Are you building a product that customers want to buy?
That’s the fundamental question Baltimore Startup Weekend co-organizer Sarge Salman is hoping area tech startups will start considering. It’s also the issue he tackles as organizer of the Baltimore Lean Startup group, a monthly Meetup he founded in April that held its first meeting in June (with BeerGivr’s Sean Kennedy and the BusyGrad co-founders as presenters).
Salman arrived at tech entrepreneurship from the world of science—he holds a PhD in chemistry from Colorado State University, doesn’t code, but has been “working with inventors since grad school,” he says.
He arrived in Baltimore by way of Johns Hopkins University, where he spent 10 months as a technology licensing associate managing a portfolio of medical devices, like surgical robots, for instance.
He left that job in January this year, however, after realizing that through his work he was “solving great technology challenges but [wasn’t] meeting customer needs,” says Salman. After reading Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup, the Baltimore Lean Startup group was formed to encourage Baltimore city’s tech entrepreneurs and startup founders to embrace a “data-driven approach to learning and decision-making,” which is the way Salman summarizes his Meetup group.
In other words: your idea might be good, but without a paying customer, what problem is your startup solving?
Sarge Salman discusses lean startup principles with Eric Ries in Washington, D.C., last month.
His plan is to host four meet-ups each year at four different venues throughout the city—Salman himself lives in Lauraville, just nearby the Zeke’s Coffee House on Harford Road—and bring in speakers and Meetup members from 12 industries not necessarily associated with entrepreneurship. (The August Meetup featured a panel that included Kari Lamont, a senior manager at McCormick.) Salman is also hosting two Bmore Skills workshops on wireframing at the TowsonGlobal Business Incubator later this month.
While Salman has been in Baltimore for just a little more than a year now, he says the city shows promise as a good location for startup companies, strong words from someone who worked as a licensing associate in Boulder, Colorado, a startup stronghold of the Mountain West.
“Here you can have impact, versus [Washington] D.C. and New York City,” Salman says. “The problems are real, the challenges are real and it’s a great lab for products.”
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