Maryland organizations are building an AI-powered web platform where entrepreneurs can find all of the resources available to them in the state.
It’ll be called the Maryland Entrepreneur Hub, EcoMap Technologies CEO Pava LaPere said this week.
TEDCO, the quasi-public agency that supports early-stage tech companies, recently selected the Baltimore-based EcoMap to build the platform after a formal RFP. Maryland Department of Commerce and University System of Maryland are also partnering on the effort.
“Maryland’s small businesses are an invincible force, constantly needing to pivot and address the daily challenges entrepreneurs face,” TEDCO CEO Troy LeMaile-Stovall said in a statement. “Our goal is make Maryland’s business resources more accessible to support our growing ecosystem, and continue to drive economic empowerment throughout the State.”
Asked what users can expect from the finished product, LaPere described it this way: “A free, one-stop-shop platform that entrepreneurs can use to navigate all that Maryland has to offer for their business. Whether they are a first-time founder starting up, or an existing company looking to grow, the Maryland Entrepreneur Hub will be a reliable, up-to-date source on all the different resources and opportunities that business owners can leverage.”
It’ll seek to centralize the info about resources for startups and small businesses at all stages from Maryland, D.C. and the University System of Maryland, and will feature info on “funding opportunities, accelerators & incubators, events, mentorship opportunities, licensing & registration info, and more,” she said.
EcoMap has an existing portal that’s specific to Baltimore resources. With this hub, LaPere said there will be a specific focus on for-profit businesses. Teaming with USM will also bring a focus on the role academic institutions in the state play. In LaPere’s estimation, the most important function is to make information freely accessible.
“If we want to use entrepreneurship as a lever for economic development, then we need to make entrepreneurship accessible to all,” she said, bolding that sentence in email responses to Technical.ly. “A giant part of this is reducing the information barrier that can stop founders from finding the tools and support they need to launch and grow. That’s why I founded EcoMap in the first place: to ensure that any entrepreneur could access the same information about what resources exist in their local community. I’m thrilled that we get to execute that vision across our home state.”
LaPere, a Johns Hopkins University alumna who is a force behind a series of resources herself, said the state is full of “buried treasures.”
“Maryland has a variety of programs that are thoughtfully designed, impactful, and highly effective at supporting new businesses. We’ve mapped multiple cities at this point, and Baltimore still has some of the best-structured entrepreneur support programs we’ve found,” she said. “But as great as these resources are, they can be hard to locate. This is especially true for founders who are not embedded in the ecosystem through their existing corporate, educational, or social networks. That ‘tight-knit-ness’ can be just as much of a blessing as a curse: unless you know someone who can point you in the right direction, you might never know these resources exist — which is precisely the problem we’re tackling.”
The partnering orgs are aiming to launch the hub by the end of the first quarter of 2021.-30-