Frederick, MD – Starting a business is like jumping off a cliff… and building your wings on the way down. That’s why the premiere class of entrepreneurs graduating from The Edge, a community growth business accelerator spearheaded by the Frederick Innovative Technology Center Inc., are known as “Cliff Jumpers.” The 12-week program is an intensive, boot-camp style course aimed at revving the start-up learning curve. Seventy mentors, all established company leaders and business development professionals, helped participants dive deep into topics such as building a better business model and doing market research to concise communications and capital considerations.
The Edge capped off with Demo Day on Monday, September 9, at the ROOT building in downtown Frederick with a pitch contest for $11+,000 in funding, FITCI membership benefits and Shulman Rogers legal services. Emerging business leaders presented to a panel of local and regional judges, beginning with a 30-second “elevator” pitch, a standard practice for networking or meeting with harried executives. Six companies moved on to a more in-depth second round, based on their potential for successful job creation.
Daemon Price took first place with his venture, Meridian Technology Systems. The company developed a patented technology hardware, called Skorpion, which protects critical infrastructure systems, such as nuclear energy, power, and water, from the rising tide of cyber-attacks. Price told judges, “The electric grid, in 2018, 75% of power plants reported cyber security incidents. That’s a 5000% increase from one year ago.” He explained that it can take months to reveal the extent of such incidents and cost millions of dollars to mitigate.
Meridian Technology Systems took the $5,000 grand prize.
Second place went to NanoBioFab, creator of I-Ring, a smart wearable that tracks an individual’s fat-burn rate during exercise, making it possible to custom-tailor workout routines for maximum effectivity. NanoBioFab’s cofounders, Xiao Nao Liu and Ruoting Yang collected $2,500, which they will put toward commercialization of the product.
Third place and another $ 2,500 went to Xiao Xiao Han, a partner in Oncogone. Oncogone created a stable drug delivery hydrogel that will make it easier for oncology doctors to target and treat cancerous tumors.
At the end of the event, Helen Propheter, Director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development (OED), stepped forward with a surprise award sponsored by OED. “Honorable Mention” and $1,000 went to The Edge’s youngest participants, Christopher Pondoc and Blue Shapiro. The duo are 17-year-old high school students who started VITA EDO, LLC, last year and launched in March 2019. The platform connects fellow students with employment opportunities and already has 200+ customers. Shapiro and Pondoc were recognized for their passion and professionalism.
Edge mentor Jonathan Boehman is Director of Innovation for Immersion Active, a digital advertising company. He says his work in the innovation space taught him the importance of structure in emerging businesses. “These participants are getting a jump start on what others learn the hard way. I wish there was a program like this when I started.” He also noted the program’s above-average graduation rate. Eleven of 14 chosen applicants, from a pool of 40, completed the program.
Fellow mentor Kim Mozingo, Program Manager of DefTech Maryland, echoed feedback from several participating CEOs. “As soon as you think you known everything, you’re wrong.” She explained that the Edge fills in gaps for seasoned professionals, too. “They may have expertise in their own discipline, but this program allows them to dive deep into all the other areas it takes to make a business successful, such as understanding their customer base.”
The Edge walks entrepreneurs through creating a launch kit, business model, story craft, problem solving and pitching to investors, among other issues. The Rural Maryland Council (RMC) is its founding sponsor. Other sponsors include: Frederick County Maryland, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (NCI), Leaders on Loan, NEXT by Shulman Rogers, PNCBank and TEDCO.
Congratulations to the Edge’s graduating class 2019:
CarrTech: Sue Carr, Terri Lopatka and John Nazzaro
Next-generation filtered needles for safer, easier, quicker drug delivery with less medical waste.
Guiding Future Stars: Christopher Stack
Helping high school athletes and their families navigate the college recruiting process.
Hawkeye MedTech: Ashok Kapur
TotalCare, an innovative telemedicine solution platform for improving healthcare outcomes.
Available on Android and Apple.
Impeccable Taste: Lianne DeLawter: A safe space for potential restaurant owner/operators to test menus, ideas and concepts while building business acumen.
Meridian Technology Systems: Daemon Price
Skorpion, patented technology hardware to protect critical infrastructure systems from cyber-attacks.
Molecular Tools: Olena Lar
An expedient and non-toxic fluorescent-based screening platform which provides greater sensitivity in drug/treatment testing.
NanoBioFab: Xiao Nao Liu
Breakthrough wearable technology providing real-time data on fat burning activity for increased personal or professional training effectivity.
Oncogone: Xiao Xiao Han
Safer, injectable dual-drug delivery hydrogel to target and treat cancerous tumors.
Tiny Code: Gary Munoz Lopez
An emergency communication device capable of bridging the gap between first responders and citizens when other systems are down.
VITA EDO: Christopher Pondoc and Blue Shapiro
An AI platform connecting students seeking employment with organizations in need of workers, interns or apprentices.
WISE: Emerson Wen
AVIVI, a retail intelligence platform to improve order/estimation margins for companies, such as fashion retailers.
For more information on The Edge or other FITCI programs, log on to www.fitci.org.