Business development / Communities

Localist actually left Baltimore to get more customers, says CEO Mykel Nahorniak

Nahorniak talks to Baltimore following a DC Inno profile that claimed the startup left because of the lack of dev talent in Baltimore.

Mykel Nahorniak. (Photo by Lalita Clozel)

The headline on DC Inno said there was “One Big Reason” that Localist left Baltimore for D.C. earlier this year, but the startup’s CEO said it was more complicated than that.
The DC Inno piece cites a lack of developer talent in Baltimore as that reason, and Mykel Nahorniak said that was a factor. When Baltimore asked Nahorniak why the company was leaving Baltimore for its new home in Silver Spring earlier this year, he said he didn’t want to be in the business of “poaching developers from my friends’ companies.” In June, he told DC that there are “probably ten really good developers in [Baltimore] as a whole.”
But in our earlier interview, Nahorniak also said that there were other issues at play, namely D.C.’s proximity to national associations and institutions that could be ideal customers for the company’s events calendar software. In a recent interview with Baltimore, Nahorniak said the dev talent pool “wasn’t at all the main reason” the company relocated.
“I wouldn’t say it was in the top 10 factors that we moved down here for,” Nahorniak said. “It was much more on the customer acquisition side.”
Given the headline, it was the question of the city’s pool of developer talent in the fore at the Baltimore Tech Facebook Group. Justin Allen and Ed Mullin of What Works said the talent pool has improved.
On the thread, Mike Subelsky wrote that the issues brought up in the article miss the bigger point.
“The worst thing about articles like this is they allow the technorati to wring their hands and point to a vague non-problem like ‘the fragmented community’, so they can stick their head back in the silicon, instead of engaging with REAL, ACTUAL problems that plague all types of city businesses,” like economic inequality and the city’s much-maligned political structure, Subelsky wrote.
To Nahorniak, the question of dev talent was more of a matter of the overall size of the two cities.
“It feels like Betamore but in terms of population, times 10,” he said of the D.C. tech scene, comparing it to the Federal Hill incubator. “The same sort of passion, the same culture of Betamore, but just with more people behind it. A lot of it is just a reflection of the population difference in just the D.C. area vs. the Baltimore area.”
But he said a bigger reason lay in the fact that a “huge core of our target customers are here,” including the District’s high concentration of associations, which could be potential customers for the company’s interactive events calendar. That’s also a reason he provided to Baltimore in January.

“If we existed anywhere in the U.S., it would make the most sense for us to move to D.C.,” he said.

Nahorniak lived in Silver Spring prior to the move. The move was solely for business reasons, but he said living near D.C. did have a role in familiarizing him with the D.C. tech community.
“What living down here before moving the company down here has done is it exposed me to the D.C. tech scene and the potential market to go into,” he said. “If I was living in Baltimore, I don’t know if I would’ve been exposed to it as much as I was.”
Nahorniak had a lot of praise for the resources available to Baltimore’s startups. But in the DC Inno piece, he was also quoted as saying that the startup community is “fragmented.” He said that was a reflection of conversations with others in the community. With Betamore’s renewed mission as a nonprofit under CEO Jen Meyer, however, Nahorniak said he already thinks that’s changing.
“People were saying, ‘There’s no direction or vision in Baltimore tech right now.’ I think that’s changed this year for sure. If it continues, then Baltimore has a lot potential.”
For more on the wider implications of Localist’s move, read’s story from January.

Companies: DC Inno / Localist

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