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Where Steve Case sees opportunity for Baltimore’s startup community

Whether through partnerships with anchors or rallying the community, working together is key, the AOL cofounder said. He spoke Thursday at the first Anchor Ventures event.

Steve Case speaking at Johns Hopkins FastForward 1812. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

At this point, Steve Case has seen many startup communities, as his Rise of the Rest bus tour has been to 33 cities.
Speaking Thursday at Johns Hopkins’ FastForward 1812 in East Baltimore on Thursday night, the AOL cofounder said each community has a unique story and opportunity for growth.
As far as the prospects for Baltimore, he pointed to increasing work on inclusion since the bus tour stopped in Baltimore in 2015, as well as advantages for an innovation economy such as the city’s already-strong health sector and big players such as Hopkins, the University of Maryland and Under Armour. But he stills sees work to be done.
Healthcare, he said, is a prime example of a field that will be tackled in the “third wave” of the internet, where focus will turn to bigger, institutional problems. For instance, a big challenge is getting technology more integrated into hospitals, which will take partnerships and work on regulations.
To take advantage of those opportunities, Case said there is a common thread throughout each community.
“They’re all well positioned in different kinds of ways,” he said. “The only question is, does the community rally together to the seize the moment? The ones that do that are going to rise.”
Case was asked about the public bidding process for Amazon HQ2, and also found a common thread there that communities rallied together to create the proposal. Baltimore leaders noted that happened here even as the city didn’t make the list of finalists.
He encouraged cities to channel the energy toward attracting Amazon into “building a stronger startup ecosystem, so you can actually create the next Amazon.” It’s a sentiment we’ve heard here.

Interviewed in a fireside chat (complete with fireplace) by TEDCO CEO George Davis, Case was speaking in Baltimore for the inaugural event of Anchor Ventures. The new series is being organized by Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures and the University System of Maryland, and will rotate monthly between FastForward 1812, UMB’s The Grid and IMET. The next event is March 15 at IMET.
Before Case took the stage, ETC President Deb Tillett, Innovation Village’s Richard May Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures’ Christy Wyskiel and Sagamore Ventures’ Demian Costa spoke about their work in Baltimore’s tech community.
He visited on a newsy week. The talk came a day after the Rise of the Rest fund that his firm Revolution recently created announced its first round of investments, which included participation in a $27 million round for Baltimore-based Catalyte.
Case said the fund is aiming to provide capital to companies that aren’t in New York, California or Massachusetts, which got 75 percent of all venture capital funding last year. But it is also looking to create a network effect. For one, the big-name billionaire investors who backed the fund could become individual investors in later rounds for the companies that get funding. Additionally, Case is hoping the fund will help encourage local investors and attract more attention for the startup communities. In that way, it has a similar goal of the bus tour.

He wants the fund to be a “catalytic investor, where our capital maybe helps de-risk it for others and the round comes together a little faster than it might otherwise have.”
Companies: University System of Maryland / Bio-Rad Laboratories

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