Rockville startup for entrepreneur match-ups wins state contest -- Gazette.Net


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There is a host of websites for people who want to link up for personal relationships.

CoFoundersLab of Rockville wants to do something similar, but for business relationships — specifically launching a new venture.

The company has attracted notice from many local entrepreneurs. Judges who viewed the video that CoFoundersLab submitted to the Startup Maryland pitch contest in September liked the concept enough to name it the winner of the “Pitch Across Maryland” contest this week over almost 200 competitors.

The company now gets free entry and bypasses the first round of the InvestMaryland Challenge, a business funding competition that could net the winners in three categories $100,000 each.

“We will take advantage of the InvestMaryland Challenge,” said Shahab Kaviani, CEO of CoFoundersLab and co-founder with Culin Tate. “That would be a good boost if we won the top prize. It will also get us in front of organizations that award matching funds.”

Woofound placed second in the competition, and the Baltimore high-tech business also gets free entry and the first-round pass in the InvestMaryland competition. That state-run challenge is open to businesses in the early-growth stage with fewer than 25 employees and annual revenues of less than $1 million. A non-refundable $100 application fee is required, with the deadline Dec. 13.

While CoFoundersLab started in early 2011, it began its online matching about a year ago. It is still free to create an online profile, Kaviani said.

Finding co-founders is probably an entrepreneur’s most important business decision, and should be expanded beyond family members and friends, he said.

“It’s so hard to do a startup. No one is an expert in everything you need,” Kaviani said. “Our goal is to help match up people’s talents with each other.”

CoFoundersLab has grown to have networks in 15 markets nationwide. Besides Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, it operates in Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boulder, Colo.

Startup Maryland held events across the state during a bus tour in September, with 168 businesses submitting video pitches for the competition. Besides CoFoundersLab and Woofound, the six other finalists were Autonomy Engine of Westminster, Imagine IPD of Lanham, Koolspan of Bethesda, SynAm Vaccine of Rockville, Unbound Concepts of Columbia and Samegrain of Baltimore.

The organization had a separate vote by people who watched the videos online. The winners of the Fan Favorite competition were Food’em of Greenbelt, SurveySnap of Baltimore and Pandion5D of Chestertown.

Startup Maryland organizers initially thought they might receive 50 or so videos, said Michael P. Binko, co-chairman of the group, and president and CEO of Annapolis software business kloudtrack.

“Including all the rallies and events we held, more than 200 startups actually participated in the tour,” Binko said.

The CoFoundersLab video is available online on YouTube.

kshay@gazette.net