(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
There’s a new opportunity for Baltimoreans interested in dipping a toe in the startup world.
Wasabi Ventures is bringing a branch of its WV Academy to Betamore. The Silicon Valley-headquartered VC firm, which focuses on early-stage startups, has had a presence in Baltimore since 2008, but this is the first cohort of the program designed to educate startup founders. It’s also part of a new Wasabi partnership with Betamore.
“It really is a tool to teach people how to be founders,” Wasabi Ventures cofounder and general partner Tom “TK” Kuegler, who is a Baltimore native, said Thursday at an information session at Betamore.
"What we do with our EIR and incubation program, no one on the planet does."
The Academy starts with a free, 15-week session called “Start-Up Foundations,” which provides an overview of the startup world from Kuegler, his fellow cofounder Chris Yeh and other Wasabi Ventures staff. The in-person part of the session will be conducted at Betamore, and other classes are held online. WV Academy Director Chris Martin said the time commitment is roughly 3-5 hours a week, and they’re looking for about 20-30 people.
After the 15 weeks, the next phase is Wasabi Ventures’ incubation of startups, which is known in-house as the Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program. The firm is fully aware that some people will leave after the first 15-week program, but people with ideas can move on to a four-week “boot camp” where they start to develop their ideas more fully.
Through that process, Wasabi vets startups to see if they want to work with the entrepreneur long-term to build a company from scratch. If they do, Wasabi becomes a cofounder in the company with the entrepreneur. The firm provides funding, as well as access to the firm’s engineering, sales and marketing staff. Wasabi Ventures takes at least 30 percent equity.
“What we do with our EIR and incubation program, no one on the planet does,” Kuegler said.
While Wasabi Ventures has the intention of finding new companies to partner with in setting up the academy, Kuegler readily acknowledged that not everyone who goes through the 15-week fall session will end up founding a company with the firm.
“The bar to get to this is pretty high,” he said. “We only try to do a dozen of these a year across the whole country.”
The academy’s entrance into Baltimore is part of a larger partnership between Wasabi Ventures and Betamore, which recently completed transitioning to a nonprofit dedicated to Baltimore entrepreneurship. WV has had a presence in Baltimore since 2008 by investing in firms, and Kuegler’s lasting connection to the town where he grew up.
Kuegler, who now lives in New Hampshire, will hold monthly office hours at Betamore, and the two organizations are also lining up programming in addition to WV Academy.
For instance, Kuegler is running a Venture Capital Analyst Bootcamp on Saturday, Aug. 22, to give people an overview of how startup financing works, and how to complete due diligence.-30-
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