Third annual InvestMaryland Challenge begins

maryland flag

Annapolis, Md. – September 17, 2014 – Governor Martin O’Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown today officially launched the third InvestMaryland Challenge, Maryland’s national business competition. The challenge is part of Maryland’s comprehensive strategy to grow the state’s thriving entrepreneurial community and create jobs – it connects innovative startups with the resources they need to reach the next level. Winners in four categories – Information Technology, Defense and Security, Life Sciences, and Sustainability and Exploration – will each receive $100,000 grants. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) is awarding the prize money through the Maryland Venture Fund and BioMaryland Center.

As in previous years, DBED is working with partners and sponsors to expand the pool of prizes that will be awarded when the challenge concludes in the spring. Prizes include cash grants, incubator space, marketing and legal services and opportunities to pitch investors. For more information or to apply, visit www.investmarylandchallenge.org.

Some past InvestMaryland Challenge winners created a video urging early-stage business owners to enter the challenge. Since bringing home $100,000 grand prizes for their categories, these ambitious entrepreneurs have hired new workers, launched new product lines and earned new investment. Now they ask, “Who will be next?”

“For three years in a row, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has ranked Maryland the #1 state for innovation and entrepreneurship,” Governor O’Malley said. “The InvestMaryland Challenge is just one part of our ongoing efforts to foster innovation, promote economic growth and create jobs.”

“The InvestMaryland Challenge helps create jobs and grow our economy by supporting Maryland’s cutting-edge small businesses,” Lt. Governor Brown added. “We’re committed to helping our small and innovative businesses grow, thrive and stay here in Maryland, where they’ll create middle class, family-supporting jobs for more of Maryland’s workers.”

The challenge is limited to companies with fewer than 25 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue. New this year is that all four categories will be open to businesses located in Maryland, in other states and abroad. Out-of-state and country winners will have to establish an office in Maryland and spend a majority of the funding here if they win a top prize. The department also expanded the scope of the four categories to better reflect the diversity of Maryland’s startup companies.

Applications are due Dec. 12. Companies that enter in the first month of the challenge will pay a discounted fee of $49. The fee will rise to $99 after Oct. 16. Company entries and business plans will be evaluated by teams of expert judges that include successful entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, high-tech and scientific researchers, top-level executives and others who work with startups. The top 10 companies in each category will move on to face-to-face interviews with panels of judges. Winners will be chosen from the top three finalists in each category. Along the way, applicants will also have many opportunities to network with their competitors as well as judges to connect them with potential customers and partners.

The inaugural challenge, launched in 2012, awarded more than $425,000 in cash prizes and services and drew 259 contestants in three categories from 10 states and Washington D.C., with companies applying from as far away as California, Georgia and Massachusetts. In its second year, the challenge added a fourth category and increased the prize pool to nearly $1 million.

The challenge is an offshoot of InvestMaryland, one of the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s key economic initiatives. Created in 2011, InvestMaryland is a public-private partnership between the state and venture capital firms. It raised $84 million to spur growth in small, high-tech Maryland companies and is the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland’s history. 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 percent of the principal and 80 percent of the profits to the state’s general fund. The remaining third of the InvestMaryland capital is largely allocated to direct investments by the state-run Maryland Venture Fund.

2015 InvestMaryland Challenge Promo

Source: Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development

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