Big, established companies tend to get top billing when thoughts turn to the state’s overall business picture.
But in the day-to-day work of the Maryland Department of Commerce, team members are talking with the smaller companies all the time. In fact, department figures indicate that the majority of job growth is driven by the 600,000 companies with 50 or fewer employees in the state.
It gets to a reality of a local economy in 2020: “In order to have a robust ecosystem it can’t just be the larger companies,” said Allyson Redpath. “It needs to have the influx of new ideas, of new blood, of energy that you find in the startup community.” In late December 2019, Redpath assumed a new role as entrepreneurship director in the commerce department that’s designed to focus on those fledgling firms.
The latest effort toward this end is focused on up-and-coming companies. Along with Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz and the department’s marketing team, Redpath is spearheading an effort to put a spotlight on unsung local companies called “Innovation Uncovered.”
It’s accepting nominations for a list dubbed “Future 20” that will feature startup and business stories that Redpath called “wow efforts,” and add some marketing might behind them. With nominations open through Sept. 30, the list is expected to be announced by Gov. Larry Hogan in November.
From cybersecurity to UAS, we're looking to uncover the next big Maryland business. Have anyone in mind? Let us know. https://t.co/GdGTxcvHyp
— Maryland Commerce (@MDBiz) September 10, 2020
As director of entrepreneurship and small business outreach, the Montgomery County native is working to identify the needs of founders, and connect them with resources, investors and community builders that can help them grow.
As she puts it: “It’s not economic development, it’s ecosystem development.”
Redpath came to the role by way of experience in finance and investment. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting and master’s degree in finance, she served as director of investment banking at Wall Street firms including Schroders and Citigroup in New York. The roles included managing transaction teams for M&A with a specialty in consumer packaged goods, as well as representing companies raising investment capital. She previously worked in focused roles at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Groupe Crédit Agricole.
After 15 years in New York, she returned to Maryland two years ago, and wanted to apply that background to business growth in her home state. She applied her investment experience to advising local small businesses on finance. Recognizing the gender gap in early-stage investment, she founded Citrine Angels, an early-stage investment group that looks to increase investment opportunities for woman-founded companies in the D.C. area.
When Schulz created the position focused on entrepreneurship, Redpath she saw a role that would represent a way to help companies across the state, and was onboard in time for the Christmas party. In the early weeks in the role, she helped organize the state’s delegation of companies that attended the February’s Startup Grind Global conference in San Francisco.
The pandemic brought an “all-hands-on-deck” mode at the department, so Redpath joined the team and moved to focus on aid to small businesses via grants and loans, and chaired a task force focused around business reopening.
Since then, Redpath has returned to some of the initiatives that knit the community together. That includes meeting with incubators and accelerators, as well as the Innovation Uncovered effort. Redpath said she was struck by the level of inventiveness among companies she met as part of efforts like the Startup Grind conference organizing, and that only increased as she saw “heroic work” in response to the pandemic.
“I was struck by the level of interesting projects that are going on throughout the state that a lot of people really don’t know about. This is a way to unearth some of those and to highlight them,” she said of Future 20.
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