Baltimore’s Minority Innovation Weekend looks to provide exposure, knowledge for tech founders

The third edition of the summit is set for Oct. 12 to 13 at University of Baltimore. Here's a look at what's new in 2019, including a pitch competition.

Entrepreneurs discuss their business with attendees at the 2018 Minority Innovation Weekend. (Courtesy photo)

Minority technology entrepreneurs will have the chance to showcase their concepts at the third annual Minority Innovation Weekend (MIW) later this fall.

The National Society of Black Engineers – Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter (NSBE-BMAC) will host MIW 2019 on Oct. 12 and 13 in the University of Baltimore Thumel Business Center.

MIW provides minorities launching new businesses an opportunity to connect with each other and gain exposure to investors.

“The early stages of entrepreneurship can be a particularly isolating time due the do-it-all nature and time constraints of starting a business,” said Sir Walter Richardson, the MIW 2019 coordinator. “Even when given the chance to engage the broader technical or entrepreneurial world, the demographics are such that minorities can still feel isolated.”

MIW began in 2017 when several NSBE-BMAC leaders sought to address a glaring issue in their industry.

“Back in 2015 and 2016, the startup ecosystem in the Baltimore Metro appeared to be very disjointed and walled off from the surrounding community,” Richardson said. “Resources and opportunities seemed limited, and it generally was difficult for prospective entrepreneurs to attend various events and opportunities if they had a regular day job.”

Though the event is only in its third year, it has evolved noticeably from its debut.

In 2017, the event lasted one day and focused solely on covering startup fundamentals. The following year, the event expanded with a session on emerging technologies, and introduced an innovation showcase.

This year, the MIW planning committee added a pitch competition to give entrepreneurs a chance to explain their business model and earn valuable resources such as space, curriculum and mentorship.

“The pitch competition will give participating firms the ability to pitch in front of investors and the opportunity to win various resources through partnerships we have formed with nonprofit and commercial entities,” Richardson said.

The conference has also expanded, as it features tracks on startup fundamentals, cybersecurity and hacking health equity challenges with technology. There will be an innovation marketplace segment, too, giving participating firms a chance to present their concepts to all attendees.

The planning committee continues to expand MIW’s outreach as it looks to establish a local pool of resources to support minority entrepreneurs throughout the year. NSBE-BMAC has a partnership with Emerging Technology Centers to provide two companies from the innovation showcase and pitch competition with a six-month membership to the Incubate Baltimore program.

Richarson said the committee will continue to develop partnerships with local sponsors and expand MIW each year.

“The overall goal [of MIW] is to serve underserved communities that are looking to launch a tech-focused business,” Richardson said. “We hope that MIW is an opportunity for minorities in the technical and startup space to engage with one another for networking and support.”

Find a link to the registration page here.

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