In­no­va­tors pitch their busi­ness ideas to Startup Md.

Statewide com­pe­ti­tion stops by Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CHAR­LIE WRIGHT cwright@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Char­lieIndyNews

The over­sized, mus­tard-yel­low bus em­bla­zoned with “STARTUP MARY­LAND” seemed out of place parked out­side of Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium on Tues­day, but lo­cal en­trepreneurs knew it rep­re­sented a ve­hi­cle for their ideas and in­no­va­tions.

Startup Mary­land part­nered with South­ern Mary­land busi­ness advocates to bring the STRT1UP Road Show tour to Charles County for the Pitch Across Mary­land com­pe­ti­tion. At each bus stop, up-and-com­ing com­pa­nies and am­a­teur in­ven­tors con­nect with savvy in­vestors and nearby or­ga­ni­za­tions to grow their ideas within the South­ern Mary­land ecosys­tem. These networking events cul­mi­nate in an op­por­tu­nity to hop on the bus and record a pitch video in Startup Mary­land’s makeshift stu­dio, which is then dis­trib­uted through­out the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

“We give en­trepreneurs a chance to be seen and heard,” said Michael Binko, founder and CEO of Startup Mary­land. “It’s your voice that comes through, that’s what we choose to cel­e­brate.”

Binko de­vel­oped the idea for the tour as a way to pro­mote lo­cal en­trepreneur­ship and dis­trib­ute avail­able re­sources to startup com­pa­nies. The show is cur­rently in its sixth year and is near­ing 1,000 par­tic­i­pants in tour events. Af­ter con­sid­er­ing an op­er­a­tion across Mary­land, Vir­ginia and the District of Columbia, Binko and his team de­cided to fo­cus on the wealth of po­ten­tial in Mary­land.

“We were strug­gling with fig­ur­ing out how are we go­ing to tie this ecosys­tem model around a state whose bor­der is kind of awk­ward,” Binko said. “What we knew was that our en­tre­pre­neur­ial com­mu­nity was sec­ond to none.”

Par­tic­i­pants are en­tered into the Pitch Across Mary­land com­pe­ti­tion, and a re­view panel trims the field to eight fi­nal­ists, known as the “Great 8.” This group will then make length­ier pitches at the STRT1UP Show­case and po­ten­tially re­ceive seed fund­ing from in­ter­ested or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The en­trepreneurs gath­ered in the Le­gends Club be­fore the Blue Crabs took on the York Rev­o­lu­tion and de­liv­ered 90-sec­ond pitches to the room full of the re­gion’s ecosys­tem mem­bers. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Mary­land Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (TEDCO), South­ern Mary­land In­no­va­tion and Tech­nol­ogy (SMIT) and Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s of­fice were in at­ten­dance. Fol­low­ing their brief com­pany sum­maries, each pre­sen­ter took their turn giv­ing a two-to-four minute pitch in the stu­dio sec­tion of the bus.

Startup Mary­land Ecosytem Direc­tor Mike Venezia joined each en­tre­pre­neur on the bus to of­fer in­sight and record the videos. Venezia has been with Startup for three years, and Binko cred­ited him with vastly im­prov­ing the qual­ity of the pitches. A suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur him­self, hav­ing co-founded mul­ti­ple busi­ness ven­tures, Venezia serves as a men­tor and direc­tor in ad­di­tion to his cam­era­man du­ties.

“We can help them learn what it takes to be an en­tre­pre­neur,” Venezia said. “We can help them grow and find path­ways to cap­i­tal sources.

Five bud­ding en­ter­prises boarded the ve­hi­cle to of­fer ideas: Hua Wang of the can­cer pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence op­ti­miza­tion group SmartBridge, Hritvik Pa­tel of tech­nol­ogy con­sult­ing com­pany Ti­mo­dox, Trevor Strand of aero­space com­pany Trin­ity UAS, CEO of Ga­iaWrx Kim Mozingo and mo­tor­cy­cle in­no­va­tor Mike Steele of Mo­to­briiz.

Steele is well-known in these cir­cles af­ter earn­ing a spot among the Great 8 in the 2015 com­pe­ti­tion with his mo­tor­cy­cle chain lu­bri­ca­tor, which has been sold in over 40 coun­tries and six con­ti­nents. His en­try for this year, a prod­uct for mod­i­fy­ing the brakes of a mo­tor­cy­cle, has also had com­mer­cial suc­cess. Steele said while it’s great to rub el­bows with po­ten­tial in­vestors, it’s also nice to spend time with other en­trepreneurs.

“It’s good to see what other peo­ple are do­ing,” Steele said. “Some­times as an en­tre­pre­neur, it’s kind of a lonely busi­ness. You feel like you’re all alone. “[STRT1UP Road Show] is kind of like a sup­port group.”

De­spite his pedi­gree, Steele said this year’s com­pe­ti­tion is any­one’s game.

“There are so many other good busi­nesses, so I don’t come here with any ex­pec­ta­tions I’m go­ing to win.”

STAFF PHOTO BY CHAR­LIE WRIGHT

Founder and CEO of Startup Mary­land Michael Binko sits at the back of the Startup Mary­land bus, the site of many busi­ness pitches de­liv­ered by hope­ful en­trepreneurs.

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