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Campus & Community

New Investments Fuel 3 Startups in Discovery District

Tech Businesses Confident on Greater College Park’s Growth Potential

By Liam Farrell

Man works in IonQ

Photo courtesy of IonQ

Quantum computing startup IonQ, along with online cyber security trainer Cybrary and anti-phishing business Inky Technology Corp., have secured major investments in recent weeks.

Three tech businesses in Greater College Park’s Discovery District—all with significant University of Maryland ties—have secured major investments in recent weeks.

Quantum computing startup IonQ announced it raised $55 million; online cyber security trainer Cybrary received $15 million; and anti-phishing business Inky Technology Corp. secured $6 million in new funding rounds.

University and business officials said it’s the latest sign of support for the Greater College Park initiative, which aims to turn the community into a bustling hub for startups, research, new housing and retail, and arts and culture. More than $2 billion in investments have been secured from private and city, state and federal partners.

“No one moves to a place where nobody else is,” said Ken Ulman, the university’s chief strategy officer for economic development. “It’s really an exciting thing to see.”

Cybrary, which was founded in 2015 and provides free online cyber security training classes, is planning to expand from about 60 employees to more than 100, said Ralph Sita, co-founder and CEO and a 1984 UMD graduate.

“We are pulling in talent from all over the area,” he said.

Cybrary has several UMD alumni already working for the company, Sita said, and is planning to hire more based on the strength of its business and computer science programs. He often recommends College Park as a prime location to other businesses.

“You can’t say enough about what is happening here,” Sita said. “This area is going to be highly sought after.”

IonQ, founded in 2015, is based on technology licensed from UMD and developed in the lab of company co-founder and physicist Chris Monroe, a Distinguished University Professor. The firm is a competitor in the race to build the world’s first practical quantum computer, a still-theoretical device that could revolutionize tech development and scientific research by doing some calculations exponentially faster than current technology allows.

The new funding will help IonQ pursue cloud computing accessibility and support new partnerships with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, said Mahsa Dornajafi M.S. '10, IonQ’s vice president of finance and operations. The University of Maryland, she said, has been a key partner in providing everything from library and data resources to a “clean room” for manufacturing hardware.

“It’s been a great partnership,” Dornajafi said. “It’s an assurance that we definitely appreciate."

Inky was founded in 2008 by Dave Baggett '92, a former member of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation Board of Trustees. He was part of the team on the popular Sony PlayStation video game “Crash Bandicoot” and co-founded travel search provider ITA Software, acquired by Google in 2011 for $700 million.

In this new venture, Baggett and Inky are creating email security systems to better identify and block phishing emails.

Ulman said the university is aiming for a healthy mix of companies that draw on alumni entrepreneurs, expertise of faculty and a smart pipeline of graduating students—a “brain gain” versus a “brain drain” of Terps going elsewhere for their post-collegiate projects.

That momentum, he said, will be buttressed by the availability of facilities like The Hotel at the University of Maryland and the continuing development of a bustling arts, dining and entertainment scene that encourages people to do everything from host their board meetings here to buy a house in College Park.

“It really does all feed on itself,” Ulman said.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.