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Subscription box Femly tops the field at Beta City

Femly won the fourth annual Beta City Venture Capital Pitch Competition, beating a field of five more of the area’s most promising startups to take home a $25,000 cash prize Thursday evening at City Garage in Port Covington.

Just days after Forbes named Baltimore one of the top 10 emerging cities for startups, the companies pitched their companies while also touting their growth and development in Baltimore and Maryland.

Incubator Betamore’s annual Beta City event is more than a pitch competition. It is also a celebration of the Baltimore’s startup community. Some of the city’s best startups were chosen for the competition from a field of more than 100 applicants.

Even before she was officially declared the winner, Arion Long, Femly’s CEO, a position she described as “chief estrogen officer,” had emerged as a highlight of the competition. She engaged the audience with a sharp presentation of her company’s product, a monthly subscription box filled with organic feminine care products meant to help women during their period.

A product of Baltimore with degrees from Morgan State University and the University of Baltimore, she told the story of a company with a product with a captured market, while also making favorable comparisons to other subscription box companies, like Dollar Shave Club, which was acquired by Unilever for $1 billion.

She also noted that winning the competition’s $25,000 prize would put her company over the top in being able to make an order to begin manufacturing its boxes.

“This was the first step for 100,000 boxes of feminine care for us to help 100,000 women,” Long said after being declared the winner.

Femly was not the only subscription box company to pitch Thursday. Hunt a Killer’s Ryan Hogan pitched his company’s monthly episodic murder mystery boxes.

So far the company has brought in about $12.3 million in revenue and aims for 500,000 active users within the next 30 months.

But the company also has dreams beyond subscription boxes, Hogan told the audience. He envisions the company as an entertainment company, one that has already had a television development deal, and is planning to make a foray into scripted podcasts. He compared the company not to other subscription box companies, but to firms like Netflix that offer entertainment under the monthly subscription model.

Three biotech companies pitched Thursday, showcasing technologies they believe can change the world of medicine.

Avidea Technologies, fronted by Andrew Ishizuka, its chief science officer, presented its nanoscaffolding technology used to create more personalized vaccines. Ishizuka noted that similar technology won the Nobel Prize earlier this week.

Galen Robotics told the audience about its robot that can help assist with medically invasive surgeries. The problem with these surgeries, lead hardware engineer Yunus Sevimli said, is that while they are more convenient for patients, they can require more precision from surgeons. That opens them up to a greater possibility of making critical mistakes if they develop hand tremors.

The Galen device would assist surgeons, helping bring stability and control to the surgeon’s knowledge and experience.

The company plans to bring the device to research hospitals initially, but really wants to make a more cost-effective machine that community hospitals could use to improve their efficiency.

Sisu Global Health’s Katie Kirsch presented the medical device company’s products for the non-American and European markets. The problem, she said, is that 80 percent of the world’s medical devices are made for 10 percent of the world’s population. Sisu wants to make devices for emerging markets.

She presented its first device, a blood bag replacement called the hemafuse, and said the firm has more devices in development. The firm closed a $1.2 million note round this summer and plans a Series A funding round next year.

Zest Tea, the final company, pitched its highly caffeinated tea as a healthier alternative to coffee. The firm just released a line of sparkling energy teas and is making a move into convenience store giant 7-Eleven and is negotiating with Target.

The company is projecting to finish with $1.9 million in revenue this year and $5.8 million next year.

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