An IPO and 10 acquisitions: Looking back at the Baltimore tech exits of 2018

In tracking the moves of the region’s tech companies, some of the most notable moments come when a company reaches the exit. Like last year, 2018 saw no shortage of news about startups getting acquired or reaching liquidity events.

A couple data points: The month of November featured five stories about local startups getting acquired, and the year was highlighted by an IPO.

These mark key events for a tech community, both in the form of returns provided to investors and the potential for new investors and influential company-builders to form out of the teams who led the startups.

So let’s take a look back:

When the day arrived in late July, Tenable’s long-talked-about IPO wasn’t much of a surprise. The move appeared to be in the works from the time Amit Yoran took the helm as CEO of the Columbia cybersecurity company to start 2017, and, as required, was formally announced by a filing with federal regulators about a month prior. The long leadup was fitting for a company that formed in 2002, and allowed the story of a homegrown company working in an area that’s seen as having plenty more potential founders to spread. Tenable’s presence will be further felt in 2019 as it expands to a new headquarters in downtown Columbia. The ripple effects of the IPO are also evident already, as cofounders Ron and Cyndi Gula were already onto their next act investing in startups to create new companies that could take off by the time the bell rang.

Baltimore’s edtech community has long posted some of the most intriguing news in the area of acquisitions. This year added an acquisition by a Big 5 tech company to the highlight reel. Project based learning startup Workbench was acquired by Google in November, and its team members joined the company’s education division. It was also a win for local investors including Brown Advisory and Kevin Plank–backed Sagamore Ventures, the latter of which housed the team at Port Covington’s City Garage.

Earlier in the year, Brown Advisory made a deal of its own, bringing on VC firm NextGen Venture Partners in a bid to back young companies.

A firm with 70 Baltimore employees offering ecommerce tools to companies selling on Amazon was part of an acquisition that looks likely to continue to provide earnings into future years. Flywheel Digital was acquired by London-based Ascential in a deal valued at $60 million. Per the terms, payouts could reach up to $400 million based on returns the firm provides in the next three years.

TeamPassword, which helps tech companies manage login credentials, was acquired in a deal that will help San Francisco–based Jungle Disk expand its offerings. It marked an exit for a company that formed at a Startup Weekend event in 2012, and CEO Brian Sierakowski moved to San Antonio to keep growing the product. Following Parking Panda last year, it’s the second exit of a company from that particular Startup Weekend event.

Towson-based Mixed River grabbed attention for offering a platform that allowed the Baltimore Ravens to train with hologram technology. Pre-Game Prep signed a new deal in November as it was added to a new division of Arlington, Va.–based ByteCubed.

PaRaBaL moved to Baltimore in 2015. This year, it brought Germany’s ISEC7 to the city via acquisition. The enterprise mobility company is looking to keep growing in a space that sees providing secure devices as key to its product.

In another deal involving a three-year-old company drawing on cybersecurity talent that came up working out of office space in Power Plant Live!, FourV Systems was acquired by Northern Virginia’s Opaq Networks.

Swiss braintech company Mindmaze moved into Baltimore through an acquisition of Neuro Motor Innovations. Led by Johns Hopkins neuroscientist John Krakauer, NMI attracted plenty of attention in its own right for the team’s work using video games to help neurological recovery. As part of Mindmaze with an office in Fells Point, they’re seeking to continue the goal of  developing “a universal platform that can accelerate brain repair.”

There were acquisitions around the state, as well. Maryland’s cybersecurity talent found a home at a business transforming itself as the economy changes. Shipbuilding giant Huntington Ingalls Industries acquired Annapolis Junction–based G2, Inc. The G2 team will help HII’s professional services division as it increases tech prowess. In Annapolis proper, Datum built a business that became recognized in the area of data governance, and never took outside funding. This fall, the company made a splash by joining Infogix.

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