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40 young firms to make their pitch at Capital Connection

By Dan Beyers
Monday, May 10, 2010; 12

The smart money these days seems to be interested in cybersecurity, digital media, green energy and health-care technology -- at least judging from the 40 young companies the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association has selected to give eight-minute pitches at the group's annual Capital Connection conference in Baltimore on May 19-20.

The conference is the association's flagship event, bringing together entrepreneurs and potential investors. Eight minutes on the podium might not sound like much, but veterans of the experience say the exposure can be valuable.

Sid Banerjee said his company had already generated some buzz when he took his turn at the mike two years ago. But until his appearance, there was little urgency among those weighing whether to put in money.

"It definitely accelerated the willingness of investors to do business with us," said Banerjee, whose company, Clarabridge, helps firms mine customer data.

More importantly, Banerjee said he appreciated the chance to socialize with potential investors afterward. "I was trying to figure out if I could be comfortable with these people on our board," he said.

He'll be back on stage this year, after the company said Friday it had secured $4.3 million in additional financing.

Many of this year's selected firms hail from sectors slated to receive big injections of government money. All the companies have some tie to the region, whether they are based here, have investors locally, or are likely to be of interest to companies in the region.

Thomas D. Roberts III, a co-chair of the MAVA selection committee, and partner at Richmond-based Harbert Venture Partners, said this year's collection of companies is a reflection of "how well positioned the mid-Atlantic is in the sectors that are starting to get attention from the administration and its interest in job growth."

The presenting companies vary from start-ups to more established firms seeking new rounds of funding. There's another handful of growing firms, not among the 40, also making presentations.

Does the appearance of companies outside the region suggest a lack of entrepreneurs here?

Not at all, said MAVA's executive director Julia Spicer: "We wanted to open up this platform nationally to draw and attract companies and investors from elsewhere."

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