The first cohort of the Techstars Equitech Accelerator is bringing global startups to Baltimore, and supporting companies already growing from a base in the city.
On Thursday, the accelerator announced the first 12-company cohort for the Baltimore-based program, kicking off the programming phase for one of the key initatives aimed at making the city a top-tier tech hub through the lens of equitech. This framework, coined and championed by UpSurge Baltimore, prioritizes supporting companies that are led by underrepresented founders, building diverse teams and developing solutions that aim to address systemic societal challenges.
National accelerator Techstars and UpSurge partnered to bring the accelerator to Baltimore, bringing together Techstars’ national network of investors and Upsurge’s ecosytem-building work in Baltimore. It’s oriented around building an inclusive innovation economy.
“We coined the term ‘Equitech’ to reflect what a truly inclusive tech city could look like, one which not only becomes the center of gravity in the country for inclusive tech, but also which builds on-ramps into the tech economy for Baltimoreans,” said UpSurge Baltimore CEO Jamie McDonald, in a statement. “We partnered with Techstars to bring its well-regarded accelerator model to Baltimore and help amplify the work we’re doing here, raise the city’s profile as a top-tier innovation hub, and elevate the Equitech movement to create a new future through tech innovation.”
The 13-week accelerator provides access to the mentor network of Techstars and others from the Baltimore ecosystem, as well as civic, company and academic resources. Companies will work to refine business models, craft pitches, and network with other entrepreneurs and potential investors. It wraps with a demo day event, where founders will pitch to investors and the community on Feb. 24, 2022.
Three of the 12 companies are from the Baltimore area, and have been regularly covered by Technical.ly: EcoMap Technologies, Mindstand Technologies and Femly. Others are coming to the city from areas across the country, Canada and Europe. It illustrates the dual goal of the accelerator to not just build Baltimore’s startups, but attract young companies from across the country to Baltimore. The accelerator is led by managing director Monica Wheat and venture principal Ramzy Ismail, both of whom bring national and international experience and networks.
The cohort, which was selected from hundreds of applicants and had a 3% acceptance rate, is also oriented around a mission that champions diversity as a key to business success.
“For too long, innovation and business development — especially within the tech sector — has not been built for, accessible to, or driven outcomes for underrepresented groups, even though these groups make up the majority of our economy and are the backbones of our communities,” said Pava LaPere, founder of EcoMap Technologies. “Equitech’s approach is rethinking the development model by putting these groups front and center and setting the stage for better outcomes for all members of the tech ecosystem in Baltimore and beyond.”
Here’s a look at the Techstars Equitech Accelerator’s inaugural 2021 class, with descriptions from Techstars:
- Aleria, of New York, New York, aims to the guesswork out of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Athlytic, of Detroit, is a marketplace that connects student athletes to endorsement opportunities.
- EcoMap Technologies, Inc., from Baltimore, builds platforms that help people navigate ecosystems, from entrepreneurial communities to corporate networks and beyond. The team also recently partnered with TEDCO to create the Maryland Entrepreneur Hub.
- EQL Finance, Inc., of DC and Berlin, Germany, provides small-dollar, interest-free lending payable up to 36 months for working families and individuals.
- Femly, of Baltimore, increases access to eco-friendly and sustainable personal care. The company has won a series of local and national pitch competitions in recent years.
- MindStand Technologies, of Baltimore, utilizes AI to detect workplace harassment and provide personalized insights on workplace inclusion. MindStand AI integrates with Slack, Microsoft Teams, and more to keep business leaders in tune with their culture and community. The company has recently partnered with Baltimore Tracks to bring DEI resources to the broader Baltimore tech community.
- Paperstack, of Toronto, Ontario, provides fractional CFO services for ecommerce sellers.
- Sparen Homes, of Detroit, provides a person-to-person real estate marketplace where users can buy and sell real estate themselves without a bank or an agent.
- SportsHi, of Brooklyn, New York, is a network for students to connect with education and career opportunities.
- SURU Together Ltd., of Dublin, Ireland, has developed PSi, a scalable social audio platform that allows for better decision making within a community.
- Upfront Online Inc., of New York, New York is aiming to transform childcare data at scale so parents, providers, and government agencies can have a single source of truth for the first time.
- Zimbali Networks, of DC, is aiming to bring change to the foundations of finance by building communities of buyers, seller and lenders, in one seamless, accessible global platform.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-