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The second annual InvestMaryland Challenge is in full swing. If your business is in need of a jump start, check out this site for more information about the national business competition. The Challenge offers applicants free admission to networking events, social media promotion, scoring and feedback from judges, exposure to venture capital firms and angel investors and the chance to compete for more than $600,000 in prizes. Winners of the Life Sciences, IT, Cybersecurity and General Industry categories will each win $100,000 awards. Others will take home smaller grants, incubator space, consulting services and other cash and in-kind prizes. Applications are due by Dec. 6.

Judges include a distinguished lineup of industry leaders and experts in a variety of fields. Meet a selection of judges below.

Meet The Judges:

IT-robDoub

ROBB DOUB

Robb Doub joined New Markets Venture Partners in 2003. Robb is the lead administrative partner and serves as a board director for eCoast Sales Solutions and Appfluent Technology, and is lead partner or board observer for K2 Global, Kroll Bond Ratings, Navtrak, Three Stage Media, CSA Medical and TidalTV. He also serves on the board of Egeen International and the Conflicts Advisory Board of the off-shore hedge funds.

IT-daphneDufresneDAPHNE DUFRESNE

Daphne Dufresne joined RLJ Equity Partners from Parish Capital Advisors, where she was a Venture Partner managing the direct investment and co-investment program. Formerly, Ms. Dufresne was a Principal at Weston Presidio Capital with $3.4 billion of assets under management. She also served as Associate Director in the Bank of Scotland’s Structured Finance Group. Ms. Dufresne received her B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

LS_Christy_W_WyskielCHRISTY WILLIAMS WYSKIEL

Christy Williams Wyskiel is an entrepreneur and investor with 20 years of experience focused on the life sciences and healthcare industries. Previously, Christy was Managing Director at Maverick Capital, an equity hedge fund with $12 billion under management. She co-founded GrayBug, an ophthalmic drug-delivery company. In 2012, Christy joined the Johns Hopkins Alliance, a board charged with evaluating the commercial viability of research projects at JHU.

CS_Frederick_FerrerFREDERICK J. FERRER

Frederick J. Ferrer has over three decades of experience in the National Security, Intelligence Community (IC), Homeland Defense and Cyber. Mr. Ferrer holds a Master’s of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University and serves in a number of leadership capacities, including the Maryland Commission on Cybersecurity Innovation and Excellence; National STEM Consortium Advisory Committee; and Chesapeake Regional Tech Council.

GEN_Deb_TillettDEBORAH TILLETT

As the Executive Director and President of the Emerging Technology Center in Baltimore, Ms. Tillett is responsible for management of budgetary, administrative, programmatic functions and strategic planning. Prior to joining ETC, Ms. Tillett served as president and co-founder of Immersive 3D, LLC, a technology start-up providing web-based 3D computer gaming solutions for K-20 education and offering contract-based technology services.

See the full list of judges and submit your application on InvestMarylandChallenge.org.

Cortix Systems

Cortix Systems is an InvestMaryland finalist.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Cortix Systems, based in Alexandria, Virginia. To find out a little more about this innovative pharmaceutical company, we spoke with Matt Piekarczyk, company president.

Q. What does Cortix Systems do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. It’s primarily a platform that you can think of as a mix between Siri and Google. Effectively, what we do is provide answers to user questions out of the documents, databases and services which already exist within organizations. The user provides a query, just like they would in Google, except that instead of returning a zillion documents they may or may not find interesting, we actually return the data they’re looking for. So, if you put in the question, “How many patients have been coming into my office?” within a certain date range, to answer that question, you would have to scan several documents and systems and maybe create a Web search. Our system combines all of that to allow you to get the answer to your question. Any answer that can be arrived at by combining many different sources of information—that’s what our system does.

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“Twenty-seven percent of companies surveyed—that is getting close to one third—say that they are more likely to hire someone who is multilingual, and the reports are when those individuals are multilingual, they earn about 10 percent more.”

Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance on staying competitive with foreign language education

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Baltimore-based Common Curriculum, founded in 2009. To find out a little more about this innovative education company, we spoke with co-founder Robbie Earle.

Q. What does Common Curriculum do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. Common Curriculum is like the Google Docs of lesson planning. The average teacher has to manage between 800 and 5,000 word documents per year. Most teachers create all of those lesson plans and worksheets and calendars by hand or using Microsoft Word, and the tools they have currently are just not good enough. The complexity of lesson planning really gets in the way of a teacher’s long-term vision, so they lose sight of where they’re taking their kids, because they’re so focused on “What am I doing next week?” The kids gets confused and their teaching suffers. On top of that, it’s impossible to share ideas or pull courses from people who can help improve the teacher’s method. Common Curriculum, on the other hand, offers really elegant lesson planning designed to help not just teachers, but also schools, mentors and teaching coaches. Everyone gets to share in that vision and design the curriculum together.

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Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

Find MD BIZ News’ profile on Sickweather from March 2012. 

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Baltimore-based Sickweather, founded in 2012. To find out a little more about this innovative company, we spoke with co-founder and CEO Graham Dodge.

Q. What does Sickweather do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. We’re like a Doppler radar for sickness. We’re able to track illness with real-time data that we gather from social networks. We then generate these weather maps related to illness. We can show you now for the first time ever where the flu is going around, where pink eye is going around, or other various viruses.

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Templar Keyboard

Advanced Concepts Research Group offers secure mouses and keyboards.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Advanced Concepts Research Group, based in Gainesville,Virginia and Aberdeen, Maryland, founded in 2010. To find out a little more about this high-tech company, we spoke with President and CEO Yasuko Carr and Executive Vice President and CIO Chadd Carr, who also describe themselves as a “dynamic husband and wife duo.”

Q. What does Advanced Concepts Research Group do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

Yasuko: We are a certified minority and woman-owned small business. ACRG offers expertise in information technology research and development and formal test and evaluation of information and intelligence-based systems. Our goal is to provide a broader range and more robust set of cyber threat intelligence tools essential for building a more secure cyberspace. ACRG’s Security Sciences Laboratory seeks to reduce future cyber security issues through the research of root causes of modern cyber security deficiencies, fostering open collaboration and integration of emerging knowledge, and expediting time-to-market of technologies, standards, and requirements.

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VisiSonics

VisiSonics offers 3D sound.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is College Park-based VisiSonics, founded in 2010. To find out a little more about this high-tech company, we spoke with President and CEO of VisiSonics Ramani Duraiswami.

Q. What does VisiSonics do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. Our product presents sound as naturally as if you’re listening to something on the scene. When you listen to music on headphones it sounds a lot different than how you would have experienced the music at the concert. If you see a movie at a high-end theater with a very high-end sound system, it sounds quite a bit different from the way a movie sounds when you watch it on your iPad or tablet. So our software makes that sounds as natural as being present at the real scene. We hope it will have a major impact on the way people consume media, such as games, movies and music on mobile devices.

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 MSNBC JJ Ramberg

MSNBC’s JJ Ramberg is planning to present a free lecture in Baltimore on April 9.

Looking to transform your small business? JJ Ramberg, the longtime host of MSNBC’s “Your Business,” may offer some ideas.

On April 9, at 500 West Baltimore St. in Baltimore, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law is sponsoring a free book signing and lecture featuring Ramberg. Starting at 4:30 p.m., she plans to sign copies of her bestselling book, ”It’s Your Business: 183 Essential Tips That Will Transform Your Small Business.” The lecture, ”An Evening of Entrepreneurship with JJ Ramberg,” is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

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Local University: Baltimore

Baltimore area businesses attended the Local U conference in White Marsh.

Nearly anything is better than nothing when it comes to Internet marketing for small businesses, online marketing expert Aaron Weiche said during Friday’s Local University: Baltimore conference at the Hilton Garden Inn in White Marsh.

“If you understand what [online marketing] is, you’re much more likely to do something. Actionable takeaways is one of the main reasons we do this. We need to take it away from a tech sort of thing and show people that it’s just an extension of how you do business,” said Weiche, one of several presenters during the Google-sponsored conference.

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Staq, Baltimore

Baltimore-based Staq is competing in the InvestMaryland Challenge.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Baltimore-based Staq, founded in 2012. To find out a little more about this innovative company, we spoke with CEO and co-founder James Curran.

Q. What does Staq do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. Advertisers and publishers on the Internet use a great deal of different technologies for business. We aggregate all of these technologies together into one unified dashboard. We are like the Mint.com for web advertising. We work with an advertiser or publisher, let’s say it’s BaltimoreSun.com. They have a login account with their ad server, they also have a login account with Google, they have one with Facebook, they have one with AOL’s Advertising.com, they have one with Millennial Media and the list goes on and on and on. We connect all of them together like Mint.com would.

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CarFare Compare is an InvestMaryland Challenge finalist.

CarFare Compare is an InvestMaryland Challenge finalist.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Annapolis-based CarFare Compare. To find out a little more about this new company, we spoke with president and founder Alan Stapleton.

Q. What does CarFare Compare do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. We have a smart phone app that people can download and use to order a chauffeured service to come pick them up, either immediately or a month from now, whether you’re planning a wedding or going out of town or something else like that.

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SocialToaster

SocialToaster is competing in the InvestMaryland Challenge.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Baltimore-based SocialToaster. To find out a little more about this growing company, founded in 2011, we spoke with CEO and inventor Brian Razzaque.

Q. What does SocialToaster do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. We help organizations to engage their existing fans and we make sharing content from the organization through those fans to their personal social networks very easy.

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