In a recent tweet, the official @BaltCouncil account shared that City Council President Nick Mosby had a meeting with Baltimore tech entrepreneurs in October.
It was a direct visual representation of city government and the tech community meeting.
Mosby told Technical.ly that he appreciated the chance to meet “so many folks doing amazing things in the City of Baltimore around technology, and it was very diverse. It was a really good discussion.”
Council President @Nick_Mosby met with some of Baltimore's leading tech entrepreneurs to hear what they need from city leaders. We change Baltimore through opportunity, closing the racial wealth gap and investing in local businesses and legacy residents. #BmoreExpectMore pic.twitter.com/0d7hB2PL2W
— Office of Baltimore City Council (@BaltCouncil) October 24, 2021
While Mosby said he regularly meets with community groups like small business owners, clergy and community leaders, a meeting between one of the city’s top elected officials and leading CEOs is still something that we see rarely enough that it caught our interest. With a new wave of elected leaders that took office about a year ago, there are signs it will be happening more. We’ve also seen Mayor Brandon Scott backing tech community initiatives.
For his part, Mosby isn’t new to tech. He’s a former electrical engineer and, while a district-level City Council member, helped to start and bring official city recognition for Baltimore Innovation Week in 2013. (Full disclosure: As the lead organizer of the event at the time, Technical.ly worked with Mosby’s office on that effort.)
The CEOs are meeting with community leaders around the city. They’re part of the CEO Exchange, a group that started about a year ago with four members: Delali Dzirasa of Fearless, Nick Culbertson of Protenus, Ken Malone of Early Charm and Craig Bandes of Pixelligent. Being from different disciplines within the tech community like software, materials, healthcare and nanotech, Dzirasa said they wanted to set up a regular way to learn more about the different facets of technology, and how they could support each other.
Within months, they started inviting new members each month, and added members including Smitha Gopal of Rendia, Ellington West of Sonavi Labs, Jeff Cherry of Conscious Venture Lab, Megan Bailey of Personal Genome Diagnostics and Jacob Hsu of Catalyte and Carolyn Yarina of Sisu Global, all of whom were at the meeting with Mosby.
Each run their own company, but are also active in building efforts for Baltimore, as well as speaking up about the city as they travel widely.
"Many in the tech entrepreneur community want to help create equitable growth in Baltimore. Asking our city government leaders how we can help seems like a great place to start."
“These are all folks that care about Baltimore,” Dzirasa said. “They really want to do what they can to make the city better. … It has always been, how do we drive as much impact as possible?”
At the meeting, Mosby said, the leaders discussed attracting more tech companies, and intentionally developing areas with an eye toward particular kinds of technology. In an interview, Mosby also pointed to the advantages that come from the city’s positioning near federal government tech centers like Fort Meade, as well as near other cities on the East Coast.
With its healthcare and education institutions, as well as “with its culture, with its history, Baltimore really has all the characteristics to be that amazing place where we can see startups and businesses expand in our city,” Mosby told Technical.ly.
They also discussed how the city can tap into tech and entrepreneurial talent that’s in Baltimore to help solve challenges. Coming off a meeting that he said was a “good discussion” with a diverse group, it’s an area where Mosby thinks the city can do more.
“I think it’s critically important for us to connect with them,” he said. “We have some major challenges and a lot of the times the stuff they’re working on and they have access to can be beneficial to [addressing] the core issues we’re facing in our city.”
For the entrepreneurs, it was a chance to raise a hand. They already organize initiatives like equitable workforce development coalition Baltimore Tracks, run incubator programs to help the next wave of entrepreneurs like Hutch, and are partnering with each other to grow and fund companies.
“Many in the tech entrepreneur community want to help create equitable growth in Baltimore,” Malone said. “Asking our city government leaders how we can help seems like a great place to start.”
The leaders are hopeful that they can build a bridge to key leaders across city government as they work to make the city more attractive for tech companies, and expand opportunity.
“The hope is that this is the beginning of many conversations with his office and others on, what can we really do to move the needle?” Dzirasa said.