The startup incubator has been functioning out of Port Covington since 2017. In the wake of the pandemic, the company has decided to focus on offering programs like its six-month software engineering training program with Mastermnd and the Founder City event series. This programming change coincides with a move to a new location in East Baltimore’s A. Hoen & Co. Lithograph Building and a new strategic partnership with the real estate firm, Cross Street Partners (CNP), that is dedicating at least part of that building to the future Center for Neighborhood Innovation (CNI).
The pivot has also seen Betamore add new members to its board of directors, including Sonavi Labs founder and CEO Ellington West, Mastermnd founder Aaron Brooks and Baltimore-area Capital One Vice President Bradley Myers.
Director of Operations Kimmy Andrulonis told Technical.ly how Betamore made the decision to leave its identity as a coworking business behind — and reset as an organization supporting entrepreneurs solely through programming and resources.
Technical.ly: Can you explain the rationale behind the pivot toward programmatic offerings over flexible space management?
Kimmy Andrulonis: When Betamore first launched in 2012, it was one of the only coworking spaces of its kind here in Baltimore. Our founders felt strongly that creating a flexible, collaborative work environment that brought entrepreneurs together was one of the missing pieces for startups at that time, so it was made the priority and focus. Fast forward 10 years and we see the continuous, rapid growth of that industry here in our city. There are coworking spaces in just about every neighborhood around town. Building and sustaining a successful coworking environment is the primary driver for space-focused organizations in and of itself.
Coworking is really only one piece of the puzzle for evolving individuals and organizations. For our lean, agile nonprofit organization to serve our community best, we know that curating quality, relevant programming and partnering with other organizations to operationalize and elevate their programming has to be the focus for us going forward. To do this, we are doubling down on a core pillar of our mission, which is providing the resources and connections that entrepreneurs, leaders and community members need — especially right now. A lot of people are in career pivots and working on big things in the region, and we want to use our energy to support those evolutions.
How has the Baltimore startup ecosystem changed over the pandemic?
From our perspective, we have definitely seen a shift in focus. Having run a coworking space before and during the pandemic world, we have seen our city’s ecosystem go through a lot. How everyone sees space, whether coworking or office buildings, has changed dramatically. Space is coming back to be something that everyone is considering, but it’s still a challenge for everyone. One thing is clear, though: People still want to connect with people. They want to continue to learn, grow and discuss how to address big challenges in our world.
Overall, the launch of programs like UpSurge and the new Baltimore Regional Technology Council have really helped to reunite the ecosystem across the various programs happening. The local universities have also ramped up their programming and support for entrepreneurs. These are all great things! We have been teaming up with many such organizations and will continue to do so.
Many organizations have used their platforms to address what is happening in our world today, as well as look forward and leverage the key elements that only sit in Baltimore as a foundation for a stronger future. That is also why we expanded our board to include key leaders that work in and represent many of these areas of growth. We look forward to continuing to play our part in keeping the community connected by offering critical programming for entrepreneurs and offering workforce development opportunities across all aspects of the entrepreneurial journey.
Can you talk more about the move to East Baltimore and the partnership with the Center for Neighborhood Innovation?
Much of our growth has always come with connecting with others in the community. So many new partnerships start with an unexpected meeting that ends up having a very serendipitous outcome. Back in January, Katherine Phillips [a development associate with CSP] came to tour Betamore. With plans to launch the CNI in the heart [of CSP’s] amazing renovation and rehabilitation of the A. Hoen Lithograph Building, she was researching different spaces in the area to see what she could glean from those already in the coworking ecosystem. A quick 15-minute meeting turned into almost two hours together discussing all the ins and outs of running a coworking space and the importance of programming and meaningful community engagement. From that first conversation, we’ve continued to build a great relationship with CSP which has further solidified our vision to focus on programming.
What’s next for Betamore in the rest of this year and 2023?
As we’ve added to our board of directors over the last few months, executed important strategic planning discussions and vision casting, explored additional grant funding opportunities for additional cohorts of our Software Engineer Training Program and continued to strengthen the relationship and opportunities with the CNI, we anticipate a lot! We are partnering on a large-scale community resource fair this fall and setting up pathways to operationalize both paid and free, online and in-person learning and workforce development resources for the community.
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-