Big Idea CONNECTpreneur XVIII: Part I with Mark Walsh and Company Showcases

03 May Big Idea CONNECTpreneur XVIII: Part I with Mark Walsh and Company Showcases

On Thursday, April 28th, CONNECTpreneur XVIII was held in Bethesda, which marked the first time a CONNECTpreneur event was held in MD. Despite the weather, it was an awesome day with somewhere in the vicinity of 500 attendees!

It wouldn’t have been a proper CONNECTpreneur event without its fearless leader, CEO of Tech 2000 and Appnetic, Tien Wong (you can find him @Tienwong), setting the stage for the day amongst a packed house and introducing the fireside chat (sans actual fire) guest. Mark Walsh, Associate Administrator, Office of Investment and Innovation, U.S. Small Business Administration, Executive Chairman, HomeSnap and Co-Founder and CEO, Genius Rocket (@walsh) took the stage along side Tien to share more information about his role with the SBA and give some advice to some of the startups in the room.

Originally from Baltimore, Walsh’s mom did the voice for the “More Pork Sausages” commercial. Sitting with her in the car and hearing that commercial on the radio, then hearing his mom perform her line live was where media and reality collided for him, and eventually lead to his career as a TV newscaster.

Soon after, he left the news business and attended Harvard Business School where he graduated and wasted no time earning the title “businessman,” with roles at HBO, GE, and AOL. In 2001, Walsh founded Ruxton Ventures, LLC, a private equity and investment firm and in 2005 he became senior executive fellow at the University of MD’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Then he founded some things because, why not. Check more about GeniusRocket and HomeSnap, his two startups.

Most importantly, however, is what he’s doing in his current role with the SBA to help get the innovative technologies associated with startups into the hands of the government agencies that need them. When asked why he made the move, Walsh stated that he needed a mission. “I was on some boards and that’s great, but my time was in too many boxes. I was looking for one rock to shove up the hill,” said Walsh.

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In his role, Walsh helps small businesses and entrepreneurs find capital investments via SBA’s SBIC program and helps them gain access to intellectual property and Federal research dollars through their SBIR and STTR programs. Here are the different programs:

  • Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) – Through this program, SBA partners with private investors who then, in turn finance small businesses.
  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) – Basically, Walsh has $2.5 billion to hand out to startups that are matched up against a government need. His example: someone at DoD needing a new way to weave Kevlar, so they let his organization know and they find a startup that has a way to do it to fit their need.
  • The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) – This program expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation R&D space. This program requires businesses to collaborate with a research institution.

After learning more about the different programs he runs, Wong asked Walsh to talk a little bit about what metrics their success is measured upon. Walsh cited the generation of jobs, loss ratio (they don’t have one – they actually generate positive cash flow for the Treasury), and the geographic diversification of funds.

As an appointed official, Walsh pointed out that with the entrance of a new president, he is prepared to leave his post with the SBA, but that he would like to stay in this position due to the great amount of funding dollars, partnerships and tremendous impact the work has across many agencies. “I have no personal agenda. I don’t want to get promoted. I’ve climbed every mountain that I’ve wanted to,” said Walsh. “…I’d like to stick around.”

Despite the uncertainty that January brings, Walsh did talk about the goals he had in mind between now and then. Primarily, to his their quota for giving away the $4 billion dollars they have in SBIC that they haven’t hit in years. He explained they have money they haven’t been able to invest, but he’s working hard to make sure they get SBIR dollars out into the market place for innovation and research that helps our government.

Walsh cited the biggest challenge to getting these dollars spent is the paperwork and background checks. Companies need to fill out more paperwork and deal with a longer processing time to be considered, than or most programs. Also, to be accepted, background checks are conducted on companies and their partners – there’s a higher bar set of mandated acceptance.
Some other goals include actively soliciting VC’s to partner with, as well as investing in more impact funds to help channel capital to underserved communities and innovative sectors.

Wong asked Walsh what would you say to the next President? Walsh responded by talking about making the interaction between government and startups more clear, noting that there are so many opportunities for startups to get support from the government, but it blows his mind that no one knows what those opportunities are.

He argued that the next president has to pour gas on the fire. “Innovation isn’t a buzzword,” said Walsh. We have to find a way to guide startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators to know where those dollars, advice, infrastructure help and customers are in government.

His thoughts were a great lead into the company showcases, which highlighted 9 startups looking for funding. Each company had six minutes to pitch their idea to a room of investors and influencers. Here is some background on the companies, presenters and a brief overview of their products:

  • ePurchasing Network, Inc., George Spears CEO – provides a SaaS-based e-commerce technology platform that connects commercial and industrial equipment dealers and manufacturers.
  • ICmed LLC, Michael McShea Chief Strategy Officer – a mobile and cloud application that provides consumers a platform to take ownership of their health and collaborate in managing their family’s health.
  • Neolitics, Inc., Sean Christian Co-Founder & CTO – a platform based, Analytical technology (AT) company that will introduce a revolutionary industrial Spectral Analyzer (ISA) that will drastically reduce the labor required to implement and operate ISAs and the downtime associated with potential process outages.
  • SwingSpace LLC, Richard J. McBride, Jr. Co-Founder & CEO – an automated listing service for vacant or underused small office space paired with hi-touch marketing that helps landlords rent small offices and tenants sublease.
  • Toto Communications, Inc., James Cannon CEO – provides applications for the mobile workforce with their flagship product, Toto Lynx™.
  • Triea Technologies, LLC, Arthur Lazerow Chairman & CEO – a company focused on the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) segment of the agriculture industry that offers a technology that removes nad recovers valuable nutrients from animal manure.
  • Unbound, Polly Rodriguez CEO – a sexual lifestyle company for millennial women that offers a platform for the purchase of high quality sex toys, erotic accessories and lingerie.
  • valAUrum, Dr. Adam Trexler President – offers the smallest, most affordable, most secure form of gold available on the world market, Aurum, a proprietary, nonotechnology sandwich of 24K gold between layers of printed polyester.
  • Wye River Technologies, Martin Knott, CEO – offers a web enabled Project and Work Order Management application built on top of an Integrated Facmility Asset Library (IFAL) to manage facility data.

As always, our team had a great time at CONNECTpreneur! Stay tuned for Part II of this blog series, which highlights a super all-star panel that happened following the company showcase presentations. Also, don’t forget to connect with CONNECTpreneur on Facebook, Twitter and via their web site.




Kate Nesbitt
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