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Hopkins, Maryland and Plank announce new health incubator

The exterior of Johns Hopkins' Fast Forward East. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

The exterior of Johns Hopkins’ Fast Forward East.

Three of Baltimore’s biggest incubators have teamed up to start M-1 ventures, a new accelerator focused on connected health and fitness.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the University of Maryland’s UM Ventures and Plank Industries announced the 16-week accelerator set to begin in September. It will offer resident businesses $25,000 each in exchange for a 5 percent equity share.

Brown Advisory and the Abell Foundation will also be sponsors of the effort, based in Johns Hopkins FastForward East coworking space.

“By focusing this accelerator on connected health and fitness, M-1 Ventures takes advantage of our regional strengths to provide startups in this vertical with a clearer path to success,” said Christy Wyskiel, an adviser to the president of Johns Hopkins for innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs Paul Singh and Tony D’Agostino will run the accelerator. Singh has had experience as an entrepreneur and investor, cofounding 500 Startups. He has invested in more than 1,900 companies.

D’Agostino has worked with Wells Fargo, UBS and Bank of America and currently works with medical device startup ZyGood. He said he was excited to see what comes out of the accelerator.

“I think we’re going to see things that none of us have even imagined,” he said. Companies he has already spoken with have products in the works for bandages with sensors, connected diapers and foot sensors that can help form an early warning for diabetes.

As part of the program, businesses will have access to experts from the partner universities and pro-bono legal and accounting services.

“We’re excited to provide access to our expert researchers and practitioners to ensure that truly innovative ideas have a chance of succeeding,” said Jim Hughes, co-director of UM Ventures. “We look forward to collaborating with our partners in Baltimore to make this a destination for all connected health and fitness companies.”

That the two universities have come together for the project demonstrates their commitment to building the startup community in the health and fitness spaces, D’Agostino said.

“It is Hopkins and Maryland,” he said. “People think of them as competitors but this is such an interesting space that they have come together to help build the startup community in Maryland.”

The accelerator will look to bring in companies from Maryland and from around the country, hoping some of those businesses will find a new home in Baltimore. D’Agostino said plans include showing companies all that the city can offer, including trips to Under Armour and Orioles games.

“It’s really a who’s who of the community,” he said of the organizations involved. “We want to try to show them that this is a good community to come here and build a company.”

The entrepreneurs will display their product at a Demo Day to investors from the industry and the region. Two of the companies will also win an additional $25,000 investment through a peer-review system.

M-1 Ventures took its name from the M-1 designation given to first-year medical student.

“We believe the name represents the promise of M-1 startups,” the accelerator’s website explained. “They may be early-stage businesses, but they have the potential to improve the health and fitness of people around the world.”


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