With record breaking attendance, CONNECTpreneur brought the party to Maryland on Thursday, April 28th. Entrepreneurs continue to use this event as a place to get a lot of business done. I met several CEOs who had attended previous sessions and were returning to get more done – including me! The advance scheduling facilitates the face-to-face connections for which the event is named.
It took Sally Sternbach of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development some time to coax Tien Wong into holding a CONNECTpreneur in MD. All indications are that there will be an encore. Attendance broke a new record with over 500 attendees. Maybe word got around that keynote speaker, Mark Walsh, of SBA was giving away billions of dollars to companies in support of job creation, innovation and diversity? Or maybe it was because he’s really entertaining and speaks his mind? Mark is new to his role directing Innovation and Investment for SBA and is working toward greater efficiency and impact. The outcome of the upcoming Presidential election will determine his opportunity to stay.
Pitches were pretty diverse. For the first time since I’ve been attending, one early stage company took on SEX. I also noticed the geography widening to include a young company from the west coast. Here’s a quick rundown on the list of companies seeking capital:
- ePurchasing Network – Creates a SaaS-based B2B marketplace for equipment dealers and manufacturers
- ICmed – Helps families manage personal health information
- Neolitics – Uses really complex light processing technology to help companies produce stuff
- SwingSpace – A broker friendly real estate engine that helps companies find and rent smaller office space
- Toto Communications – Uses cellular networks to deliver mobile call management without data usage
- Triea Nutrient Recovery – Managing animal waste while recovering nutrients, improving water quality and creating new revenue streams
- Unbound – Discretely delivered sex toys for millennial women
- Valaurum – changing how we think of currency with a new, verifiable unit of gold called an aurum
- Wye River Technologies – collection and management of facility data
The investor panel was moderated by Jonathan Aberman and included Elana Fine of Dingman Center Angels, Kathryn Collins Laing of Boston Capitol Corp, Pascal Luck of Core Capital Partners, Kyp Sirinakis of Epidarex Capital. There was much discussion about the concept of unicorns (see the list from Forbes), how rare these companies are and the common characteristics of those who have been deemed so.
As we were all leaving I ran into a two award-winning, student entrepreneurs (not pictured). I asked about their takeaways from the day’s events and both agreed that their favorite company was Unbound because of its easy to understand business concept and presentation. They thought others needed some polish but the event was eye-opening and they learned a lot. With more universities putting emphasis on entrepreneurship I’m sure students will become another constituency that this event will continue to attract
Looking forward to the next CONNECTpreneur scheduled for June 30th in Falls Church.