AOL cofounder Steve Case is returning to Baltimore in a couple of weeks in a new event series designed to help entrepreneurs.
While Case’s stature will likely give the local tech community some outward-facing attention as it did when he brought the Rise of the Rest tour here in 2015, the behind-the-scenes effort is also worth noting.
Anchor Ventures, as the series is known one of two programs rolling out in the coming weeks that are being jointly organized by Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland. Along with Betamore, the two local anchor institutions are also launching Trajectory Next, a three-month program that’s designed to further help companies who have gone through accelerator programs.
The new programs also received $125,000 in funding each from TEDCO as part of an effort to introduce more incubators to the state.
Universities are often a catalyst of startup communities, and these two Baltimore institutions connected to big healthcare systems have each made their own moves in recent years to provide more resources to startups. The physical manifestation has come with new landing points like the University of Maryland BioPark and Hopkins’ FastForward hubs. The wider universities have been competitors before, but in coming together they want to open these new spaces up to the community, and provide more resources to entrepreneurs.
As Tom Sadowski, who serves as the University System of Maryland vice chancellor for economic development, pointed out, the programs are not the only recent example of the two universities working together. JHU President Ronald Daniels and USM Chancellor Robert Caret co-chaired a state committee on the innovation economy, and both universities were backing the recently-completed M-1 Ventures accelerator.
“With the current leadership at the University System of Maryland and Johns Hopkins, we all agree that collaboration increases the footprint of Baltimore and Maryland,” said Mary Morris, USM’s assistant vice chancellor for economic development. It echoes a point we’ve heard often from people like Case and local leaders alike: Growing the tech community will require everyone working together.
The main goal to get there is to help the entrepreneurs who are here. Here’s a look at the details:
Anchor Ventures is modeled on Venture Cafe, which got its start in Boston. The February 15 event with Case is one example of the programming: a quarterly big-name speaker and highlighting the city’s startup community. Along with Case’s talk, the event will also include a panel discussion with Richard May from Innovation Village, Greg Cangialosi from Baltimore Angels and Betamore, Demian Costa from Sagamore Ventures, Deb Tillett of the ETC and Christy Wyskiel of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. (RSVP)
It’s not only about the names, though. Monthly sessions with smaller monthly conversations that are addressing challenges for entrepreneurs.
“Each month what we’re really trying to do is focus on smaller conversations around true needs of entrepreneurs and trying to answer those more effectively for not just Hopkins or not just Maryland but the growth of entrepreneurship across the city,” said FastForward Program Manager Megan Wahler, who is one of the key organizers.
The universities will alternate hosting duties for events between FastForward1812, The Grid in UM BioPak and the space in Inner Harbor’s Columbus Center that houses USM’s marine and environmental research center, IMET. As Wahler pointed out, the changing scenery also provides a chance to check out what’s happening on the other side of town.
Startups that spin out of research at both universities is geared heavily toward the biotech, life sciences or health IT space. This new program beginning in April is looking to help startups who have already went through the initial phase of getting going. To apply, startups must have gone through an accelerator or similar program. The goal is to help them sell.
“Many accelerator programs focus on helping startups perfect the investor pitch,” Wahler said. “In our experience, startups don’t get enough help with the customer pitch. Our weekly training sessions will fill that gap and get
companies over the early sales planning hump.”
The program will include individual meetings with advisors from JHTV, UM Ventures and Betamore who will help set out growth plans, as well as broker introductions. One of the teams will also receive a cash reward for a yet-to-be-announced amount.
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