Baltimore venture studio Early Charm Ventures is expanding inside Pigtown’s 1100 Wicomico for companies in its portfolio that are focused on advanced materials.
Early Charm is adding 2,150 square feet of space lab and production space that will be available for manufacturing and product development to companies in its portfolio within weeks, said Managing Director Ken Malone.
Eight-year-old Early Charm builds businesses around scientific discoveries made at local institutions. Often taking a role as cofounder, it has built up a portfolio of a dozen companies in areas like advanced materials, drug design, aquaculture and machine vision. The idea is to take the research beyond the lab and find a market.
“We’re all about, how do we make a product that the customer wants to buy, and create jobs to do it?” Malone said.
Early Charm, which maintains an HQ for business functions at Spark Baltimore, gained a presence at the expansive 1100 Wicomico three years ago. That’s when it took space inside Harbor Designs and Manufacturing for imaging company Tarsier Optics. About 18 months ago, it took additional space at Harbor Designs for nanofiber manufacturing company DiPole Materials.
Recently, the materials companies have been seeing growth, which is leading to new space, Malone said. Take DiPole, which is seeing increased business after starting a partnership with Czech Republic-based Elmarco s.r.o., which specializes in the electrospinning equipment that DiPole uses in part for its custom manufacturing of nanofiber products.
Now, electrospinning equipment will be among the mix of resources at the Early Charm space, along with fume hoods, lab benchtops and ink presses.
It’ll be the latest innovation space to move into the 105-year-old building, which has been becoming more of a tech hub amid a broader recent revival. Over the last couple of years, it gained Galen Robotics as a tenant, and opened up a coworking space.
In fact, Early Charm is playing a role as a further expansion of those efforts that is materializing. The firm is joining with real estate firm Tower Hill Atlantic, owners of 1100 Wicomico and Innovation Village Districts on a new project for the top three floors of the building dubbed the Baltimore Innovation Center.
Covering 156,000 square feet, it’ll be designed to attract the science-based startups who don’t necessarily fall into categories like software or life sciences. Many of these companies have a need for lab and production space that might be a bit more basic than the “Class A” space available via university hubs, and can benefit from having close proximity to each other, Malone said. As such, it’ll be equipped so companies can base operations there, and conduct lab work.
The focus makes Early Charm a fit, given the focus of its startups. The center will also have resources available for entrepreneurs in West Baltimore.
“With Early Charm and our other innovation-focused tenants at 1100 Wicomico, we’re able to make the Baltimore Innovation Center a reality and energize more development in West Baltimore,” Chris Regan, principal with Tower Hill Atlantic, said in a statement.
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