Startups got some face time with a pair of Baltimore’s big companies this week.
The first edition of b2Bmore, held at the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, put 17 startups in a room with representatives from energy giant Exelon and tools titan Stanley Black & Decker. Software development firm SmartLogic and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore partnered to organize the event. They are hoping to hold more editions of the event in the future.
The startups at the event ranged from software development outfit Mindgrub (which brought the Oculus) to IT firm Federal Hill Solutions to recently founded big data analytics company FourV and efficiency-minded Roadmap and Epilogue Systems.
Each startup got a chance to meet for 20 minutes individually with the large outfits. In a sign that they were serious about identifying leads, Exelon sent about a dozen people, some of whom flew in from Chicago.
— SmartLogic (@smartlogic) September 17, 2015
As technology transforms, staid processes within bigger companies often don’t allow them to adapt to new technology as quickly as smaller outfits. For instance, 3D-imaging company Direct Dimensions specializes in 3D-scanning technology that is frequently in-demand by corporations, said Michael Raphael.
“They may know about it. There may be one person that’s aware of these technologies … but they don’t necessarily see the use case and the business case within a larger company to buy the equipment and make an investment,” Raphael said of the corporations. “To make people aware that we’re right here in Baltimore, and that we’ve been doing it for over 20 years, can be comforting to a larger company.”
— Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (@Econ_Alliance) September 16, 2015
But even when startups realize they have technology that could be useful to bigger outfits, it can be tough to get in the door.
That made the trip from Western Maryland worth it for Jim Buchanan, who is vice president of Hancock-based 3-D Print Factory. Standing behind a table full of 3D-printed goods, Buchanan said the dedicated meeting time that the event provided ensured that he could explain rapid prototyping and other work the company does.
“Behind the scenes it would be 20 cold calls to get to the right person, and even then it would be only five minutes of time,” Buchanan said of trying to get in the door with the corporations.
And then there’s the value derived from the simple act of putting a small group of companies together in a room.
At a Technical.ly Baltimore stakeholders meeting last year, SmartLogic President Yair Flicker happened to strike up a conversation with Stanley Black & Decker Director of Breakthrough Innovation Frank DeSantis. As it turned out, Stanley Black & Decker had app development needs, and SmartLogic became a client within a month.
With those kinds of relationships established, it’s important for startups to be networked in case a bigger company has a need that the more tightly-focused startup can’t fulfill. Even though it’s a bunch of tech companies, business at SmartLogic still comes through word of mouth.
“Our No. 1 referral source is always from people we know,” Flicker said.