(Photo by Karuga Koinange)
Over 900 of the region’s entrepreneurs, business owners, venture capitalists and legislators gathered at TEDCO’s 2019 Entrepreneurial Expo last week to participate in a full day of workshops and events that facilitated networking and entrepreneurial education.
The expo, held at The Hotel at the University of Maryland, featured several keynote speakers along with panelists focusing on various topics in the business realm such as how to launch a startup, tips for seeking legal counsel, increasing cyber sales and much more.
Here are 10 quotes that stood out to us from the day:
Bob Ackerman, managing director of AllegisCyber Capital, on what he told former Gov. Martin O’Malley about growing startups in the Maryland:
- “It’s not just about the money. … It’s about creating an ecosystem and pulling it together so that the talent can establish itself and the capital will follow.”
During a keynote to open the day alongside Justin Klein of Vensana Capital and Liz Sara of Best Marketing, Ackerman said that Maryland’s unique level of offensive cybersecurity talent provides a unique opportunity to form teams to take on challenges on the commercial side and build new companies. That’s why cyber “foundry” DataTribe is located in Maryland, and not California where he is also an active investor. “We can do that here. We can’t do that in Silicon Valley,” he said.
Marco Chacon, founder of IRAZÚ Bio-Holdings, on the startup environment in Maryland when he cofounded Paragon Bioservices, the Baltimore contract biotech manufacturing company that went on to be acquired for $1.2 billion by Catalent:
- “We didn’t have TEDCO. We didn’t have the early stage funding sources that we do today. The State of Maryland has gone a long way to build the infrastructure.”
During an afternoon keynote, Chacon said the company’s 2009 move to the University of Maryland BioPark, where the recently launched IRAZÚ is now based and Paragon continues to have a big presence, was one of two key moments for the company. He also recognized how it helped the city.
“These people from the university, they saw an opportunity to make it become better, one house, one block, one opportunity at a time, and I endorse that.”
Another key moment came via Baltimore’s community, as Inner Harbor-based Camden Partners was an investor alongside NewSpring Capital in an investment deal that helped lead to the milestone acquisition.
Robert Lord, cofounder and chief strategy officer at Baltimore healthcare analytics firm Protenus, on how he views entrepreneurship:
- “I see entrepreneurship as the cost that you pay to solve a problem.”
Lord stressed taking a solution-based approach to entrepreneurship. He said that the service aspect of entrepreneurship is rewarding and provides a great good for consumers beyond just selling a product.
Nigel Smith, director of Hatchery Ventures, on the impact of technology designed to help people with everyday issues:
- “That’s the power of human-centered design. You don’t know unless you put it out there.”
Smith said that it’s impossible to gauge success unless you release your product and gain feedback, especially when it comes to products that seek to aid people with everyday tasks or situations.
Wayne Schepens, managing director of LaunchTech Communications, on the power of effective networking:
- “It’s not always the best technology. It’s not always the best solution. It’s those companies and those leaders that can leverage connections and grow relationships.”
Schepens said that in his extensive experience with public relations, he found that some of the more successful companies he’s interacted with tended to do an excellent job of maintaining relationships with everyone that they worked with. He emphasized keeping in constant contact with partners and clients.
Elizabeth Hecker, associate with Ballard Spahr, on the role of corporate venture capital:
- “They’re not about the returns. They’re about the alliance.”
Leading a panel featuring Abbott Ventures Director of Venture Investments Mark Gent and Ballard Spahr patent attorney John Zurawski, Hecker said corporations investment can be a potential resource for early-stage companies that make a product, but the goal is to fit with the company’s overall strategy. Gent said corporations look at this in terms of filling gaps in their business that they see coming in the future.
When it comes to landing the investment, Zurawski sounded an important note on what’s being sought in a deal: “Management is almost as important if not more important than actual scope, scale or size of the IP portfolio,” he said.
Drew Cohen, CEO of Zuul, on connecting with others:
- “People want to be listened to.”
Cohen, who leads the Columbia IoT security startup, kept his message short and simple. But his words spoke volumes to the significance of fundamental networking. He said that it’s important to not only listen to others, but show that you are taking their words as substance by taking action. This could involve making changes to one’s company or simply attending a conference based on advice or recommendations from others.
He said this could make the difference between whether someone chooses to help you in the future by connecting you with someone or even making a call and vouching for you.
Carl Grant, EVP of business development at Cooley, on the importance of networking strategies:
- “I met with 30 venture capitalists in a day and a half.”
Grant said it’s important to be intentional about how you network. He said he recently attended a conference where he looked at the agenda beforehand to see who would be there and had 10-minute meetings with people he thought would be good to connect with. Grant said he even wrote potential business plans on the back of each person’s business card.
Anthony Millin, chair of NEXT, on taking initiative in regards to seeking legal counsel:
- “Save your time and energy for the hundreds of unexpected things that will happen to your company.”
Millin said it’s crucial to take care of matters that are in your control such as estimating operational costs before facing unexpected issues that could hinder the progress of your business.
Michael Tangrea, senior scientific director at LifeBridge Health, on the importance of fundraising:
- “Fundraising is the great intersection between politics and science.”
Tangrea shared his take on fundraising, urging audience members to not be fearful when it comes to raising money. He said there isn’t a singular tactic for fundraising. Leaders should be willing to experiment with different strategies.-30-
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