Light City’s Social Lab featured many pairings of Baltimore entrepreneurs and change-makers. For Joe Mechlinski and Jeff Cherry, the partnership is now going beyond the talk.
Mechlinksi, who founded Fells Point-based entreQuest, talked about how business can be a force for good. He also runs an effort, now called Shift, that gathers entrepreneurs to exchange ideas and encourages doing social good.
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Cherry runs Conscious Venture Lab, an accelerator seeking to help startups that drive community impact. He talked about how the program started in Howard County in 2013 with the support of then-County Executive Ken Ulman, and helped businesses like Hungry Harvest.
Now the program is moving into West Baltimore. Along with helping purpose-driven businesses grow, Cherry said Conscious Venture Lab is also looking to increase startup activity and resources in West Baltimore. One example was a pitch competition held with Innovation Village last year.
Using business as a force for good in West Baltimore, said Mechlinski, is a “groundbreaking idea.”
When Mechlinski met Cherry, he said he got interested in linking the two efforts.
“What we looked at is, ‘How can we come together? How can Shift really support Conscious Venture Lab in a way that takes this concept to a whole new level?'” Mechlinski said.
Now the two want to provide capital for the businesses that make an impact. Shift Ventures will fund a mix of early-stage companies in Conscious Venture Lab, as well as later rounds in other companies, Cherry said.
Teaming up can also provide a pathway to connect early-stage companies at Conscious Venture Lab with Mechlinski, as well as more experienced entrepreneurs who are members of Shift. Though they met through Shift, Cherry said he and Mechlinski have “pretty divergent networks.”
“It’s always a good thing in terms of the fund for us to be able to connect with others that are outside our network,” he said.
Applications are expected to go out for the next Conscious Venture Lab cohort in May.