Best Week, Worst Week: Win for ClearMask


The future got a lot brighter this week for a Baltimore-based startup after winning its latest pitch competition. The University of Maryland was rocked with a backlash over its poor handling of a probe into the death of a football player and the program’s culture, ultimately leading to the retirement of the university’s president and the abrupt resignation of the chairman of the University System of Maryland.

Baltimore-based startup ClearMask took home the $30,000 top prize at Salisbury University’s biannual Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery entrepreneurship competition, which company CEO Aaron Hsu called “validation” for its business plan.

Business writer Tim Curtis reported Thursday that ClearMask’s victory in Salisbury was the latest pitch competition victory after a series of wins in the spring. The company, which develops a transparent surgical mask that helps improve communication with anyone wearing the mask, beat out 12 other competitors for the top prize.

The company has used its cash prizes from previous competitions to get patent protections and do some market research to grow its product. But this latest win allow ClearMask to use the $30,000 in winnings to upgrade from handmade prototypes and move forward with manufacturing on a mass scale, looking to expand into markets such as Brazil, Germany and Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the University System of Maryland is now forced to look for ways to move forward after its bungled handling of a probe into the death of a football player and reports of a dysfunctional culture permeating the University of Maryland football team. The saga has already seen the retirement of a university president and the abrupt resignation of the chairman of the USM Board of Regents and has set off a wave of repercussions for the entire university system.

Government affairs writer Bryan P. Sears reported Thursday James Brady resigned as chairman of the USM Board of Regents, just 24 hours after he told a Baltimore radio station that he believed the controversy over keeping Maryland football head coach DJ Durkin would quickly blow over.

On Tuesday, USM regents chose to keep athletic director Damon Evans and Durkin after a report showed the university had a problematic culture concerning its football program, but came short of calling it “toxic.” After the regents sided with Evans and Durkin, university President Wallace Loh announced his retirement.

The decision sent shock waves through the College Park campus, sparking protests from students and inquiries from lawmakers – Gov. Larry Hogan, foremost – as the governor said he was deeply troubled by the lack of transparency from the regents and the decision-making processes used.

On Wednesday, Loh fired Durkin, and the regents said they would accept that decision.

The fast-moving events are likely to harden legislators’ resolve to explore how the regents made their decision. Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore city and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said her committee will hold a hearing Nov. 15 and wants to hear from regents about their decision in the wake of a report that examined allegations of bullying within the football program.

Aside from the immediate issues brought on from the event, members of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation said the regents’ mishandling of the matter could deal a ‘fatal blow’ to the university’s $1.5 billion fundraising campaign.

Allysa DittmarDaily Record