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At Beta City, Tissue Analytics, TopBox nab top prizes

Daniel Leaderman//September 29, 2016

At Beta City, Tissue Analytics, TopBox nab top prizes

By Daniel Leaderman

//September 29, 2016

Luke Cooper, founder and CEO of fixt, speaks while giving the company’s product pitch at BetaCity 2016. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)
Luke Cooper, founder and CEO of fixt, speaks while giving the company’s product pitch at BetaCity 2016. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

At the first Beta City event a year ago, Sagamore Ventures’s City Garage facility in Port Covington was still very much a shell, empty but ready to become a hub for startup companies and light manufacturing.

As the second Beta City celebration — a showcase of the region’s entrepreneurship and innovation community — got underway Thursday afternoon, it was clear things were different.

For months now, City Garage has been home to companies including a skateboard manufacturer, a design firm specializing in the fusion of glass and metal, a community makerspace with industrial tools and Under Armour’s Lighthouse design center.

During Beta City, City Garage also played host to eight startups pitching their ideas to a panel of judges and potential investors and more than a dozen other growing companies looking to demonstrate and promote their products and ideas.

“The whole idea of this event is to attract people to Baltimore, to highlight companies that are already here, connect them to with each other, and connect them with the support networks, the investment community and the community leaders that can help them advance toward their goals,” said Greg Cangialosi, co-founder of Betamore, the Federal Hill-based incubator, coworking space and education center that’s one of the event’s lead sponsors.

This year, everything at Beta City was taken up a notch, Cangialosi said. While the first-year contestants still competed for exposure and bragging right, the stakes were higher: $75,000 in prize money was up for grabs.

That figure included a single prize of $50,000 put up by the Maryland Technology Development Corp., or TEDCO, as well as a pot of $25,000 put up by a group of investors, including Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and the University System of Maryland.

Tissue Analytics, which makes a software platform to help assess chronic skin wounds and allow patients and providers to track how they heal, took the top prize.

Right now, the platform — which includes a mobile app and a web portal — is being used in about 50 facilities across the country, and the company is looking to expand its use of data to make the system more valuable to clinicians, said CEO and Co-Founder Kevin Keenahan.

“This is a huge milestone,” Keenahan said. “It’s awesome to be recognized.”

Founded by Johns Hopkins University graduates, Tissue Analytics began in Philadelphia, where it participated in the Dreamit health accelerator program. When the program was finished, the company moved to Baltimore and conducted pilot testing with Johns Hopkins Medicine, Keenahan said.

The $25,000 prize went to TopBox, a software company that provides analytics to help organizations discover the root cause of issues that affect their customers. Co-founder and President Jeff Yentis said he was “stunned” by the size of the Beta City event and the level of support the organizers showed the entrepreneurship community.

119 applicants

This year’s pitch contest drew 119 applications from companies in and out of the region — a 70 percent increase over last year, said Betamore CEO Jen Meyer.

The contest began with a surprise introduction from Democratic mayoral nominee and state Sen. Catherine Pugh, who joked that as an experienced entrepreneur and businesswoman herself — her credits include creating a line of baby clothing — she should pitch her products as well.

Some of the competing startups were already veterans of pitch competitions in the region. Sisu Global Health, a medical device company that has developed a way to salvage and reuse blood lost during surgery, won a $100,000 investment when Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest bus tour visited Baltimore in 2015.

Sickweather, maker of an app that scans social media for posts indicating illness and then provides users with a score indicating the relative level of illness in their area, was also selected to pitch at last year’s Beta City event.

Since last year’s Beta City, Sickweather has had its first year with real revenue and broke even, said CEO Graham Dodge. The first pitch contest helped the Baltimore-based startup raise its profile in the area and with local investors, particularly during the “demo” session, in which visitors could talk to the company, learn what it had to offer and get free T-shirts and stickers, Dodge said.

Apart from the prospect of nabbing at least a portion of the $75,000, Dodge said he and his teammates were looking forward to again using Beta City to connect with the community.

Other participants slated to pitch were:

emocha – a mobile health platform that provides real-time access to health data;

Fixt – a mobile app that helps with maintenance for internet-connected devices;

SnobSwap – an online platform that give uses access to a collection of high-end boutiques;

Workbench – a platform that allows educators to create and share classes and monitor student progress on activities in real time.

Angel investor and entrepreneur John Cammack, one of the competition’s judges, said he was pleased to see that companies like Tissue Analytics and Sisu Global Health, which were founded elsewhere in the country, had come to Baltimore to settle.

Cammack also noted that the contestants seemed to have strong teams running them, not just a single strong entrepreneur at the helm.

“They’re all highly investable,” Cammack said. “They’re going to be able to attract talent to help them grow.”

Betamore and Sagamore Ventures, the venture capital launched by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, also presented awards to the team behind the Light City Baltimore festival, entrepreneur Paul Palmieri, and Fixt CEO Luke Cooper.


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