FounderCorps Members Coach University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition Finalists

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Eric Schurr
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Pictured: FounderCorps logo

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—Finalists in this year's University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition preparing their investor presentations are privy to a special team of coaches from FounderCorps, whose experienced entrepreneurs support technology entrepreneurship organizations in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Eight FounderCorps members are mentoring the competition's eight finalists alongside Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) staff. Final investor presentations will be held at a competition and awards ceremony on May 6 at the University of Maryland.

"We are providing them [finalists] with real-world insight so they do a better job of presenting, but we also want them to hear what a seasoned entrepreneur thinks it takes to be successful," says FounderCorps member Jonathan Aberman, who is also the founder and managing director of Amplifier Ventures. "People are liking it. It's a lot of fun."

Coaching bioengineering graduate student Irene Bacalocostantis and her company PolyVec Systems is FounderCorps member Donna Harris, CEO of Commission33 LLC, who previously co-founded or held leadership positions with companies such as Springboard Partners, Interpoint Group, Vale Solutions and Centromine. PolyVec develops a synthetic polymer carrier that delivers therapeutic genes to breast cancer cells.

"Irene's company is creating really exciting stuff, although I don't think she was thinking big enough about her business," says Harris. "She was focusing just on breast cancer, but her technology is applicable to other cancers as well."

Bacalocostantis learned quickly, according to Harris.

"Irene is fantastic, her enthusiasm is great and she is super smart," says Harris. "I was impressed with the quality of her investor pitch presentation, especially as a student with no business background. She rapidly absorbed and employed business concepts."
Harris said Bacalocostantis e-mailed her after their coaching session and indicated that the meeting helped her focus.

In addition to Aberman and Harris, FounderCorps mentors of competition finalists have included: Alex Murphy, vice president of traffic, Inc., and founder, Long Tail Interactive; Edmund Pendleton, board member, Affinity Lab, board member, Alumni Fidelity, and founder and CEO, New Old House Company; Joel Selzer, serial entrepreneur and innovator and CEO of Ozmosis Inc.; Ajay Sravanapudi, founder, president and CEO, LucidMedia Networks Inc.; Ben Turner, CEO and co-founder, demandmart; and Steven Woda, president and CEO of KidSafe.

The consistent pairing of successful and budding entrepreneurs is common in regions surrounding universities such as Stanford and MIT.

"If you look at the most successful innovation ecosystems, you have a world-class technology university and a stable of serial entrepreneurs looking to share their experience and do it again," says Dean Chang, director of Mtech's venture programs. "This partnership between the University of Maryland and FounderCorps is an indicator of just how much the regional entrepreneurial culture is growing.”

Aberman confirms this.

"The BPC [business plan competition] is a respected effort and the University of Maryland has a unique position in the D.C. area because it has a great engineering and business schools and an accelerator on-site," Aberman explained. "We look for organizations that are doing things really important for the region in entrepreneurship and then support them. The BPC is an example of the way we want to engage the community."

The University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition is administered by Mtech. Previous winners include five multi-million dollar ventures, including Squarespace and Lurn, both of which were named to the Inc. 500 list for the second straight year.

The competition encourages students, faculty and researchers at the University of Maryland to leverage their talent and ideas to create tomorrow's leading companies. The competition process, its mentors, partners and cash prizes have helped many students, faculty and researchers build their own companies.

Sponsors of the 2011 competition include Fish & Richardson P.C., Lockheed Martin, the Maryland Biotechnology Center, Nixon Peabody LLP and Warren Citrin.

For more information about the University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition and the May 6 finals, visit
About Mtech (
The mission of Mtech is to educate the next generation of technology entrepreneurs, create successful technology ventures, and connect Maryland companies with university resources to help them succeed. Founded in 1983, Mtech has had a $25.7 billion impact on the Maryland economy and helped create or retain more than 5,300 jobs. Top-selling products such as MedImmune’s Synagis®, which protects infants from a deadly respiratory disease, and Hughes Communications’ HughesNet®, which brings satellite-based, high-speed Internet access to the world, were developed through or enhanced by our programs. Billion dollar companies such as Martek Biosciences and Digene Corporation graduated from our incubator.  Mtech offers three experiential learning programs and 30 entrepreneurship and innovation courses, served to 1,244 enrollees in 2010, at the pre-college, undergraduate, graduate and executive education levels.

About FounderCorps (
FounderCorps is an organization that is managed by experienced technology entrepreneurs for the benefit of entrepreneurs in Washington, DC, Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland.  Our members are experienced technology entrepreneurs who have started, managed or exited successful technology businesses. We share a common purpose – to promote a broader and deeper technology entrepreneurial community in our region. FounderCorps promotes technology entrepreneurial development by actively partnering with existing organizations to create a supportive infrastructure for technology entrepreneurship.  Through our own programs and through these partnerships FounderCorps intends to bring together the disparate threads existing in our community and create a supportive and coherent infrastructure to support regional entrepreneurial development.

About the A. James Clark School of Engineering

The University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering is a premier program, ranked among the top 20 in the world. Located just a few miles from Washington, D.C., the Clark School is at the center of a constellation of high-tech companies and federal laboratories, offering students and faculty access to unique professional opportunities.

Our broad spectrum of academic programs, including the world’s only accredited undergraduate fire protection engineering program, is complemented by a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, early hands-on educational experiences, and participation in national and international competitions.

The Clark School is leading research advancements in aerospace, bioengineering, robotics, nanotechnology, disaster resilience, energy and sustainability, and cybersecurity. From the universal product code to satellite radio, SMS text messaging to the implantable insulin pump, our students, faculty, and alumni are engineering life-changing innovations for millions. Learn more at



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