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Beta City showcases Baltimore’s evolving startup community

City Garage. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

City Garage. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Six of Baltimore’s rising tech startups showcased their companies at Betamore’s third annual Beta City at City Garage, one of the most prominent pitch competitions in Baltimore.

Fresh produce delivery company Hungry Harvest won the pitch competition and $25,000 before a judging panel that included Mayor Catherine Pugh.

“It’s a validation that this thing works,” said CEO Evan Lutz. “(This award is) from Baltimore. I’m born and raised here. There’s a lot of problems we can fix here just by influence and through food.”

Hungry Harvest, which came away from a 2016 Shark Tank appearance with a $100,000, collects produce from farmers that is unwanted because of its shape or color and sells it through subscription boxes.

During his pitch, Lutz said the company will move into Raleigh as its next market. The company is already in Maryland, Washington, northern Virginia, Philadelphia, south New Jersey and south Florida.

“We want to make every city as big as Baltimore has been for us,” he said. “We have a scalable model that can work anywhere.”

This year, the business showcase and competition was expanded to be part of a larger event, Build Baltimore, sponsored by Betamore and Sagamore Ventures. Build Baltimore’s event Saturday will be called Garage Fest and take place at The Foundery, also located at City Garage. Garage Fest will highlight maker projects using drones, robots and music.

Last year’s Beta City event welcomed around 1,000 guests to City Garage and was won by Tissue Analytics, which makes a software platform to help assess chronic skin wounds and allow patients and providers to track how they heal.

After more than 100 companies applied to participate in his year’s competition, it will feature b.well, emocha, Hungry Harvest, Protenus, Next Step Robotics and VitusVet.

Emocha, a telemedicine application that allows health care professionals to monitor patients taking drug treatments remotely, also pitched at Beta City last year. CEO Sebastian Seiguer watched the pitch last year remotely while he was out of the country, but said the company has grown and evolved.

The company does not do many pitch competitions, but Beta City has become an important event because of how it brings together the Baltimore startup community.

“We do Beta City because it’s a very well-organized event,” Seiguer said. “A lot of our investors are there … think it’s always a great opportunity to focus our concept and our pitch.”

Over the past year, the company has seen studies published about the effectiveness of its technology, and the company has gone into several new disease areas after initially covering just tuberculosis treatments.

Emocha also received $1 million in a private investment round and picked up new health departments as clients, including the states of Delaware and New Mexico, the city of San Diego, and counties in Michigan.

The company’s growth will help inform its pitch at this year’s event, Seiguer said.

“We realize that part of what’s made us successful is how we’re taking a really simple concept and taking it digital,” he said. “We’ll probably be more focused on the very basics of why our technology is so successful.”

Beyond the competition, Beta City also serves as an opportunity to bring the city’s entrepreneurial community together.

A report from Johns Hopkins 21st Century Cities Initiative, released Thursday, showed that the city’s startups need more access to capital. Events like Beta City that bring the startup community together can help increase the stature of the city and bring in more venture capital.

Seiguer said he finds the community to be growing more cohesive and doing more for the city and each other.

“I think that Baltimore has an emerging startup and technology scene, which when we started emocha about four years ago was very fragmented,” he said. “Now, this is a really interesting development with some great companies. … All these companies mean jobs for the city. It’s a really good sign for the city.”

 


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