Techstars Equitech in Baltimore names 2023 class of 10 gamechanging companies

Jan 09, 2023

BALTIMORE, Md. (January 9, 2023)– The Techstars Equitech Accelerator today announced its second class of 10 early-stage companies that will spend the next 13 weeks immersed in the Baltimore ecosystem while building their businesses with the help of accelerator staff, mentors, and the wider Techstars and UpSurge networks.

The accelerator is a collaboration between Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and UpSurge Baltimore, the organization that is propelling Baltimore into the top tier of U.S. innovation cities with a distinct focus: to become the country’s first Equitech city, one which recognizes diversity as a force multiplier and an engine for outsized growth.

Founders in the 2023 class hail from Baltimore and from cities across the US, and were selected from hundreds of applicants at a less than 3% selection rate.

Techstars and UpSurge Baltimore looked for companies led by founders from underestimated communities doing tech in any space; founders from any background who have established diversity as a core tenet, whether that’s reflected in the cap table, leadership, or driving values; or founders from any background creating products that break down barriers and broaden opportunity. 

“Today I’m excited to announce the Techstars Equitech Accelerator’s second class of 10 early-stage companies!" said Managing Director, Adam Phillips, who Techstars hired in August to lead the Techstars Equitech Accelerator. Adam brings more than 20 years of legal, business, and investment experience to the founders selected for the Techstars Equitech Accelerator. 

“This was an extremely competitive application process that has produced an impressive group of entrepreneurs that we have the privilege of working with for the next 13 weeks. We looked for companies across all sectors that fit the Equitech movement birthed here in Baltimore by our partner, Upsurge Baltimore,” said Phillips.

While diversity, equity, and inclusion have always been core tenets of Techstars programs, the Techstars Equitech Accelerator was the first of its kind with an explicit investment focus that redefines how to enable equity, access, and belonging across tech startups and non-tech scaleups.

“We coined the term ‘Equitech’ to reflect what a truly inclusive tech city could look like,” said Jamie McDonald, an entrepreneur, former investment banker and UpSurge Baltimore’s CEO. “We partnered with Techstars to bring its well-regarded accelerator model to Baltimore and help amplify the work we’re doing here, raise the city’s profile as a top-tier innovation hub, and elevate the Equitech movement to create a new future through tech innovation.”

Startups are primary drivers of economic success in the country’s fastest growing urban areas, delivering the kinds of quality jobs that provide pathways to family-sustaining careers. UpSurge is supported by leading companies, universities and foundations in its work to make Baltimore the first Equitech city. The Techstars Equitech Accelerator is a vital piece of that vision. 

“Pickups is so excited to join the Techstars family! As a community driven platform, we know the value of building meaningful relationships and collaboratively innovating,” said Gabriel Cepeda, founder and CEO of Pickups Technologies, a Brooklyn NY-based startup, and one of the members of the second class. “The Techstars family is an incredible ecosystem of thinkers, problem solvers, and builders and we're so grateful to be able to contribute to the future with so many brilliant minds.”

Over the course of the next 13 weeks, the companies’ founding teams will have access to Techstars’ and Baltimore’s extensive mentor network and other civic, company and academic resources across Baltimore as they refine their business models, craft their pitches, and network with other entrepreneurs and potential investors.

“As we've been getting ready to launch our first product, we've been eager to leverage the success of our first sales and partnerships to grow our business and achieve a larger vision,” said Tristan Ford, CEO of Vectech, another member of the second class. “As a first time founder, the mentorship, partnerships, and resources of Techstars Equitech will be invaluable to taking Vectech's business to the next level.”

The program will culminate on April 6, 2023, with a Demo Day, where the founders will pitch their businesses to an audience of community members, mentors, and potential investors. Techstars is still recruiting for mentors, customers and pilot opportunities for the 10 companies.

Meet the Techstars Equitech Class of 2023

  • BlackHedge | Florida, US

BlackHedge is a modern-day mobile investing app that enhances the trading experience for end users with artificial intelligence and data analytics. 

  • CyDeploy | Baltimore, MD 

CyDeploy enables security and functional testing and changes without disrupting operations. 

  • Divaneering Lab | Baltimore, MD

For hair stylists, hair distributors, and everyday wig and weave wearers confined to outdated inefficient styling tools that lack innovation, Divaneering Lab has developed a new hair drying device for detached hair pieces (i.e., wigs and hair extensions). 

  • Frontline Gig | Norfolk, VA

Frontline is an Uber for green jobs platform that makes it easy for cities to deploy workers who are available for as little as two hours at a time. 

  • Pickups Technologies | Brooklyn, NY

Pickups Technologies is a hyperlocal supply chain partner for retailers and shipping carriers. 

  • ReBokeh | Baltimore, MD

ReBokeh is developing an app-based assistive technology system for people with moderate vision impairments that allows them to personalize how they see the world to their specific needs in any situation. 

  • SANITAS | Los Angeles, CA

Sanitas Health was founded with the mission of making mental health services and support radically accessible and inclusive for BIPOC and low-income populations. 

  • TechRow | New York City, NY

TechRow connects schools to outstanding immersive learning experiences on a VR solution built for the classroom. 

  • THE MOST | Baltimore, MD

With all-in-one styling tools, THE MOST empowers women of color to embrace their natural hair by cutting styling time, increasing convenience, and minimizing the invisible pain points in ethnic haircare. 

  • VecTech | Baltimore, MD 

Vectech has developed an AI diagnostic entomology system to identify damaging insects that spread disease and cause agricultural or economic loss. 

About Techstars

Techstars accelerators have one overriding goal: to help entrepreneurs succeed. During each three-month program, we surround companies with a network of mentors, investors, partners, and alumni. We provide funding and fundraising opportunities, workshops, curated resources, and countless moments where founders can learn from their peers. It’s a proven model that’s helped build thousands of successful companies, all over the world.

Founded in 2006, Techstars began with three simple ideas—entrepreneurs create a better future for everyone, collaboration drives innovation, and great ideas can come from anywhere. Now we are on a mission to enable every person on the planet to contribute to, and benefit from, the success of entrepreneurs. In addition to operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, we do this by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. Techstars has invested in more than 3,100 companies with a combined market cap of approximately $156 billion.

About UpSurge

UpSurge Baltimore is mobilizing Baltimore’s unparalleled entrepreneurial assets into a leading US innovation city, and the country’s first Equitech city. a top-tier tech city where diverse entrepreneurs found transformative companies; where the tech workforce of the future is growing up in our neighborhoods; where prosperity is shared across every Zip code; where the technologies reshaping society are born. UpSurge helps to launch, support, grow and celebrate high-impact startups. UpSurge is also developing strategies to attract new companies, talent and capital to Baltimore.

Contact for media inquiries:

Jamie McDonald

Hope Allen

About the Author
Adam Phillips

Adam is the Managing Director of the Techstars Equitech Accelerator. He is also the Founder of AthletesInnovate!, a platform to match the energy and network of professional athletes with the educational needs of young people who need access to STEM education and resources. Adam has been investing in and operating startups, beginning as one of the first five employees at a venture-backed Edtech startup and subsequently co-founding multiple venture-backed businesses. Most recently, Adam was a Venture Partner at Republic and 11Tribes Ventures and the Managing Director at Mox.E Venture Partners. He also spent several years working in policy and regulatory sectors as a Senior Attorney and Director at the United States Department of Justice, the United States Congress and, finally, with the United States Department of Transportation.