Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

UpSurge is advancing plans to make Baltimore an ‘equitech’ city with new corporate funding

The equity-minded startup ecosystem builder will use the $250,000 grant from Capital One to continue its work on advancing pathways into technology and supporting underestimated founders.

The first equitech city?

(Photo by Flicker user Craig Fildes)

“Equitech” as an idea is taking hold in Baltimore.

UpSurge Baltimore was launched in spring 2021 to make Baltimore a top-tier innovation hub over the next decade. To get there, it is focusing on making the city known for equitech, a framework that prioritizes leadership by underrepresented founders, diverse teams and solutions that aim to address systemic societal challenges.

This week, the org announced a $250,000 grant from Capital One to further its mission of making Baltimore a place where everyone has opportunity to be a part of the tech economy.

Equitech is a term coined by Upsurge Baltimore that focuses not on a specific industry area, but on overall inclusion in the industry, UpSurge CEO Jamie McDonald told Technical.ly. That becomes especially important when considering Baltimore is a majority-Black city, and the disparities that exist in funding and team representation in tech. It’s also a lens through which to view the kinds of companies Baltimore wants to attract, she said.

“We’ve got this comprehensive vision that we can build a tech city that is a leading global tech hub but do it in a way that brings Baltimoreans from neighborhoods across the city into that work,” said McDonald, a longtime investment banker, entrepreneur and Baltimore tech figurehead. “That’s something that’s different than what has happened in other tech cities across the country.”

The grant is to support UpSurge Baltimore broadly, but McDonald said the two key areas both companies have focused on in their conversations is pathways into technology and supporting underestimated founders. Over five years, Capital One is dedicating $200 million to organizations across the country that are focused on creating more socioeconomic equity though its Impact Initiative. UpSurge’s programs, including an electrification-focused accelerator with Stanley Black & Decker and the Techstars Equitech Accelerator for startups are prime examples of what the financial institution wants to support not just with funding, but its institutional knowledge.

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This funding makes McLean, Virginia-headquartered Capital One the first organization to support UpSurge from outside Baltimore, McDonald said. (Fitting, given UpSurge’s desire to connect to likeminded orgs throughout the DMV region.) As the local org continues to grow its impact, it’s working with community members throughout Baltimore to identify the gaps that keep people out of careers in tech. That work includes the Equitech 2030 report, formed with input from 200 community leaders.

“This is not a one-year transformation that we are undertaking,” McDonald said. “We’re building towards 2030. It has take us hundreds of years to get to this point in Baltimore where we have a community where many people don’t have access to the education, resources or network that open the tech economy up for them. This is not something we’re going to change overnight.”


Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-
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