2021 was a historic year for VC activity in Baltimore. A new report from UpSurge Baltimore, the startup ecosystem builder behind the “equitech” model for local tech development, offers both context to last year and a roadmap for how make Charm City an equitech city by 2030.
As part of this equitech model, UpSurge wants Baltimore to be a top-tier innovation hub that prioritizes leadership by underrepresented founders, diverse teams and solutions to systemic societal challenges. To achieve that goal, the company is being strategic in how it grows and the ways it wants the Baltimore tech ecosystem to grow.
In 2022, UpSurge aims to connect with more VCs and growth-size companies in order to facilitate growth for smaller startups and figure out the best replicable methods for larger ones.
“We now have a critical mass of really investible early-stage companies,” UpSurge’s CEO Jamie McDonald told Technical.ly. “Now, we really need to get that money off the sidelines again. It’s time to reenergize those folks who are willing to invest [in] early-stage companies but wanted to know [that] if they were going to dedicate their investment to Baltimore, there was going to be enough of a critical mass to do it — and we have that now.”
UpSurge’s report, which draws from the National Venture Capital Association and PitchBook‘s prior findings, equates this critical mass with the rise in local deal flow, with 105 deals amounting to $825 million in 2021. Baltimore saw a 161% increase in dollars raised by startups, compared to the national increase of 96%, and the average deal size jumped from $4.8 million to $7.9 million.
For this year, UpSurge plans to double its efforts in all categories. For instance, it facilitated 52 investor intros to companies last year, and this year’s goal is 100. The org connected with 35% of the growth stage companies that raised between $1 million and $5 million in funding last year, next year the benchmark is 60%.
For McDonald, this is all about bridging the silos and university startup ecosystems in Baltimore, as well as building an infrastructure that gives early-stage startups the greatest chance for success.
“How do we codify the lessons of those founders that have experienced success in Baltimore, so that we can build the infrastructure and support systems that allow others to replicate that success?” McDonald said. “That’s a really key part of our plan for the next 12 months: to build better entry points and learning coming out of those more seasoned founders.”
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.