Towson University introduces new StarTUp Accelerator

By Kyle Hobstetter on April 29, 2020

New cohort, sponsored by the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research, will support student and local business ventures

Startup Accelerator Graphic

Committed to venture creation, Towson University continues to provide new opportunities for entrepreneurs with the StarTUp Accelerator.

Sponsored by the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research (SPAR), the StarTUp Accelerator is an intensive eight-week, cohort-based fellowship where start-up businesses take residency and work in a collaborative space to accelerate their ventures. 

The inaugural cohort—four ventures from the community and two student-run—will receive $10,000 equity-free stipends as well as mentorship, founder-centric programming and exposure to successful ventures that are alumni of this model.

There will also be a StarTUp Accelerator Showcase, where each venture gives a five-minute pitch to an audience of senior TU administrators, potential investors and clients, TU alumni and community members. 

Introduced by TU’s new executive director of entrepreneurship Patrick McQuown, the StarTUp accelerator was one of his first priorities when he arrived on campus on Feb. 1. 

“When I was hired as the executive director of entrepreneurship our first goal was to do Entrepreneurship.  We quickly launched the Accelerator as we wanted to support local area entrepreneurs as well as Towson Student and Faculty Entrepreneurs," McQuown says.   “We had very competitive applications and we are very pleased with the quality of ventures for our inaugural cohort." 

Towson University already provides support for entrepreneurs through the TU Incubator, which focuses on small business idea development. With the StarTUp Accelerator, TU now supports investible ventures and has another support channel for entrepreneurs. 

The inaugural cohort is six ventures and will have the support of fellow entrepreneurs as well as have 24/7 access to mentorship from McQuown.  Additionally the cohort will have the support of other members of the SPAR team and ventures that are alumni of similar programs. 

McQuown, a student entrepreneur while at George Washington University, is excited to mentor to these budding entrepreneurs. In fact, he likes to tell everyone that he has the best job on campus.

“I like to say that I'm not an instructor in the sense of ‘hey, do this and this and this, and then this,’” McQuown says. “But I will tell them that they’re walking down a path. I'm going to shine a flashlight. I'm going to tell you what to avoid. And it's up to you, as the entrepreneur, to take the right path.”

An illustration of the lobby where the Acclerator Startups will be
A rendering of the National Guard Armory in downtown Towson, which will be the future home of the StartUp Accelerator's startup ventures. 

Origins of ideas

Adeel Afshar is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, where he received a dual degree in chemical engineering and physics.It was there where he gained his first glimpses into entrepreneurship through starting a solar energy business in Ghana through a partnership with a global non-profit. 

His latest venture, Halal Beauty Cosmetics, is a 100% halal-certified  makeup brand made for Muslims who want to look and feel beautiful without compromising on their faith. He co-founded this business with his mother, a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan and a licensed cosmetologist, who was concerned about the non-halal ingredients (pork, alcohol, and more) found in the makeup products she used.

A native of Chicago, Afshar moved to Baltimore as part of Venture for America, a nonprofit whose mission is "to create economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs."

After struggling to find his place among an entrepreneurial community in his hometown, Afshar was excited to not only find a more accepting city in Baltimore but to also be part of  amongst the first cohort like of the StarTUp Accelerator.  

“We’re all here to support one another” Afshar says. “One of the really important things for me is becoming involved with the entrepreneurial community. One of the most valuable aspects of this accelerator are is the other members of this cohort and how I can help them."

If I can connect people with other Venture For America fellows or if I can provide my own skills, it will be a worthwhile experience for me.” 

The StarTUp Accelerator cohort has already contacted each other through video conferencing. The ventures were supposed to start residency on the TU campus on June 1, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official start date has been postponed.

StarTUp Accelerator members meet through video conferencing
Member of the inaugural StarTUp Accelerator meet with each other for the first time through Cisco's WebEx Teams Video Conferencing. 


The inaugural StarTUp Accelerator cohort

Eric Hamrock and Dr. Scott Levin 

StoCastic is transforming the delivery of health care through ground-breaking products and services that harness large-scale electronic health record (EHR) data to give care teams real-time predictive insight for smoother, more affordable care. Our products are rooted in data science and operations research developed at Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

Halal Beauty Cosmetics
Adeel Afshar

Halal Beauty Cosmetics is a 100% halal-certified consumer cosmetics brand helping Muslims both look and feel beautiful without compromising on their faith. Their products contain no pork or alcohol, thereby meeting the demands of millions of Muslims around the world.

Jal Irani, Derek Battle and James Soldinger

Flave is a mobile app that incentivizes foodies to eat local instead of at chain restaurants. This happens through gamification and getting personalized friend recommendations.


Lockbox Adventures
Ben Ferry

Lockbox Adventures is a challenging, puzzle-solving game where players get a locked box without a combination. Players must solve a series of puzzles to reveal the combination and gain access to their prize. 

The Shark Market

Drew Anawalt, 2020 Marketing CBE; Jake Guy, 2020 Sports Management CBE; Cullen Joyce, 2021 Sports Management CBE; Tommy Parker, 2021 Mass Communication COFAC and Ben Hollingsworth, 2021 Information Sciences FCSM

The Shark Market is a sports betting platform. Creating a new and unique sports betting game, Shark Market allows users to feel the thrill of sports betting and compete against friends while also saving their money in the process.

SmartBridge Health
Hua Wang

SmartBridge Health connects patients, caregivers and survivors with top cancer doctors for remote phone consultations, expert second opinions and clinical trial navigation. We offer a seamless experience that saves time and money and leads to better health outcomes and happier lives.   

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, BTU-Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore.