Author: Brian Conlin


Good News: February 2018

Good News: February 2018

Startup News

    • Shortly after raising $11 million in series B funding, Protenus CEO Nick Culbertson announced that the Baltimore startup plans to nearly double the size of its team. Culbertson said the 30 hires will likely be sourced locally. The FastForward startup analyzes and protects health care data for health systems across the country and saw its revenue grow twentyfold in 2017.


    • The Maryland Tech Council named two FastForward companies among the finalists for its annual Industry Awards Celebration. Personal Genome Diagnostics (PGDx) is vying to be named Life Science Company of the Year, and its CEO Doug Ward is up for Chief Executive Officer of the Year. Protenus is a finalist for the Emerging Company of the Year award. The Maryland Tech Council will announce the winners on May 17. Maryland Tech Council


    • According to a synopsis from Protenus, health care organizations reported 477 data breaches to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the media. These breaches affected 5.6 million patient records. Healthcare Informatics


    • Inspired by his mother’s experience managing multiple chronic conditions, Sathya Elumalai is developing a portable, handheld device that records key vital signs in just 30 seconds. Elumalai is commercializing the technology through his FastForward startup Multisensor Diagnostics. TMC News


    • BurnAlong, a fitness startup that participated in the M-1 Ventures accelerator, announced that it raised $1 million in an oversubscribed round. Based in Owings Mills, MD, BurnAlong offers streaming fitness classes through partnerships with fitness instructors and gyms.


    • Emocha Mobile Health, a tenant in FastForward 1812, hired Thomas A. Carroll as its chief operating officer. Carroll, who co-founded RuxtonPark Healthcare Capital, will help the company expand into new markets among other duties. MobiHealthNews,


    • Fast Company named emocha Mobile Health one of its 10 most innovative businesses in the health sector, citing its technology that makes “medication management mobile-friendly.” Other brands ranked alongside emocha include CVS Health and 23andMe. Fast Company


    • Sunrise Health and b.well are two of 24 digital health startups participating in the Texas Medical Center Accelerator. Founded by Johns Hopkins students and a member of the Social Innovation Lab’s 2016-2017 cohort, Sunrise provides text-based group support for behavioral health patients that utilizes artificial intelligence tools. One of two winners of $25,000 at the M-1 Ventures accelerator, b.well aggregates patient health care data by providing incentivized care coordination, along with concierge and matching services. MedCity News


    • The St. Louis-based accelerator program Capital Innovators selected FastForward startup Vision Interchange as one of six startups in its spring investment round. The 12-week program will provide the e-commerce company that lets consumers trade eyewear with a $100,000 investment. KMOX

Social Ventures

    • Alex Riehm has taken over as the director of SIL. Formerly a deputy director with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Riehm assumed the SIL leadership role in November and aims to build a “continuum of service for anyone with a good idea in Baltimore.”


    • Baltimore Magazine’s list of 30 visionaries who are shaping the city’s future. The publication recognized FactoryFour CEO Param Shah for his work to bring manufacturing into the digital age. Shantell Roberts received recognition for her work through Touching Young Lives which provides safe sleeping spaces for babies. Baltimore Magazine


    • A member of the 2017-2018 SIL cohort, Mera Kitchen Collective has pop-up dinners, offers catering and hosts other food-focused events as a means of empowering Baltimore’s refugee and immigrant community. In a podcast, the Mera Kitchen Collective team explains Baltimore’s long-time role as a haven for refugees, the state of the city’s refugee community and how its efforts will help this population overcome barriers. Cureate


    • A member of this year’s SIL cohort, Hosts for Humanity matches volunteer hosts with patient families seeking a place to stay while loved ones receive care at local medical institutions. Since January 6, the venture has placed four people with hosts for a total of 40 days, saving the families over $5,600. Baltimore Business Journal (subscription required)

Innovation News

    • A single experimental blood test called CancerSEEK could one day enable clinicians to simultaneously screen for multiple early stage tumors. The test detected 98 percent of ovarian and liver tumors. Joshua Cohen, a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine student, says the test will need to be validated in a more real-world setting. BioWorld Today


    • A technology that focuses ultrasound waves could be tomorrow’s solution for treating brain tumors. A group of entrepreneurs from Johns Hopkins are looking to build on the Hopkins-born idea, which would serve as an alternative to invasive surgery. The group has received $250,000 in grant funding from TEDCO and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.
      Baltimore Business Journal

Johns Hopkins News

    • A $50 million gift from the United Arab Emirates has enabled Johns Hopkins to establish a new institute for stroke research and clinical care. The Sheikh Khalifa Stroke Institute in Baltimore will use engineering skills, artificial intelligence and precision medicine to improve diagnoses, treatments and restorative functions for stroke patients. Baltimore Business Journal


    • A private developer will receive $800,000 in state grants to help complete 15,000 square feet of retail space at the new Marriott Residence Inn on Johns Hopkins’ East Baltimore campus. This is the latest investment in the East Baltimore Development Inc.’s redevelopment of the Eager Park community. Baltimore Business Journal


    • To kick off the spring semester, four dozen Johns Hopkins underclassmen visited workplaces across Baltimore to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to work in city government, health care and other industries. The tour included a visit to a FastForward U innovation hub, which provides space and co-working opportunities for student innovators and entrepreneurs. The Hub

Baltimore News

    • Southwest: The Magazine hailed Baltimore as “the city you’re missing” and “the most underrated city in America” in its issue released on February 1. The magazine’s editorial director touted the city’s strong entrepreneurial spirit, hip workspaces, burgeoning arts scene, friendliness and foodie scene. Baltimore Sun


    • The Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill that would incentivize making early-stage investments into local startups by offering angel investors tax credits. Del. Brooke Lierman, the bill’s lead sponsor, says, “We want to make sure we can capitalize on (Maryland’s growing number of startups) and on the growing entrepreneurial spirit in Maryland.” Baltimore Business Journal,


    • Eight startups will compete for $100,000 in prizes at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Up/Start Venture Competition. The third annual event was open to class of 2018 MICA students and alumni from the class of 2017. SIL’s Alex Riehm was one of the judges who selected the finalists. The finale will occur on April 4. Baltimore Business Journal


    • A new innovation space in Baltimore’s Station North neighborhood has begun growing a number of businesses in Baltimore. The CO-OP at Maryland Ave. opened in 2017 and already has a number of tenants, including a steel and metal broker, a carpet installer and a nonprofit.



Steve Case at Anchor Ventures Kickoff: Collaboration Key for…

Steve Case at Anchor Ventures Kickoff: Collaboration Key for Success of Baltimore Startups


Nearly 200 people gathered at FastForward 1812 on February 15 as Steve Case, a co-founder of AOL and the chairman and CEO of Washington D.C. investment firm Revolution, discussed Baltimore’s potential as a startup hub.

Case’s fireside chat marked the kickoff of Anchor Ventures—a monthly series funded by TEDCO and run by Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, and the University System of Maryland to facilitate valuable relationships among Maryland’s innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem builders.

The standing-room-only event marked Case’s return to a FastForward innovation hub, having visited FastForward East as part of his 2015 Rise of the Rest bus tour, a nationwide effort to work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. TEDCO CEO George Davis interviewed Case, focusing on Baltimore’s past, present and future as an innovation hotbed.

“I remember when I was here two and a half years ago. It was inspiring to see some of the momentum that was building,” Case said to the crowd. “It’s great to be back and to see how much progress has been made.”

Though Baltimore’s innovation ecosystem is maturing, Case sees strategic collaboration as a necessary catalyst for continued development. He says “hyperconnectivity” has helped Silicon Valley thrive and seems to be emerging in Baltimore through initiatives like Anchor Ventures.

The next great startup ecosystem will rise, Case says, because communities, local governments, anchor institutions, investors, entrepreneurs and innovators adopt a Silicon Valley mindset in which disbelief is suspended and opportunities are identified.

“The only question is if the community is there to seize the moment,” Case says.

Case used Detroit and Silicon Valley to illustrate his point. Seventy-five years ago, Detroit rode automobile manufacturing to become one of the hottest, most innovative cities in the country. As Motor City flourished, orchards covered the San Francisco Bay Area. “(Silicon Valley) wasn’t growing startups, it was growing fruit,” Case says. “Things can change.”

While much of Baltimore has lamented Amazon’s decision to exclude the city from its list of finalists for its second headquarters, Case sees opportunity in the city’s wholehearted attempt. The city’s anchor institutions, government agencies, entrepreneurs and others collaborated to submit a unified and strong proposal.

“How do you take that same framework and keep fighting?” Case asks. “While Amazon is a unique opportunity and fighting to bring it here it makes sense, the better strategy is creating an ecosystem that creates the next Amazon.

“I think Baltimore is extremely well positioned to rise in the coming years,” Case says, acknowledging that many other cities across the nation are in similar positions.

The abundance of grit, inspiration and ingenuity found from Baltimore to Boise is the inspiration for creating Rise of the Rest, which identifies and invests in promising startups outside of Silicon Valley, New York and Massachusetts.

“(Rise of the Rest) shines a spotlight on great American cities with great histories and places that have great futures because of their startups,” Case says. “There’s momentum in each of these cities. There’s hope in each of these cities. There’s a recognition that there’s more to be done.”

Earlier this year, Case announced that his investment firm, Revolution, partnered with dozens of renowned investors like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to create a $150 million Rise of the Rest seed fund. On Valentine’s Day, Revolution announced that nine startups from nine cities, including Baltimore’s Catalyte, received the first investments from this fund.

“Over time, we believe that (Rise of the Rest) has the potential to help each of these cities rise to the next level,” Case says.

Local perspectives


Joining Steve Case at the inaugural Anchor Ventures event was a group of Baltimore’s innovation ecosystem builders. In a panel discussion moderated by JHTV’s Christy Wyskiel, these builders shared signs of progress, words of encouragement and calls to action.
Deb Tillet of ETC
On Baltimore entrepreneurs’ needs: “Access to the three C’s: capital, connections, creativity. And now two other C’s: craft beer and coffee.”

On making connections: “In this city and this place and state, you are one degree of separation from anyone you need to know.”
Richard May of Innovation Village
On comprehensive engagement and collaboration: “Baltimore can’t win if we only put three players on an 11-player field.”
Demian Costa of Sagamore Ventures
On Baltimore’s many strengths: “We have to focus the energy we have in these different areas. We have to celebrate wins. Great things will come.”

The Anchor Ventures series continues on March 15 at Columbus Center (701 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD) with “Healing Hearts: Harpoon Medical’s Solution Story.” Save the date and visit the Anchor Ventures site or follow us on Twitter for more updates.


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