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Tech Crawl East Showcases Baltimore Innovation At Its Best

Promit Roy, Chief Technical Officer, Action = Reaction Labs LLC - Arianne Teeple
Promit Roy, Chief Technical Officer, Action = Reaction Labs LLC - Arianne Teeple
If anyone still questions Baltimore's bona fides where technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are concerned, Tech Crawl East did a lot to answer them.

Marking its second year, the event -- held at the Morgan Stanley building in Harbor East last Thursday -- is kind of like speed dating with a Baltimore spin. Entrepreneurs wait at tables with their technology all gussied up and business cards at the ready. Interested investors, other tech businesses, and media-types step onto home plate (literally, giving the evening its Bmore flavor) to hear a 60-second pitch.

For young tech companies and investors it's a chance to interact with multiple potential partners in a relatively quick period of time. And even if they aren't able to connect with a possible backer, participating companies gain valuable experience.

"It's an unusual opportunity to get to pitch to investors for four hours straight. The act of being there and pitching we think is really helpful to companies seeking investors," says Brian Sierakowski, a Tech Crawl East organizer.

While business cards from investors are the surest sign of a solid presentation, Tech Crawl attendees vote for the evening's best pitch. This year's winner was a software-as-service registry and mobile framework for custom location-based service apps called viaPlace.

"We're really proud to be a part of this," says Michael Raphael, president and chief engineer of Direct Dimensions, another participant. "Baltimore is a burgeoning tech community. We did Tech Crawl Maryland and we won. We're back again this year. We got some attention and we'll be at (the Greater Baltimore Tech Council's) TechNite this year." The company came in third this year pitching ShapeShot, a realistic 3-D facial capture system.

Other standouts at this year's event included Brent Halliburton of Deconstruct Media. Halliburton has developed a tool that enables web publishers to create their own self-service advertising platform.

In another sure sign that Baltimore is a real player in the technology sector, event organizers expanded the scope of Tech Crawl. The inaugural event, held in 2009 at the Emerging Technology Center (ETC) in Canton, was only open to companies based in the Baltimore area and largely showcased the work of current ETC members and alums.

"All the original goals were still there. We still wanted to showcase local companies and show what was going on here that's exciting in the technology scene," says Sierakowski.

"(This year) the idea was to take the original concept and expand it in every way. We wanted it to be larger attendance. We wanted more companies. We wanted a wider range of companies, and really just bring it to the next level," he adds.

According to John Trupiano, a Tech Crawl organizer and president of SmartLogic Solutions, the event achieved those goals. About 50 percent of participating companies were from Baltimore, but Philadelphia and New York City were also well-represented. One startup, Deep Web Technologies, came all the way from New Mexico for the chance to meet East Coast investors. An Israeli company had to back out at the last minute but plans to attend a future Tech Crawl.

"We had quite a mix of companies with different sorts of technology. We had about half that were web-based companies and the other half were different technologies. We had a bunch of medical companies and gaming companies," Trupiano says.

Overall, he says, Tech Crawl achieved its purpose. "Almost everybody told me they made at least a handful of great connections. That's one of the criteria that we had established. Another thing I noticed was there was a good 2 hours when you walked up and down those rows and saw that everyone was talking with someone. They were all engaged."

"That's the point. You don't want to see the companies just standing around not talking to anyone. It's an event to pitch, practice your pitch and meet people who would be relevant to you," he continues.

For fledgling gaming animation and audio company, Action = Reaction, the evening was a big boost, proving that the city is full of opportunity. The startup has developed a next-generation technology that offers gamers a more realistic, physics-based animation and sound experience across a wide range of real-time applications.

"We came out of Johns Hopkins. Most people are frantically looking for jobs. We created them in Baltimore. That's what events like this help people do. They hook up with venture capital and other people, and you're able to keep economic development here. I think if you have more willing parties on the capital side then we'll have the next Silicon Valley here if we put effort into it," says the firm's president, Omar Ahmad.

Trupiano says he and the other organizers hope to launch other regional Tech Crawls.

"We really want to get a playbook put together for the event so that it can be expanded with a minimal effort. A Tech Crawl West, Tech Crawl South, it's a cool concept. It's unique. I've never seen another event like it."

Walaika Haskins is editor-at-large of Bmore Media. She has lived and worked in Baltimore City for 25 years, taking occasional breaks to live in Paris, New Orleans and New York City, but she always comes back to Baltimore.

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Photos by Arianne Teeple

1. Action = Reaction Labs LLC Chief Technical Officer Promit Roy demonstrates a product during Tech Crawl East at the new Morgan Stanley building in Fells Point.

2. The Vigilant Medical booth at Tech Crawl East in the new Morgan Stanley building in Fells Point.

3. Tech Crawl East co-organizer John Trupiano, President of SmartLogic Solutions.

4. Tech Crawl East at the new Morgan Stanley building in Fells Point.

5. Tech Crawl East is an opportunity for innovative early stage technology companies from across the east coast to give a 60 second pitch about their product.

6. The Deconstruct Media booth at Tech Crawl East in the new Morgan Stanley building in Fells Point.
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