Baltimore and Maryland as a whole have a thriving tech scene. We recently reported on the Startup Maryland “Pitch Across Maryland” bus tour which yielded 168 startups pitching on video, check that story out here. We’re kind of partial to Baltimore as well since it’s my hometown and all but people love Baltimore.
One of the things people love about Baltimore is the food. Naturally if you’re into shellfish and crabs, Maryland crabs are second to none. There are a lot of other great food eateries in Baltimore as well. Heck there are great restaurants everywhere.
When all you can smell in a city like New Orleans, Baltimore, Boston, and even Chicago, is great food, you may not think about how clean a restaurant really is. Over the summer I had made a trip home to Baltimore and was struck with some hellacious food poisoning from a restaurant I used to frequent as a kid. After spending three days at the Baltimore Washington Medical Center near Glen Burnie, I found out that the restaurants latest health department score was a low B.
That’s where the fine folks at Baltimore startup HDScores come in. Chef turned entrepreneur Matthew Eierman along with William Sanford, cofounded the startup that makes it super easy to access a restaurants health department scores on the go. If a restaurant smells delicious and looks a little shady, HDScores can quickly tell you if it’s somewhere worth visiting.
HDScores blends big open data with social integration and even the ability to have video reviews, accessible to the end user on an easy to understand user interface.
We got a chance to talk with Eierman. Check out the interview below.
What is HDscores?
HDScores answers the question “How clean is the establishment your about to eat in?” and allow for social feedback (consumer generated video reviews) for 3200+ jurisdictions across North America (US & Canada) plus the entire United Kingdom. Tackling the “Big Data” related issue of Data Standardization and Normalization issues from working with 3200+ Jurisdictions each with their own local variants. So we make health department inspection scores easy to search and read. We have 5 Vertical Markets identified Government, Media, Consumer, Commercial Data/API integration, & Academic.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
HDScores is a web and mobile platform that consumers or clients can easily read and search for the health department inspection scores of their favorite or not so favorite restaurants. Because the HDScores platform has a number of different type of clients and users, we have chosen a cloud based database and infrastructure, so that deploying, viewing and using our site will be simple and seamless, regardless of platform or user interface.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Matthew Eierman – Founder/CEO
Matthew Eierman is the chef-turned-entrepreneur who developed the HDScores concept and recruited the management team.
Matthew completed 6 years of culinary/pastry education in 5 years, graduating from Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC with two Associates of Science Degrees (Culinary Arts; Baking & Pastry Arts). His 8 years of experience within the food service industry has allowed him to work in every position from dishwasher to sous chef and multi-unit general manager. From his experiences, Matthew has a deep understanding of all aspects of the food service industry.
After leaving the food service industry, Matthew ran day-to-day operations of a business-to business financial services company. Matthew has learned to adapt skills learned in various industries. Applying, them to his new endeavor, HDScores.
William Sanford – Co-Founder
Will is a 3rd Generation Merchant Marine. He has worked his way around the world a few times, experiencing the many cultures and foods first hand. With this knowledge he has learned to appreciate the sanitation practices here in the US.
Sanford Richardson – CFO
As a senior level financial and operations executive, Sanford possesses over twenty years of strategic experience. During his career Sanford has worked as COO and CFO in companies ranging from $10M to $500M in revenue. His experience includes taking a start-up company through all phases of an IPO to serving as the financial lead in turning a company from a negative ROI to a high profit status by negotiating and establishing a significant Federal government contract. Sanford has led the financial and integration efforts on eleven successful M&A events.
Sanford holds a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) along with a BS in Accounting from Old Dominion. His career began at Arthur Anderson in SEC Compliance Group in the late 80′s and early 90′s, before moving on to be the 5th hire at JAVA Business Solutions, Inc. where he was part of the team which raised $50MM in capital funding. Sanford led the negotiation of a significant subcontract with Microsoft and Dell and eventually negotiated all JAVA Assets to Sun Micro systems.
After JAVA, Sanford was COO & CFO of OT Manufacturing, Inc. a manufacturing company out of Chesapeake, VA. There, he significantly increased profits, raised capital, and production before he negotiated the successful sale of the Company.
He then took the position of Executive Vice President for Phillips Corporation; where he negotiated the acquisition of an Indian distributor at a price of $8M, a Republic of China facility and two U.S. distributors with acquisition prices ranging from $2M to $15M. He led the efforts to secure the necessary financing for each acquisition. Additionally he negotiated the sale of a Canadian manufacturer for $6M.
Matthew Fleischer – COO
Matthew has a Bachelor of Arts, American Studies from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA and an MBA from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Matthew is experienced as a strategic planner, growing national operations organizations and business/product development. He has built a number of strong brands and portfolios. He has led operations and strategic direction with full responsibility for bottom-line, including long-range planning, product management, and company development. Matthew directed VP of Sales, VP of Business Development, COO, CFO as well as general oversight of 25 employees. He managed all aspects of funding, operations, and execution and reported to and participated with a seven-member Board of Directors.
At his time with Hook & Ladder, he capitalized the corporation with more than $5 Million in investments and grossed an aggregate of $18 Million in Revenue since inception in 2005 with nearly $7 Million in Revenue for 2011 and six-figure operating profit. Matthew increased sales by 190% compound annual growth rate from 2006-2011 and negotiated and signed contracts with 140 wholesalers in 28 states for distribution of product lines in over 10,000 retail accounts across the country. He also has experience with executing a multi-year licensing agreement for sales, marketing, and national distribution of products and managed all outside legal counsel in regards to trademarks and general corporate matters.
Our Advisory Board
Keith Rogers – Hospitality/Start up Advisor
Keith Rogers has a consistent record of making an immediate impact on start-up ventures and establishment turnarounds. Past performance success spans diverse brands of restaurant, hotel, retail & entertainment operations, including award-winning leadership with Starbucks Coffee.
Keith is a forward-thinking leader, well-grounded in operational execution experience, to provide practical team direction. He is adept at identifying opportunities to grow top line while creating operational efficiencies & cutting costs that provide throughput to the bottom line.
Keith’s diverse experience comes from leading in hotels, restaurants, franchises, entertainment & retail companies, record label advisory board, live venues, commercial radio, & new-media/digital technology.
Edward McKeown – Sanitation & Hospitality Advisor
Edward McKeown has a very diverse background that includes being a university professor at Purdue University & the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, published researcher, human resources management, hotel operations, food & beverage sanitation, food & beverage management, sales, and accounting & office management.
Edward has been published a number of textbooks, conference, and research papers, including subject content related to “Content Analysis of Consumer Confidence in Food Service in Relation to Food Safety Laws, Publicity, and Sales”
Sean Patrick Murphy – Data Science Advisor
Sean Patrick Murphy, with degrees in mathematics, electrical engineering, and biomedical engineering and an MBA from Oxford University, has vast experience in both data science and entrepreneurship.
Sean turned down medical school at Columbia University to pursue graduate work in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins. He stayed on as a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and has since accrued over 10 years of experience in algorithm development, machine learning, large-scale data analysis, and cloud- and distributed-computing.
On the startup side, he most recently co-founded DataCommunity DC, an organization offering data science education and networking to professionals. Previously, he served as the Chief Data Scientist at WiserTogether, a series A funded health care analytics firm, and the Director of Research at Manhattan Prep, a boutique graduate educational company. He was also the co-founder and CEO of a big data-focused startup: CloudSpree.
Where are you based?
HDScores calls Baltimore, MD home, We are active in the tech community there. But we run virtually as we rent no office space at the moment.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
The Baltimore Tech Scene is on Fire… We have a number of events to attend on a weekly basis. Baltimore has its own flavor so its not just one area of expertise, but everything from Open Data, Bio Tech, Education Tech, E-commerce, and Social Networks to the more unique startups of Social Toaster and Parking Panda… Events like Entrepreneurs pitching at a Tech Breakfast in front of 250 people, to various meetups, Lean Startup Groups, Social and Networking events at various incubators. The GB.TC (Greater Baltimore Tech Council) has their hand in a number of events like Groundwork (Open Data Weekend), 3D Visualizations/Printing workshop in the historic Walters Gallery, Geeks on a Train, Tech Night… We have TedxBaltimore TedxMid-Atlantic, and Ignite Baltimore… Along with Startup Weekends and Betascape. A number of established tech companies/founders/vc’s and angels put on panels, round tables, workshops, and fireside chats throughout the year.
When we don’t have anything going on in Baltimore, there is Annapolis, DC, Northern Virginia and Philly all within a short drive.
How did you come up with the idea for HDscores?
I (Matthew Eierman) was helping my friends (pastry chef & entrepreneur) open their restaurant Skippers Pier http://www.skipperspier.com/ in Deale, Maryland (I’m a chef/pastry chef by training), It was an existing establishment. So I wanted to look up the previous health department inspection scores. I knew were to look and it took 2.5 hours to complete the task and find the information. I saw there was need to better be able to search and review this information, for a number of jurisdictions. The concept started there…
How did you come up with the name?
The name is simple HDScores = Health Department Scores and HDScores.com was available
What problem does HDscores solve?
HDScores is taking Restaurant Health Inspection data that is disperse, divergent, and inaccessible and aggregating the data into a single place – making it uniform, attainable, and normalized so concerned consumers and commercial clients can easily access and query huge data sets efficiently.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people)[16% of the US Population] gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Reducing foodborne illness by just 10% would keep 5 million Americans from getting sick each year. The source of 52% of foodborne disease outbreaks and sporadic foodborne diseases are restaurants.
Food contamination from food borne illness pathogens can create an enormous social and economic strain on society. In the U.S., diseases caused by the food borne illness pathogens alone are estimated to cost up to US $77.7 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity.
Every food service establishment gets a health department inspection and HDScores is focused on solving the “big data” and “data normalization & standardization” related problems of unifying the data sets from 3,200+ jurisdictions managed by local, state and federal health departments/agencies across North America (US & Canada) into one uniform, accessible and easily-understood system
What’s your secret sauce?
We are building the World’s Largest Health Department Score Database. (That is actually searchable and easy to read)
We have a system in place to normalize and standardize the health department inspection data from 3200+ jurisdictions into a single unified data set.
We are building an algorithm based scoring system “a HD Score” to account for the 100 million pieces of historical data and other weighted information not just a snap shot that takes place at a single health inspection.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
Currently Bootstrapping and have been since we started in January 2012. In November 2012 HDScores started Pitching Angels, VC’s, and Accredited Investors and is looking to raise $1.5 million.
What is your go to market strategy?
We have 5 different target markets, we each with it’s own strategy.
We will start with focusing on commercial data/api integration and media sources.
Government and Academic sales cycles tend to be a little longer.
While building out the consumer application as we collect data.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
Finding the right technical talent, we have a big data problem, but by big data standards we are a small problem. (100 million historical pieces of data and roughly 4 million new pieces of data generated annually) Lots of Database and Geo-location, algorithm search related problems to solve. We have a great group of advisors and leaders in the tech community who have led us to some amazing talent.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
I grew up work under amazing chefs, who taught me a work ethic and passion.
There are a number of community and tech leaders here in Baltimore who have given me and HDScores amazing feedback and advice over the years. People who truly support the local tech and business community.
But HDScores always tries to keep my eye on the regional/national tech scenes for awesome concepts or technology partners.
I know that doesn’t answer the question directly but to single out one or two of the many people who have helped us become what we are would not be modest.
What’s next for HDScores?
HDScores has been heavily focused on the the business plans, financial projections, and preparing for financing.
Now that we are starting to look at financing, and are now ready to start building, prototyping, demoing and testing our technology and systems.