Is there enough early-stage capital in Baltimore? - Baltimore


Is there enough early-stage capital in Baltimore?

Nationwide, tech scenes are clamoring for more risk-tolerant startup funding, but Baltimore has its options. The question, then, is if the region is really ready for the failure that comes with taking big chances.

BandHappy received the first check cut from the Propel Baltimore fund in 2013. Left to right: TEDCO Managing Director Randy Domolky, BandHappy's Jonathan Rivlin, TEDCO President Rob Rosenbaum and BandHappy's Andy Meister.

(Courtesy photo)

It’s small talk in every city that fashions itself a future tech hub: do we have enough early-stage capital to fuel young business growth to maturity? A decade into the second wave of the Internet economy, the answer is the same in many second-tier markets, like Baltimore. Yes, there is. And yet, no, there isn’t.

More than $1 million has been awarded to startups since last September by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, more commonly known as TEDCO. The region sees investment from Grotech Ventures, New Markets Venture Partners and the legendary New Enterprise Associates, among others. Local angel groups have been more active: the Baltimore Angels, which had invested in just six startups in its first three years, invested a total of $850,000 in eight separate startups in 2012.

On Tuesday, at a State of Startups event Baltimore helped organize for Baltimore Innovation Week, more than a dozen tech business leaders gave their pitches for the future of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. You know what wasn’t a dominant theme? Capital.

So there is money available, and more is slowly becoming available through programs like AccelerateBaltimore, the Emerging Technology Center’s accelerator that has awarded $250,000 to 10 startups over the last two years.

But the real question around early-stage funding was outlined at a Startup Grind last January by Tom Kuegler, who founded Wasabi Ventures in the Valley but grew up here: are Baltimore’s investors and founders able to stomach the sort of financial risk that runs rampant in Silicon Valley for the sake of building a startup ecosystem?


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