year and it made it difficult to settle on the cohort.”

This is the sixth year in which the ETC, in partnership with the Abell Foundation, has successfully run Accelerate Baltimore. To date, 34 companies including Allovue, MyBestBox and Loople, have graduated from the program raising a total of $11 million in follow on funding. Last year, after looking extensively at early stage funding trends in 2015, and the experiences in the past years of AB companies, ETC concluded that requesting additional funding from its Abell Foundation partners in the amount of $100,000 would enhance the probability that these companies would be successful. This is now the second year in a row that AB has awarded the additional funding.

Robert C. Embry, Jr., President of the Abell Foundation, said, “The Accelerate Baltimore competition showcases the talent and innovation we have within the Baltimore community. We want to congratulate the winner of the competition and wish all the participating companies great success and continued growth in Baltimore City.”

Barttron is developing Chord, a smart collar that gives dog owners a punishment-free electronic training and monitoring device to keep dogs safe, protect property, and eliminate unwanted behavior. The Chord collar solves the most common problems of dog owners: creating indoor and outdoor boundaries, providing no-harm behavior reinforcement, and eliminating excessive barking - without ever punishing or hurting the beloved pet. Barttron is raising a seed round closing in June to take the current Chord prototype to initial production. 

 

“The $100k investment by the Abell Foundation will allow us to move beyond our current ‘garage-based’ prototype manufacturing to the industrial processes we need to make high quality collars and be able to scale in the near-future” Says Jared Marmen, CEO of Barttron.

 

Last night’s Investor Pitch Night ended AB’s 2017 program, where each of the six companies pitched the judging panel made up of local investors for a chance at the additional funding. The Accelerate Baltimore Investor Pitch Night was held at the Mt. Washington Dye House and Barttons’ Chord was the choice to receive the additional funding. The award was presented by ETC’s Deb Tillett, Baltimore Development Corporation’s (BDC) William Cole, and Abell Foundation’s Eileen O’Rourke.

 

 

About the ETC: www.etcbaltimore.com

The ETC, a venture of the Baltimore Development Corporation, is a 501(c)(3) technology and innovation center focused on growing early-stage companies. The ETC provides four programs for entrepreneurs: a tech focused incubator, Incubate Baltimore, a seed accelerator program, Accelerate Baltimore, a coworking space open to innovative individuals and teams, Beehive Baltimore and a pre-accelerator program, Pioneer Baltimore. The ETC promotes economic development, providing business, technical, and networking connections to help these companies grow. Since 1999, the ETC has provided assistance to over 450 companies, 85% of which are still in business, creating more than 2,500 jobs and raising more than $2.4 Billion in outside funding.

Defining Success with GunBail and Reciprocare

Everyone’s definition of success varies because we all have different goals. Here’s what two 2017 Accelerate Baltimore cohort members, Trevor Brooks of GunBail and Charlene Brown of Reciprocare, have to say about the concept of success.

 

GunBail

AB: Trevor, tell us a little bit about you as a person. Where did the idea for GunBail come from?

GunBail: My name is Trevor Brooks. Well, gun violence is personal to me. I’m the product of the Inner City of Baltimore. I’ve been a ward of the state since I was 9 years old, so I’ve always self-taught to get by. As a teenager, I was convicted for a gun-related crime, and that basically changed my life. From that day on, I decided to do something to change the future of my community so that young people don't have to go through the same thing I did.

I think local youth are misguided, or for that matter, unguided. I see it clearly- fewer guns means less crimes. Young people who are killing each other are doing that as a result of access to illegal guns. I just want to change the lives people who don't have the means to do it for themselves because society overlooks them.

AB: So what does GunBail do?

GunBail: We create a database of illegal guns, so we can track — and prevent — the future proliferation of those guns. Our goal is to decrease gun violence because that will lead to a decrease in homicides since over 95% of gun homicides are committed with illegal guns. I’m concentrating on making a positive impact.

AB: Tell us about a time when you’ve maybe thought that you’ve failed. What were some lessons that you learned?

GunBail: In the beginning, I had to knock on doors basically. I knew I had to target politicians, and it was very hard to get meetings with them. It’s been a challenging journey because I’ve had to deal with three very different systems: the courts, the streets, and politics. But my motivation is if I don’t continue with this, then illegal gun violence will never stop. There’s nothing else on the market like GunBail. It really is my purpose.

I actually started out in New Jersey, but I got there during a time when they were changing their whole bail system, implementing a no cash bail system. We had difficulty there since we get illegal guns off the streets by exchanging those guns for bail for inmates in pretrial custody. I deflated after that and thought, am I doing the right thing?

When I came to Baltimore, I was able to connect with Ray Lewis, and get his support. That helped create GunBail’s credibility. Now there are tons of people like him who are ambassadors for GunBail, and I think we’re really getting somewhere.

AB: During your time in the Accelerate Baltimore program, what have you accomplished that you are most proud of?  

GunBail: Accelerate Baltimore has helped validate GunBail and it’s mission in the eyes of the local political structure. We’re now seen as a valuable startup. Plus, the ETC connected us to the Mayor’s office, and helped us gain exposure within various political circles. I’ve truly loved this experience.

To learn more about GunBail, visit the website.
 

Reciprocare

AB: Who is Charlene Brown? Tell us a little bit about you as a person.

Reciprocare: I’m from New York City, I’m married, and I’m a public health doctor with 15 years of public health programing experience both global and domestic. I’ve helped shape policy and design implementation, and I’ve been overseeing interventions to help improve condition of life for poor people.

AB: Can you tell us more about your professional background?

Reciprocare: The subjects I’ve worked with the most are HIV prevention and care, tuberculosis, and drug development — working to keep drug patients safe. I’ve also worked with chronic disease prevention and STDs. About 10 years ago, I created a public health consulting company which was my first attempt at entrepreneurship. There, I worked a lot on global HIV prevention and care. That strife of entrepreneurship was honestly accidental, but I guess that’s when the seed was planted. In 2012, I was taught ideas foundation of entrepreneurship and business, and that really shifted how I thought of my career.

AB: Where did the idea for Reciprocare come from? What’s your inspiration?

Reciprocare: My friend and mentor Marcus Scott was a nonprofit creator, and he was truly a serial entrepreneur. He believed he didn't know everything, but found people who did to help him carry out the various ideas he had. I was very much influenced by the way he exemplified how you can move from public service to entrepreneurship, and the way he proved how they can work together. After he passed away, I decided to pursue Reciprocare and the entrepreneurial spirit in me to honor his memory and what he taught me.  

AB: What does success mean to you? In other words, when will you be able to look back on your life and think that you’ve been successful?

Reiprocare: My goal is to increase the capacity of the underemployed workforce to increase capacity of the industry to serve seniors. By eliminating underemployment in the workforce, we will enable nation to age with grace. I see Reciprocare truly having a social impact.

To learn more about Reciprocare, check out their website.

Reciprocare is in presales, looking for interested homecare agencies who want to grow their business by growing their workforce. If you are interested in working with Reciprocare, you can contact them at hello@reciprocare.co.

Productivity Tips for Founders

For startups, making the most of every hour in the day is essential for success. At the heart of this journey is, of course, the startup’s founder, who has to take care of everything ranging from IT to marketing, in most cases.

We’ve compiled a list of the most helpful productivity tips for founders to ensure that your 24 hours never go to waste.

 

1. Prioritize

When you're in charge of a startup , everything seems important. That’s why it’s essential to take time every morning to create a list tasks that need to be completed so you can lay out what’s most important, and what can wait. After creating your list, ask yourself the following questions about each task:

  1. Is this task urgent or important? Urgent tasks need immediate attention, while important tasks could be completed in a couple of days without any harm to your business.

  2. Which of these tasks is the most valuable to your business?

  3. Which tasks require the most effort? If there are two tasks which are both urgent, a great way to figure out which one to complete first is to see how long each task will take. That way, you can complete the shorter task first.

Critically thinking through every task that needs to be completed each day will keep you from falling behind.

 

2. Set and stick to deadlines

If you set strict deadlines for yourself with regards to each task, the likelihood of it being completed will increase significantly. With that being said, be realistic—don’t set yourself up to fail. If you know that a certain project will take you longer than you would like, give yourself more time complete it.

Try to finish each task in the time you’ve allotted, but if it’s not possible, don’t pressure yourself. You should, at the end of the day, always produce the best work.

 

3. Learn to delegate tasks

As a founder, it’s your job to make sure that your vision for your startup is maintained throughout your journey. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be the only person maintaining it, though. The most successful startups are the ones that have a solid foundation: a strong team.

Take some time finding people that you trust with your idea. Hire people that you see yourself getting along with, who bring different skills and can be an asset to your business. Then, when you have multiple tasks that need to be completed, assign them to members of your team based on their strengths and skills.

 

4. Analyze your efforts

By tracking what your startup is doing, not only will you have a list of accomplishments to motivate you on a rainy day, but you’ll also be able to assess which campaigns and methods worked well for you, and which ones you need to revisit to improve.

Analyzing your efforts is the best way to grow as a business. Plus, when it’s time to meet with your investors, having a list of ways you’ve improved operations will be a commendable effort in their eyes.

 

5 Freebies for Startups

Just because you’ve finally started the company you’ve been dreaming about, doesn’t mean you have the funds necessary to help your startup grow. Even so, we’ve compiled a list of resources to help you build a following on social media, get press attention, build a great mobile app, or even find captivating stock photos!

 

1. Freebbble

Thousands of high-quality design freebies.

Using freebbble, you’ll find fonts, icons, mobile templates, and wallpapers — all for free. Just make sure you pay attention to the licenses attached to each design so you know when and how to use it. On the site, it says that if the license on a design is unknown, it’s usually because the user forgot to mention it. All you have to do is ask them nicely about their design, and they’ll probably let you use it!

 

2. StockSnap

Costless and copyright-free images.

Looking for images to use in your campaigns and on your site that aren’t cheesy and are free of legal restriction? StockSnap holds thousands of beautiful photos that could be right for you! Make sure to also check out StockUp, TookAPic, Pexels, or Unsplash to find the perfect image.

 

3. Batch

Free engagement and communications tools for mobile developers.

Not only will Batch help your startup be smarter mobile developers, but it will also help you become better designers and marketers. It will help you optimize push notifications, target users more intelligently, and analyze data meaningfully.

 

4. Submit.co

Get press coverage for your startup.

Using Submit.co, arrange various media outlets by number of Twitter followers and Alexa rank to find the perfect source relating to your startup so they can help tell your story! Though you’ll still have to find specific journalists and contacts in most cases, this platform will help you figure out which publication you should reach out to.

 

5. Pablo by Buffer

Creative and engaging images for social media, quick.

Even if you’re not using Buffer to manage your startup’s social media, Pablo will help you create the perfect graphic to share on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest. Just find an image (or upload your own), and write up the information you want to share to your followers. You can also change the font, and even upload your startup’s logo!
 

*Written with the help of ProductHunt.

What’s the Job of a CEO?

Last week, we spoke to two members of the 2017 Accelerate Baltimore cohort — Angel Rich, CEO of Wealthy Life, and Eric Niu, CEO of Swaggle — about how they started their companies, and what they do as CEOs.

 

Wealthy Life

AB: Angel, tell us more about your background before you started WealthyLife.

Angel: I was global market research analyst, and I come from a family of life insurance agents. Growing up, I was bothered by the fact that people couldn't manage their own money. I had this burning passion within me when I was young to become an inventor. I wanted to create a solution to this money management problem, so first I worked in research to learn more about the problem, and then I started WealthyLife.

AB: What is WealthyLife for people who don’t know?

Angel: It’s a way for people to get financial literacy through online games and testing. We were actually named the Best Learning Game by the Department of Education in December when we competed for 6 hours against other up and coming educational games. It was crazy — I almost fainted! But it’s one of my proudest moments.

AB: What are some other recent accomplishments?

Angel: We recently got a $3 million contract with the Department of Health & Human Services. We’re going to be working with people who are on probation so that instead of just picking up trash, they do something meaningful by downloading our game and being educated on finances. I was also invited to the Top 30 Women in Tech conference by Google in New York, and I won that pitch competition!

AB: As the CEO, what’s your management style?

Angel: I’m very detail oriented. With my team, I always try to find the balance between being nice and still being detail-oriented. What I mean is my attitude with everyone will always be positive, but I want to make sure that people are being productive and completing their tasks correctly. I’m currently trying to build my communication skills as a manager so I can help everyone be accountable for their actions.

AB: What does your average day look like?

Angel: At the moment, it’s hectic. As soon as I wake up, I’m back to work, answering emails. Then I like to create around 3-5 to-do lists, re-prioritizing throughout the day as necessary. And I have set the goal of having at least one or two big accomplishments per day to move my company forward. I always want to be working hard! I have a couple of meetings throughout the day, and towards the end of my day, I like to learn something. Sometimes I watch gamification talks on YouTube, and sometimes, I research on how to improve my company. I want us to be the best.

To find out more about WealthyLife, visit their website, or follow them on social media.

 

Swaggle

AB: Eric, tell us more about yourself.

Eric: I’m the founder and CEO of Swaggle. I was born in China and raised in California, and I came to DC after college. I was one of the youngest political appointees in the Obama administration, and I worked there for two years innovating. I consulted with Deloitte for a while, and then I started Swaggle 2 years ago. I feel like my immigrant background really made entrepreneurship a part of my life, as well as fashion. It gave me grit.

AB: Did your political background influence the creation of Swaggle?

Eric: It did. I didn’t have much money to spend on clothes when I was working for the Obama Administration, let alone professional clothes, so I wanted to solve that problem. I realized at that time that the consignment shop industry is mostly for women, so I started trading clothes with my friends. Our goal with swaggle is to create a personalized shopping experience for men, and we want to save them time and money.

AB: As a CEO, what inspires and motivates you?

Eric: Matthew McConaughey said something that really resonates with me. He was asked who his hero is and he said, “It’s me in 10 years,” and I think similarly. I think of everything as a possibility. I do have some audacious goals, but I have them because I know I’ll figure out how to achieve them. I just surround myself with positive energy — that’s why I listen to so many Ted Talks and read so many books.

AB: Do you have a particular management style yet?

Eric: [Laughs] I think that’s an overstatement for startups. I think of it like we’re a team. We just hired a new intern, but I’ll never introduce her as our intern — she’s another member of the team. The thing is, you can never be the smartest, so you should aspire to surround yourself with smart people. I’m the type of person who wants to be collaborative and approachable, but I also enjoy setting ambitious timelines.

AB: What’s in the works for Swaggle?

Eric: We just got an amazing partnership with Reddz Trading — they’re a DC based consignment shop. I guess we have two goals right now: we want to make clothes swapping easier between customers, but we also want to make trading between brick and mortar stores and customers easier. We also had the idea of working with dry cleaners so when someone doesn’t claim their item in the period of time that the cleaners allow, we could take in those items. That way we can help create a new revenue stream for the dry cleaners too.

Swaggle is launching in Spring 2017. Check them out on their website, and on social media.

Learn to Love the Cohort

As you may have heard, Accelerate Baltimore’s 2017 cohort is compiled of six incredible startups. Each one is unique enough to one day be very influential in this world as it becomes more and more dependable on technology to carry out a myriad of tasks.

To introduce a few members of the 2017 cohort to the tech community, we thought we’d play a few rounds of speed-dating — Accelerate Baltimore style! Get a glimpse of what each cohort is about from their answers to these silly, yet somehow profound questions.

 

Question 1: Describe what your startup does in 5 words or less.

Arbit: Addictive Photo-Polling.

Chord: Omniscient, pet chaperoning smart-collar.

Gunbail: Takes illegal guns off streets.

Reciprocare: We help caregivers find jobs.

Swaggle: It helps men shop.

 

Question 2: If you were an animal, what would you be?

Arbit: An elephant. They possess incredible emotional intelligence and I think that trait is more important than anything when dealing with people.

Chord: A dog — obviously. There is an Aboriginal saying, "the dingo is what we would be if we were not what we are."

Gunbail: A falcon. On second thought, if I were an animal I would rather be an owl than a falcon.

Reciprocare: Elephant

Swaggle: I’d be a giraffe.

 

Question 3: Who’s your favorite cartoon character?

Arbit: Ash Ketchum is my favorite cartoon character. Pokemon was a big part of my childhood and my first introduction to something "mobile" growing up.  I've obsessed over creating things on mobile platforms ever since.

Chord: Bart Simpson.

Gunbail: Batman!

Reciprocare: Valerie From “Josie & The Pussycats”

Swaggle: I don’t really watch cartoons — I’m a fan of Ted Talks.

 

Question 4: What’s a unique or quirky habit of yours?

Arbit: I listen to a lot of movie score composers while working. My favorite composer of all time is Hans Zimmer (Inception, Interstellar, Batman, and a lot more).

Chord: Hmmm. I mouse with my left and right hands and type Dvorak. I'm an office utility man.

Gunbail: My mind never shuts off! Even when I'm in a conversation with someone else, my brain is simultaneously having 3 other conversations with itself.

Reciprocare: Listening to the same song over and over and over and over again

Swaggle: To reference Steve Aoki, “I'll sleep when I'm dead."

 

**

 

Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about Accelerate Baltimore’s 2017 cohort.

 

Accelerate Baltimore Announces the Six Startups Selected for 2017 Cohort

One Startup Will Be Selected to Receive $100,000 in Early Stage Seed Funding Upon Completion of the Accelerate Baltimore Program  

 

BALTIMORE, MD (January 5, 2017) – The ETC (Emerging Technology Centers), Baltimore City’s award-winning technology and innovation centers, announced today that the following six companies have been accepted into its Accelerate Baltimore™ 2017 program:

 

  • Arbit – a mobile social engagement tool built for professional athletes, celebrities, and brands to connect with their fan bases through photo-polling;
  • Barttron – makes Chord, a smart collar that uses only positive reinforcement to keep pets safe within invisible fences, establish indoor boundaries, and eliminate annoying behavior;
  • Gunbail  – a mobile application that reduces gun violence by incentivizing criminal offenders to surrender illegal guns in exchange for bail release;
  • Reciprocare a technology company that helps both paid caregivers and home care agencies to make more money by connecting them in support of fast-track hiring;
  • Swaggle – a mobile marketplace that easily connects men’s resale fashion sellers to interested buyers with a curated and personalized experience;
  • The Wealth Factory (WealthyLife) – a designer of financial literacy and workforce development education technology games that provides an engaging experience while users learn how to earn income, budget, and manage their finances.

 

“For this 2017 cohort, ETC saw the highest quality applications and the group of judges found it a challenge to select our six finalists,” said ETC’s President Deb Tillett. “The value the Accelerate Baltimore program provides to the cohort continues to resonate with applicants and graduates and reinforces Baltimore as the place for innovation, startups and technology.”

 

This year is the sixth year in which the ETC, in partnership with the Abell Foundation, will be running Accelerate Baltimore. Each of the six companies above will be awarded $25,000 in seed funding and four months of programming supplied by the ETC.

 

“Over the last six years, the Accelerate Baltimore competition has enhanced the visibility of Baltimore as a great place to start and expand a business,” said Robert C. Embry, Jr., President of the Abell Foundation. “The program takes small companies with big potential and offers them a valuable on-ramp to refine their products and attract customers, all of which has led to successful follow-on investment and job creation for the City of Baltimore.”

 

In addition, one Accelerate Baltimore company will be awarded an additional $100,000 following successful completion of the program. Last year, the additional funding was awarded to mybestbox, a consumer products and analytics platform that helps people jump-start and maintain healthier lifestyles in a convenient and affordable way. After looking extensively at early stage funding trends in the 2015 market, ETC concluded that this additional funding would enhance the probability that these companies would create success.  This conclusion was proven true when mybestbox was able to move their business forward by and moving into a new warehouse to help improve product fulfillment and by establishing a clearer operations plan resulting in growing customer acquisition.

 


In just four months, Accelerate Baltimore aims to close the gap between innovative ideas and the ability to get to market quickly. In addition to the seed funding, these companies will receive free office space, access to a high-level advisory team, a “hands-on” instructional program, mentors and connections to potential investors, partners and resources.

 

“Accelerate Baltimore’s track record of helping early stage companies demonstrates how a small infusion of capital along with expert guidance and connections can help a company succeed and grow,” said William H. Cole, president & CEO of the BDC.  “As ETC is a venture of the Baltimore Development Corporation, we work closely together to ensure that its member companies have access to all the resources the City offers.”

 

To date, 28 companies have gone through the Accelerate Baltimore program. Of the $800,000 awarded from the Abell Foundation to Accelerate Baltimore companies to date, Accelerate Baltimore graduates have raised an additional $11.9 million in following on funding. The Accelerate Baltimore program ends with Investor Pitch Night on April 19, 2017, an event hosted by ETC and attended by angel investors, venture capitalists, the press, and the Baltimore tech community at large. Companies that have successfully graduated from Accelerate Baltimore include Allovue, NewsUp, PrintLess Plans, Loople, Fusiform, Point3 Security, ClassTracks, and Brinkbit, among others.


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About ETC (www.etcbaltimore.com)

The ETC, a venture of the Baltimore Development Corporation, is a 501(c) (3) technology and innovation center focused on growing early-stage companies. The ETC provides four programs for entrepreneurs: a tech focused incubator, Incubate Baltimore, a seed accelerator program, Accelerate Baltimore, a co-working space open to innovative individuals and teams, Beehive Baltimore and now the newest pre-accelerator program, Pioneer Baltimore. The ETC promotes economic development, providing business, technical, and networking connections to help these companies grow. Since 1999, the ETC has provided assistance to over 500 companies, 85% of which are still in business, creating more than 3,000 jobs and raising more than $2.4 Billion in outside funding.

Accelerate Baltimore was a wake-up call for Fusiform

We met with Fusiform co-founder and CEO, Param Shah, to talk about Fusiform’s progress since their graduation from Accelerate Baltimore. Fusiform was part of the 2015-2016 AB group. The startup began about one and a half years ago, but the idea was born when Shah met Alex Mathews at Johns Hopkins where they were both undergraduates. At the time, Shah had created a non-profit called the Lotus Life Foundation, which was founded to help reduce the stigma against disabilities in children in rural areas of India by providing medical services. Meanwhile, Mathews was using 3D printing technology at Johns Hopkins to create cranial implants. It wasn’t long after meeting that Mathews approached Shah with the idea that would become Fusiform.

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Fusiform uses 3D scanning technology and their own algorithm to customize orthopedic devices for customers. Mathews and Shah realized in their work that it wasn’t the devices themselves that were the issue but the problem lay in creating custom products that were low-cost and fast to make. Fusiform’s work with mass customization has led them to mass customization beyond the orthopedics market. Now, they are focusing on disrupting the manufacturing field with their ideas of mass customization.

 

Last year, Shah and Mathews heard about Accelerate Baltimore from Seal-Bin Han, Co-Founder of 2014-2015 AB graduate FitMango (formerly known as ShapeU). Fusiform found Accelerate Baltimore provided resources and opportunities that were unparalleled. In the Accelerate Baltimore program, Fusiform got their first real exposure to entrepreneurship and industry professionals. This was, in a way, a wake-up call for them; they realized: “We’re not a project anymore. This is a company.” In our meeting, Shah said that funding through AB is one thing, but understanding startups from the view of other entrepreneurs is invaluable. Accelerate Baltimore, Shah said, really pushes the envelope of the entrepreneurial scene.

 

As for the future, Shah says that Fusiform is looking to really disrupt manufacturing, which is one of the longest standing establishment without major disruption so far. Right now, they have a partnership with AutoDesk for the design aspect of their work, and they look forward to partnering with other groups in the future for their 3D printing and distribution components. In the near future, Fusiform will also be relocating to their own place in Mount Vernon with their team of 15 people.

 

Lastly, Shah had some advice for those applying to Accelerate Baltimore this year. He said, “A lot of startups think when they start that they can handle it on their own. It is important to believe in your own abilities but you should also be open to sharing these abilities. Accelerate Baltimore gives important feedback and shares experiences of other entrepreneurs that will help your startup grow.”

 

Apply to Accelerate Baltimore by December 1st!

How Accelerate Baltimore was an Invaluable Stepping Stone for mybestbox

Mybestbox, a 2016 Accelerate Baltimore graduate, grew out of Co-Founder and CEO Fatima Dicko’s Baltimore apartment into the warehouse they have now on Pulaski Street. Mybestbox (MBB) moved into their new space this past summer. I spoke recently with Ryan Middleton who is Co-Founder, Counsel, and Chief Marketing Officer for MBB. I wanted to know more about MBB, what they learned from Accelerate Baltimore, and how they have grown over the past year.

Here’s some background on the company for those of you unfamiliar with MBB. When you subscribe to Mybestbox, you receive a monthly box that contains products from various companies to help you live a healthy lifestyle. These monthly boxes are each based on a different theme. For example, there is the mybestburn box, which includes items that promote the burning of calories through exercise. There is also the mybeststep box, which is completely foot-centric. Middleton’s personal favorite box though? The first mybestsleep box. Of course, if you are not interested in a monthly subscription, there are one-time gift box options.

So what makes MBB different from other monthly subscription boxes? It’s the company’s dedication to spreading an accessible healthy lifestyle by delivering wholesome products right to the customer’s doorstep.  

MBB started as an answer to the question: “How do you deliver health and wellness to people?” Dicko and Middleton’s resolution was to pack it in a box and put it on the customer’s doorstep. With Dicko’s vision of delivering health in a box and Middleton’s legal skills, MBB was on its way.

In 2016, MBB applied to Accelerate Baltimore. Dicko and Middleton knew that Accelerate Baltimore would provide them not only with funds, but with contacts, mentorship, and credibility with the Baltimore community. Since graduating from the program, MBB has moved into a warehouse space (instead of Dicko’s apartment), expanded their subscriber base, and received more and more offers from companies who want their quality products to be included in MBB boxes.

MBB says that learned invaluable lessons from their time in the AB program. Middleton said that one of the most important things they learned is how to work in the space that they were given. They also were able to take away key advice from Deborah Tillett and other mentors who know who the key players in the Baltimore area.

So what’s the next step for MBB? Middleton says that they are looking to continue their growth and evolve their business model. They aspire to grow with their customers. MBB is not content to stay at the level they are at now and will continue to push themselves, evolve, and disrupt the subscription box field.

Lastly, MBB has some advice for those applying to Accelerate Baltimore this year: “Be thorough and don’t hedge your bets. You’ll need to think big.”

Accelerate Baltimore Grads Advice & Takeaways

Is your startup in the perfect position to go through an accelerator program? Is it an idea that you have been highly considering and believe that you’re now ready to take this next step? If so, I advise you to continue reading for some advice and takeaways from startups who were once in the exact position you are.

Accelerate Baltimore is a 13 week long program that gives six companies the opportunity to move their business forward with the support of mentors, industry experts, and an entire startup community. Since 2012 Accelerate Baltimore has had a total of 28 program graduates who know first hand the ins and outs of what to expect and get out of this program. We took it upon ourselves to put together some of the best advice and takeaways from 5 Accelerate Baltimore graduates.

 

ACCELERATE BALTIMORE TAKEAWAYS:  

 

Ryan Sears, CEO of SurveySnap

Beyond the much needed infusion of cash, the Accelerate Baltimore program gave our company credibility, key introductions and reduced our time to market by providing education on many aspects of launching a high-growth startup company."

 

Evan Dornbush, CEO of Point 3 Security

"The biggest takeaway for Point3 was that AB forces founders to focus.
Entrepreneurs don't often have a staff to outsource every task and
function required to run a business.  Therefore the founders are
scattered across many areas from tech and business development, sales
and marketing, HR and finance, accounts payable and receivable, and of course building furniture and inspiring a culture of success.

AB suppresses the day-to-day chaos in favor of branding, partnership
development, modelling sales cycles; topics that support long term
growth and success."

 

ACCELERATE BALTIMORE ADVICE:

 

Andrew Schuster, CEO of NewsUp

"My biggest advice would be to ask for feedback on your pitch early and often to make sure you can easily explain your vision to others."

 

Paige Cantlin, CEO of Full Society

   

1.Make a killer presentation and know it inside out.

2. Know the answer to all the questions you can think of. That shows you've thought this through.

3. Do your homework! Take a tour of the ETC or talk to some of the past mentors/program managers. Make sure this is a commitment you are really willing to make!

"

Phil Dimuro, CEO & Co-founder of Loople

"When it comes to Accelerate Baltimore it all comes down to two things, resourcefulness & motivation. Accelerate Baltimore presents so many great possibilities to learn that it's hard to minimize it down into a short 4 month period. First piece of advice is attend everything. The classes, the nightly meetups, the external events, everything helps you grow so take it all in and enjoy. Next be resourceful & think creatively. At the end of the day your time is limited and you need to prioritize your goals and start working immediately. Finally motivation. My cofounder and I spent many late nights at the ETC during the program and the only way that doesn't get tiring is when you are fully committed to your idea and have the determination to make it happen. There is so much to learn that you need to always be open minded and looking for opportunities for personal & company growth."
 

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If you are interested in applying to Accelerate Baltimore, simply apply here. The application deadline is Dec 1, so don’t wait!

Interested in more information? Join us at ETC for an info session on Thursday, Oct. 26 from 9am-10am; RSVP for the info session here. Of course there are other info sessions if you are unable to make this Thursday. They are as follows:

 

  • Oct 27 @ 12pm-1pm
  • Location: Impact Hub
  • RSVP

 

  • Nov 9 @ 10am-11am
  • Location: Spark
  • RSVP

 

  • Nov 10  @ 4:30pm-5:30pm
  • Location: FastForward
  • RSVP

 

  • Nov 15  @ 9am-10am
  • Location: Betamore
  • RSVP

 

  • Nov 17  @ 12pm-1pm
  • Location: A-Level Capital (Carey Business School)
  • RSVP

 

ETC Company, ClassTracks, Wins 1st Place in the Lean Lab Fellowship

ETC company and Accelerate Baltimore 2016 graduate, ClassTracks, spent three months with their heads down, working while participating in the Lean Lab Fellowship in Kansas City after the close of the Accelerate Baltimore program. Last week, ClassTracks won 1st place and took home $25,000 from Lean Lab. Using the Village Capital rubric, each company in the Fellowship ranked their peers on 6 categories of investability and impact. Their colleagues were impressed with their hustle and flexibility, as well as the traction they had been able to build since starting the Fellowship.

In addition to the $25,000, the Lean Lab has also provided ClassTracks with invaluable connections that resulted in 2 sales and a number of additional leads in Kansas City, a market they would not have otherwise been able to tap into this early.

“The $10,000 that we received from the start we’ve spent on improving user experience for the students,” said Lida Zlatic, CEO of Class Tracks. “With the $25,000, we’ll be doing the same thing but for teachers. When (an app is) easier for teachers, it’ll get in the hands of more students. We’re really excited about that.” Lida was recently quoted in Startland, Kansas City’s Home for Innovation News.

ClassTracks was also chosen by the Baltimore Social Innovation Journal to participate in a cohort of social innovators in Baltimore. In addition to mentorship and support, ClassTracks will receive a $2,000 grant from the Warnock Foundation. The company plans to use the grant to fund ClassTracks for 200 students in Baltimore City Schools.

The ETC is proud of the progress ClassTracks has made since joining the ETC in 2015. Keep up the great work!

 

ETC’S Accelerate Baltimore Announces Sixth Year for Seed Fund Accelerator

BALTIMORE (October 5, 2016) – Today the ETC (Emerging Technology Centers), Baltimore City’s award-winning technology and innovation centers, announced that the Accelerate Baltimore (AB) program will run for its sixth consecutive year. The Abell Foundation has awarded ETC $250,000 in funding for this seed accelerator for the second year in a row.  Based on the model of last year’s successful program, each of this year’s AB winners will be awarded $25,000 in seed stage funding, but one company will be awarded an additional $100,000 in follow on funding at the end of the program.    

“ETC is aware of the significant impact on the economy of Baltimore that startup companies can have and is committed to providing the best services, most impactful programs, the critical collaboration and ultimately the access to capital that is needed for success,” said ETC President, Deborah Tillett. “We have seen the importance of Accelerate Baltimore and its seed stage funding to the success of startups in the city”.  

Accelerate Baltimore aims to close the gap between innovative ideas and the ability to get to market quickly. In addition to the seed funding, these companies will receive free office space, access to a high-level advisory team, a “hands-on” instructional program, mentors and connections to potential investors, partners and resources.     

“Baltimore is becoming noticed nationally for its ability to attract talent and capital and the ETC’s Accelerate Baltimore is one of the premier programs fueling that growth,” said Robert C. Embry, Jr., president of the Abell Foundation.  

“The growth of the AB program over the past six years demonstrates the strength of the entrepreneurial and startup climate in Baltimore,” said William H. Cole, president & CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC). “As BDC’s key mission is to retain and expand City businesses, initiatives like the ETC are critical to our success. We work closely with all of our ventures to provide the necessary support and resources to help businesses grow and thrive in Baltimore.”  

To date, 28 companies have gone through the AB program and successfully launched their products. The AB program ends with Demo Day, attended by angel investors, venture capitalists and media. Last year, judges awarded the additional $100,000 to MyBestBox, a consumer products and data analytics platform, which helps people maintain healthier lifestyles in a convenient and affordable way. Other AB graduates include Fusiform, Loople, Brinkbit, Allovue, Survey Snap, and NewsUp. Of the $800,000 awarded from the Abell Foundation to Accelerate Baltimore companies to date, AB graduates have raised an additional $11.9 million in following on funding.   

Applications will be available (at www.acceleratebaltimore.com) starting October 12th and will close on December 1, 2016.

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About ETC (www.etcbaltimore.com)

The ETC, a venture of the Baltimore Development Corporation, is a 501(c) (3) technology and innovation center focused on growing early-stage companies. The ETC provides four programs for entrepreneurs: a tech focused incubator, Incubate Baltimore, a seed accelerator program, Accelerate Baltimore, a coworking space open to innovative individuals and teams, Beehive Baltimore and now their newest pre-accelerator program, Pioneer Baltimore. The ETC promotes economic development, providing business, technical, and networking connections to help these companies grow. Since 1999, the ETC has provided assistance to over 350 companies, 85% of which are still in business, creating more than 2,500 jobs and raising more than $2.2 Billion in outside funding.

 

What Makes Accelerators and Pre-Accelerators Effective

You may be familiar with our Accelerate Baltimore program, but do you know what makes accelerators effective?

Well firstly, startup accelerators help both investors and new entrepreneurs by providing investors with important information on startups in their programs. Jonathan Ortmans explained, “Accelerators provide those financiers [business angels and VCs] a service in many ways, through their structures and processes that allow them to make these types of decisions, and push ‘investor-ready’ startups further down the pipeline.”

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs put out a major research report titled, “What’s Working in Startup Acceleration: Insights from Fifteen Village Capital Programs” in March of this year. They assembled a panel of Village Capital program experts and asked them to brainstorm all of the possible reasons for the differences between high-performing and low-performing startups in accelerators. They then took the top 7 predictions given by the experts and then used quantitative and qualitative methods to see which of the 7 predictions were supported by their data and which were not. Here are the predictions that they found were supported:

  • Partner quality improves program performance

    • Relative to those that worked on the low-performing programs, these organizations were described as “engaged”; “putting entrepreneurs first”; and “contributing to program content.”

  • Time spent on program-related activities lowers program performance

    • Rather than spending as much time as possible delivering program content, high-performing programs tended to set aside more time for entrepreneurs to work on their own. According to program managers, the percentage of time spent working with other entrepreneurs and/or mentors (versus working on their own) was 53% for the high-performing programs and 83% for low-performing programs.

  • Quality of the applicant pool improves program performance

    • The high-performing programs had smaller applicant pools on average. However, their applicants tended to have more intellectual property and more educational, entrepreneurial and senior management experiences.

  • Mentor quality improves program performance

    • High-performing programs connected entrepreneurs with a larger number of mentors. However, this did not translate into more time spent with mentors overall.

You might be thinking, but what if my startup isn’t ready for an accelerator yet? Well, that is what pre-accelerators like Pioneer Baltimore are for. These pre-accelerator programs are ideal for first-time entrepreneurs and recent college graduates. Pre-accelerators create programming for those very early in the startup process- the idea stage.

What is a pre-accelerator exactly? Here are some key goals to get you started:

  1. Provide tools and knowledge

  2. Find problem/solution fit

  3. Foster entrepreneurial mindset

  4. Build the local ecosystem

  5. Get into accelerators

(from Startup Pirates)


Pioneer Baltimore is an 8 week pre-accelerator program designed to help future entrepreneurs turn their ideas into action. During the program, you will be paired with a mentor who will  provide you with advice. Whether you want to develop a business plan or create a prototype, Pioneer Baltimore can help you on your way. Take the first step and apply today!

Accelerate Baltimore 2016 Grads: Staying Connected with the Cohort

It’s been an exciting year for Accelerate Baltimore. Applications opened for the 2016 cohort in October of 2015 and AB received over 100 applicants. The competition was high, but the six selected created a great cohort of diverse founders and industries.

In case you’re just tuning in now, our 2016 cohort consisted of the following tech startups:  Loople, MyBestBox, Point3 Security, ClassTracks, RAKKOON, and Fusiform.

These 6 companies each received $25,000 from the Abell Foundation in seed funding and participated in an intensive four month program focusing on the next step for their businesses. The program concluded with two events, Investor Pitch Night and Demo Day, and one company receiving additional funding through the Accelerate Baltimore program.

Investor Pitch Night

Accelerate Baltimore’s Investor Pitch Night was held on April 27, 2016 at the Single Carrot Theater in Hampden, Baltimore.

With an audience of 70 investors, Investor Pitch Night created the ideal opportunity for the cohort, not only because of the future investment opportunities in the room but for the cohort to pitch the selection committee for an additional $100,000. After the pitches were finished, a panel of 9 judges deliberated and came to a conclusion that MyBestBox would be the winner.

Demo Day

This was a big year for Accelerate Baltimore as the 5th cohort completed the program.

The event consisted of the cohort demo’ing their products, networking with the Baltimore community, and presenting what they’ve accomplished over the four month period.

In addition, three Accelerate Baltimore grads, Brinkbit, NewsUp and Full Society, returned to take part in the demos as well. With a great turn out, great food from the Sunshine Grille, and a Pixilated Photobooth, the Accelerate Baltimore 5 Year Celebration was a great success for all who participated and attended.

Now that it's been over a month since the completion of our 2016 program - the big question is, what is the cohort up to now? Take a look:

MyBestBox

Since being awarded the additional funding from Accelerate Baltimore, MyBestBox has joined ETC Incubate Baltimore program and moved into the ETC Haven Campus and their own warehouse!

ClassTracks

ClassTracks applied and was accepted to participate in the Lean Lab fellowship program in Kansas City, MO. Cofounders Lida Zlatic and Thierry Uwilingiyimana will spend four weeks at the Lean Lab and receive $10,000 with the chance at another $25,000 at the end of the program.

Fusiform

Since the program ended, Fusiform has actively been fundraising. They also were seen taking the stage at this Summer’s MAVA TechBUZZ event.

Loople

Loople recently pitched to a team of investors at Baltimore’s Piranha Tank. They were also one of five ETC companies to be nominated for this year’s Incubator Company of the Year Award. Looking to download Loople? You can find the app on both Google Play and Apple App Stores. 

Point3 Security

Point3 Security continues to move their business forward and was one of 5 ETC companies nominated for Incubator Company of the Year Award. Point3 also received the Cyber Innovator Award at TechAwards. 

RAKKOON

Continuing to grow and move their business forward, RAKKOON has joined the ETC Incubate Baltimore program and moved into the ETC Haven Campus.
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Accelerate Baltimore™ is an initiative of the ETC (Emerging Technology Centers), Baltimore’s award winning incubator, and The Abell Foundation.