Super Power Moves: Baltimore's biggest tech and biz leadership shifts of 2019 - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Dec. 19, 2019 4:16 pm

Super Power Moves: Baltimore’s biggest tech and biz leadership shifts of 2019

From talent nurtured at Millennial Media/Ad.com leading new companies to a big shakeup at Under Armour, here's a look at the year in career moves.
Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank.

Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank.

(Photo by Flickr user University of Delaware Alumni Relations, used under a Creative Commons license)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, new gig or promotion? Email us at baltimore@technical.ly.


While tracking a tech community brings plenty of considerations about business and dev decisions, so often it comes down to people.

Talent propels companies as they look to grow, and getting smart people to move is often a big reason why the city is so interested in building a tech sector in the first place. Plus, in people, there are the stories that give all the code and numbers their humanity.

It’s why we put a lot of energy into tracking the comings and goings of talent through our Power Moves column and in stories throughout the year. So as we look back at 2019 with roundups of big news and shifts, news about people belongs.

These stories cover both Baltimore’s biggest brand and local startups that are just coming up. Let’s take a look at the biggest Power Moves on 2019:

Kevin Plank steps aside.

In 2020, the most prominent Baltimore company founded in the last 25 years will be under new leadership. At Under Armour, Plank will move to executive chairman and brand chief, while Patrik Frisk will become CEO, the company announced in October. Frisk joined the apparel company as president in 2017 from the ALDO Group, and has been a consistent leadership voice.

The news comes amid UA restructuring over the last several years as it looked to rebound from a string of quarterly revenue losses, and a year in which the company laid off 50 people at its Locust Point HQ. Talk of the brand’s sales will continue, but for Baltimore it’s a reality that the founder who perhaps most embodied the entrepreneurial ethos of leading a company from startup to worldwide success will no longer be running that company.

Before that big move, UA made news with the January hire of Tchernavia Rocker as chief people and culture officer. Rocker previously worked at Harley Davidson for 18 years.

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Ad.com/Millennial Media talent power another wave of startups.

Whitebox team members including CEO Marcus Startzel (back left). (Courtesy photo)

Baltimore has a deep talent pool in advertising technology, nurtured in part by a series of cycles of exits and company formation: Advertising.com was acquired by AOL in 2004. Looking to start their own company, early employees of that company went on to form startups such as Millennia Media — which itself went public in 2012 — as well as Videology and Lotame.

We’ve continued to see folks with Ad.com and MM on their resume steadily ever since. But in 2019, there was a series of moves that suggests another wave of companies led by adtech veterans finding local prominence might be on the horizon — and this time they’re not just adtech. Here’s a look:

  • Matt Gillis, who was an executive VP at Millennial Media and AOL/Oath, joined clean.io as CEO to begin the year. It kickstarted a year of growth for the malvertising protection company, with Millennial Media experience being a chief similarity. In October, clean.io picked up a Technical.ly Award for Startup of the Year.
  • Marcus Startzel, who was an executive at Ad.com and Millennial Media before leading Mediaglu to exit, was hired as CEO at Whitebox. Throughout the year, the ecommerce automation company raised a $5 million Series A, grew its footprint and continued to add talent with adtech bonafides like VP of Marketing Hayley Bradway and Mike Kocorowski, who joined as CFO. That came ahead of their Technical.ly award for Growth Company of the Year.
  • Traitify gained a COO to start the year, as former Ad.com executive Chris Heine joined the Southeast Baltimore personality assessment company. Steve Root, who served as COO of Advertising.com and Millennial Media, joined the company’s board.
  • Protenus was a regular company appearing in our Power Moves column during 2019, as it continued to add to executive ranks. Among the talent that joined were former AOL leaders like Chief Revenue Officer Don Kennedy and Chief Customer Officer Brittany Keller.

Lolita Taub joins Catalyte as chief of staff.

Lolita Taub.

Lolita Taub. (Courtesy photo)

The chief of staff role is becoming increasingly common at startups. In adding the role, Otterbein-based Catalyte brought a prominent voice to Baltimore when Taub joined around midyear, bringing experience at startups, enterprise and investing at firms like Backstage Capital, which backs underrepresented founders.

Along with Catalyte, Taub has also brought that perspective to Baltimore as a whole, whether speaking on Baltimore Womxn in Tech’s panel on career paths or offering thoughts on closing the funding gap for founders of color. It shows how attracting talent at one company can benefit the whole city.

VitusVet puts down Baltimore roots.

The cycle of talent from an exited startup moving onto another company was also a thread woven through VitusVet’s 2019 growth. After several years in Columbia, the pet health IT company moved to Baltimore in 2019. Part of that move involved tapping into the city’s talent — specifically former employees of Canton’s OrderUp, which was acquired in 2015. Jason Kwicien, a cofounder of OrderUp, joined VitusVet as COO toward the beginning of the year. Later in the year, VP of Marketing Heather Fields also joined the company.

Leaders step down at TEDCO.

At Maryland’s quasi-public agency that supports early stage companies, the departure of CEO George Davis after two years headlined a series of moves among leadership. (Davis later joined Evergreen Advisors as EVP for strategic advisory). TEDCO President John Wasilisin stepped down in February, while Chief Investment Officer and Maryland Venture Fund Managing Director Andy Jones and Maryland Venture Fund Chief Marketing Officer Parag Sheth departed in June.

During the 2019 legislative session, TEDCO faced scrutiny from state lawmakers following an audit that said several investments made by MVF were not in companies that had a primary place of business in the state. This resulted in new regulations, which are in the process of being finalized. In leadership roles, longtime TEDCO executive Stephen Auvil is currently acting head of the organization, and Elizabeth Good Mazhari was named as interim leader of the Maryland Venture Fund.

RocketDocs plants a flag in Baltimore.

Jason Pappas stepped into the CEO role at RocketDocs. (Courtesy photo)

B2B software company RocketDocs also started the year with an eye toward Baltimore, as the then-Frederick-based company moved into Baltimore’s Harbor East — which is not far from investor Camden Partners.

That set up a base for local talent, namely new CEO Jason Pappas. The company also made a prominent CTO hire later in the year, as Xena Ugrinsky joined and added a leading voice on AI and enterprise technology.

There’s new leadership at BDC.

The City of Baltimore’s economic development agency got a new leader in 2019: After five years in the role and another seven on the City Council, William H. Cole IV decided in April to join Columbia’s Margrave Strategies. Colin Tarbert, who previously worked in the mayor’s office at City Hall, assumed the CEO role.

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