Learn to Love the Cohort

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

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


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

Arbit: Addictive Photo-Polling.

Chord: Omniscient, pet chaperoning smart-collar.

Gunbail: Takes illegal guns off streets.

Reciprocare: We help caregivers find jobs.

Swaggle: It helps men shop.


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

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

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

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

Reciprocare: Elephant

Swaggle: I’d be a giraffe.


Question 3: Who’s your favorite cartoon character?

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

Chord: Bart Simpson.

Gunbail: Batman!

Reciprocare: Valerie From “Josie & The Pussycats”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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




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


Accelerate Baltimore Announces the Six Startups Selected for 2017 Cohort

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



About ETC (www.etcbaltimore.com)

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

Accelerate Baltimore was a wake-up call for Fusiform

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


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


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


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


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


Apply to Accelerate Baltimore by December 1st!

How Accelerate Baltimore was an Invaluable Stepping Stone for mybestbox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accelerate Baltimore Grads Advice & Takeaways

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

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




Ryan Sears, CEO of SurveySnap

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


Evan Dornbush, CEO of Point 3 Security

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

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




Andrew Schuster, CEO of NewsUp

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


Paige Cantlin, CEO of Full Society


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

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

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


Phil Dimuro, CEO & Co-founder of Loople

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



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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



About ETC (www.etcbaltimore.com)

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


What Makes Accelerators and Pre-Accelerators Effective

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

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

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

  • Partner quality improves program performance

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

  • Time spent on program-related activities lowers program performance

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

  • Quality of the applicant pool improves program performance

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

  • Mentor quality improves program performance

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

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

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

  1. Provide tools and knowledge

  2. Find problem/solution fit

  3. Foster entrepreneurial mindset

  4. Build the local ecosystem

  5. Get into accelerators

(from Startup Pirates)

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

Accelerate Baltimore 2016 Grads: Staying Connected with the Cohort

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

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

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

Investor Pitch Night

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

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

Demo Day

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

Point3 Security

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


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

ETC Announces Accelerate Baltimore's Additional $100,000 in Funding to be Awarded to Baltimore Based MyBestBox

Baltimore, MD (May 19, 2016) –Today, the ETC (Emerging Technology Centers), Baltimore City’s award-winning technology and innovation centers, announced that the winning company to be awarded the additional, follow on funding of $100,000 will be Baltimore based MyBestBox. Each year, Accelerate Baltimore 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 ETC believes this additional funding will truly “accelerate” the growth potential for MyBestBox. The six companies that participated in this year’s program all worked as hard as they could and ETC will continue to support them as they grow their companies.” 

This is the fifth year in which the ETC, in partnership with the Abell Foundation, has successfully run Accelerate Baltimore. To date, 28 companies including Allovue, NewsUp and Unbound Concepts, have graduated from the program raising a total of $10.8 million in follow on funding. After looking extensively at early stage funding trends in the current market, and the experiences of the past four 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. Robert C. Embry, Jr., President of the Abell Foundation, said “the Accelerate Baltimore competition keeps innovating and improving with each year and we know, based on how hard the companies work during the accelerator program, that there was stiff competition for the winning final investment. We wish all the participating companies great success and continued growth in Baltimore City.” 

At the end of the 2016 program this April, this year’s six companies pitched the judging panel made up of local investors for a chance at the additional $100,000. The Accelerate Baltimore’s Investor Pitch Night was held at the Single Carrot Theatre and MyBestBox was the choice to receive the additional funding. 

MyBestBox is a lifestyle brand that helps people jump-start and maintain healthy lifestyles in a way that is convenient and cost-effective. Their consumer product consists of boxes filled with essential items that cover a broad range of health and wellness areas. During the program, MyBestBox partnered with UberRUSH to deliver emergency health boxes to people 24/7, within an hour of the request. In addition to the company’s partnership with Uber, founder Fatima Dicko also won the Best Entrepreneur Award at this year’s Cupid’s Cup; a business plan and pitch competition sponsored by Under Armour’s Kevin Plank. 

“The Accelerate Baltimore program has been instrumental in helping us work toward concrete and realistic goals.” Said Fatima Dicko, CEO of MyBestBox. “There are a million different things every startup can do, but by focusing only on tasks that ultimately advance a specific goal, the team can prioritize and ultimately become more effective.” 

About the ETC: www.etcbaltimore.com 

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

Startup Accelerator Spotlight: Accelerate Baltimore

"The most important role the accelerator program can play is that of the ultimate connector. The community and connections that the accelerator operators, mentors and program professionals offer is critical to the success of the companies."

Name of Accelerator:   ETC’S (Emerging Technology Center) Accelerate Baltimore

Location:   Baltimore, Maryland

Website:   www.acceleratebaltimore.com

President and Executive Director:   Deb Tillett

This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight Series featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.

In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.

ETC’s  Accelerate Baltimore is in its fifth year. The goal when started was to attract startups and create business and impact for the city of Baltimore. ETC’s core business was basic startup incubation, but in 2012, we added co-working and the accelerator.

Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.

The accelerator cohort operates for four months in a collaborative community of other successful startups and, along with seed stage funding, are offered four additional months (for free) in the ETC incubator program. The program is run by me, formerly an entrepreneur, who knows their journey. We have tried to iterate and innovate our program year on year.

What is the most difficult part of working with startups?

Interestingly, it is getting them to understand the importance of getting the product out there and going after customers. Most accelerator/incubator managers stress the importance of the “investor pitch”. We are starting to pivot to stressing the “sales pitch”. Get the MVP out the door, find the customer and sell hard. Revenue beats investment every time.

What do you enjoy the most; what do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?

I laugh when I say this, but I love their passion and the creativity. I get to tell them all what to do – then I don’t have to do it!!! Seriously, as someone who has been down that journey, I know execution is everything and watching these founders go from idea to implementation and know they’re “doing it” instead of the talking about it, is everything. It is fun to watch the growth over the four month period of time.

Tell us about your success stories; which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?

Our program has a unique MBD/WBE (women and minority) stat of over 50% and in the tech world, that is rare. Two success stories, Allovue and PrintLess Plans come to mind.

  1. Allovue was started by a young TFA (Teach for America) woman who had an idea for a startup. She incorporated February 1, 2013 and was chosen for our program February 15, 2013. She taught herself some basic coding and quickly dove head first into the program and now three years later has closed on a $6 million dollar round and has active paying customers in a difficult market segment – Ed Tech.
  2. PrintLess Plans, a company started by two African American engineers who developed a software/hardware solution for architects and their drawings and plans so they can be delivered electronically to a foldable viewing screen to cut down on waste and errors in the field while on the job. The architectural drawings are updated instantly while on the job site, wirelessly through a smartphone or tablet.

What are the most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?

  • Will the finite period of time and the seed funding really move the business/idea forward?
  • The commitment is full-time and should be viewed as your number one priority during the length of the program.

What else would you like to share?

The most important role the accelerator program can play is that of the ultimate connector. The community and connections that the accelerator operators, mentors and program professionals offer is critical to the success of the companies. Again, I will stress the commitment on the part of the entrepreneur is critical – it truly is all or nothing.


In search of an accelerator that aligns with your startup’s needs?  Try TurboFunder’s Find My Acceleratorsearch tool!

Interested in accelerators in the Startup Accelerator Spotlight?

Accelerate Baltimore 5 Year Celebration Demo Day

Join us on May 19th to celebrate the ETC’s Accelerate Baltimore seed accelerator program! The 2016 cohort was our 5th cohort to complete this intensive program and we’re bringing our current companies and graduates back for Demo Day. Expereince the products these companies have been working on. 

Who’ll be there? 

Our 2016 cohort: LooplePoint3 SecurityRAKKOONFusiformMyBestBox and ClassTracks

Our Graduates: AllovueUnbound ConceptsNewsUpBrinkbitFull Society

The ETC Community, Baltimore Tech Community and more

We’ll also be announcing who out of the 2016 cohort will be awarded an additional $100,000 through the Abell Foundation. We held our investor pitch night recently and are eagerly awating this evening to announce the winner.


Loople app focuses on deals at Baltimore bars

It didn't take long for Pottstown, Pa., native Phil DiMuro to fall in love with Fells Point.

Four years ago, as a local sales representative for a national beer company, the 25-year-old quickly became familiar with the bars and restaurants in the popular neighborhood. But when it came time to have a drink on his own time, DiMuro said, he always forgot which bar had which deals.

“I’d go home and my girlfriend would be like, ‘It was a rough day at work. We need a place with a wine special,’” DiMuro recalled recently. “Even though I was spending all day, every day, in these bars and seeing the specials advertised, I never knew what they were when I wanted to go out personally.”

Last year, DiMuro and Dave Phelan sought to eliminate such a problem by creating a database of Baltimore bars and their specials. In June, the close friends who met as freshmen at Susquehanna University in 2008 launched Loople, a Baltimore-specific app that has attracted more than 11,000 users in 10 months, the founders said. While both are transplants (Phelan is from Devon, Pa.), they agreed that Baltimore’s distinct, bar-friendly neighborhoods and countless bar-hoppers made it an ideal launching spot.

“It’s a very young, very active and social community,” DiMuro, a Medford resident, said. “All of these individuals are already going out, but they’re still relatively just out of college or might have just purchased their first home, so they don’t have a ton of money to spend. They are looking for deals.”

While there are other apps focused on bar specials — like Happy Hours and Hotspots — Loople is the only the one based in and solely focused on Baltimore, the founders said. While the company develops a scalable business model, Phelan said, concentrating on one city allows Loople to work out the kinks before attempting to expand nationally.

“We’re using Baltimore as our essential proof of concept for our business,” Phelan, 26 of Upper Fells Point, said.


Baltimore Sun bar reviews

What sets Loople apart from competitors is its user-verification system and the human fact-checking that verifies the most up-to-date information. Anyone — from patrons to bar employees and owners — can submit happy hour deals, daily specials and everyday discounts through the app. Then the Loople team — which consists of DiMuro, Phelan and seven marketing interns from local colleges (along with a trio of overseas programmers) — contacts the bar to confirm the information is correct. Users won’t see the new specials until this process is completed, Phelan said.

Based on user-generated content, Loople mirrors the GPS-app Waze and Wikipedia, DiMuro said.

“No one’s been able to handle keeping the content fresh,” Phelan said, when asked why similar apps have come and gone. (Just search Apple’s App Store to see the casualties that haven’t been updated in years.) “That [Waze and Wikipedia] model works, and we want to apply it to the bar and restaurant industry.”

They’ve also listened to user criticism and suggestions. When I first tried Loople last year, the app was not user-friendly, forcing users to read specials via a map rather than a list. There was also in-app messaging for some reason. (Talk about a function I have enough apps for.) It looked like a good idea filtered through a design that still had kinks, and the founders knew it.

“We were gaining downloads, but we were losing weekly active users, so this told us, ‘Something is wrong with the app. There’s a reason people don’t like it,’” Phelan said.

Users, whom they’d meet at bars and social sports events, wanted an easy-to-read list of specials, so Loople changed how it displays information. (The map view is still available, too.) I deleted the app months ago, but re-downloaded it recently and found it more intuitive and convenient. I’m used to finding specials through Facebook searches, but Loople did the legwork and presented it in a more attractive way than Happy Hours and Hotspots.

There are also filter options for when you’re looking for a bar with a pool table, live music, outdoor seating or all three. One knock against the app: You can’t yet search by neighborhood, but Phelan said they hope to fix that soon. (Loople heavily features bars from Canton, Fells Point and Federal Hill, and the founders say they aim to better cover Mount Vernon and the neighborhoods up Interstate-83 soon.)

These changes and upgrades have resulted in more users and more regular usage, the founders said. Since September, 21 percent of new users have opened the app at least once per week, Phelan said. In March, the app was opened more than 8,000 times, he said, a monthly high for Loople.

“We are happy to say that we are extremely stable, if not growing, on a week-by-week basis,” DiMuro said.

Loople, which operates out of the Emerging Technology Centers’ Haven Street Campus in Kresson, is not yet generating revenue or profit, though, so the app’s next goal is to prove its revenue model, they said. The tentative plan is to convince national alcohol brands to advertise on the app, the founders said, and then expand to include local bars and restaurants, too. The app, Phelan said, will always be free.

Phelan declined to comment on how much money — from the founders, and their friends and family — it took to launch Loople, but the company was one of six accepted into the Emerging Technology Centers' Accelerate Baltimore program this year, which netted Loople $25,000. Later this year, Accelerate Baltimore will hear pitches from the companies at the end of the program, and award the winner another $100,000.

If Loople can prove it can make money here, the company will then expand to Washington. (Phelan and DiMuro both work on Loople full-time.) They hope to include D.C. bars in the database in the next six to nine months, Phelan said.

But first, the focus is Baltimore, a city they believe promotes technology-based entrepreneurship.

“I literally fell in love [with Baltimore] the first two weeks that I was down here. … The start-up culture here is amazing,” DiMuro said, referring to coworking spaces like ETC and Betamore. “I think it’s a perfect place to start the business.”

(Article by The Baltimore Sun)

‘This is as close to a barroom fight as it gets’: BSidesCharm capture the flag

A game of capture the flag was running amid the keynotes and networking at BSidesCharm last weekend. But since the conference was focused on information security, hiding in the woods wasn’t necessary.

Devised by AccelerateBaltimore cohort member Point3 Security, the capture the flag environment unfolded on laptops at circular tables. Fueled by the standard hacker intake of caffeine and chips, the teams had the weekend to navigate the puzzle-based environment, and the organizers kept track of points throughout.

Participants described it as a place to test out new skills, and learn by doing without the risks of actually having a server shut down by a cyber attack. The competitors had to protect their vulnerabilities, and adapt to changing environments.

“It’s not something they’ve ever seen before,” said Point3 CEO Evan Dornbush. “This is as close to a barroom fight as it gets. Everyone has the same awful conditions, and who’s going to come out on top?”

If that wasn’t enough motivation, there was also a title belt.

(Article by Stephen Babcock of Technically Baltimore)