citybiz+ Blu Venture, TEDCO Join $2.5 Million Seed Round for N5 Sensors

Rockville, Md.-based N5 Sensors, which has developed technology to detect chemical hazards, has raised $2.5 million in a seed round led by Vienna, Va.-based Blu Venture Investors. Blu Venture said its investment in N5 Sensors now totals $1.96 million, including a pre-seed round in 2016. Other investors in the seed round included TEDCO, the University System of Maryland Momentum Fund and University of Maryland in College Park’s Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund.

“We are proud to share that our commercial revenue has been consistently growing and this investment will greatly accelerate our growth,” said N5 Sensors CEO Abhishek Motayed, a scientist with doctorate degrees in electrical and computer engineering. “A big shout-out to Blu Venture for leading this round and for being N5’s biggest champion since the early days.”

​Early Investor

Blu Venture said its partners first met Motayed at the National Science Foundation’s  i-Corp Program in 2014. “From the very beginning of our relationship with N5 Sensors, we found Abhishek to be very engaging with a passion for the business and its prospects,” said Blu Venture partner Hal Shelton, who was previously the chief financial officer at NYSE-listed energy firm USEC. “We’ve believed since the beginning that the solution N5 provides is unique and the intellectual property on the basic architecture is strong.”

Blu Venture, founded in 2010, has invested over $114 million in more than 80 startups, focusing on early-stage cyber, SaaS and technology ventures. Its most recent fund of $25 million was raised in 2021. Its recent portfolio investments include Aiden, Tidal Cyber, TCARE, Spin Technology, Pearl and CYBERA. Blu Venture’s notable exits include Ethix360, Latista, PathSensors and Dark Cubed.

J.S. Gamble, one of Blu Venture’s founders, serves as its managing partner. He previously worked at consulting firms McKinsey and Price Waterhouse. Gamble briefly served as acting CEO of Smart Imaging Systems, and has been an adviser to several portfolio companies. He is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

Shelton, who oversaw Blue Venture’s investment in N5 Sensors, is a SCORE-certified mentor, having assisted over 1,000 entrepreneurs in conceptualizing business ideas and starting companies. He is the author of the book, “The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan.” By virtue of his role at Blu Venture, Shelton holds a board seat at three portfolio companies.

University Spinoff

N5 Sensors was spun out the University of Maryland in College Park, to leverage innovations in nano-engineered materials and devices to create novel sensing and detection solutions. The company has integrated nano-engineered sensors with edge and artificial intelligence to develop environmental detection solutions, managed by a cloud-connected ecosystem of smart sensors. Its technology has applications ranging from wildfire detection and chemical defense to a range of consumer applications. With growing usage of smart-home products and wearables, N5 Sensors expects a far bigger market than the one it envisioned when it started out in 2012.

On his LinkedIn profile, Motayed calls himself a scientist-turned-entrepreneur who gets “most excited about bringing cutting-edge ideas to life through technological development and execution of effective strategies. Over a 15-year career in academia, Motayed has been a research scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the University of Maryland in College Park. His research focused on semiconductor processing and manufacturing, and wide-bandgap technology.

TEDCO, Momentum Fund

The Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) runs seven different programs to support entrepreneurship across the state. They are: Venture Funds, Seed Investment Funds, Federal programs, Maryland Innovation Initiative Fund, Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, Rural Business Innovation Initiative Fund and Social Impact Funds.

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Since 1998, TEDCO’s portfolio firms have generated more than 10,000 jobs, and made an economic impact estimated at $2.3 billion. Its portfolio companies have also contributed over $100 million in direct state and local revenue. TEDCO’s recent investments include Nanobiofab, Astek Diagnostics, Hememics Biotech, Hopr and HeMemics Biotechnologies. TEDCO is led by executive director and CEO Troy LeMaile-Stovall, a 25-year veteran with experience in investment management, higher education, telecommunications, information technology and management consulting.

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The Maryland Momentum Fund, run by the University System of Maryland (USM), provides late seed investment funding for promising technology ventures in any of the 12 constituent USM institutions, its research parks and students, faculty, or graduates. The $16 million fund co-invests alongside other investors.

The Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, an initiative of the University of Maryland in College Park, invests in companies with innovative solutions that can help improve air and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Its investments are jointly selected by investment staff at the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute and technical staff at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.