Press Releases

Eight entrepreneurial ventures compete for $100K in MICA UP/Start finale

WHAT: Finalists in MICA’s annual UP/Start Venture Competition will present their final pitches to a panel of judges for a share of $100,000 in investment funding.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 17, 5-8 p.m.

WHERE: Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore, Maryland 21217

BALTIMORE — The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) will announce the winners of its fourth annual UP/Start Venture Competition on Wednesday, April 17 starting at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, though registration is required. To register, click here.

Funded by the Philip E. and Carol R. Ratcliffe Foundation, finalists are competing for a share of a total of $100,000 in seed money for their entrepreneurial endeavors. A $5,000 People's Choice Award, determined by live voting at the event, will also be awarded. 

An initiative of MICApreneurship, spearheaded by the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development, the UP/Start initiative focuses on building creative business ventures within the College community, and provides capital and mentorship with industry partners to help nurture ideas into sustainable businesses. This year's competition is open to MICA students in the class of 2019 and alumni from the class of 2018.

The finalists’ businesses represent a wide range of ideas, from a lifestyle brand and safe space platform to representative comics to targeted virtual reality content for use in therapeutic settings.

In advance of the final pitch event, each finalist has been paired with an industry leader or investor as a mentor to refine their business plans and presentation skills. See below for a full list of finalists and mentors.

The winners will be selected by a panel of judges comprised of local business and investment leaders, including John Cammack, Managing Partner, Cammack Associates LLC; Marjie Cota, VP Strategic Partnerships & Market Development, Harbor Designs; Hakim Dyer, CEO, Dyer Bermingham; Tracey Halverson ‘98, President & Chief Visionary Officer, Fastspot; and Jim Wright, Co-trustee, Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation.

The eight finalists were selected from a total of 27 applicants following their presentations at a “pop up and pitch” event on Friday, Feb. 1.

For more information about UP/Start, visit


Founder: Brett Wallace ’19 (Studio Art M.F.A.)
Mentor: Nick Culbertson, CEO and Co-Founder, Protenus
AMAZING INDUSTRIES is a R&D startup exploring the future of work in the digital age. Through the use of investigative journalism, writing, documentary video and installation and other disciplines, AMAZING INDUSTRIES researches questions such as how are new technologies, such as AI, transforming work.

Founder: Rheagen King ’19 (Graphic Design B.F.A.)
Mentors: Tammira Lucas, Executive Director of The Warnock Foundation; Margaret Roth, Co-Founder of Yet Analytics
Erose is a lifestyle brand and safe space platform devoted to healing through storytelling and developing healthy emotional habits in ourselves so we cultivate healthy romantic partnerships with others.

GPG Technologies, LLC
Team: Kyle Vaughan ’19 (Design Leadership M.B.A./M.A.) and Kenneth Wayman 

Mentor: Sean Sutherland, Director of Accounts, Kapowza
GPG Technologies is dedicated to one mission: doing the greatest possible good. The company designs sustainable solutions for people and planet. Its first product, the Saqua bottle, is a reusable water bottle that is easy to clean and elegant in its simplicity.

Greenmount Tile
Team: Ann Zellhofer ’18 (Printmaking B.F.A.) and Dominique Hellgeth ’10 (Ceramics B.F.A.)
Mentor: Ken Malone, Principal, Early Charm Ventures, LLC
Greenmount Tile is an architectural ceramics company that creates limited edition artwork. Its installations include art for public space, experimental structural design and suspended tile.

Founder: RJ Sterling ’19 (Illustration and Teaching M.A.T.)
Mentors: Sonny Tannan, Author, Through the Eyes of Om; Tony Weaver, Jr., CEO, Weird Enough Productions
Hilarious Comics is a brand that seeks to redefine the term superhero while also highlighting underrepresented characters in comics, such as female characters, characters of color and queer characters.

Lucky Pocket Press (*People’s Choice Award*)
Team: Stephanie Bulante ’19 (Illustration B.F.A.) and Sara Hagstrom ’19 (Illustration B.F.A.)
Mentor: Sabrina Dépestre, Director of Marketing & Recruitment, Office of Open Studies, MICA
Lucky Pocket Press is an artist collective and risograph press that strives to tell stories through unique and unconventional handmade merchandise and comics.

Team: Haley Manchon ’18 (Drawing and Graphic Design B.F.A.), Kelly Sullivan and Doug Moreland
Mentor: Merlin Patterson, Senior Product Engineer, ClassTracks
Paint.Team’s mission is to inspire creativity and collaboration through a web application that allows users to team up and create finished works of art from anywhere in the world.

Virtual Scout
Team: Scott Will ’18 (Film and Video B.F.A.) and Danielle Spellman ’18 (Film and Video B.F.A.)
Mentor: Murray Taylor, President, Digital Steamworks
Virtual Scout creates targeted virtual reality content for use in therapeutic settings. The company is making immersive natural environments and utilizes a low-cost subscription-based model, as well as selling low cost VR viewers.