Get to know Accelerate Baltimore 2018: ClearMask

Accelerate Baltimore ‘18 cohort member ClearMask has been busy these past few weeks not only with the AB program, but also as they recently won $25k from the Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab and $15k from Village Capital! Allysa Dittmar, ClearMask's co-founder and President, recently spoke to us about the mission of the ClearMask and its importance in the healthcare industry. Check out the story below!

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1. Explain what ClearMask does. What's the mission of the company?

We are making healthcare more human by developing the ClearMask, the first, full-face transparent surgical mask. The ClearMask can help reduce medical errors from miscommunication while increasing hospital disability compliance and both patient and provider satisfaction.


2. What problem are you solving and for whom?

The need for human connection in healthcare drives the ClearMask. Currently, standard and semi-transparent surgical masks block facial expressions, critical language markers, and other visual cues, creating a disconnect and increasing the risk of miscommunication.

These masks especially pose a barrier for those who heavily depend on visual communication, including deaf and hard of hearing patients like me, children, older people, and those who may not speak the same language as their doctors. For everyone, the ability to see and express facial expressions helps improve understanding, reduce anxiety, and develop more human connections within healthcare and beyond.


3. Discuss your career/background prior to starting ClearMask. Why did you want to start a company of your own?

I am a health communication and public policy professional with a specific focus on advancing public health and accessibility initiatives. As a recent politically-appointed policy manager at the Maryland Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, I worked on policy initiatives to improve healthcare and mental health access for deaf and hard of hearing patients.

After having experienced an adverse surgical experience a few years ago, I co-founded the ClearMask to help improve communication, comfort, and connection in healthcare. My experience of being unable to fully communicate and connect with medical staff is very common; my team members and many others have also had negative experiences with standard surgical masks in healthcare. We believe it’s time to bring the human connection back in hospitals while ensuring optimal protection and safety.


4. What motivates you?

80% of deaf individuals are either unemployed or underemployed due to pervasive societal barriers. Innovative startups and small businesses like ours are starting to become a significant source of the community’s economic engine and empowerment.


5. As a founder, how do you deal with stress and challenges?

The hardest thing is to say “no.” It is important to be able to turn down opportunities to avoid burnout. For me, it helps to look at the company’s long term goals (as well as mine) so that I can say yes to opportunities that fit with my goals and values. I also build in opportunities in my daily schedule to try new things and enjoy my life. Don’t say “no” to everything!


6. Why do you like coming to work everyday?

While I deeply believe in the ClearMask and its mission, my team makes the effort worth it. The passion, energy, and talent of this team is incredible! We’ve also focused on developing a safe, supportive, and accessible environment for our team members.


7. What have you learned from Accelerate Baltimore so far? How is the accelerator helping you?

Mentorship is key! There’s so much you can learn from a mentor’s experience and insights rather than books and classes. 80% of CEOs receive some form of mentorship and 93% of startups believe that mentorship is instrumental to success. Accelerate Baltimore has been incredible with their mentorship program — we’ve been able to access seasoned mentors from virtually every field out there, including marketing, finance, operations, and sales.

How Harbor Designs & Manufacturing Is Transforming the Tech Community

This year, Accelerate Baltimore is lucky to have the support of Harbor Designs & Manufacturing. We got to understand the work that they do and hear their advice for early stage startups below! Learn more about how they can help your startup by visiting their website


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Accelerate Baltimore: What does Harbor Designs & Manufacturing do?

Harbor Designs & Manufacturing: Harbor Designs & Manufacturing helps startups and multinational brands with new product research and development, prototyping, and turn key contract manufacturing solutions. Whether you have detailed design packages or just conceptual sketches, we custom tailor our services to suit our individual client’s needs, empowering them to turn their innovative ideas into cost effective products sold around the world. As an ISO 9001 & ISO 13485 certified design and manufacturing firm, we serve clients in the medical device, consumer product, railroad, and defense markets. Services include industrial design, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, programing, app development, prototyping, FDA & regulatory guidance, worldwide vendor management, technical and clean room assembly, warranty repair service, quality assurance, and logistics and inventory control.


AB: What have been some big milestones for the company in the past 6-12 months?

HD&M: With sales on track to double from the year before, Harbor Designs & Manufacturing has been in a high growth phase. We have added team members to procurement, engineering, quality assurance and assembly are actively interviewing for dynamic individuals to further add to the team. We have also expanded and built out our cGMP facility from 12,000 sq ft to nearly 36,000 square feet building out new clean rooms, wet labs, and resident spaces for synergistic companies who see a benefit in being co-located with their engineering and manufacturing partner.  

Doubling down on our team-based approach, we have been actively forging strong partnerships with synergistic industry experts, service providers, maker-spaces and incubators like ETC. We find that not only does this collaborative approach break down traditional siloed barriers, it makes our entire region stronger and more attractive and inspiring to budding entrepreneurs looking to bring revolutionary products to market. By connecting our clients to the tools and resources outside of Harbor Designs & Manufacturing’s capabilities, we are offering our clients all of the resources they need to launch, sustain, and scale their companies and their products penetration in the marketplace.


AB: Where do you see the business in the next year? In the next five years?

HD&M: With considerable interest and successful product launches in the medical device industry, consumer market, railroad, and defense industry we have been actively spinning up teams with deep domain expertise in each industry sector. As our teams of industry experts grow in each market segment, we will be differentiating the Harbor Designs & Manufacturing brand into industry focused market segments.


AB: How has technology impacted your business?

HD&M: In recent years, technological advances have forever changed the way new products are brought to market and new, more powerful tools are coming online every day. With slide rules and hand drawn parts the industry standard just decades ago, we are working in an exciting new world of technological advances that’s changing every day. Powerful CAD software continues to push new boundaries allowing us to not only design products faster, but analyze things like stress in parts and even how molten plastic will flow through molds. By incorporating developments in virtual reality we are able to experience interaction with products before we make a single thing. We convert physical objects into data on computer screens with advances in 3D scanning, and turn raw data into physical objects with radical advances in additive manufacturing. We use new plug and play technologies like Arduinos and Raspberry Pi’s to circumvent months of electrical engineering and in some cases uses them not only in development, but finished products. From dramatic refinements in tried and true production processes to new technologies allowing us to do things like robotic assembly, printing conductive inks, and electro spinning nano fibers, production technologies are advancing at a logarithmic rate allowing us to make thing faster and better than ever before and in some cases in ways that just weren’t possible before.

In addition to benefiting from technological advances, we are helping to bring new revolutionary technologies to market. We are working on quantum based super cameras, bioreactors that grow cells and turn those cells into factories producing vaccines, robotic devices, encryption technologies, and new tools that revolutionize surgeries. With advances in web based communications and tracking tools we are more organized and better connected than ever before. We pride ourselves on being in the business of bringing new technologies to market using all of latest technologies to do it.


AB: Any advice for startups that are in the earlier stage?

HD&M: Persistence. The road ahead is paved with twists and turns you can’t anticipate, but success is tied to how you show up every day. Hold yourself accountable to the goals you set and how well you respond to them but forgive yourself for inevitable missteps and right your course immediately. And take the time to learn from those that have gone before. Identify successes of similar companies and cultivate mentors. Learn from their successes, missteps and course corrections so you can incorporate what they’ve done well and avoid the pitfalls. You are incredibly fortunate to live in an age and ecosystem actively designing itself to facilitate your success. Learn what resources and tools are available and know how to ask for help and when to switch gears. It’s a lot easier to map out your course before you set off down the road at 100 mph so take the time in the early stage to anticipate and plan for the road ahead. Challenge your own assumptions, learn how to tell your story, and learn how to inspire other people to want to be a part of it. When you’ve poked and plugged every hole in it you can come out knowing exactly what you’re selling, how you’re going to get there, why it's needed and how it makes financial sense to you and your customers, you will be well on your path to success.


AB: Why did you choose to support Accelerate Baltimore?

HD&M: With the very real success stories coming out of ETC and the Accelerate Baltimore program, Harbor Designs & Manufacturing has been a longtime supporter and proponent of the work they do. We refer our clients to them because we know firsthand how good the ETC team is at connecting the dots our innovators need to succeed. There are so many good ideas out there that never reach their potential because having a good idea is only a small part of the equation. The ETC and Accelerate Baltimore program administrators are experts at assessing their member’s strengths and deficiencies, matching them with mentors and service providers, and training them on the things all startups need to know so they can hit the ground running in the right direction. For all of our clients who have worked out of ETC and for those that have been accepted into the Accelerate Baltimore program, we are eternally grateful for the work they do helping to transform Baltimore City into a dynamic, tech-savvy ecosystem and startup generating machine.



Get to know Accelerate Baltimore 2018: Minnowtech

This week, we asked the founder of Minnowtech, Suzan Shahrestani, a couple of questions about the company. Learn about what their product does and how they got started below!

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Accelerate Baltimore: Tell us a little bit about Minnowtech. What is your vision for the company?

Suzan Shahrestani: Minnowtech hopes to keep people fishing with the tools and data they need to monitor their personal fishing efforts. We’ve developed a product that helps people who fish instantly measure and log their catch, requiring no external references from a photo.


AB: Why did you apply to Accelerate Baltimore?

SS: As a graduate student getting my PhD in Fisheries Science, I imagined three paths for myself after graduation: (1) Teaching back everything I’ve learned, (2) continue to conduct research and feed my curiosity, or (3) go out and apply what I’ve learned. My team and I have started on the science application path through Accelerate Baltimore and entering the private sector with hopes of improving fish populations through collaboration.


AB: Who is your competition?

SS: People who fish most often measure their catch with a measuring board. However, there are also apps like Fishbrain that are used for logging catch and social engagement though there is no measuring component. FishFigure is an app that allows for fish measurement, but it requires a user calibration object and takes 30-40s to measure each fish, while our product is instant.


AB: Is there anything that keeps you up at night?

SS: I’m not an angler, but I’m just as private as one. Creating a product that exemplifies trust and privacy is a top priority. I think that’s particularly challenging these days, and I’m basing that on my own high-standards with regard to my personal data. Thinking of ways to mitigate those challenges and build our company brand around trust definitely keeps me up at night!


AB: What's your company culture like?

SS: We are a bold group that values transparency and sincerity. We hope to extend that to our product and customers.


AB: What have you learned from Accelerate Baltimore so far?

SS: I’ve had so many light bulbs light up through Accelerate Baltimore by leaning on the network of strong-willed, smart, and responsive mentors.  It’s helped me recognize my limited perspective and encourages me to stay flexible and open to new goals and opportunities as Minnowtech swims on. 

Guess the AB Cohort Member

Can you take a look at the emojis below and guess which AB company they describe? Use the company descriptions here to help! Answers will be posted next week, so stay tuned!

1. 📱💻🎧👂👍👎

2. 🛍😍👌💄💅🏽📱

3. 🌃🌟🔆🏃‍♀️🎽👟

4. 👩‍💻📱🕴⛵️⚓️🤝

5. 👨‍⚕️🏥🌍📱💼💉

6. 🤒🗣👩‍⚕️❌👀😁

7. 📱🎣🐟📏🔬📝


Answer Key:

1. IsItGood

2. Well-Kept Beauty 

3. At Night Athletic 

4. Fleet by MasT

5. Sonavi Labs

6. ClearMask

7. Minnowtech 

Get to know Accelerate Baltimore 2018: Fleet by MasT and At Night Athletic

Our 2018 cohort is made up of some amazing companies. Join us on Wednesdays to learn about them! This week, we sat down with Dedrick Siddall of Fleet by MasT and Julie Polanowski of At Night Athletic to find out what their startups are all about. Check it out below!


AB: In 5–8 words, what does your company do?

Dedrick Siddall: MasT is a software development company. Fleet is our software — it helps members and organizations get the most out of each other.

Julie Polanowski: LED illuminated athletic wear with safety distress alarm/alerts.


AB: Why is now the time for your company to exist?

DS: Our target audience are member-based organizations. Those organizations are broad — it could be a neighborhood association, PTA, health club, country club, The Kennedy Center. We work with both for profit, and nonprofits — any business that has members. Those businesses have a lot of tools to engage membership, and millions of software companies provide them with those tools. No one is bringing that software together — but that’s where we come in. Fleet is a mobile app that provides members and managers with everything they need in one place. It’s particularly helpful because we can help smaller companies that don’t have huge IT budgets.

JP: Relatively recent LED light technology allows us to utilize a battery in ways that was not available in the past. This coupled with Bluetooth capabilities and growing self-awareness of people to live a healthy lifestyle shows that this is the time for us to exist.

AB: If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?

DS: I would be running the IT shop at some big bank. I used to build platforms to help big banks and asset managers understand their data better. Now, I’m trying to translate that experience to help small nonprofits and businesses.

JP: I would be growing my consulting business. I do various consulting on e-commerce software, branding, online presence and various marketing applications.


AB: How do you measure success?

DS: We go to work every day because we want to save the world from the belief that 80% of life is just showing up. If that were true, the phone in my pocket right now would be a Nokia. Success for us is helping our clients our clients do their job – every day – better than they did it yesterday. However they want to measure that. More revenue, more time to concentrate on their missions, more member involvement, better programming, whatever. When we do that, we all succeed.

JP: When I see our product being used as I drive home at night, I will know that we are successful.


AB: Where do you think your company will be next year?

DS: Fleet will hopefully have reached a state of product maturity — it will have shifted from launch mode to growth mode.

JP: Our company will be slowly growing. We don’t want to take on large amounts of debt, but we do want to use as much of our resources to provide as many people with our product as we can.


AB: What have the first few weeks of Accelerate Baltimore taught you?

DS: The latest lesson that has become apparent is that I need to get out from behind my desk. As the leader of a company that’s a few people and a bunch of contractors, I have to wear a lot of hats. I need to step out of developer role to a sales role.

JP: We have to look beyond just business. We have to understand what makes us At Night Athletic, why we are doing what we do, and build on that.


7 companies awarded $25,000 in seed funding and 13 weeks of programing to pitch for an additional $100,000 from the Abell Foundation.

BALTIMORE, MD (March 16, 2018) – The Emerging Technology Centers (ETC), Baltimore City’s award-winning technology and innovation centers, announced today that, for the first time, seven companies have been selected to participate in its Accelerate Baltimore™ (AB) 2018 program. Since its inception, AB has supported 34 companies that have raised $15.7 million in funding and created 95 jobs in the city. The 2018 cohort includes:

At Night Athletic – Illuminated athletic apparel focusing on safety with rechargeable, built-in LED lights and additional safety features, including distress alarm and associated mobile application to text emergency contacts a predefined message and GPS location;

ClearMask – The first full-face transparent surgical mask that makes healthcare more human by facilitating whole-face communication for more compassionate and inclusive connections;

Fleet by MasT – Fleet is an app and a platform that helps members get the most out of their memberships, and organizations get better engagement from their members.;

IsItGood – A social discovery and personalized recommendation platform for podcasts that lets users keep up with what their friends are listening to and find their next favorite podcast;

Minnowtech – An application and phone attachment that provides anglers with the technologies for real-time fish measurement with simplified analyses to track, interpret and understand their catch;

Sonavi Labs – A next generation smart stethoscope with on-board diagnostic capabilities that empowers community health workers and physicians alike by improving access to health care in non-traditional clinical environments and by allowing for home and remote patient monitoring.

Well-Kept Beauty – A mobile application helping ingredient-conscious consumers manage their skin health by monitoring and tracking cosmetic ingredients and expiration.

“ETC and Accelerate Baltimore continue to resonate and have an impact on Baltimore; the quality of this year’s applicants was striking and as a result, the Abell Foundation was generous enough to allow us to increase the total to seven companies in Accelerate Baltimore’s seventh cohort”, said Deb Tillett, president of ETC.

“We continue to be impressed by the creativity and ingenuity of these entrepreneurs,” said Robert C. Embry, Jr., President of the Abell Foundation. “They represent further proof that Baltimore is a hub for talent and innovation.”

Each of the seven companies will be awarded $25,000 in seed funding and 13 weeks of programming provided by the ETC. AB 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 access to over 16 mentors, ETC’s Incubate Baltimore program, weekly hands-on sessions with guest speakers and executive coaching from Leslie Woodward. The cohort will also have access to local investor readiness tool Pitch Creator, a course for entrepreneurs to learn and workshop how to create a pitch to investors.

In addition, one AB company will be awarded an additional $100,000 following successful completion of the program. Last year, the additional funding was awarded to Chord, a smart collar that uses only positive reinforcement to keep pets safe within invisible fences, establish indoor boundaries and help train pets. Chord used the funding to finish the prototype, sign up its first pet trainers for testing, establish manufacturing partners and create a “puppy” version of the collar.

"Accelerate Baltimore has become a valuable resource for the development and growth of entrepreneurs and start-ups in the City of Baltimore," said William H. Cole, president & CEO of BDC. "This program provides the right climate for start-ups to succeed, including access to capital and business advisors, which are vital to the process. These small businesses are gaining the tools they need to become sustainable and profitable ventures creating new employment opportunities in the city."

The AB program ends in June with Investor Pitch Night, 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, Arbit, Artichoke, Fusiform, Point3 Security, and Brinkbit, among others.

The AB program is sponsored by local businesses- Miles & Stockbridge, Think|Stack, Elluminis Consulting, Harbor Designs, Capital One and Foodify.


About ETC: (

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 9-week idea bootcamp powered by COSTARTERS, 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.

Hopkins class to boost Accelerate Baltimore alumnae's marketing efforts

By Morgan Eichensehr, Reporter

Baltimore Business Journal

February 20, 2018

A startup with local roots is getting a marketing and advertising boost from a class of Johns Hopkins University students.

Jetpack Inc. was founded by entrepreneur Fatima Dicko, who also founded Baltimore subscription box delivery venture mybestbox. Dicko went through the Emerging Technology Centers' Accelerate Baltimore program and secured early funding for mybestbox in 2016, before traveling to Stanford University for graduate school. At Stanford, Dicko came up with a new delivery service. With Jetpack, designated university students act as delivery agents for certain "essentials" college students may need at any time. A student can order products like toothpaste or phone chargers through the Jetpack app, and a delivery "Jetpacker" brings the product immediately.

Jetpack was launched on the Stanford campus last year, with goals of expanding to other campuses. And now, the startup is looking back to Baltimore for help with its expansion efforts.

The startup is now a "client" for this year’s Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications class at Hopkins. During the spring 2018 semester, the undergraduate class will serve as a full-service marketing agency called Hoptimize Advertising. It will research, develop and implement a marketing campaign for Jetpack, specifically for the Hopkins Homewood campus.

The budget for the campaign will be $2,500, and the goal is to secure 1,000 app downloads and increase brand awareness to 80 percent among the school's undergraduates.

Students will use surveys and in-depth interviews to gain market insights on the needs and behaviors of Hopkins students, then roll out their campaign based on a collaborative effort from several departments, including graphic design and finance.

Spencer Abrohms, a junior at Hopkins and co-manager of Hoptimize’s research department, said he was excited about the hands-on learning experience this partnership will provide.

“Many classes at Hopkins are very theoretical, so this class stands out for its practicality. It gives students a taste of what it’s like to work at a real-world ad agency,” Abrohms said in a statement. “While the resume-building aspects are obviously appealing, the class also provides leadership experience and the opportunity to work on client-based projects, which will be useful long after we graduate.”

The Inside Scoop on Accelerate Baltimore: Mentors Edition


It takes numerous people to make the Accelerate Baltimore program run as successfully as it does every year. The program wouldn’t be what it is without the Accelerate Baltimore mentors. Here are some wise words of wisdom from two mentors, Margaret Roth, CXO of Yet Analytics, and Yair Flicker, CEO of SmartLogic.


As a founder, what's the benefit of an accelerator program?

Margaret Roth: As a founder, the biggest thing that you can take away from an accelerator program is a network of peers, supporters, and mentors that would be very difficult to generate on your own. Accelerators mean that you no longer have to work in isolation, you can't get lost in your own thoughts, or waste time chasing things that won't lead anywhere — because you'll have direct access to people who have done this before and you can, should you be humble enough to listen, learn from their mistakes.


Yair Flicker: An accelerator program provides a few important benefits:

  1. It's a crash course in running a business. Acceleratees will learn about the different areas critical to running a business — areas ranging from HR to marketing to sales to legal to ops to technology, etc. It's nice to have a program that provides education in these important areas. The net effect being that your path from Point A to Point B is — well, accelerated because you'll learn from subject matter experts.

  2. Your cohort will consist of people with similar ambitions. That is, people starting businesses. The benefit of being in a community of like-minded individuals can't be overstated! You'll learn and grow together and support each other on your respective journeys.

  3. You'll avail of free visibility/promotion and increased access to funding, partners, and other resources. Accelerators have their own brands, connections, and budgets. An accelerator succeeds when its acceleratees succeed and hit their milestones.


Why are you a mentor for the Accelerate Baltimore program?

MR: I'm a mentor for Accelerate Baltimore because I know that our team would not be where we are today if we had not had the support of the ETC standing behind us in our first years. Building a company is relentlessly hard. The work never stops. The ideas always get better. Being an Accelerate Baltimore mentor is a way for me to give back to the community and help newly minted entrepreneurs achieve their first wins.

YF: I like seeing people and companies in my community develop and grow. To the extent to which I'm able to use my experience to make that happen, I am happy to do so.


What advice would you give an Accelerate Baltimore applicant?

MR: Make your list. What are you willing to risk? What are you willing to commit? If you're not sure where to start, you might not be ready for an accelerator. If your list is EVERYTHING, you're ready to take the leap. Accelerators are not for ideas. Accelerate Baltimore is for people that are ready to do business.


YF: Have friends and family review your application before you submit it. Try find the right balance between being unwaveringly focused on your current vision vs. bending your idea based on the feedback of others. There is a spectrum between being resolute vs. wavering in your idea. It's your company and your idea and so you should trust your instincts, but at the same time, (and speaking only from my experience) it's important to accept and process input from others so I can more quickly get to my destination.

How $125k in Funding Through Accelerate Baltimore Helped Chord

We recently spoke to Jared Marmen, the CEO of Accelerate Baltimore 2017 winner Chord, about how the program affected him and his company. Take a look into the conversation below, and don’t forget to apply to Accelerate Baltimore today!

Accelerate Baltimore: What progress has Chord made since graduating from the program?

Jared Marmen: Accelerate Baltimore has given Chord the resources and the time to build. We are creating a consumer hardware product, and there are a lot of smart, successful people that would not touch consumer or hardware. I understand why. I know what it took over the last few months to get us to the point where we can reliably build a prototype, test and ship it, so when it arrives it just works.

Sitting at my desk one day couple of weeks ago, I was able to monitor a dog trainer working in Nova Scotia, and another testing in the UK. It was a little surreal.  You get a little bit more of the real taste of what you are creating, and it just feeds the fire in you. The harder it is, the more it pays off. We just wouldn’t have had the time to put this much effort into the product if it weren’t for Accelerate Baltimore.


AB: What are some of the resources that helped you as a member of the 2017 cohort?

JM: The cohort helped me so much. Before Accelerate Baltimore, I felt  a kind of entrepreneurial  loneliness — I wanted to have neighbors to talk to that would understand what I was going through. That’s exactly what I got from the AB cohort. Everyone was so different, and all of our professional backgrounds were so different, but as a group, we interacted so well. I got exactly what I was searching for: the ability to be a part of a group of people going through the struggle in a different way.

The additional funding was, of course, something that helped Chord drastically. It’s funny because you know how much $100k will help you, so you think about it a lot before the program starts, but when you get into it, everyone forgets about Investor Pitch Night and the money. Or at least I did! I didn’t think about it seriously again until Leslie [Woodward] mentioned that she thought I could win. I learned so much from the cohort — In a way I tried to emulate the strengths I saw in the other founders in the cohort. It was probably subconscious at first, but near the end I saw it. So I just tried to incorporate different pieces that I saw other members doing successfully in my pitch, and that helped so much.

AB: What have you learned after Accelerate Baltimore?

JM: ETC’s incubate program really keeps the momentum you build during Accelerate Baltimore going. AB is, of course, a lot more intense due to the 13-week nature of the program, and afterwards, you think, “What else could I learn?” But you end up learning so much from mentors and networking.

After AB, I realized just how much every little part of the program added up and helped me. Henry Mortimer picked my pitch, and my delivery, apart and left the pieces scattered on the floor the first time I pitched him. The difference from that day to pitch night, working over and over and over again with Henry, and with Scott Winn, an AB graduate from the year before, and many others. Jason Taggler similarly ripped my investment summary to shreds the first time, even though I thought that was good too. But after following his advice, I improved it vastly. Now that document is my three page bedrock of answers. There were so many little things along the way that just added up.


AB: What do you think people should know about Accelerate Baltimore?

JM: Everyone on the ETC team is made available to you. I honestly had really high expectations going into the program, and they were exceeded completely, even before I got the extra investment. That investment drives me to succeed even more.

AB has also given me a network like no other. I finally learned to just always ask Deb when in doubt. Not only does she quickly come back with the person I should talk to, but she always just so happens to be seeing so and so that day. It’s uncanny. Trust is another huge part of it. I trust Deb’s connections because she does. You can’t put a price on that.

Oh also, the AB lunches are top-notch and bountiful — don’t miss a session!

3 Reasons You Should Apply to Accelerate Baltimore

Accelerate Baltimore — the first accelerator of Baltimore City — is an initiative of ETC and The Abell Foundation, and is heading into its seventh year of operation. Our goal is to close the gap between innovative ideas and getting to market by providing seed capital, resources, mentors, potential partners and a collaborative community.

Here are 3 reasons your startup should apply to Accelerate Baltimore this year:


1. Expert Advice and Mentorship.

Through workshops and one-on-one mentorship sessions, Accelerate Baltimore helps early stage startups identify their best growth strategy and a reasonable plan to achieve it. One of the best part of being a cohort member is the expert advice you’ll get from other entrepreneurs, C-level advisors, investors, members of the ETC team, and Accelerate Baltimore alumni. It’s an incredible way to grow your network.


2. Seed Funding + Access to Investors = $$$.

For our third year in a row, Accelerate Baltimore will be awarding a total of $250,000 to six startups. Plus, throughout the program, participants will be given a solid introduction to investors, which will prove to be a huge help for any founders when it comes time to fundraising. We also work with the cohort on perfecting their pitch. At the end of the program, companies will be given the chance to win an additional $100,000 in follow-on funding.


3. Esteem and Validation.

Because accelerators are receiving so many applicants these days, acceptance into an accelerator program can bring with it a significant amount of esteem, according to TechCrunch. When it comes to getting attention from investors and recruiting the best people for your startup’s team, listing Accelerate Baltimore as an accelerator you participated in will give you an edge over your competitors.

So what are you waiting for? Apply to Accelerate Baltimore now!



Apply for up to $125,000 in Early-Stage Seed Funding upon Completion of the Accelerate Baltimore Program


BALTIMORE (January 18, 2018) – The ETC (Emerging Technology Centers), Baltimore City’s award-winning technology and innovation centers, announces the Accelerate Baltimore (AB) program will run for its seventh consecutive year and applications are now open. The ETC will select six tech startups for the 13-week program set to begin mid-March. The Abell Foundation has awarded ETC $250,000 in funding for this seed accelerator for the third 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, while one company will be awarded an additional $100,000 in follow on funding at the end of the program.

“ETC’s Accelerate Baltimore Program has received national and global recognition for its continued best practices and successes. To date, the companies that have completed AB have created over 95 jobs and made a significant impact on the City of Baltimore. This program continues to add value to the companies that participate and for Baltimore” said ETC President, Deborah Tillett.

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.  

“The Abell Foundation began funding Accelerate Baltimore seven years ago on a promise that selected companies would put down roots, attract capital, grow their companies, and create jobs in Baltimore City. The ETC has made good on that promise to date,” said Robert C. Embry, President of the Abell Foundation.

“Baltimore is gaining increased recognition as a hub for technology and the ETC plays an important role in nurturing and supporting small business development growth in the tech sector,” said William H. Cole, president & CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation.  “Designed to attract the best and brightest technology entrepreneurs and early-stage companies, the Accelerate Baltimore program aims to speed up product launch and development of businesses with high potential for job creation, and to promote and market Baltimore as a great city to locate and grow a technology business.”

To date, 34 companies have gone through the AB program and successfully launched their products. The AB program ends with Investor Pitch Night attended by angel investors, venture capitalists and media. Last year, judges awarded the additional $100,000 to Chord, a smart pet collar that uses vibrations to supplement positive, rewards-based training. Other AB graduates include Arbit, Mybestbox, Loople, Brinkbit, Allovue, Fusiform, Reciprocare and Further Insights. Of the $1,025,000 awarded from the Abell Foundation to Accelerate Baltimore companies to date, AB graduates have raised an additional $15.7 million in follow on funding.

Applications are available at starting January 18, 2018 and will close on February 18, 2018.


About ETC (

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 9-week idea bootcamp powered by COSTARTERS, 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.

Points of Light Civic Accelerator Invests $100,000 in Two Startups Advancing Workforce Innovation

ATLANTA, Jan. 3, 2018 – The Points of Light Civic Accelerator announced today that it will invest $50,000 each in ReciproCare (Washington, D.C.), a for-profit enterprise, and La Cocina VA (Arlington, Virginia), a nonprofit enterprise. Both ventures are focused on access and pathways to employment to help more individuals and families succeed.

The Civic Accelerator is the first accelerator and investment fund in the country focused on civic ventures – for-profit and nonprofit startups that solve social problems by tapping into human capital as part of the solution. The goal of the accelerator is to equip each startup to seek investments and scale their social innovations.

The investment came at the end of the Civic Accelerator’s 10th bootcamp-style early-stage program. The fall 2017 program convened 11 startups over 10 weeks for three in-person, week-long sessions in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, in addition to an in-depth virtual curriculum. Using vetted investment criteria, the program peer participants themselves selected the two ventures that received $50,000 investments.

ReciproCare helps senior-care organizations find great caregivers, and helps caregivers find great jobs. “This experience has been transformative and will continue to propel our mission for years to come,” said Rachel Fuller, co-founder of ReciproCare. “With this $50,000, we will be able to accelerate our impact and reach 10,000 caregivers by the end of 2018. By bringing more caregivers to full employment, we can increase their economic stability and help senior care providers deliver more care.”

La Cocina generates social and economic change by preparing unemployed immigrants for culinary and entrepreneurial careers. “The opportunity to participate in CivicX has elevated and refined our model as a nonprofit and an evolving social enterprise,” said Paty Funegra, founder of La Cocina VA. “This investment validates the confidence our peers and mentors have in our product, impact and ability to scale. We look forward to implementing the tools and cultivating the networks CivicX provided as we build our kitchen incubator and programs for food-focused entrepreneurs."

In its fifth year, the Civic Accelerator has committed $800,000 in investment and has paired 123 startup teams with more than 150 mentors, partners and strategic advisers. The graduated teams have generated more than $50 million in revenue to-date and reached more than 18.7 million individuals to solve the most critical social problems facing communities across the country.

“It’s inspiring to work with our corporate partners, faculty and mentors to help accelerate these entrepreneurs who are unlocking talent and increasing employment in our economy. They are improving access to jobs through innovative education, workforce training and on-ramps to career advancement particularly among populations with high rates of unemployment such as immigrants, the disabled, women of color, the formerly incarcerated and others facing barriers,” said Ayesha Khanna, founder of the Points of Light Civic Accelerator. “Our teams represent the diversity of this country – more than 50 percent led by women, and more than 70 percent by racial/ethnic minorities – with domain expertise and proximity to these issues so they can best solve them.”

The graduated ventures in the fall 2017 cohort are:

BridgeYear Nonprofit (Houston) – connects underserved individuals to high-growth employment and education opportunities through Career Test Drives and timely advising.

ClassTracks For-profit (Baltimore) – empowers English language learners through an online learning tool that helps them learn key vocabulary more quickly and efficiently.

Cooperate Inc. Nonprofit (New York) – connects under-represented college graduates to each other and to meaningful careers in tech, media and design.

Fathers Building Futures Nonprofit (Albuquerque, New Mexico) – ensures parents and families experiencing barriers from incarceration have opportunities for stability through job skills training and placement, financial education and wrap-around services.

Gifted Education Foundation Nonprofit (Atlanta) – aims to break generational cycles of poverty by producing marketplace leaders from low-income communities across America.

InReturn Strategies For-profit (Kansas City) – enables businesses to overcome social barriers and employ people with disabilities as easily as they do mainstream populations.

JobSnap Media Inc. For-profit (Los Angeles) – is the first web app video interviewing software platform, helping Generation Z in underserved communities enter the workforce by telling their story via 30-second videos.

La Cocina VA Nonprofit (Arlington, Virginia) – generates social and economic change by preparing unemployed immigrants for culinary and entrepreneurial careers.

NewHire® For-profit (Chicago) – helps businesses hire better by providing the candidates, screening tools and coaching.

ReciproCare For-profit (Washington, D.C.) – helps senior-care organizations find great caregivers, and helps caregivers find great jobs.

The Memo For-profit (New York) – is a digital career subscription platform that provides career readiness training for women of color to advance in their careers.

About Points of Light 

Points of Light – the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – mobilizes millions of people to take action that is changing the world. Through affiliates in 250 cities and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, Points of Light engages 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service each year. We bring the power of people to bear where it’s needed most. For more information, go to

About the Points of Light Civic Accelerator 

The Points of Light Civic Accelerator is the first accelerator program and investment fund in the country focused on civic ventures – for-profit and nonprofit startups that include people as part of the solution to critical social problems. The three month, bootcamp-style program convenes 10-15 teams in person and online with the goal of equipping each startup to seek investments and scale their social innovation. CivicX was launched in 2012, with support from founding partners PwC Charitable Foundation and Starbucks Foundation, and in partnership with Village Capital. We also receive support from Bank of America, Dentons, Singing for Change and official hotel sponsor Hilton. Visit for more information or follow the accelerator on Twitter at @civicacceleratr and across social media at #CIVICX

Arbit raises $825K through equity crowdfunding - via Baltimore

This article originally appeared in Baltimore

Baltimore startup Arbit is looking to expand its team after an equity crowdfunding campaign this fall.

The social polling startup attracted more than $825,000 through a platform run by Indiegogo and Microventures that launched this year, CEO Alex Bullington said Tuesday. He added that it was the largest round so far for the First Democracy VC portal.

However, the company won’t keep it all. While the total committed was above $825,000, Bullington said the company decided to cap the round at $700,000. That’s why the total currently appears at $700,000 on the portal.

Through the campaign, the company now has more than 1,300 new investors. They committed an average of $750, Bullington said.

“We had a few people that put up $5,000-10,000 here and there,” but mostly it was the “sheer quantity” of the number of investors that led to the size of the round, he said.

The raise marks the first use of equity crowdfunding for a Baltimore company that we’ve covered. The practice was opened up in Title III of the JOBS Act as a new way to help young companies raise capital, and investors who aren’t millionaires get involved.

Arbit opened the round in September after receiving seed funding from TEDCO and completing ETC’s Accelerate Baltimore program.

Bullington and cofounder Greg DiNardo launched the startup as a social polling app where users can compare photos side-by-side. They received early backing from professional basketball players who were eager to use the platform to put questions to fans including Steve BlakeAnthony TolliverCaron Butler and Ty Lawson.

They continue to pursue growth on that side, and have also been working on a B2B model that provides a platform where brands can using the technology to create polls around products and conduct market research.

The “platform as a service” approach drew attention when Bullington pitched the business in Japan earlier this fall at the Tribe Tokyo International Business Summit. Arbit won the competition, and earned Bullington and DiNardo a meeting with three investors at the event.

From there, Bullington said interest in the equity crowdfunding campaign took off. They upped the cap from its initial level of $425,000, and ended up netting about $600,000 over the last month. On Oct. 25, they raised $200,000 in a day. In the end, they “oversubscribed twice,” Bullington said.

The total that went above $700,000 came from another 200 investors. That money will be returned, as the founders elected to preserve equity.

The funds come as the startup prepares to officially launch the B2B model in January. Hiring is expected, and Bullington said Baltimore was key to the company’s plans. A new team member on the sales and marketing is already set to relocate from Northern Virginia and join the team at ETC’s Eastern Campus.

Bullington said hiring a Baltimore-based CTO is a “number 1 priority” for 2018.

“Then we’ll be able to have a dev team here in Baltimore and be able to hire 3-5 people,” he said.

Along with funding, the company now has 1,400 new investors to update. Bullington said he plans to send regular updates. He is also thinking of holding a conference-style event.

“Being able to attract all of them to possibly come to Baltimore for a big Arbit conference or something around here would be huge,” he said.

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 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

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 DC and 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 DC

Eric Niu, founder and CEO of men’s clothing consignment app Swaggle, told 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:

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.



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.


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

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.



Get press coverage for your startup.

Using, 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.



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.