Bay Bloom Wins Inaugural “Terp Tank” Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program Sophomore Capstone Project Competition

Bay Bloom team

Bay Bloom, a proposed company that would develop and sell an all-natural, algae-based fertilizer, won first place and $500 in the first annual Terp Tank Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP) Capstone Project Competition, held on Monday, May 11 at the University of Maryland, with more than 200 people attending.

Bay Bloom is a company idea developed by EIP students Jake Webb (Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science), Andrew Dallas (Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science), Ellen Martin (Civil Engineering–Environmental track), and Shriya Gupta (Finance and Information Systems.).

The team proposed developing an organic, algae-based fertilizer with essential components—nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium—as well as a rich array of micronutrients to stimulate plant growth. Bay Bloom’s fertilizer would release its nutrients slowly, giving plants longer access to growth stimulants while also reducing runoff into the watershed.

Bay Bloom

The algae would be grown in raceway ponds adjacent to (and using) water from the Chesapeake Bay, which would be filtered by the algae and returned as clean water throughout the process.

The Bay Bloom team estimates its fertilizer would cost $.12 per pound, which puts it in line with commercially available products.

UMD algae expert Patrick Kangas, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology, provided samples for the team to work with, while Civil & Environmental Engineering lecturer Natasha Andrade mentored the team.

“I definitely want to keep developing Bay Bloom,” said Webb. “This summer we will test the fertilizer in the UMD Public Health Garden and see if it really works. We might also try and produce some packaging, get algae from Dr. Kangas and sell it at farmers’ markets nearby.”

Bay Bloom

SAT Showdown, with an idea for a turn-based, online, multiplayer SAT prep game, took second place in the competition. Third-place winner Bloomies proposed developing a reusable diaper made out of recycled materials.

“The EIP Capstone Project and Terp Tank Competition are the culmination of two years of EIP,” said Ryan Elza, academic program specialist for EIP and organizer of Terp Tank, himself a UMD Honors College alumnus. “Capstone projects address the global necessity to develop and implement solutions to critical social and environmental concerns in ways that are both technologically viable and economically sustainable.”

For their capstone, EIP second-semester sophomores worked in teams to develop a for-profit business plan that achieves a multiple bottom line of both profitability and social benefit.

“Three of our EIP classes were project-based, where we pitched ideas and formed groups around those ideas,” said Webb. “But they were all built around the first class, where we learned the entrepreneurial mindset, a better way of thinking about things. Applied over time, I saw the projects I worked on get better every year.

“Another element they teach in EIP is having a business that is as disruptive and as impactful as possible. This way of thinking definitely influenced our idea for Bay Bloom.”

Terp Tank judges included: Martha Connolly, Director, Mtech Baltimore; Erica Estrada-Liou, Director of Curriculum & Experiential Learning, Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Ronnie Gist, Associate Director, Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program; and Adam VanWagner, Community & Student Programs Manager, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

Daniel Rochkind, UMD Honors College alumnus and COO/CFO of Marker LLC, generously sponsored the Terp Tank award.

About the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP)

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP) provides University of Maryland Honors College freshmen and sophomores with an interdisciplinary, living and learning education to help build the entrepreneurial mindsets, skill sets, and relationships invaluable to developing innovative, impactful solutions to today’s problems. A joint program of the Honors College and the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), EIP has a proven pedigree of successful creativity and innovation-related education and achievement. Mtech has been a leading force in entrepreneurial education and innovation for more than 25 years. EIP is based directly on Mtech’s groundbreaking Hinman CEOs program, the first undergraduate living-learning entrepreneurship program in the United States.

VisiSonics’ RealSpace 3D Audio Software Licensed by Oculus for Virtual Reality

Image Courtesy: Sergey Galyonkin (www.flickr.com/photos/sergesegal/10187117474/in/photostream/)

Image Courtesy: Sergey Galyonkin (www.flickr.com/photos/sergesegal/10187117474/in/photostream/)

Oculus announced the deal at Oculus Connect, the company’s first developer conference, in Los Angeles, Calif.

RealSpace™ 3D Audio enables the virtual placement of sound anywhere in a 3D space with pinpoint accuracy, creating the perception of real source direction, distance, depth, and movement relative to a listener when heard through standard stereo headphones. It re-creates the auditory ambience of an environment, creating a completely immersive audio experience.

“Audio is an essential ingredient for immersive virtual reality,” said Brendan Iribe, CEO at Oculus. “The technology that the VisiSonics team has developed is a great start towards developing a fully-featured VR audio solution, and we’re incredibly excited to be licensing their work to drive VR forward.”

Based on ten years of research at the University of Maryland, RealSpace™ 3D Audio models the transformations sound undergoes as it travels from a source to a listener’s ears in an environment, using a combination of head-related transfer functions, room models and head-tracking, as well as their interplay.

“We are excited to see our RealSpace engine technology as part of the future of Oculus’ virtual reality systems,” said VisiSonics Founder and President Ramani Duraiswami. “We believe we are at a threshold for physics-based personal audio rendering in virtual reality. Oculus’ innovative technology is poised to catalyze the industry, and we are incredibly happy to play a role in this.”

RealSpace™ 3D Audio technology demos are available today at realspace3daudio.com.

VisiSonics is an Mtech Technology Advancement Program incubator company, Maryland Industrial Partnerships grant winner, and a previous finalist for the University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition.

University of Maryland Unveils Master’s Degree Program in Technology Entrepreneurship

University of Maryland

The University of Maryland, a national leader in entrepreneurship education and venture creation, today announces it will offer a new master’s degree program in technology entrepreneurship starting this fall.

The 30-credit, 15-month Master of Technology Entrepreneurship, available online to current and aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide, features the university’s most advanced and comprehensive entrepreneurship curriculum to date, taking students from concept development and prototyping to business model generation and customer validation, as well as legal aspects of entrepreneurship, financial and innovation management, and effective growth strategies.

“As a pioneer in online education and new venture creation, the University of Maryland is empowering the next generation of technology entrepreneurs through this innovative master’s program,” said Dr. James V. Green, director of entrepreneurship education at the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), which is offering the master’s program through the UMD Office of Extended Studies. “In addition to our most rigorous academic entrepreneurship track, for the first time, we are pairing this enriching academic experience with the skills and relationships of the university’s acclaimed startup incubators.”

The Master of Technology Entrepreneurship can be completed in 15-months, with students enrolling in two 3-credit courses over five 12-week terms. The degree program is designed to fit both full-time and part-time students from anywhere in the world.

The following courses, each available online (descriptions available here), will be offered:

  • Innovative Ideas and Concept Development
  • Strategies for Managing Innovation
  • Business Modeling and Customer Validation
  • Innovative Thinking
  • Creative Design, Prototyping, and Testing
  • Market Development and Commercialization
  • Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Management and New Venture Financing
  • Corporate Technology Entrepreneurship
  • Fundamentals of Technology Startup Ventures

In addition, students in the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship program will have access to Mtech’s first online incubator, leveraging the experience and expertise in new venture formation and launch of the successful Technology Advancement Program incubator and Venture Accelerator Program.
The online incubator will include activities such as video-based coaching and advising, mentoring, networking and connecting promising startups with additional support, which could include funding introductions.

Mtech incubator graduates and success stories include two billion-dollar companies (Martek Biosciences and Digene Corporation), hybrid engine inventor PAICE Corporation, Squarespace, and more than a hundred additional technology-based ventures.

The University of Maryland has a long history of producing successful entrepreneurs, with alumni launching industry-leading companies such as Google, Under Armour, Sirius XM Radio and Polycom.

The approximate cost of the master’s program is $19,500, plus books and fees, payable in five installments over the 15-month period.

The Master of Technology Entrepreneurship launches in September 2014. Learn more at: http://mte.umd.edu.

UMD Alumnus Company Squarespace to Run Inaugural Big Game Ad

Ten years ago, in a small dorm room at the University of Maryland, Anthony Casalena set out with a $30,000 loan from his father to change the way websites were built and make it easy for anyone to create one.

Squarespace was born.

Now an industry leading, all-in-one website publishing platform provider, the company marks a milestone this Sunday with its first Super Bowl advertisement, titled “A Better Web Awaits.” Read more about the ad and preview it in The Official Squarespace Blog, or on YouTube.

“Our goal was to create a spot that was appropriate for the Super Bowl while also communicating our values,” said Casalena, CEO and founder of Squarespace. “The ad clearly establishes our mission as a company: Squarespace helps sets your website apart from the clutter we commonly find all over the web.”

Anthony Casalena, UMD Hinman CEOs alumnus and founder and CEO of Squarespace.

Anthony Casalena, UMD Hinman CEOs alumnus and founder and CEO of Squarespace.

Casalena was a member of one of the first cohorts of the Hinman CEOs Program, the nation’s first living-learning entrepreneurship initiative, which places entrepreneurial students from all technical and non-technical academic disciplines together in a unique community where they live together, learn about entrepreneurship, and can launch new ventures.

“The Hinman Program is a great facilitator of ideas,” said Casalena. “The program can connect you with the people you need to meet. It fosters a more professional way of thinking about a business and exposes you to things you wouldn’t see otherwise, such as venture capitalists or evaluating business plans. It is valuable for you to see how all of these things work in the real world.”

With 259 employees and offices in New York and Dublin, Squarespace is one of the biggest publishing platforms on the Internet, serving as a basis for millions of websites. Its user-friendly interface underlies a rich and deep publishing platform with a broad set of features.

In addition to dozens of fully customizable templates, each with a unique mobile experience, Squarespace offers simple drag-and-drop website management, blogging capability, modern ecommerce and donation capabilities, social media integration, a full suite of content block types such as photo galleries and events calendars (and no need for plugins), as well as special features for bloggers, photographers, musicians, restaurants and more.

Squarespace frontsite

Squarespace offers four mobile applications to complement its web-based service, including blogging app Squarespace Blog, photo gallery app Squarespace Portfolio, analytics app Squarespace Metrics, and idea app Squarespace Note.

From a team of one, Casalena built an award-winning company, as evidenced by:

Bootstrapped for six years, Squarespace completed a $38.5 million minority investment from Index Ventures and Accel Partners in 2010. Since then, the company released a complete overhaul of its publishing platform with Squarespace 6, more than doubled is staff and added dozens of features to its system, including its mobile apps.

After the Super Bowl, Squarespace’s ad campaign will be expanded nationwide and include TV, digital, social, and out-of-home components. The commercials, created in 60-second and 30-second formats, can be viewed at http://www.squarespace.com starting February 2.

About the Hinman CEOs Program www.hinmanceos.umd.edu
Hinman CEOs, a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, is the nation’s first living-learning entrepreneurship initiative, placing entrepreneurially-minded students from all technical and non-technical academic disciplines in a unique community. Students live together, learn about entrepreneurship, and can launch new ventures. The mission of Hinman CEOs is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit, create a sense of community and cooperation, and develop ethical leaders. All undergraduates from the University of Maryland, College Park are invited to apply for this competitive program. Brian Hinman, University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering alumnus and successful entrepreneur, provided funding to initiate and support the Program.

UMD Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program Wins National Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education

jay_smith_usasbe_fullsize

Pictured: USASBE President Pat Dickson, left, and EIP Director Jay Smith.

The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) has selected the University of Maryland Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP) as the first-place winner for an Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education award in the Outstanding Specialty Entrepreneurship Program category, university officials announced today.

A joint initiative of the The Honors College and A. James Clark School of Engineering’s Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), EIP is a two-year, living-learning program for freshman and sophomore honors students that fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, creates a sense of community and cooperation, and develops ethical and innovative leaders.

A leading voice in entrepreneurship research, teaching, and application, with over 1,000 members across the world, USASBE established the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Awards to recognize excellence in entrepreneurship education at the programmatic level. Each is awarded on a competitive basis, with only one institution winning in each category during a given year.

“EIP is a growing and dynamic program,” said Clark School Dean and Farvardin Professor Darryll Pines. “Few initiatives have made it to this national scale in less than four years. It is a testament to the passion and dedication of EIP Director Jay Smith, who not only lives and breathes the concept of innovative thinking, but also genuinely cares for each and every one of his students.”

The premise of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP) is simple: take some of the most talented students entering the University of Maryland and teach them how to apply entrepreneurial and innovative thinking to everything they do.

Less than four years after the program’s launch, its students are leaders across the university, winning competitions, starting new ventures, bolstering companies, non-profits and government initiatives, and spreading the mindset that an individual really can change the world.

Students best describe the program’s effectiveness.

“Ever since EIP opened my eyes to the entrepreneurial way of thinking, my mind has been on fire,” said Daniel Barotti, a junior mechanical engineer major who is simultaneously developing a system to improve the coordination of relief organizations during disasters, specially-lighted crosswalks to enhance pedestrian safety, and an online platform that donates money to charities when people play games online. “EIP Director Jay Smith taught us how to take a step back and re-evaluate everything. He encouraged us to start businesses and create the change we’d like to see in the world.”

EIP alumna Ashmi Sheth has interned with Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown, served as a Changemaker for the social innovation organization Ashoka U, consulted for the banking-for-change company Agora Microfinance, and assumed multiple leadership roles in the Smith Undergraduate Student Association (SUSA).

“The layout of EIP was like a thinking incubator,” said Sheth. “What [Jay Smith] does is very difficult to teach—how to think differently. He brought in successful entrepreneurs and opened our eyes to thinking ‘hey, maybe we don’t all have to work at a big company after college, maybe we can have the guts to just start something and change the world with it, especially our own communities.'”

The comprehensive yet dynamic structure of EIP includes the following:

  • Residential Community: All students live together for two years in an EIP-designated residence hall, creating a strong community, promoting the sharing of ideas, and nurturing real entrepreneurial activity.
  • Incubator Facilities: Two floors of the EIP residence hall were remodeled to create classrooms, project team rooms and program offices, making it easy for students to brainstorm, whiteboard ideas, and benefit from real-time coaching and mentoring.
  • Experiential Learning: Students participate in experiential learning activities including simulations, case studies, creativity projects, outdoor challenge course, a social venture “gumball challenge,” rapid- prototyping exercises, co-curricular workshops, internships, guest lectures, business idea/plan development, presentations, and the creation of student-owned ventures. Many assignments are team-based to build skills in cooperation, negotiation and project management.
  • Coaching and Mentoring: Program offices are located in the residence hall for easy access to coaching and mentoring. Students receive guidance on business ideas, the entrepreneurial process, or discuss career options. The program director has extensive international experience as an entrepreneur, corporate finance professional, consultant and professor of venture business.
  • Challenging Academics: Students complete a series of four required EIP courses (9 credits) taken with members of their cohort. These courses focus on entrepreneurship fundamentals, assessment of individual strengths and interests, developing a personal entrepreneurship strategy, identifying contemporary issues and opportunities for innovation, international aspects of entrepreneurship, and, as a capstone, creating a for-profit business idea with social impact. Courses are taught by the EIP director, select university faculty and industry professionals.
  • Impact Seed Fund: EIP students are eligible to receive grants from a $50,000 annual seed fund established for developing new ventures that make a positive social impact. Funds are to be used for research, product development, or working capital for students’ ventures.
  • Start-up Discussion and Peer Feedback Meetings: Students readying to launch ventures are invited to join regular meetings to share their ideas with their peers and the program staff. The meetings help students develop ideas, identify issues to consider, and obtain other feedback and advice.

Since 2010, EIP has grown to serve 170 freshmen and sophomores in the 2013-2014 academic year and supports 120 additional upper-level students who have completed the program’s course sequence. EIP students are among the highest academic performers at the university, representing a wide variety of fields of study, including business, engineering, sciences, mathematics, agriculture, linguistics, government, psychology, and architecture. Over 40 percent of the program’s freshmen are women.

EIP students have formed ventures in areas such as mobile applications, electrical/electronic devices, internet/web development, military/law enforcement, real estate, specialty apparel, gaming, niche social media, and social ventures. Dozens of others are evaluating ideas to pursue.

In addition, students have worked for Amazon, Google, Texas Instruments, Toyota, and Under Armour, as well as NASA, SAIC, Orbital Sciences, NIST, NIH, FDA, and Northrop Grumman.

They have won case competitions sponsored by Deloitte, Unilever and Target.

“Jay Smith and the EIP students are changing the university every day, for the better,” said Honors College Director William Dorland. “It is wonderful to see their efforts recognized at the national level. There will be more recognition to come, I am certain.”

“We are honored to be recognized for excellence in entrepreneurship education by USASBE, one of the most influential organizations in the nation for supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses,” says EIP Director Jay Smith. “We are committed to continually improving a model program to spur entrepreneurship and innovation, two of the key economic development drivers for creating jobs and bringing new products to market. For students, entrepreneurship is a fantastic vehicle for self-expression and self-actualization, giving them a chance them to pursue their dreams while creating value for society.”

Collegiate Entrepreneurship Software Platform VentureBoard Adopted By University of Maryland

Web Application Helps Students, Advisors Interact, Build Companies

Scott Block

Pictured: Scott Block, co-founder of VentureBoard

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — VentureBoard, a higher education software platform that reduces the barriers to starting companies and helps create a robust entrepreneurial culture on campus, has been adopted for two applications at the University of Maryland, university officials announce today.

The Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) has deployed VentureBoard in its Hinman CEOs Program courses, while the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship will use VentureBoard as a foundation for its new Fearless Founders program.

VentureBoard helps both students and advisors throughout the venture creation process. Using an elegant, modern interface, students can quickly find and assemble teams across campus, build and refine their business model canvasses, and manage their company’s projects and tasks on an ongoing basis.

For faculty and staff, VentureBoard provides a data-driven overview of the ventures in their portfolio, allowing them to quickly see which are active or in need of assistance. Advisors can also share thoughts and links, give direct feedback to student questions, and delegate tasks.

“Integrating VentureBoard into our classroom has been a win-win for both students and instructors,” said James V. Green, director of entrepreneurship education at Mtech and director of the Hinman CEOs Program, the nation’s first living-learning undergraduate entrepreneurship initiative. “Students gain access to an excellent tool for crafting business models, while instructors gain insights into the real-time status and progress of student ventures. This, in-turn, enables us to provide support that is relevant and timely.”

For the Dingman Center, VentureBoard will serve as the organizing platform for Fearless Founders, a new initiative that helps prepare student entrepreneurs from idea generation to business launch.

“One of the most important things about VentureBoard for us is that its interface, with a Facebook wall-type feed, is consistent with how young entrepreneurs communicate with each other about starting their businesses,” said Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center. “In addition to its business model canvas and Lean LaunchPad-type tools, it gives us a great way to track teams, help them communicate with each other and match entrepreneurs with advisors.”

VentureBoard can extend across a university campus, or serve specific cohorts.

The company was founded by University of Maryland students Scott Block (information systems and marketing double major, Hinman CEOs), Justin Searles (computer science major), and Avi Eisenberger (information systems and marketing double major) as a solution to the challenges they encountered while pursuing entrepreneurship in college.

VentureBoard will be available to additional universities for the spring 2014 semester.

Contact VentureBoard at (256) 258-8706; founders@ventureboard.co; or follow the company on Twitter @ventureboard.

About VentureBoard (http://ventureboard.co)
VentureBoard is an online platform that helps college students start new companies. To help students stay on task and to help university advisors track student performance, VentureBoard integrates student discovery, ideation, and collaboration to allow universities to better manage student-run companies. By providing a robust, user-centric online platform, VentureBoard encourages students to become more engaged in their businesses and allows university staff to stay better connected and organized with student entrepreneurs.

Daniel Barotti: EIP Taught Me I Can Create the Change I Want to See in the World

Daniel Barotti

“When I was in college, I wanted to be involved in things that would change the world.”
–Elon Musk

A conversation with Daniel Barotti yields the following “can-do” list:

  • Fix the way organizations communicate with each other when responding to disasters;
  • Make crosswalks fun so people want to use them;
  • Create a system that donates money to charities when people play games online;
  • Launch a creative engineering design business specializing in products that reward people for positive social behavior; and
  • Employ engineering for the good of society [broadly].

Any one of these could define a career, but the affable, wide-smiling Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (EIP) alumnus, current Hinman CEOs student and mechanical engineering junior gives you the impression that, over time, he might tick through all of these, and more.

“Ever since EIP opened my eyes to the entrepreneurial way of thinking, my mind has been on fire,” says Daniel. “It has been a rapid pace of learning.”

A product of the Poolesville High School Science, Mathematics, Computer Science Program, Daniel planned to follow in the footsteps of his father, a civil engineer for Clark Construction for 28 years, who started as an assistant project manager and worked his way up to senior vice president.

“When I came to UMD, I thought everything was laid out,” Daniel explained. “I would graduate and go straight into an engineering job. My interest was in pursuing my engineering education and breakdancing on the side. That all changed when I hit EIP.

“Right from the start, with EIP, we were introduced to non-traditional, lecture-style classes. They were much more involved and interactive. We would sit and talk about our ideas and what we wanted to do.

“From there, EIP Director Jay Smith taught us how to learn and how to think. He didn’t force ideas upon us; rather, he taught us how to take a step back and re-evaluate everything. He encouraged us to start businesses and create the change we’d like to see in the world.”

The “can-do” list was born, starting with an advanced computer system for managing emergency resources, an idea which Daniel’s team developed for the HEIP 241 capstone course “Creating Enterprise with Social Impact.”

“From the distribution of goods to coordinating resources among large organizations to managing volunteers, there can be redundancy and confusion during natural disasters,” said Daniel. “Yet everyone involved is trying to help. We want to make it easier for them to do so.”

More ideas poured in. After hearing how two UMD students got hit by cars last year, Daniel wondered how he could prevent it from occurring again.

“What if it were more appealing to use a crosswalk?” Daniel asked. “What if crosswalks were interactive? What it they lit up as you stepped onto them, kind of like the fun theory’s piano staircase?”

For that matter, what else could he make fun? Not smoking, using trash and recycling bins—basically creating products that make people want to engage in positive behaviors.

Gaming—what if hours logged onto various platforms also produced donations for charity? This idea and the team that produced it, also through HEIP 241, became an interest of Daniel’s.

Last summer, Daniel worked with Amanda Antico, his instructor for HEIP 241, and one of the serial entrepreneur’s companies, Practica Partners, which works with both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations to build entrepreneurial communities.

While there, Daniel helped the company develop a guide on how to start a business. He also worked with Antico’s eight-year-old daughter, Kylee, who runs two businesses of her own, one of which, Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand, supports entrepreneurial education for kids.

“Together, they taught me the meaning of ambition,” said Daniel. “I was blown away but learned so much, especially regarding the intricacies of starting a business.”

Daniel continues to work with the Anticos today, even while he chips away at his own “can-do” list, a list that almost never got started.

“I was hesitant about the ideas I had to make the world a better place,” said Daniel. “I learned how to get past that hesitation in EIP and I think everyone can learn something from that. Anyone can try. The fear of having an idea turned down, the fear of your ideas not being liked, it is daunting, but once you get the resolve to get out there and try things, you will find an enormous pool of resources, especially people, on campus, who are willing to help you.”

Daniel is swimming in that pool, with mentors from EIP, Hinman, Mtech and on campus always willing to help. Watch that “can-do” list get done.

Hillman Entrepreneurs Student Lenace Edwards Wants to Be the Voice for Those Who Have None

Lenace Edwards

Talk to Hillman Entrepreneurs Program student Lenace Edwards for five minutes and you will learn that she aspires to be a politician. Talk to her longer and you want to write her into your next political ballot.

Lenace wants nothing less than to be the voice for those who have none. She’s seen first-hand how people can slip through the cracks.

In 2005, she left New Orleans, La., with her mother and brother just before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Here in Maryland, she watched in horror as the most destructive and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States wreaked havoc upon her hometown.

“I saw people standing on the roofs of houses holding up “help me” signs. My dad and brother were trapped in water and only escaped because they hopped on an empty boat that was floating down the street.

“The local, state and federal government failed our community. Those who were hurt the hardest didn’t have a voice. I want to make sure that never happens again. I want to stand up and fight for those who do not have a voice.”

She already has.

Lenace’s mom, Trinace Edwards, is without healthcare. She has a lemon-sized tumor behind her optic nerve. It has not been treated.

Thanks to Lenace, Trinace’s voice was heard through none other than President Barrack Obama, during his Rose Garden remarks on October 1, 2013. Both Lenace and Trinace were there.

Lenace Edwards at the White House

Lenace Edwards, in the red jacket on the left-hand side, with President Barrack Obama in the White House.

“Trinace Edwards was laid off from her job a year ago today,” said President Obama. “Six months ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She couldn’t afford insurance on the individual market, so she hasn’t received treatment yet.  Her daughter Lenace, a student at the University of Maryland, is considering dropping out of school to help pay her mom’s bills.  Well, starting today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Trinace can get covered without forcing her daughter to give up on her dreams.”

Lenace’s dreams are big. The Hillman Entrepreneurs Program has helped her start to realize them.

Earlier this year, she was offered an unpaid internship with Maryland Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery). A full-time student and single mother, Lenace could not afford to work for free. Through the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program scholarship fund, she was able to take the internship and continue supporting her family.

“With so many other responsibilities, I debated whether or not it was feasible for me to accept an un-paid internship no matter how amazing I knew it would be. The Hillman program eased my worries by providing me with a stipend.”

Lenace now works for Mizeur as a political assistant and field organizer. She helps find and organize events and house meetings for Mizeur to go to, and serves as president of Terps for Mizeur.

“She’s a politician that stands on principle, and that’s not common,” said Lenace. “We have politicians that just go with the flow of things. She’s one who hears your concerns and does something about it. It’s not about the glitz and glamour. She’s there to do the work.”

As is Lenace. In 2012, she was chosen as a Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellow, a highly selective honors program through UMD’s School of Public Policy that connects students with a desire to serve the public with elected officials and nonprofit leaders. She is also an active member of Phi Alpha Delta, the largest co-ed professional law fraternity in the U.S.

As a commuter, Lenace credits the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program with helping her engage at the university.

“I would have had a tougher time being an off-campus student, coming in, taking classes and then leaving without the Hillman Program,” said Lenace. “Having our own place on campus, the Hillman lounge, is critical. It helps us be more connected on campus.”

The friendships she’s created through the Hillman Entrepreneurs Programs have helped as well.

“We can sit in the Hillman lounge and I can ask [fellow Hillman student] Sidra [Malik] how to word something on my resume. We help each other academically and professionally. I am honored to be surrounded by a group of amazing individuals who are constantly encouraging and supporting me in all of my endeavors. I am indebted to the Hillman program.”

Now in her senior year at UMD, Lenace sees herself in the future working with Mizeur or attending law school. Politics, to her, are the key.

“The entire time I was at the White House I had this overwhelming feeling of belonging,” said Lenace. “It proved to me that politics is where I want to be.”

With her there, perhaps those without a voice, those who need it most, will be heard through Lenace.

NSF-Backed DC I-Corps Kicks Off First Cohort with 20 Federal Laboratory, University and Regional Inventors, Entrepreneur Teams

DC I-Corps Logo

Silicon Valley-Tested, Lean Startup-Based Initiative Slated to Train 300 Top Entrepreneurial Research Teams Over Three Years

DC Innovation Corps (I-Corps), the new, National Science Foundation-backed program aimed at translating the region’s vibrant research community into successful startups and licensed technologies, kicks off its first cohort this week at the George Washington University with 20 teams of inventors and current and aspiring entrepreneurs.

The cohort launches with a diverse mix of teams from the Children’s National Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, and regional entrepreneurs from the Emerging Technology Center, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) and bwtech@UMBC.

DC I-Corps guides entrepreneurial teams through an intense, seven-week program based upon the Silicon Valley-tested Lean Startup Model, which emphasizes developing a Minimal Viable Product, gathering extensive feedback from potential customers (a minimum of 100), pivoting and iterating. Teams seek a product-market fit for their innovation while developing a repeatable and scalable business model.

“Nothing lays a better foundation and prepares startups for the rapid change and challenges of the 21st century than the Lean Startup Model,” said DC I-Corps Director Edmund Pendleton. “We believe that combining this methodology with the research churning from world-class universities and federal laboratories in this region is the equivalent of releasing lightning from a bottle. Great companies that bolster the region’s economy and bring important products into our lives are bound to emerge.”

Teams selected for DC I-Corps, segmented by institution, with brief descriptions of the technologies they are developing and entrepreneurial lead, include:

Children’s National Medical Center

  • ChronoKair: comprehensive healthcare smartphone/tablet application covering a patient’s entire hospital course. Entrepreneurial Lead: Kelly Swords, urologist and pediatric urology fellow and adjunct faculty, the George Washington University.
  • Shoulder and Hip Arthrography Robot: small and lightweight robot for shoulder and hip medical procedures. Entrepreneurial Lead: Reza Seifabadi, Joseph E. Robert Fellow at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation.
  • Smartpupillometer: smart phone application for measuring pupil size and reactivity in different clinical settings. Entrepreneurial Lead: Mariana Mafra Junqueira, anesthesiologist and pediatrician, and Joseph E. Robert Fellow at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation.

Emerging Technology Center

  • Tutela Industries: interactive patient engagement platform that employs a patient engagement approach with the ultimate goal of improving short and long-term outcomes for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. Entrepreneurial Lead: Karen Alder, vice president.

George Mason University

  • High Score Educational: 3D gaming application for science teachers. Entrepreneurial Lead: Len Annetta, professor.

The George Washington University

  • CloudAdvisor: system for predicting virtual machine cloud performance and recommending public cloud instances. Entrepreneurial Lead: Ahsen Uppal, senior software engineer.
  • Key Orthopedics: 3D-printed polymer device for growing stem cells in bone and cartilage tissue. Entrepreneurial Lead: Benjamin Holmes, Ph.D student.
  • NanoChon: joint injury therapeutic technologies for extended and sustained biologic delivery. Entrepreneurial Lead: Nathan Castro, Ph.D. student.
  • Small Spacecraft Micropropulsion: advanced micro-cathode arc thruster for small satellites. Entrepreneurial Lead: Samudra Haque, Ph.D. student.
  • ToxSpec: low-cost, rapid method for predicting pharmaceutical compound activity and toxicity. Entrepreneurial Lead: Nan An, Ph.D. student.

Johns Hopkins University

  • Read Ahead: ocular training method for seeing ahead when learning to read music. Entrepreneurial Lead: Travis Hardaway, adjunct faculty, Peabody Institute.

Regional

  • Astrapi Corporation: advanced coding technology for improving broadband and wireless communications. Entrepreneurial Lead: David Shaw, senior vice president.
  • Awarables: solution for measuring sleep disorders in pediatric and aging populations. Entrepreneurial Lead: Madhvi Upender, scientist and entrepreneur.
  • Autonomous Marine Systems: autonomous sailing catamaran for ocean surveillance. Entrepreneurial Lead: T.J. Edwards, partner and mechanical engineer.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County Cyber Incubator@bwtech

  • Surveillant: advanced compliance and checklist software for government, financial, security and related sectors. Entrepreneurial Lead: Jeehye Yun, founder and CEO.

University of Maryland, College Park

  • Diagnostic anSERS Inc.: molecular fingerprinting technology for forensics and chemical analysis. Entrepreneurial Lead: Sean Virgile, Ph.D student.
  • Myotherapeutics: clinical assay for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Entrepreneurial Lead: Eva Chin, assistant professor.
  • N5 Sensors Inc.: chemical sensors for industrial and environmental monitoring. Entrepreneurial Lead: Jonathan George, Ph.D. student, the George Washington University.
  • XiaoQi’: medical device for detecting hemoglobin and oxygen in oral and internal organ lesion tissues. Entrepreneurial Lead: Hsing-Wen Wang, visiting research assistant professor.

Virginia Tech

  • Dynamic Safety Systems: worker safety system with online reporting tools and data analysis. Entrepreneurial Lead: Brady Redfearn, graduate student.

A joint effort of the University of Maryland, the George Washington University and Virginia Tech, DC I-Corps focuses on innovations coming from engineering fields, medical/health/life sciences, and physical and computer sciences. The program builds upon the successful National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps initiative, but expands its scope to cover researchers and technologists with no prior NSF affiliation or support.

DC-I-Corps partners supporting the program and/or providing mentors include FounderCorpsUM VenturesTEDCOCenter for Innovative TechnologyINNoVATEFederal Lab ConsortiumRoanoke – Blacksburg Technology CouncilACTiVATE®Maryland Intellectual Property Legal Resource CenterSpringboard Enterprisesthe George Washington University Office of EntrepreneurshipVirginia Tech School of EngineeringUniversity of Maryland James Clark School of EngineeringUniversity of Maryland Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech).

DC I-Corps is part of a national network of five nodes across the country selected by NSF with additional nodes in Silicon Valley, New York, Atlanta, and Ann Arbor.

More than 200 teams have gone through the I-Corps program; that number is expected to hit 300 by Spring 2014. I-Corps teams completing the program and applying for NSF SBIR Phase I grants have seen a 60 percent award rate compared to a historical one in six average. Poor market and commercialization understanding are cited as the most common reason for rejection.

An additional DC I-Corps cohort customized for National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers will commence on November 4 on the NIH campus in conjunction with the NIH Office of Technology Transfer and BioHealth Innovation Inc. (BHI).

About DC I-Corps (www.dcicorps.org)
DC I-Corps is a regional program designed to foster, grow and nurture an innovation ecosystem in the nation’s capital, the nearby states of Maryland and Virginia, and the mid-Atlantic region. The program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and jointly run by the University of Maryland College Park, the George Washington University, and Virginia Tech. The program provides real world, hands-on training on how to successfully incorporate innovations into successful products. The ultimate goal is to create a new venture or licensing opportunity for program participants.

Hinman CEOs Company FiscalNote Raises $1.2 Million from Mark Cuban, NEA, First Round Capital Dorm Room Fund

Pictured: Hinman CEOs student Jonathan C. Chen, co-founder and chief technical officer of FiscalNote.

Pictured: Hinman CEOs student Jonathan C. Chen, co-founder and chief technical officer of FiscalNote.

FiscalNote Inc., a real-time government analysis company co-founded by current Hinman CEOs Program student Jonathan C. Chen, raised $1.2 million in seed funding from investor Mark CubanNew Enterprise Associates, and First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, the company recently announced.

FiscalNote provides a web-based software platform that aggregates and analyzes state and local government legislation in real-time and predicts government action using machine learning and natural language processing.

“We aggregate proposed legislation on the state level, analyze the bits and pieces, and try to predict whether bills will pass into law or not,” said Jonathan, who is also chief technology officer for FiscalNote.

The idea, Jonathan explains, is to give companies and organizations the ability to track legislation and prepare for it.

“Say a bill comes out that affects the taxes you pay for your business,” said Jonathan. “If you know it is likely to pass, you can make adjustments in advance. Our software keeps you ahead of the game.”

The Hinman CEOs Program, Jonathan says, played an integral role in moving FiscalNote forward.

“James Green has provided us with excellent advice,” said Jonathan. “Mtech supported us with a $5,000 Citrin Impact Seed Fund grant during our early stages, when we needed it the most.”

Co-founded last March by Jonathan and two former classmates from Wootton High School, Tim Hwang and Gerald Yao, FiscalNote got its start in the University of Maryland Department of Computer Science’s first annual FISH Bowl competition.

After receiving positive feedback from judges, the FiscalNote team applied to accelerators for the summer. They were accepted into and entered the Plug and Play Startup Camp, a 10-week program that immerses startups and entrepreneurs into the Silicon Valley environment.

While there, the company pitched several potential investors, of which Mark Cuban was the first to respond.

“His emails are very short,” said Jonathan. “His first reply was ‘sounds interesting.'”  Cuban invested $740,000 in the company.

“After Mark Cuban supported us, many other venture capitalists wanted to jump in as well,” Jonathan explained. “We went with New Enterprise Associates and First Round Capital Dorm Room Fund.”
FiscalNote is relocating to Bethesda in October. The company is also running a closed beta test with select customers, including Fortune 500 companies, national advocacy groups, and financial institutions.

FiscalNote’s advisory board includes Chris Lu, former White House Cabinet Secretary for Barack Obama, and Youngsuk “Y.S.” Chi, chairman of publishing company Elsevier, and LegalZoom CEO John Suh.

FiscalNote is currently looking to hire more engineers, especially people with experience in natural language processing, machine learning and advanced algorithms and statistics. The company’s website, www.fiscalnote.com, contains more details on jobs and companies who are interested in using the product can sign up.