TechFire Client Motobriiz Pitches Tech at Expo

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The Energetics Technology Center’s (ETC) TechFire incubation program announces today that their client, Motobriiz, LLC., successfully pitched their business at TEDCO’s 2015 Entrepreneur Expo at the BWI Marriott in Linthicum, Maryland. Expo attendance is estimated to be 700 entrepreneurs, ecosystem builders, supporters, and investors.


Mike Steele, Founder of Motobriiz, LLC pitching at TEDCO’s 2015 Entrepreneur Expo as one of Startup Maryland’s Great Eight finalists. Photo courtesy of the Eric Franklin Entrepreneurial Accelerator.

Motobriiz founder, Mike Steele, participated in Startup Maryland’s Pitch Across Maryland program when TechFire brought the pitch bus to Charles County Maryland for a stop at All American Harley Davidson in Hughesville as part of the Southern Maryland Technology and Innovation initiative. Steele, along with four other entrepreneurs, created video pitches on the bus which were then voted on by friends and family and viewed by investors and expert entrepreneurs. Eight more entrepreneurs pitched on the bus at the next stop in St. Mary’s County. Steele was selected as one of the eight entrepreneurs out of 150 pitches across the state to present at the Expo.

“Mike is truly the product of strong eco-system support provided in Southern Maryland. He took advantage of our local SMIT MeetUps, worked with TEDCO, and works now one-on-one with his TechFire Entrepreneur in Residence. His presentation was clear, crisp, and flowed logically. His market research was well-thought-out and addressed the judges concerns. Mike has a solid plan and he’s clearly working that plan. We are thrilled to be working with him as a TechFire incubation client,” said Kim Mozingo with ETC’s TechFire program.



Motobriiz Founder Steele describes the experience of pitching his motor cycle chain oiler technology on the Startup Maryland Pitch Bus in September 2015.



Robin Finnacom, Deputy Director of the St. Mary’s County Economic Development Department and SMIT co-founder, “SMIT is working hard in our county and across Southern Maryland to support the creative entrepreneurs who will drive economic diversification throughout the region. We have a great team of eco-system builders working together to provide the right guidance and support. I’m happy to announce that next year’s Pitch Across Maryland tour will include all three Southern Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s.”

Motobriiz is growing their manufacturing capability as they continue to support their international customer-base. Steele said, “I’m fortunate to have the right team of experts supporting and advising me. With one-on-one mentoring with my TechFire EiR, I’m focusing now on targeted market research with great results. I’m looking forward to pitching next year with even greater results.”

image005Startup Maryland Pitch Across Maryland stop at All American Harley Davidson in Hughesville, MD (Harry Brown, Co-founder of Flier; Gail Schnell, President Schnell-Tech Solutions LLC; Mike Steele, Founder Motobriiz, LLC; Kim Mozingo, Energetics Technology Center’s TechFire Incubation Program; Mike Binko, Founder | CEO of Startup Maryland; Temi Akinwumi, Co-founder, Top Tech Group; and Angela Singleton, TEDCO’s RBI2)



TechFire, the Energetics Technology Center’s innovation and incubation engine, works with technology-focused startups and entrepreneurs to catalyze business success. With the TechFire five-phased incubation process, entrepreneurs and small businesses work with staff, advisors, and a dedicated Entrepreneur in Residence – an expert serial entrepreneur – who guides them through a tailored process of building a robust, sustainable business.

For more information about how TechFire’s technology incubation program can ignite your business’s success, visit the TechFire website to apply, or call at 301-645-6637, extension 711.

Market Research: A Step Beyond the Internet

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Once you’ve developed a virtual picture of your customer base and market conditions from online and library research, you’ll want to extend your research a little further.  You’ll want to conduct social and opinion research.  Use surveys and focus groups to hone in on your customer needs.

Surveys can be broadcast widely or used selectively. Questions can be open-ended, giving survey participants a chance to share their thoughts, multiple choice (with 5 selections), or yes/no. There are a few things to consider in designing survey questions, summarized here from

  • Create the sequence of questions so they flow in a logical manner
  • Avoid leading questions
  • Ask one question at a time
  • Use simple, clear language
  • Avoid making assumptions about respondents’ knowledge
  • Make the survey visually appealing with plenty of white space

Focus groups provide immediate feedback and the opportunity for valuable dialogue with the people you expect to purchase your product or service.  Focus groups should express their needs in your industry or product area.  Focus groups can involve food or a token gift for opinions given, sometimes even cash. A few things to consider include:

  • Have a clearly defined purpose – do not frustrate or waste the time of those surveyed
  • Think carefully about the environment and location
  • Plan how you will capture the information gleaned during the focus group
  • Develop clear questions with follow up questions
  • Start and end your focus group on time
  • Understand how to analyze the results
  • Follow up with a thank you card – not an email

Pull results of market research together into a comprehensive report; include a date,  summary and key findings for quick reference. You’ll want to be able to refer to this over time and add to it as you continue to develop a profile of your market. Look for economic and other trends, consistent positive and negative responses, identify follow-up steps, and ask yourself:

  • Did you refine your understanding of your target market and customers?
  •  Does your business need to pivot – changing your strategy, business structure, systems, product or people?

By Keith Gordon and Kim Mozingo


Market Research: What is it? How do you achieve confidence with it?

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Market research is a critical component of a business strategy.  Understanding the market and more importantly the customers in a targeted market cannot be overstated. Simply put market research is focused efforts to help you understand your customers: where they are, what they need, and what they’re willing to pay for your product or service. The resources you use depend upon what you intend to sell and where you intend to sell it. Some initial questions to consider include:

  • Are you an online only business?
  • Do you sell a product, service, or both?
  • Do you sell locally, regionally, nationally, or world-wide?

The internet is, of course, your first stop.  There are three elements of market discovery – customer need, market size and competition.  Start researching your target market using these factors.  Begin filling out a spreadsheet of valuable information and consider sources.  There are several resources available that provide everything from local demographic data to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to industry-specific information. Using data that’s already available will cut down on market research time and expense and allow you to develop a comprehensive view of your potential market.

You’ll want to check trade and other industry groups and publications in your area of expertise. A not-to-be-missed local source is your local city or county Economic Development Department. They collect and regularly update local and regional demographic data. For the Southern Maryland region these resources include:

Economics and Statistics Administration

Here you can find everything from monthly retail sales to GDP and the US Trade Balance. You can also sign up for email alerts to keep up-to-date with the information that’s important to you.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

BLS provides a wealth of data on everything labor to include Current Employment Statistics, Wages by Demographics, and Industries at a Glance (

There are also third party resources you can use to flush-out your research, but that should come only after you’ve collected what you can on your own. The resource librarian at your local library can also be a good source in helping you access appropriate databases. Local universities and community colleges are also good places to acquire data`.



By Keith Gordon and Kim Mozingo

Market Research: “I have a great idea!”

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You have the perfect solution! It is something the world needs and they need it now! At TechFire, we love the enthusiasm of our entrepreneurs. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by creative people intent on solving some of life’s most vexing challenges.

However, one of the biggest considerations for entrepreneurs and inventors is deciding whether their great idea has mass appeal just as they designed it.  The comment “But it’s such a great idea!” should not be the sole source of objective data on whether a customer base can be established around the invention.

Sometimes all that’s needed is the right way to communicate “the why” of the invention for a market, customer or in the face of other competition. Yet sometimes, what the product or service needs to become truly commercially viable is something more labor or cost intensive.

When conducting market research it is important to set emotion aside and use data to make some decisions. Sounds easy, right? At TechFire we understand just how difficult this step really is.  After all, it was your initial passion and emotion that drove the solution you’ve developed. You need advice and guidance from people who have your best interests at heart, whose success is dependent on your success.

In the words of authors Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, “Relentless execution without knowing what to execute is a crime.”  How certain are you that you’re working on the right thing, for the right audience and explaining it in a way in which that audience wants your product over another?

What you seek is market research and quality research at that.   Market research will help you understand your potential customers: who they are, what they need, and whether or not you need to modify your product or service for their requirements.  In the next several blogs, we’ll provide you with some resources for conducting research and some tips for doing it efficiently.


By: Keith Gordon and Kim Mozingo

Keith Gordon: “Entrepreneurial Eco-System”

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The nascent and growing fields of network and complexity science reveal much of the math that logically roots the “why” for what we intuitively already know about the real reasons to connect in a “network.” We understand that linking gives us the ability to assist as well as be assisted and that is what constitutes a very powerful edge or link.  Yet we also can grasp that the power of a network is directly related to the factor of “n” nodes in that network – where “n” is both a figurative and literal multiplier in terms of capacity for a business.   Network science reveals that the latent power in a network is closely related to the number of nodes and more importantly quality of edges in a network.   However, what we may not often consider is that the principle that really propels a networks quality is that the “brand experience” is realized at scale  through “relational thinking” – building lasting relationships that go beyond the nature of the present transaction or edge (this future is what we’re really interested in).  As TechFire builds connections for a southern Maryland entrepreneurial eco-system, we are attentive and examining what these initial conditions mean for the long-haul.  We are looking at building this “Southern MD relational database” that goes beyond the near-term… A healthy way of thinking?

Full Article…