One by one, six entrepreneurs stood on an Annapolis stage yesterday and gave a 10-minute pitch about how their technology will save Americans from the next terrorist attack.
The prize: $50,000 from Anne Arundel County's Chesapeake Innovation Center, an incubator focused on homeland security.
An hour and a half later, an Atlanta company that makes security detection systems for the nation's ports and airports was named the winner of the incubator's first "Defend America" business plan competition and handed an oversized paper check.
The winner, ScanTech Holdings LLC, which is affiliated with Georgia Tech University and whose patented X-ray technology can detect explosives, uranium and drugs, was chosen by a panel of judges for its competitive edge and market potential.
While the winner won't be taking up space at the incubator, organizers say the Chesapeake Innovation Center gained invaluable national attention from its target audience: entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and policymakers.
"The fact that national businesses traveled here creates conversations about Maryland, about Anne Arundel County," said Robert L. Hannon, president and chief executive of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., which helps to finance the incubator. "It creates a sense of wanting to be here."
Of the 25 business plans received, including two from abroad, the incubator has extended a formal offer to one company to become a tenant. Five others have been identified as potential tenants, said Laura Neuman, interim executive director of the Chesapeake Innovation Center.
Judges included venture capitalists, state and federal officials and executives from companies such as International Business Machines Corp. and ARINC Inc., a transportation security company in Annapolis.
"We can shine enough here that our technology will be noticed in D.C.," said Dolan Falconer Jr., president and chief executive officer of ScanTech.
While he and his 25 employees likely won't relocate to the center, he vowed to maintain a relationship with the incubator and its partners. ScanTech recently signed a licensing deal with Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda.
In a simultaneous competition sponsored by the Maryland Technology Development Corp., Sensics Inc., a Baltimore company that makes panoramic virtual reality goggles, received a $50,000 check.
Backed by $5 million from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Honda Motor Corp., the six-month-old company has logged $1 million in revenue with just three employees.
The research behind the goggles, which allow users to view computer simulations of scenes or events for training purposes, was the work of two Johns Hopkins rocket scientists. The goggles, which sell for $30,000 to $300,000, were bought by the Navy to train new fighter pilots while automaker Renault uses them to train drivers.
The other CIC finalists were: Armada Group Inc., whose Web search engine allows law enforcement agencies to share information on suspects and cases; BioDefense Corp., whose clothes dryer-size device can irradiate biologically contaminated mail; RiverGlass Inc., whose software can collect and merge vast amounts of data from disparate sources, and TIRF Technologies Inc., whose devices can detect thousands of biological threats by a single molecule.