oined tonight by hundreds of entrepreneurs at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Governor Martin O'Malley awarded $100,000 each to three Maryland companies in the State's inaugural InvestMaryland Challenge, a national business competition which offered cash and in-kind awards as well as opportunities for startups to showcase themselves to potential investors.
The winner in the Life Sciences category is Graybug, a Baltimore-based company that is developing drug delivery technologies for the treatment of neovascular diseases, including age-related macular degeneration. Topping the IT (hardware/software) category is RedOwl Analytics, a Baltimore-based company recognized for its Reveal Software, which examines corporate communications and transactional data in real-time to help reduce risk and provide organizational assessments for executives, analysts and other monitors. The General Industry category winner is i-Lighting of Northeast, which sells an expansive line of cost-effective, easy-to-install, energy-efficient LED lighting kits for indoor and outdoor living spaces. The three winners also received two round-trip tickets from Spirit Airlines and legal services from Whiteford Taylor Preston, a Baltimore law firm.
"The InvestMaryland Challenge offers a unique opportunity to celebrate the ground-breaking innovation taking place in our State and connect our entrepreneurs with the resources they need to turn their ideas into the companies and jobs of tomorrow," said Governor O'Malley. "I want to congratulate all the participants in our inaugural Challenge and look forward to kicking off next year's competition in the fall."
"The InvestMaryland Challenge illustrated both the potential of Maryland's entrepreneurial community and the need for capital among our young startups," said Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) Secretary Dominick Murray. "Maryland will continue its strong support of entrepreneurs in high-growth sectors like life sciences, cyber security, green technology, aerospace and advanced manufacturing so that we can continue to fuel our Innovation Economy and create jobs for generations to come."
Organized by DBED, the Challenge drew 259 entries from around the country, including 25 out-of-state companies from as far away as California, Georgia and Massachusetts. The field was narrowed over three successive rounds of judging by a panel of 79 investors, successful entrepreneurs, business executives and other members of the Maryland startup community.
Also awarded during the Finale event were more than $125,000 in in-kind and smaller cash awards contributed by business incubators, legal firms, entrepreneur advisors and others who work with startups. Special awards included a $50,000 software package from Microsoft BizSpark; $25,000 in research and development services from Noble Life Sciences; a $5,000 University of Maryland Ventures prize for the best University of Maryland-affiliated entrant; a $5,000 prize from the Maryland Biotechnology Center to a life sciences entrant to attend either BIO International 2014 in San Diego or MEDICA, the world's largest event for the medical sector in Dusseldorf, Germany; $5,000 to encourage entrepreneurship in rural areas from the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center; and $5,000 plus meetings with potential investors from New Markets Venture Partners for the company with the best education technology innovation. Incubator space was also awarded from the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore, the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, Bethesda Green and TowsonGlobal. The Chesapeake Innovation Center awarded an opportunity to present during their TechBridge Showcase.
In addition to fueling entrepreneurship, the Challenge will help build a pipeline of innovative companies for the State's InvestMaryland program, the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland's history. Created by Governor O'Malley and passed by Maryland's General Assembly in 2011, the program is being run through the Maryland Venture Fund and DBED. Last year, the State raised $84 million for the program through an online auction of tax credits to Maryland insurance companies.
Two-thirds of the funding -- $56 million -- is being managed by carefully screened private venture firms that will invest the funds and, if successful, return 100% of the principal and 80% of the profits to the State's general fund. To date, InvestMaryland has invested $25 million in three local venture firms -- Grotech Ventures will invest $12 million; New Atlantic Ventures, $8 million; and Kinetic Ventures, $5 million. The remaining third is being invested by the Maryland Venture Fund directly in innovative companies. To date, the Fund has invested in companies that include e-commerce, biotechnology, online education, social media and IT/communications.
ABOUT DBED: The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development stimulates private investment and creates jobs by attracting new businesses, encouraging the expansion and retention of existing companies, and providing workforce training and financial assistance to Maryland companies. The Department promotes the State's many economic advantages and markets local products and services at home and abroad to spur economic development and international investment, trade and tourism. Because they are major economic generators, the Department also supports the Arts, film production, sports and other special events. For more information, visit www.ChooseMaryland.org.