Come September, entrepreneurs and startup companies looking for yet another space to work from will have Betamore, a new coworking and incubator facility co-founded by Sean Lane of BTS Software Solutions, Greg Cangialosi of Nucleus Ventures LLC, and local Startup Weekend organizer Mike Brenner.
[Full disclosure: Brenner founded the blog that was absorbed to form Technically Baltimore, which will use office space in Betamore upon launch.]
“The whole thing is for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs,” says Cangialosi, 38, who lives in Federal Hill and sees Betamore as another anchor in South Baltimore’s already vibrant startup community. Betamore, scheduled to open officially September 21, will occupy the top floor of the new building located at 1111 Light Street, which will also house 92 luxury apartment units, local companies Red Owl Analytics and Parking Panda, and Lane’s company, BTS.
Companies and entrepreneurs must apply to become members of Betamore, and then pay a variation of a monthly fee for either access to the coworking side of the facility or for dedicated desk space. Applications were available by signing up for the group’s mailing list as of this week, says Cangialosi, and by August’s end, he, Lane and Brenner will have selected the first crop of Betamore members, who will be able to pay a discounted monthly rate of $175 for access to Betamore’s coworking space.
The entire project is being funded by Lane and Cangialosi, and, in addition to incubator space for startup companies, Betamore will offer classes in marketing, accounting and design, among other topics, open to anyone for anywhere between $20 and $40. These classes, says Cangialosi, will be recorded and available online as well.
Technically Baltimore recently sat down with Cangialosi to learn more.
TB: Weren’t you working on setting up some sort of ‘hybrid accelerator’? Is that Betamore?
GC: It’s what ultimately became Betamore. Way before I sold my company [Blue Sky Factory] in July last year I started thinking … [startups are] able to do a whole lot more with a whole lot less. I was watching these really innovative startups pop up everywhere, then there was the accelerator boom and I really latched on to that as something maybe I want to do. I met Sean Lane in October at Tech Night, one of the GBTC’s annual large events. Sean and I hit it right off. Totally same vision for Baltimore: building an ecosystem, making it the kind of place where people coming out of school would want to stay and a place where entrepreneurs maybe looking to start a company would come, and one of the things we didn’t have was an accelerator program. In the meantime Mike Brenner … had this idea for coworking facility focused on education. Over the fall and right into January we all just decided that it would make sense to just work together and crystallize a bigger vision, and that became Betamore.
TB: Mike’s so-called ‘gym for nerds.’
GC: Mike [Brenner] calls it a gym for nerds. I call it an ecosystem in a box. And I guess the technical term is an urban campus for technology and entrepreneurship. And so it’s a curated entrepreneurial community in terms of the membership and people who we want in the space. We want to make sure we have the right people in the room so that we can get the highest output of successful companies in the facility.
TB: How much room is there in the space?
GC: There are 48 desks [for monthly members]. [The] community coworking space holds between 30 and 40 people a day. There’s a 50-person classroom that can be subdivided into two, 25-person classrooms.
TB: By curation, are you looking to pull in entrepreneurs and companies that will remain in Baltimore?
GC: We don’t want the freelance designer who’s not trying to work from home anymore and just wants to work from around people. We’re looking for someone who’s trying to build something. We’re want very product-focused companies. It could be a single entrepreneur, a group of cofounders. And the value obviously isn’t in the desk space or the co-working space. The value is plugging into an ecosystem and all the byproducts that happen from creating this community—access to educational programming that’ll teach you skills that you won’t learn in school per se. … One-off classes on business and marketing design, development, how to pitch, how to raise capital. We want to educate people on how to become angel investors, what to look out for, how are deals structured. … Overall nobody should really be in our space longer than 18 months. We’re basically saying 12 to 24 months [for members], but we really think it should be more like 18 months.
TB: This sounds like something that could complement the work the Emerging Technology Center does.
GC: We think that it’s a big need in Baltimore that needs to be filled. It’s a feeder system for the ETC. … Way I see it working: companies come in, go through the accelerate program, they get out. These are people who have no business renting their own office, [and] probably haven’t even raised money yet. We see that as a feeder for us. We’re just going to be making a lot of stuff accessible. After 18 months or two years of being in Betamore, if you’re ready to move out that means you’ve raised some money, you’re taking off, you’re cash-flowing, you need to be in another office space, [and] that’s where the other office space goes back to the ETC.
TB: You mentioned Baltimore being the sort of place where people coming out of college remain. What’s Betamore’s role in that?
GC: The key to that is building these bridges and having links with the university system. UMBC, University of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University—[we’re] plugging into these universities, getting these students exposed to startup life, entrepreneurial life while they’re still in school so that, when they get out, if they have that desire to do something on their own, they’re not scared of risk.
TB: And you’d just place students with companies in Betamore?
GC: Yep, through internships, through apprenticeships, paid and for credit. A whole bunch of different models we’re looking at. So the idea there is to workforce development and workforce retention … instead of exporting [this talent] to other cities.
TB: Suppose I’m a student with the entrepreneurial itch. Why should I stay here?
GC: One of the benefits of what’s happening in Baltimore right now is there’s a lot of people who are working together. Everyone’s coming out of their silos. We need to all work together to make this an ecosystem that really kind of clicks and pops and pulses and sends out a signal to the broader world.