Baltimore's ClassTracks wants to help students learn foreign language their own way

The Baltimore City Public School students in Lida Zlatic’s Spanish class were like most students — learning at different paces. Some struggled to keep up with her foreign language lessons, while others could have taken a mid-day siesta and still been ahead of the group.

Zlatic noticed how other teachers were using technology to personalize students’ classroom experience, and set to work to create a tool that would help language students learn and study at their own pace.

Zlatic and co-founders Thierry Uwilingiyimana and Jamel Daugherty launched ClassTracks in January 2015 and the company has been gaining momentum since. ClassTracks is part of the 2016 AccelerateBaltimore class and plans to go after a funding round after completing the Emerging Technology Center's accelerator program this spring.

The company’s online language learning platform will transition from beta mode to a subscription model this fall, for the 2016-2017 school year.

ClassTracks piloted the program with 10 teachers in 2015 and grew its test group to 20 teachers.

In January 2016 the company transitioned to an open beta, meaning its program is still in test-mode, but open to anyone who wants to use it. The program has about 50 teacher users right now. That number could double in the next month, as ClassTracks finishes training for another cohort of teachers interested in helping fine-tune the resource.

ClassTracks is designed as a sophisticated set of digital flashcards. Teachers add their own content to ClassTracks, then students get access to study the information. When students start to ace questions, the material gets harder, to help students gain a more in-depth understanding of the lessons.

The program can report results back to students and teachers, to help them better understand where they are doing well and where they still need help.

Since ClassTracks is an online tool, the company has been going after clients from around the country, and even on the other side of the world.

Some of the company’s early clients are teachers in China, New York, California, Louisiana and Alabama.

(Article by Baltimore Business Journal)

"What if subscription boxes weren’t so needy?" by Technically Baltimore

Like a quarter of the city’s residents, Fatima Dicko was in a food desert when she moved to Baltimore several years ago. To get access to healthy food and wellness products, she made seven-mile trips to Whole Foods in Mount Washington. She also started putting together packages for people she lived with.

With mybestbox, Dicko is now making packages available to everyone, and looking to use data in the process of assembling the boxes.

The startup, which is a member of this year’s AccelerateBaltimore cohort and a finalist in the Kevin Plank-backed Cupid’s Cup entrepreneurship competition, offers subscription boxes with supplies aimed at healthy living. They’re offered in categories such as kitchen, body (complete with jump rope) and even sleep. For every box sold a dollar is donated to charity: water and Paul’s Place in Baltimore.

Since launching in June, Dicko said there has been early traction in D.C. and Baltimore, as well as larger metros like New York and Los Angeles. The startup has also looked to spread the word through a pilot with UberRUSH that offered supplies for students in New York, and handing out samples of breakfast bars at metro stops. For now, Dicko says, the focus is on growing sales.

 

Fatima Dicko. (Courtesy photo)

In the crowded subscription box market, however, Dicko believes data will help mybestbox stand apart.

The company is developing data analytics that will enable the platform to assemble boxes based on customer preferences. Using a five-question survey asked every month, the company can gather feedback about the product, as well as apply that data to assembling future subscriptions. As mybestbox gains more customers, that will bring more data.

 

Ultimately, Dicko said the company is working on the question of, “How do we personalize products without asking a person any questions?” she said.

As the company looks to grow, Dicko is also looking to move operations out of her apartment. The $25,000 from AccelerateBaltimore (and potential follow-on money that one participant will receive), as well as potential money from Cupid’s Cup, would help in that regard. But it’s not only about the money.

In AccelerateBaltimore, she pointed to the chance to talk with other entrepreneurs and drilling down on three specific goals for the company during the three-month program.

Cupid’s Cup required refining the startup’s pitch, as the application video was limited to a mere 60 seconds. “A minute does fly by,” she said.

At the Cupid’s Cup semifinals at Under Armour headquarters in February, she said she gained a lot of insight from Plank’s entrepreneur story, whether it was the part about the $17,000 from his initial rose business that later seeded Under Armour, or the $25,000 ad he took out in ESPN The Magazine against everyone’s advice.

Dicko said it was “really interesting and helpful to know that this multibillion-dollar company had to face similar decisions that we’re facing right now.”

At the Cupid’s Cup final on April 7 at the University of Maryland, she will face a panel that includes Quicken Loans founder and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and local author Wes Moore.

Six Finalists Advance To The Eleventh Annual Cupid's Cup Competition by Baltimore PRWEB

Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank, Dan Gilbert, Wes Moore and Arianna Huffington will Judge Cupid’s Cup Finals as Young Entrepreneurs Compete for Over $100,000 in Prizes and Cupid’s Cup Title

Baltimore, MD (PRWEB) March 07, 2016

Six startups have been announced as finalists in the 2016 Cupid's Cup Entrepreneurship Competition, selected from hundreds of applications representing nearly 100 universities and colleges. On February 19, twelve startups competed in the semi-final round, held at Under Armour’s global headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. The competition is in its 11th year and is chaired by Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank, in collaboration with his alma mater and Founding University Partner the University of Maryland. Finalists will compete for more than $100,000 in total prizes on April 7, 2016 at the University of Maryland in College Park.

The six finalists traveled from all over the country to spend the day pitching their businesses and interviewing with a group of established investors, entrepreneurship experts, and Under Armour executives during the semi-final round. These exceptional entrepreneurs will compete for a life-changing prize package, including more than $100,000 in total cash prizes, access to Kevin Plank’s professional network, and the prestigious Cupid’s Cup title.

The finalists represent six universities and a broad range of industries. They are:

Headbands of Hope (North Carolina State University) – Creates fashionable headbands aimed at girls experiencing chemotherapy. For every headband sold, a headband is given to a child with cancer.

Javazen (University of Maryland) – Leading the world of coffee to a healthier place.

mybestbox (Columbia University) – Assembles boxes with essential, high-quality products that cover a broad range of health & wellness areas.

Plova Chewing Gum LLC. (Trinity University) – The world’s first and only beneficial oral care product for people who are always on the go.

Six Foods (Harvard University) – Uses crickets milled into a flour to make tortilla chips (Chirps) that are familiar to Americans, in an effort to normalize insect foods, starting with snacks to meat.

Wolf & Shepherd (University of Notre Dame) – Designs shoes to provide unparalleled comfort by concealing high performance foam technology into the heart of each sole.

Each of the six finalists will be paired with a coach to help them prepare for the final round of competition. On April 7, the competitors will converge at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, to be evaluated by Kevin Plank and an esteemed panel of judges, including: Dan Gilbert, Founder & Chairman of Quicken Loans, Owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Founder & Chairman of Rock Ventures; Wes Moore, Author of The Other Wes Moore, Founder & CEO of BridgeEdU, and host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network; and Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post and author of The Sleep Revolution.

The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at accredited colleges and universities or recent alumni of those institutions. Applicants ensured that they are running a legal business entity that has demonstrated proof of traction.

More information about the competition, including tickets to attend the April 7 event, can be found at http://www.cupidscup.com.

About Under Armour
Under Armour, the originator of performance footwear, apparel and equipment, revolutionized how athletes across the world dress. Designed to make all athletes better, the brand's innovative products are sold worldwide to athletes at all levels. The Under Armour Connected Fitness™ platform powers the world’s largest digital health and fitness community through a suite of applications: UA Record, MapMyFitness, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal. The Under Armour global headquarters is in Baltimore, Maryland. For further information, please visit the Company's website at http://www.uabiz.com.

About Plank Industries
Plank Industries is a privately-held company with diversified holdings in commercial real estate, hospitality, food and beverage, venture capital and thoroughbred horseracing, all under the Sagamore group of brands. The company is based in Baltimore, MD, USA. Under the leadership of Tom Geddes, CEO, Plank Industries serves as the family office and investment arm of Kevin A. Plank, founder, Chairman and CEO of Under Armour, Inc.

 

About Plank Foundation for Entrepreneurship
The Plank Foundation for Entrepreneurship (PFE) is a non-profit subsidiary of Plank Industries dedicated to fostering the American spirit of entrepreneurship in a new generation. The signature platform of PFE is Cupid’s Cup, a nationwide competition with a ten-year history of identifying and supporting extraordinary young entrepreneurs. PFE also supports entrepreneurship through nonprofit programs and events in Baltimore, particularly at City Garage (http://www.citygarage.vc).

Connect With the Cohort - ClassTracks

ClassTracks. This company is an exciting startup creating web-based solutions for the world language classroom - Here is what their CEO, Lida Zlatic, had to say about her experiences as an entrepreneur:

 

Q: What inspired you to start your company? How did the idea come about?

A: “Teaching and I saw the opportunity using technology to make the repetitive of learning more efficient. Our team came together at a startup weekend.”

Q:  How do you generate new ideas?

A: “By asking our teachers what’s the biggest time suck in their classroom, what they wish they could do more of and What technology they’re using.”

Q: Who has been your greatest inspiration?

A:  “Jess Gartner from Allovue.

Q: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

A: “Our very first user was a teacher and he got his students to give feedback and one student wrote a page long email saying “wow just wow” about 10 times and thank you about 10 times and that is what we are trying to accomplish.”

Q: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

A:  “Really strong sense of vision, ability to connect with new people, and a tireless drive.”

Q: When you’re not working, where can people find you most

A: “At startup events or at the gym.”

Q: What is your favorite place to meet for coffee in Baltimore?

A:  "Charmingtons"

Connect With the Cohort - Loople

Loople. This company is a mobile platform that helps its users find the best drink specials, food specials, happy hours, live music and more right here in the Baltimore area. Here is what they had to say about their experience as entrepreneurs:

Q: What inspired you to start your company? How did the idea come about?

A: CEO, Phil Dimuro - “Loople began two years ago. I came from the bar industry where there was an issue of specials being run but no one really knowing about them so I really tried to find a way to help businesses survive by creating a way for consumers to be more connected. I’ve always loved the industry.”

Q: What does a typical day look like for you?

A: “There is no typical day. We’re lucky to have multiple founders and be able to separate duties. Many nights we’re here at 3 in the morning working - A day could include events, sales calls, development, managing people with 4 interns, or just having fun meeting new people.”

Q: If you had a chance to start your business over again, what would you do differently?

A:  “Get out quicker.” “Focus on customer feedback more from the start, that way we really could understand being able to just put the product out on the market and quickly.”

Q: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

A: “When we’re actually out in the market and see someone using our product or talking about it.” | “When people recognize us.” | “Second version launched in September and we saw trends completely go up from listening to consumers.”

Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

A: “The freedom of working for yourself and knowing that you are result of every bit of your actions.”

Q: When you’re not working, where can people find you most

A: “Wearing Loople shirts at the bar.”

Q: What is your favorite place to meet for beer in Baltimore?

A:  Dave - Dog Watch Tavern |  Phil - Tavern on the Square

A Year in Review with AccelerateBaltimore Grads

AccelerateBaltimore Grads Participate in Startup Maryland Challenge

During Baltimore Innovation Week 2015, Startup Maryland launched their “Pitch Across Maryland” campaign. Startup Maryland invited entrepreneurs to sit down and video their live pitch on their bus at numerous stops. These videos will be viewed and the best will get a chance to pitch at TEDCO’s Entrepreneur Expo with the goal of  streamlining their chance at Invest Maryland Challenge, $100K grants from the Maryland Department of Commerce. We had quite a few ETC companies participate and even more Accelerate grads! Take a look at their pitches below:

WBAL Talks to Deb Tillett and Andrew Schuster of NewsUp

On Monday, the ETC had a few visitors from WBAL at the ETC Haven Campus in to talk about our big announcement for AccelerateBaltimore 2016. This year, thanks to the Abell Foundation, the ETC is award 6 companies each $25K and at the end of the program theses startups will be evaluated and most promising will receive an additional $100K in follow on funding. To see the whole piece on WBAL click here!