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Venture Capital : Development News

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Higher-Ed Startup StraighterLine Moving Out of ETC

StraighterLine, a Baltimore startup that recently got $10 million in venture funding, will soon move out of its incubator into a place of its own.

Seeking to accommodate its expanding staff, the company plans to relocate as early as Aug. 1 to a new, 6,000-square-foot office, tripling its space, says Marketing Manager, Steven Pope.
Its current space in The Johns Hopkins University Eastern Campus at 1101 E. 33rd St. in Waverly is 1,900 square feet and part of the Emerging Technology Center.
The company is still firming up a location, but the new space will be "five to 10 minutes away" from its present office, Pope says. 
"(We are) trying to capitalize on the market's readiness for a change in the education industry. We're trying to become the Amazon of online education. That's obviously a big goal, but we're one step closer to achieving it this year because of our expansions," Pope says.
The relocation is being supported by a $10 million investment to the company made in part by FirstMark Capital, a New York venture capital firm. CityLight Capital and Chrysalis Ventures also contributed to the investment.
Since the beginning of the year, the company has grown from 11 employees to its current staff of 22. It plans to grow to 30 employees in the next few months, Pope says.
The company is currently hiring subject matter experts and marketing and  software development staff.
StraighterLine provides entry-level, online college courses for credit in a variety of subjects. They follow a self-paced, independent study approach to online learning. Students can transfer courses taken at StraighterLine to a variety of partner colleges that offer degrees.
Pope says that with students facing mounting college debt, the company aims to offer low-cost and low-risk college credit options.
CEO Burck Smith founded the company in 2009 after launching Smarthinking, an online tutoring company.
Source: Steven Pope, marketing manager.
Writer: Alexandra Wilding, [email protected]

Need some biz cash? Utah firm bringing funding expertise to Baltimore

Plenty of folks turn to matchmaking services to find a date. So, why not turn to one to find cash for your company? That's the idea behind Utah firm Funding Universe LLC, which hooks up entrepreneurs with would-be investors.
Here's how it Funding Universe works. Companies pay Funding Universe $99 to assess their investment needs. After analyzing the entrepreneur's credit history and business, the company offers a list of potential investors and lets them know where they should go to a bank, venture capital firm, or angel investors for cash.

If the business needs some tweaking, then Funding Universe tells the entrepreneur to revise his pitch. The business owner can do that on his own or tap Funding Universe's expertise, paying anywhere between $500 and $3,500 as a consulting fee.

Broke Blake, CEO of Funding Universe, is scouting the Baltimore area with plans to open an office within the next three to six months. The office will likely wind up in one of the Emerging Technology Centers offices in Canton or Charles Village. Blake is not sure yet which he will pick for the 1,000 to 2,000 square foot office.

"We'd like to make that happen soon," he says.

The company is also on the hunt for a regional director to head the office. Though the office will only employ a handful of people, he hopes it will nonetheless have a big impact in helping companies get funding.

Blake chose Baltimore because he has a lot of contacts in the region and they convinced him that his service could be useful to the community. Those business contacts include executives from the Baltimore Angels Network and the Maryland Technology Development Corp.

"I really want to cultivate the angel community and get active investors," Blake says.  

Funding Universe has 900 investors and 400 banks in its network, serves 10,000 businesses per month and has 70 employees.

Source: Brock Blake, Funding Universe LLC
Writer: Julekha Dash
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