StarTUp Accelerator cohort wraps, ventures secure $800,000 in funding

By Rebecca Kirkman on September 30, 2022

Third accelerator cohort ventures are the most diverse, highest funded

two people talk on stage with audience
TU Executive Director of Entrepreneurship Patrick McQuown speaks with Pirl founder and 2022 StarTUp Accelerator fellow Kobby Osei-Kusi during the accelerator's annual showcase. (Alex Wright / Towson University)

Eight ventures offering innovative solutions in assistive technology, digital asset ownership, electronic vehicle charging, health care equity and more celebrated their completion of the eight-week StarTUp Accelerator program with high-energy product pitches and networking at the StarTUp at the Armory in downtown Towson on Wednesday.

This third cohort—of which seven ventures have minority or female founders—has already raised more than $791,000 in funding.

It’s characteristic of the success bred by the program, whose ventures have achieved a 125% increase in revenue, customers and users; an average annual revenue of more than $600,000; and have contributed 263 new employees to the state.

“We’re so proud of this cohort,” says TU Executive Director of Entrepreneurship Patrick McQuown. “Not only is this our most diverse cohort yet, but the fellows have also raised the most funding [out of three cohorts] by the conclusion of the program—evidence that we truly accelerated their ventures. We are excited to see their continued success.”

One of TU’s signature entrepreneurship programs, the StarTUp Accelerator is a fellowship providing mentorship, founder-centric programming, a $10,000 equity-free stipend and exposure to successful program alumni ventures.

It is part of the university’s commitment to serve as a community leader and partner by extending the talents of students, faculty and staff beyond campus boundaries to create opportunities for leadership, entrepreneurship, civic engagement and experiential learning.

The accelerator is open to founders who have begun to introduce their services or products to the market and want to jump-start their business, regardless of affiliation with the university.

Representing diverse professional and academic backgrounds, the 2022 fellows include TU graduate students, a former Fortune 500 executive, a medical doctor and alumni of Stanford University, Harvard University, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University and more.

Through the cohort model, founders learn from each other in addition to mentors like McQuown and 2020 accelerator fellow Jal Irani, founder of Flave and a faculty member in the Fisher College of Science & Math, who was named one of 21 technologists building Baltimore’s future.

“Seeing the energy and the passion that the other founders are putting into their businesses and watching their transformation happening—realizing that same transformation is happening within me—has really been tremendous,” says Kobby Osei-Kusi, a 2022 accelerator fellow and founder of electric vehicle charging company Pirl.

Apply to the 2023 StarTUp Accelerator cohort by Oct. 28.

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“It’s really opened my mind a lot to all these different concepts, ideas, theories—I feel like I’m getting my own mini masters here with all these different founders and Patrick,” adds Ryan Rutkowski ’22, a 2022 accelerator fellow and founder of Let’s Tap In, LLC.

Rutkowski and co-founder Conrad Brake ’21 received the Baltimore Business Journal Inno Under 25 award recognizing young entrepreneurs under the age of 25 who contribute to the economy of the future and drive ongoing growth within the state.

The StarTUp at the Armory opened last fall in a state-of-the art, 26,000-square-foot space, including 6,000 square feet of free coworking space and meeting rooms where entrepreneurs and executives connect with each other and to TU’s programs and people.

Earlier this month, the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) named the StarTUp one of four engaged university finalists in its 2022 Awards of Excellence. The award recognizes universities for engaging multiple community partners to leverage and connect efforts in talent development, innovation and community development.

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2022 StarTUp Accelerator fellows at the annual showcase. (Alex Wright / Towson University)

2022 Accelerator Cohort Ventures

  • Let’s Tap In LLC, an events company with an app that helps users find and submit up-to-date information about local nightlife
  • ORO Financial (formerly Zimbali Networks), a Web3-rooted fintech company creating tools for community-based funding and financial transactions
  • Mint Print, a publishing and marketplace platform that uses blockchain-based technology to let consumers purchase, lend, donate and resell digital books
  • ReBokeh, an app designed to assist those with moderate vision impairment in daily life
  • Inso (formerly Pretzl), a discussion platform for students to generate and drive discussions with easy-to-cite information on trending topics
  • Pro Theory, a platform for athletics coaches to manage their brands and businesses
  • Pirl, a developer of interactive electronic vehicle charging stations that reduce environmental footprints
  • Medsy, which aims to reduce healthcare costs while enhancing outcomes by aiding individuals’ compliance with medication regimens