Advertising / Business development / Environment

Baltimore is a city with limitless potential: Max Sobol

The adtech veteran moved back to his hometown after 20-plus years in Philly. We catch up with Sobol to see why he's so bullish on Baltimore's future.

The Inner Harbor. (Photo by Flickr user Kevin Labianco, used under a Creative Commons license)

No stranger to the Baltimore tech scene or the community, Max Sobol is back in Charm City after wrapping up business ventures in Philadelphia. Since he touched down, he’s hit the ground running, connecting with folks in the community. Recently he appeared in the Startup Soiree podcast on community and startups.
We connected with Sobol originally in our Philly coverage of Solve Media and caught up with him recently via email for this edition of Entrance Exam.

Max Sobol

Max Sobol. (Courtesy photo)

TB: Who is Max Sobol?
I’m a seasoned business builder, executive officer and strategic advisor. Passionate about startups, I’m a 20-year industry veteran and progressive thinker with extensive experience leading Internet technology companies from startup mode to more efficient and profitable operations.
Prior roles include Partner/President of Idea Evolver, EVP of Solve Media, COO of VoiceStar (acquired in 2007 by Marchex), VP Operations of PointRoll (acquired in 2005 by Gannett) and leadership roles at E-Duction and VerticalNet when the Internet was still in diapers.
TB: Where do you call home?
I live 20 minutes northwest of Baltimore city.
TB: What brought you back to Baltimore?
I grew up here and I’ll never forget that. Originally from Baltimore, I ventured off to Philly for college and career. Some 20+ years later, I’ve returned to be closer to my wonderful wife and family. Everything’s changed for the better and opportunity is everywhere. This is a city with limitless potential fueled by driven entrepreneurs building amazing things.
TB: What’s next for you?
After winding down my Philly business interests, I’m spending my days meeting with as many bright people as I possibly can. People here are amazingly generous with their time, extremely helpful and genuinely curious about what I’ve done. With every new connection I make, a handful of additional introductions keep me busy.
There are no shortages of big ideas here and everyone is craving experience to help drive their visions forward. Advisory/Board roles are in my immediate future but you never know where I may land or what I may start. Stay tuned.
TB: What have you found to be your hidden gem in Baltimore?
That’s easy: Harbor East. Put simply, it didn’t exist in it’s current incarnation 20 years ago. It’s miraculous to see the development and the transformation. It’s a real destination now and I enjoy spending time in and around the area, especially in the evenings. Fantastic vibe and the energy is infectious.
TB: What would you say is the biggest difference between the Philly and Baltimore technology communities?
While the technology scene is relatively comparable, the startup ecosystem is very grassroots. It’s like stepping into a time machine and seeing Philly 6-8 years ago.
The ideas are here, the founders are here and the backing is here. There are so many fantastic organizations trying to tie these things together with varying degrees of success. Ask any entrepreneur in Philly and they’ll tell you that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to attend every tech/startup-focused event. Ask any entrepreneur here and they’ll tell you that they crave more, more, more. At least the ones I’ve spoken to.
The resources in Philly are much more saturated. Baltimore is “on sale” compared to Philly. Everything of equal or greater quality, like office space or talent, is much more affordable here. It’s an aspiring business builder’s dream. The growth potential is staggering and entrepreneurs who take advantage of this renaissance phase will see Baltimore put it’s proper place on the startup birth map. History is in the making.

Companies: Solve Media
People: Max Sobol
Projects: Startup Soiree

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