(Above photo by Aaron Brazell used under Creative Commons with attribution.)
Four “layers” are needed for a city to have a successful startup ecosystem, said Greg Cangialosi, managing member of the Baltimore Angels investing group, during a Tech Cocktail event in Las Vegas in December.
- The Nucleus Layer: Here exists a variety of “enablers,” or a “density of people who want to build and create.” In this layer are places like coworking spaces, events like Startup Weekend and Startup Grind, scores of Meetups, hackathons and so on. The important thing is the startup community is organizing.
- The Innovation Layer: “Where things get real,” Cangialosi said. This is where early-stage capital, accelerators and incubators work in concert to prop up startups and founders and afford them the resources to turn their ideas into products.
- The Growth Layer: A convergence of local and state government actors, educational institutions at the university and high school levels and “active, regional VC activity” makes up this layer.
- The Sustainability Layer: Or, can your startups keep themselves afloat? Corollary to this: are there entrepreneurs who start, scale and sell a company, and then re-invest in other, local startups?
Watch Cangialosi’s full talk from December 2012:
Cangialosi’s remarks were made in relation to Baltimore, and he believes this city’s startup ecosystem is on its way toward being robust and efficacious. One need look at just 15 of the startup scene’s takeaways from 2012 for evidence of this.
But as Technically Baltimore wrote in December, to call Baltimore a startup “hotbed” on the same level as Austin or New York City is premature (and a bit daft). Several components that make up those above layers are neatly falling into place — a re-organization has enabled the Angels to make more early-stage funding deals, educational groups, like the Digital Harbor Foundation and incubator-coworking space Betamore, have formed in the last year, and enterprise companies do exist here, including Millennial Media, which will remain in the Can Company in Canton through March 2015.
[Full disclosure: Technically Baltimore, which works from Betamore on occasion, also contributes to this city’s startup ecosystem by organizing the annual Baltimore Innovation Week.]
What will really make for a convincing clarion call for Baltimore in 2013 will be growth in the fourth layer Cangialosi mentions. Awareness of a tech community in its adolescent stage in this city seems to be at a peak, as even the state and city officials take more notice, sponsor competitions (like the city-backed Civic Apps contest and the state-backed InvestMaryland Challenge) and allot time to mingle with startup founders and employees at tech events, like city CIO Chris Tonjes did at TechBreakfast in December.
The question remains, especially as Baltimore contends with a comparatively higher tax rate coupled with the need to attract ample and available technologically-trained talent (and pay them competitively), can this city prove to be as fertile a starting ground for potential founders?
So far, signs are encouraging.
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