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Health startups dominate InvestMaryland Challenge

Of the 41 technology startups to advance in the latest round of the InvestMaryland Challenge, 16 companies are related to medicine or health care, state officials announced today.

The InvestMaryland Challenge is an initiative of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development that seeks to grow entrepreneurship and innovation in the state by doling out cash and other prizes to early-stage technology startups.

The top company in each of the four categories — Life Sciences, Information Technology, Cybersecurity and General Industry — will win a $100,000 grant from the state.

There are 10 semi-finalists in the Life Sciences category, including several that invent novel medical devices, such as Stevensville-based Harpoon Medical Inc. and Bel Air-based GraftWorx LLC.

The 41 semi-finalists also include 14 information technology companies, six cybersecurity companies and 11 general-industry companies. Here’s the full list of semi-finalists in the 2014 challenge.

Outside of Life Sciences, six more semi-finalists are health-related, most of which operate in the health IT sector. Germantown-based ClinicMax Inc., for example, designs software for Electronic Health Records, while Annapolis-based Pulse8 LLC provides health care data analytics.

Another, Gaithersburg-based ClickMedix LLC, creates mobile software that enables health care providers to connect with patients from remote locations. As the winner of the 2013 Pitch Across Maryland business competition, another contest for early-stage entrepreneurs, ClickMedix was automatically entered as a semi-finalist in InvestMaryland.

The grants are funded by the Maryland Venture Fund (the state’s venture capital fund), the BioMaryland Center (a division of DBED that connects life sciences researchers with private-sector partners) and other sponsors. The total value of all the prizes this year is $700,000.

Companies based outside of Maryland are eligible as long as they agree to establish a presence in Maryland. The second annual challenge attracted 260 applicants, including 29 companies from 11 other states and Washington D.C.

Among the semi-finalists, 38 companies are based in Maryland, while two are from D.C. and one is from New York. They will be interviewed by a panel of expert judges on March 6, and winners will be announced in April.

The inaugural challenge last year awarded $425,000 in grants and prizes, including the first place winners in three categories: Red Owl Analytics (Information Technology), GrayBug (Life Sciences) and i-Lighting (General Industry).

The InvestMaryland Challenge is distinct from the InvestMaryland program, which is a state-run venture capital initiative launched in 2011.

The program has raised $84 million to support small, high-tech startups, with most of the money managed by private VC firms chosen by the state.  If the companies are successful, the VC firm keeps 20 percent of the profits; the rest is returned to the state’s general fund.



Startups move forward in 2013 InvestMaryland Challenge