The trajectory that’s taking a community forward is inevitably linked to its past. And while it’s often not advised to dwell too much on what came before, reminders tend to show up from time to time that can help clarify things.
Baltimore Innovation Week 2019 brought plenty of those moments. There was lots of talk about how technology and new ways of moving and connecting would shape the future. As if to provide a nudge that there’s always been fast-moving change, these discussions often took place in settings that provided a direct reminder of the city’s industrial past.
At Dev Day on Oct. 9, for instance, ETC President Deb Tillett recalled standing on the upper floors of 1100 Wicomico, a longtime economic hub that is now a home for makers. Looking out, she could see the B&O Railroad Museum, which sits on a key historic site for the country’s first regular railroad passenger service. A few blocks further was Camden Yards, home to the B&O Warehouse as well as today’s Baltimore Orioles.
Along with their place in history, all three buildings were sites for BIW panel discussions and gatherings that considered what economic growth would come next.
A few days earlier, Doors Open Baltimore provided a chance to explore architecturally significant spaces throughout the city. It was also a marker on the BIW calendar.
“Baltimore has so many firsts,” Tillett said, speaking of innovations like the gas streetlight and the railroad that dot the city’s history. “It leads us right up to where we are now and the innovation that’s happening today.”
Efforts to convene different sides of the city were evident throughout the event series held Oct. 5 to 11. Across more than 75 free events that ranged from panel discussions to a maker expo to the closing Innovation Celebration, the eighth edition of BIW drew more than 14,000 attendees, according to ETC, the Highlandtown-based tech and entrepreneurship hub that served as the lead organizer for the second year.
The week came together with a sustained months-long planning effort that included stakeholder meetings and a group of leaders who raised their hand to lead each day. In all, 112 event organizers put on events. Seventeen sponsors made the week possible, including Maryland Department of Commerce.
Organizers put a priority on drawing a diverse group of attendees to spaces around the city, Tillett said. So not only did the venues reflect history, but they also reflected how the tech community has laid a foundation for the future in spaces and neighborhoods across the city — from Pigtown to Station North, Southwest Baltimore to Highlandtown. It showed how blueprints laid in recent years are coming to life.
The overall focus was on tech and entrepreneurship, yet the programming’s structure showed that there are many different sectors working under that umbrella. Let’s take a look at how that breaks down through the tracks and big events that happened each day:
The week started with a chance to connect to the green space in the city, as Baltimore Tree Trust and Break A Difference led tree planting at Lake Montebello.
— BaltimoreShapers (@BaltimoreShaper) October 5, 2019
At Startup Nest in Pigtown, panelists including Samson Williams of Axes & Eggs, Cheree Warrick of Black Blockchain Consultants, and Jim Kyung-Soo Liew, Ph.D., discussed blockchain and digital assets.
Doors Open Baltimore provided a weekend-long look inside the city’s architectural gems. Tillett said ETC formed a “purposeful partnership” with the long-running tour event. It allowed a look at history, as well as how spaces are coming back to life.
Many thanks to @DoorsOpenBmore for featuring our space this year, it was a treat to host explorers this weekend!
Our Wilkens-Robins Building was built in 1871. After several occupants and a demolition-scare, we relish in the restored building's glory, and love this space. pic.twitter.com/NDu8hTfFmY
— AMMON HEISLER SACHS architects (@AHSarchitects) October 7, 2019
Science and Education
The working week was welcomed with the Smart Cities Summit at Homebase in downtown Baltimore, featuring a panel of six leaders discussing how the technology is shaping civic life and services.
Kicking off #BIW19 at the Smart Cities Summit. "Smart Cities isn't about the tech, it's about the people." – Kenya Asli, Smart City Strategist, Baltimore City Office of Information & Technology 👏👏👏 #communityconversations #mybmore pic.twitter.com/5YMyPebMT7
— Meghan (she/her) (@_McBee13) October 7, 2019
A pair of events at Impact Hub Baltimore provided insight into developing new solutions. This included a session on rapid prototyping led by Dent Education.
For happy hour, Common Curriculum led a panel of startup founders discussing how they made the transition from teaching to education technology entrepreneurship.
“Educators are some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs I’ve ever met,” says Ashley Lee-Williams of Infinite Focus Schools. @impacthubbalt on teachers starting companies with @jessgartner @HappyTeacherHTR #BIW19 pic.twitter.com/wuh52CiUq1
— Technical.ly Baltimore (@TechnicallyBMR) October 7, 2019
Down Maryland Ave. at University of Baltimore’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Startup Maryland bus made a stop to provide insight on resources for entrepreneurs, and offer a chance to pitch.
— Technical.ly Baltimore (@TechnicallyBMR) October 7, 2019
Creative & Media
The scene shifted to B&O Railroad Museum for a full afternoon of discussion on the future of moving people, messages and votes. Enradius organized the “Speed of Technology and Innovation” to anchor the track. From 2020 election forecasting to the evolution of a vegan pork rind business called Snacklins, the day featured plenty of insights across three sessions.
— Technical.ly Baltimore (@TechnicallyBMR) October 8, 2019
In Southeast Baltimore, Bytelion held a happy hour session on lean product design to help provide tips for bringing a software product to the world. Check out our recap of the do’s and don’ts, as told by Google and Apple alum Marc Hausle.
Earlier in the day, Gensler hosted a discussion on the small workplace changes that can make a big difference in the flexible environments like Johns Hopkins’ FastForward U and T. Rowe Price’ Owings Mills’ campus.
Attendees also got a look at biofabrication that’s blending the work of artists and an oyster scientist on the MICA campus. “In a sense, we’re collaborating with people in the future who we’ve never heard from,” Tyler Brunner, a student in the course, told Technical.ly.
As midweek arrived, 1100 Wicomico and Harbor Designs and Manufacturing brought a full day of discovery and learning about building technology, products and companies. The full day offered a number of sessions and an expo, where there were chances to meet makers building in Baltimore, and a giant BattleBot. Plus, panels offered insights on growing workforce skills, a business and new waves of science and technology. And to close it out, we honored the winners of the Technical.ly Awards and RealLIST Engineers.
— Technical.ly (@Technical_ly) October 9, 2019
On Thursday, ETC welcomed a daylong series of talks that provided insights for entrepreneurs. The focus was on providing resources — on growing a business internationally, accessing funding or employing current marketing strategies. It all closed out with a Startup Grind-hosted panel discussion on the ties between sports and entrepreneurship. Check out our recap.
-Don’t think you’re too small
-Work with partners, including US NGOs
-Don’t take a risk bigger than the company can afford
-Remember the value of face-to-face meetings #SUGBaltimore @csbaltimore #BIW19 pic.twitter.com/H5nyPc0OnU
— Technical.ly Baltimore (@TechnicallyBMR) October 10, 2019
Innovation Works shifted the conversation to the intersection of entrepreneurship and community impact on Friday. Hosted at Open Works, the discussions focused on data, funding and the realities of building a social venture. Check out our recap.
Thanks to @iwbmore for the opportunity to join the Baltimore Innovation Week panel on Access to Capital and share how @hjweinbergfdn supports initiatives in Baltimore #biw19 pic.twitter.com/5so31w1hSV
— Darius Graham (@DariusG) October 11, 2019
Minority Innovation Weekend
The learnings and connections continued through the weekend at University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business. Organized by the National Society of Black Engineers — Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter, Minority Innovation Weekend brought together startup founders, investors and resources for building a business. A pair of startups picked up pitch competition wins, and will gain access to ETC’s Incubate Baltimore program going forward.
Inside the same building, The Be. Org offered opportunities for the younger generation with the Youth Tech Con. The daylong event combined Social and Emotional Learning activities with a drone, coding and robotics workshop led by Full Blast STEAM.
MIW 2019 Investing in Minority Innovation Panel pic.twitter.com/mY5g6o6BTw
— Minority Innovation Weekend (@mi_weekend) October 16, 2019