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Baltimore an ‘up-and-coming startup scene’ that surprises: Leo Khin

The city has all the right fundamental ingredients to become a powerhouse player in America’s exploding startup scene. There are entrepreneurs, IT talent, initiatives, events and startups based in Baltimore.

Leo Khin interviewing entrepreneur Greg Cangialosi at April's Startup Grind event. Photo credit: Tyler Waldman.

This is a guest post from Leo Khin, chapter director of Startup Grind Baltimore, and the U.S. Managing Partner of InceptionPad. He is a venture advisor and lead mentor at AccelerateDC, and sits on the board for several startups in the region. His focus is on technology, innovation and social impact.

Baltimore is typically known to outsiders for its Inner Harbor, museums and championship sports teams. But one thing Baltimore has never been known for is its startup scene. But, like what is happening in cities across the country, that is changing.

When we think about a thriving early-stage startup ecosystem, we typically think about San Francisco, New York or even Seattle. All great startup hubs share the same defining characteristics:

  • a large population of entrepreneurs
  • access to investors
  • a readily available supply of talent
  • an abundance of resources that support entrepreneurship
  • a state and local government that supports startups

A city must have all of these factors to a varying degree to create a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Baltimore is an up-and-coming startup scene that most people are surprised by. It has all the right fundamental ingredients to become a powerhouse player in America’s exploding startup story. There are entrepreneurs, IT talent, initiatives, events and startups based in the city. More startups are popping up daily, especially in the areas of adtech, edtech, healthcare and cybersecurity. As the number of startups steadily rises, more initiatives are created to supplement and sustain this growth.

One of the key strengths of the startup community in Baltimore is how tight-knit it is, which allows for an open forum of collaboration among multiple people. This becomes clear when you visit innovation hubs like Betamore and the Emerging Technology Center, locations that boast some of Baltimore’s hottest startups. Such places — which are located throughout the city and region — behave like beacons that draw on the combined resources of the community, and provide them to startups focused on achieving that next level of success.

The state and local government is doing its part as well. Through recent and future changes in legislation, and state initiatives focused on stimulating growth in the tech sector, Maryland as a whole is becoming increasingly attractive to founders looking for a place to call home.

The state government has answered by creating state backed venture funds like TEDCO and the Maryland Venture Fund to make more investment capital available for startups that qualify. According to Greg Cangialosi, cofounder of the Baltimore Angels, the only sustainable solution for the increase in startups is for successful founders to reinvest capital into the ecosystem. This a key element to why Silicon Valley has consistently remained a leader among tech hubs.

Towson University, the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland are quickly entering the scene, becoming more involved in the local ecosystem, and creating university programs that supplement entrepreneurship growth within the region. The universities will play a major role in the sustainability of Baltimore’s startup scene. With the influx of startups being created, a steady supply of business talent must be cultivated and retained to supplement the business needs of these ventures.

One of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur is building the right connections and growing a network of resources for your startup. Meetup groups such as TechBreakfast, TechCocktail, and Startup Grind Baltimore provide entrepreneurs an ample opportunity to connect with others within their community. These sessions are important to the community as they are a means to connect with advisors, investors, and potential team members.

Baltimore has every ingredient needed to become a global player as a startup hub. Will Baltimore become that next big startup scene? Only time will tell. The one thing I can say, for sure, is we’re moving in the right direction, and the only way to achieve success is if we pool together as a community to make it happen. In the end, Baltimore’s greatest asset is itself.

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Technical.ly is a network of local technology news sites and events, including Technical.ly Philly and Philly Tech Week, Technical.ly Baltimore and Baltimore Innovation Week and Technical.ly Brooklyn. The news site features voices from a broad community of people using technology to make cities better. Guest commentary is welcome.

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