“She had the entire first-year class eating out of the palm of her hand for the entire discussion — even when she challenged them to consider waking up at 4 a.m. in the morning to get a head start on their work!” said Josh Ambrose, director of student ventures at the university, in an email.
“Over the past few years, students have repeatedly told us that she is amongst the most inspiring speakers they’ve ever heard talk about entrepreneurship; throughout those discussions, her passion for Baltimore always shone through.”
By Tuesday afternoon, the company she helped create had sent out an email newsletter and corresponding press release saying that its team had been profoundly shaken by the “deeply distressing” passing. The company decided to temporarily suspend business operations this week.
“Pava’s visionary leadership and boundless passion for EcoMap’s mission have been foundational to our success,” EcoMap cofounder and COO Sherrod Davis wrote in the newsletter. “Beyond her role in the company, Pava’s unwavering commitment to fostering inclusivity, amplifying ecosystems, and fortifying Baltimore’s tech community set her apart as an exceptional leader. She touched many lives, both within and outside EcoMap, and her memory will resonate in the work we continue to champion.”
Numerous Baltimore startup founders, university leaders, CEOs and other connected figures shared glowing reflections of LaPere and her significant contributions to the city’s tech ecosystem.
“In her 26 years on this planet, she did more with the time she had than most people do in a lifetime,” McDonald said in a written statement. “Pava left an indelible mark on our community. The Baltimore ecosystem is stronger, more resilient, and courageous thanks to Pava’s personal and professional contributions here.”
LaPere was not born or raised in Baltimore, but she went to college at Johns Hopkins and adopted the city as her home.
“From her first day in college, she served a leading role in championing student entrepreneurs in Baltimore,” said Sabin Karki, a fellow Johns Hopkins graduate and Indiana University medical student who cofounded the biotech startup Benegraft.
LaPere helped create TCO Labs and other initiatives to support undergraduate founders during her time at the school.
Brooke Stephanian, an Indiana University medical student and Johns Hopkins alum who was involved in TCO Labs’ creation and also cofounded Benegraft, said in an email that LaPere was her first cofounder and “one of the most influential forces” in her life.
“For the first time, I felt I was working with someone with a shared vision — someone deeply committed to changing the world who treated all of us like family,” Stephanian said.
Ambrose, the director of student ventures at Johns Hopkins, said that he learned about his role leading the pupil-focused entrepreneurship center FastForward U directly from LaPere. He holds her passion for the work as a constant inspiration.
“Since joining the team, I’ve repeatedly found that the student-focused venture work we do here at Hopkins was influenced on every level by her innovative drive,” Ambrose said via email on Tuesday. “She’s been a tireless friend not just to FastForward U, but to every collaborator on and off campus. … She was a passionate friend of our city, dedicated to advancing innovation in every form, across all sectors, with inclusive excellence. We’re deeply mourning her loss and are committed to supporting and furthering all the good work she began.”
LaPere founded EcoMap in Baltimore in 2018. The platform works to enable different entities and institutions — ranging from university systems to municipal governments to Baltimore’s own tech scene — to seamlessly map their respective ecosystems’ participants and resources. During her time with the company, it completed the Techstars Equitech Accelerator, raised two separate rounds of $3.5 million and moved into a new office in the Bromo Arts District.
“It would hurt anyway,” Dzirasa said of LaPere’s death. “But that’s what hurts so much: that we just saw this star that was on this meteoric rise taken from us and didn’t get, like, she didn’t get a chance to, for the world to see the whole story.”
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