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Municipal government / Universities

Gov. Moore kicks off cabinet tour by meeting founders at Towson U

Maryland's new governor and members of his cabinet spent several hours at the state institution meeting members of current and prior StarTUp at the Armory accelerator cohorts.

(From right) Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller and Gov. Wes Moore speak with founders who participated in the StarTUp at the Armory accelerator. (Courtesy photo by Alex Wright/Towson University)
Full disclosure: This article briefly mentions TEDCO, which is a Technical.ly Ecosystem Builder client. That relationship is unrelated to this report.
Less than a month into his tenure, Maryland’s new Gov. Wes Moore has already made tech and entrepreneurship a cabinet-level priority.

Moore, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller and various members of the governor’s cabinet visited Towson University on Friday for the first stop in what a statement from gubernatorial press secretary Carter Elliott IV called a “Cabinet Road Show.” According to another of his office’s statements, the cabinet will be hosting such meetings at a different location each month. During those meetings, the cabinet aims to both open itself to communities and spotlight “innovative projects and thriving businesses” throughout Maryland.

“Governor Moore’s vision for the Cabinet Road Show was to make sure our administration and cabinet secretaries visit the communities they serve,” Elliott said in an email. “The Governor believes that cabinet meetings do not have to remain in Annapolis and during this first year, it is important that the administration and cabinet secretaries are visiting every part of the state. The tour also serves as an opportunity to engage with the community and highlight innovative projects and thriving businesses throughout the state.”

For this first stop, Moore and his colleagues spent hours talking and meeting with the university’s executive director of entrepreneurship Patrick McQuown, as well as numerous founders who are in or have completed the StarTUp at the Armory accelerator. Those founders included Rebecca Rosenberg of ReBokeh and Conrad Brake and Ryan Rutkowski of Let’s Tap In — companies that made it onto the main roster and honorable mention portion, respectively, of Technical.ly’s 2023 RealLIST Startups list. McQuown noted that the entirety of the accelerator’s current and first winter cohort was in attendance, as were other founders whose success reflected the potential of the state’s entrepreneurs.

“That’s kind of our superpower: We’re a sleeper state,” McQuown told Technical.ly, reflecting on his conversations with Moore and another gubernatorial staffer on Friday. “We’re small, but we always come up in the top three of financially producing states in the nation. We’re never going to be Silicon Valley, Boston or New York, but we can be Maryland.”

McQuown added that the tour allowed several accelerator participants and alums to directly connect with state officials whose work aligns with the startups’ foci. For example, he said Moore apparently made a point to have Kobby Osei-Kusi, founder of Frederick-based electric vehicle charger developer Pirl Technology, meet with the Acting Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld. McQuown also related a story in which Takiel Gibson, founder of flavored toothpaste developer and current StarTUp accelerator participant Dental Desires, showed Moore his vision board —  which included the governor on it.

“And in front of everyone, Takiel goes, ‘But I got to say, I’m not too happy because I was planning on being the first Black governor of Maryland,'” McQuown recounted. “So Wes cracks up and he’s like, ‘I’ll keep the seat warm for you, brother.'”

This was just one scene from a visit that also saw the cabinet visit an under-construction facility for Towson’s College of Health Professions, which a university statement said produces the most undergrad healthcare workers of any Maryland university, before visiting Heavy Seas Brewery in Halethorpe.

“The Governor went to Heavy Seas Brewery with his cabinet to enjoy a local beer and learn more about the agriculture and technology used to operate the brewery in Baltimore County,” Elliott said. “The purpose of this visit was for the cabinet to to discuss their business, and to tour a world-class facility.”

McQuown, who knew Moore from their shared time as mentors during the Techstars Equitech Accelerator, praised the governor’s seeming ability to authentically interact with people like the startup founders.

“I’ve been around politicians before, [and] that guy listens,” McQuown said. “He’s not just doing it for the cameras. He really listens.”

McQuown isn’t the only person in the startup and entrepreneurship world to praise Moore. Wallace Boston told Technical.ly that Moore served on the board of Boston’s own American Public Education System, which provided online higher education classes and services. This took place before the now-governor founded Bridge.edu and took on a position as CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation. According to Boston, tech has always mattered to Moore’s vision of educational uplift.

“I know that Wes embraces the ability of technology innovations to scale and make a difference in education … but he also is a big believer in the power of people,” said Boston, a general partner with education startups-focused funder Green Street Impact Partners, to Technical.ly via email.

Boston also highlighted Moore’s early executive order establishing the Maryland Department of Service and Civic Innovation, which will include a service year program through which high school alums can earn money while working in their communities.

Moore is just the highest-ranking Maryland politician with connections to the local tech industry. For instance, Comptroller Brooke Lierman included Fearless CEO Delali Dzirasa and TEDCO CEO Troy LeMaile-Stovall on her transition committee. More recently, software developer Ashley Esposito last week took the oath of office to become one of the first elected members of the City of Baltimore’s school board.

Companies: Towson University
Series: Power Moves
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