Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Funding / Startups

UpSurge Baltimore examines tech sector’s promise, diversity in new reports

The company worked with Johns Hopkins' 21st Century Cities Initiative to develop the first-of-its-kind report on diversity in Baltimore's tech sector. That study accompanies another, bigger-picture snapshot of the ecosystem at present.

A scene from an Equitech Tuesdays gathering. (Courtesy UpSurge Baltimore)

After mobilizing to support founders affected by Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse, UpSurge Baltimore furthered its mission of promoting a more equitable business environment by releasing a pair of studies that comprehensively both the growth and diversity of the local startup ecosystem. 

As UpSurge CEO Jamie McDonald highlighted in introductions to each report, the ripple effects of any progress in the tech sector should be the norm, not the exception. In support of this commitment, UpSurge partnered with Johns Hopkins University’s 21st Century Cities Initiative to develop one of the two studies, “Diversity 2023: A baseline look at the diversity of Baltimore’s Equitech ecosystem.” This report snapshots the startup landscape’s current state while recommending ways forward to support positive change. The second publication, “Momentum 2023: A look at Baltimore’s Startup Ecosystem, Current Trends, and Opportunities,” builds on the themes of “The $11 Billion Opportunity” to holistically highlight Baltimore tech’s growth and potential, as well as offer a promising outlook for the city’s startups.

Here are some key highlights from both reports, as well as an interview with McDonald:

“Diversity 2023”

According to this first-of-its-kind report, although startups in Baltimore City are more diverse than the national average, they have yet to reach a level of diversity that accurately represents the city’s demographics. While McDonald noted that this report marks a snapshot in time, and that changes won’t be fully known until the next report, “Diversity 2023” and its constituent section, “Measuring Diversity in Baltimore’s Startup Ecosystem,” acknowledges the need for further improvement to ensure this city-to-sector demographic parity.

Within Baltimore City startups, the largest gaps exist for Black employees and executives; companies would need to more than triple their representation to match the city’s demographics, according to McDonald. Moreover, over 60% and almost 80% of startups did not have board members who identified as women or Black, respectively. The report, in reflection of UpSurge’s equitech model, notes that Baltimore could lead a path for other cities by fully confronting historic exclusion in the city’s economy. 

“The Baltimore tech sector is not an island; it is located in a multi-sector context of public, private, and social systems that together have long determined the legal, financial, and social norms of business,” reads the “Measuring Diversity” section. “By demonstrating that diversity fuels sustainable value creation and scalable wealth, the Baltimore tech sector can be a catalyst for equity in Baltimore’s entire business and economic ecosystem.”

“Momentum 2023”

One of “Momentum 2023’s” most significant takeaways is the revelation that over 50% of Baltimore’s most active startup investors went from no investments to at least four in the last three years; for instance, Inner Loop Capital has made six investments since 2019. McDonald said that this finding emphasizes the urgent need for Baltimore to prioritize building an investment culture and promoting its ecosystem’s readiness to invest in local startups and venture funds.

Moreover, the total number of investors with funds in Baltimore companies has increased from 462 to 529, with 16% of investors putting their money into more than one deal; this suggests that investors are finding more opportunities in Baltimore companies. McDonald asserted that these developments are good for Baltimore’s economy and will ultimately benefit the city as a whole.

Overall, McDonald emphasized that even with the challenges faced at the macro level, such as crime and poverty, the progress made in the tech sector should not be overlooked.

“Our city is indeed a bright spot, and we must recognize the importance of a thriving tech economy in its growth,” she told Technical.ly. “While it’s crucial to support small and neighborhood businesses, a city cannot fully prosper without embracing innovation and technology. Baltimore’s tech economy has seen significant growth in recent years, and it’s vital for us to spread the word and attract more investors and entrepreneurs to continue this upward trajectory.” 

Read “Diversity 2023”

Read “Momentum 2023”

Companies: UpSurge Baltimore / Johns Hopkins University
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