Home Critical engine University entrepreneurship centers are a growing economic engine for Baltimore. ECCG conference will provide them with a national platform

University entrepreneurship centers are a growing economic engine for Baltimore. ECCG conference will provide them with a national platform


Universities have long fueled the development of new ideas. Over the past decade, they have increasingly become key incubators for new businesses.

Across the Baltimore area, university leaders see students and faculty as interested in entrepreneurship as they are in any academic discipline. In response, they have invested a wave of new resources to strengthen these activities. Every neighboring university now has a beehive of start-up activities, educating community members about starting new businesses and showcasing their work through pitch contests. In many cases, universities have specifically created entrepreneurship centers and hired teams to lead these efforts.

Together, it is a clear marker of the development of the ecosystem. Anyone looking to connect with the startup and innovation community in Baltimore can’t ignore what is happening in higher education institutions. These leaders also form a community with each other, as can be seen very clearly Innov8MD, a coalition of 15 entrepreneurship leaders who came together to support student entrepreneurship across Maryland.

And increasingly, these centers are the primary means by which universities make an impact in the city where they are based. Centers like University of Maryland, Baltimore Grid and Johns Hopkins University Fast forward the spaces bring together the resources of the entire city and serve as hubs in changing neighborhoods. At the same time, annual accelerators and competitions for businesses in the University of Baltimore, Maryland College Institute of Art (MICA), Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) and Loyola Maryland University the centers serve Baltimore residents who start businesses in the communities as well as their own students. And they are increasingly leading members of Maryland’s entrepreneurial community, through organizations like the Maryland Business Innovation Association and local economic development councils.

“We are a really important part of the ecosystem, and we are committed to being part of the ecosystem,” said Wendy bolger, the director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center to Loyola, who manages the Baltipreneurs accelerator and other programs supporting entrepreneurs focused on social impact across the city.

In October, this community and city connectivity will be on display as a Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers’ the annual meeting arrives in Baltimore, with UB and Loyola serving as hosts. The October 13-16 conference, largely held on the Loyola campus in north Baltimore, has much to offer this group of leaders.

There is a range of speakers that features national leaders like Philippe Gaskin, Vice President of Entrepreneurship of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. They will also learn from entrepreneurs from university programs that grow businesses in the region, including Lor tush co-founders Nnadagi and Louise Isa, Clearmask CEO Allysa dittmar, Flikshop founder Marcus Bullock and Mozzeria CEO Ryan maliszewski.

It brings together participants from all over the country, so there is a lot to learn for local leaders.

“The ECCG is a leading organization in connecting and supporting academic entrepreneurship centers,” said Taylor DeBoer, Marketing and Operations Specialist at The Grid, which is UMB’s entrepreneurial colocation space. “Being able to harness this expertise and collaborate with other educators across the country will help us better serve our students. “

Local centers are mushrooming at a time when universities nationwide are investing more in entrepreneurship. It is a new stage in higher education.

“The centers are the heart of in-depth entrepreneurship learning on campus and they are also often the place where the translation takes place between the things learned in the classroom and the action to be taken on the ideas based on this learning. “, said Phil weilerstein, CEO of VentureWell, a 25-year-old national organization that galvanizes innovation and entrepreneurship in universities that works to advance science and technology, and sponsor of the conference. He has seen the rise of these centers across the country, as programming has shifted from a university initiative or business school to a full-fledged center.

“It’s usually one of the best conferences in space and one that manages to be very interdisciplinary, connecting people not only in business school, not just in engineering, but also with people who have a background. cross-campus function, ”he said. .

But it’s not just about how universities can support entrepreneurs, organizers said. It is about how these efforts can support cities. This is reflected in the theme: “Leading with Entrepreneurship, Successful Revitalization”.

Inside MICA Up / Start’s pop-up and pitch event on February 7, 2020. (Courtesy photo)

The conference gives Baltimore a national stage for the efforts that have mushroomed over the past decade, and may raise the profile of how the city harnesses the “engine of university entrepreneurship as an engine of economic development.” , said Henri mortimer, the director of UB Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which has programming supporting students who are mostly city residents.

“Communities can be supported and revitalized through entrepreneurship,” Mortimer said. These centers “prepare students to return to communities, run businesses and contribute to the economy.” Mortimer and Bolger crafted the proposal that brought the conference to Baltimore in 2019 and are leading the organization of the conference.

To get a glimpse of where this work is taking place, participants will see spaces run by universities that activate entrepreneurship in the city through a series of organized gatherings.

At John Hopkins, a nearly ten-year effort to support startups has led to more than $ 1 billion in capital investment in university-affiliated companies over the past year. The university has sought to launch an engine that turns discoveries from faculty labs into businesses, but it is also strengthening student entrepreneurship with funding, accelerator programming, and spaces in East Baltimore as part of its Fast forward U programs. The ties between these founders and Baltimore are also growing, as students entering college take place in the city’s innovation spaces as they grow.

“I strongly believe in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and the connections it can create for our teams,” said Josh Ambrose, director of student projects at JHU. “We welcome and even encourage intercollegiate teams in our accelerators” – each team must have at least one JHU co-founder student – “so it is part of that overall vision.”

FFU demonstration day

The FastForward U teams at Demo Day, 2019 (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Showing a connection to the local ecosystem beyond universities, attendees will visit ETC, the East Baltimore incubator that has had university spin-offs among its businesses, but is home to a wider range of businesses. It’s an in-depth look at economic revitalization: ETC transformed a space that, as president Deb Tillett points out, was seen in an episode of “Thread” – It’s the HBO series which is a shortcut for the city’s generational poverty and corruption.

These programs can be an important element for the future of the city. Universities and city leaders are also interested in how entrepreneurship can help connect students to the city and remain as residents of the city after graduation.

“Our goal is to keep as many of our student startups here in the community as possible, to have a transformative effect on the Baltimore skyline,” Ambrose said. There has been progress: “The number of teams choosing to stay here in Baltimore keeps increasing. Continuing to sow in the ecosystem is a priority for us, as we work with many local partners to make our commitment as faithful as possible. “

There is a real intention to develop this ecosystem for all. University Entrepreneurship Centers support founders who are women, BIPOC and other groups under-represented among VC-funded startups.

The conference also seeks to create an inclusive community among the leaders of these centers. VentureWell, with Rice University, sponsors 25 registrations for participants from historically black colleges and universities. As the efforts of Morgan State and Coppin State, the HBCUs are creation of entrepreneurship centers and serving as community connection points. Over the past year, the Black Lives Matter protests have reignited, and a nationwide calculation on racial equity showed that disparities were occurring in areas of startup growth, like access to capital and resources to support innovation. Intention is necessary for change to occur.

“The HBCUs in particular strengthen this capacity [and] focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship, so I think it’s critical that the leaders of these programs have the opportunity to participate and be members of this community, ”said Weilerstein, CEO of VentureWell.

A 2013 Morgan State hackathon. (File photo Technical.ly)

And what university founders build matters.

“They were born in Baltimore, but they impact the world,” Bolger said.

UMB emphasizes health and social innovation; it is now the name of a master’s degree that you can also get at university. Dr Jenny Owens, Deputy Dean of the UMB who runs this programming, said that in addition to more resources, she sees “more people raising their hands, who are not afraid to take up space and make mistakes” .

“It’s encouraging to live in a place where people have so much love for their community, and who give of their time and resources to make it fairer, more beautiful and more accessible,” he said. she declared. “Sometimes it looks like a group of women forming a cooperative kitchen, drone organ delivery, or advocacy and education through off-road motorcycles. I am encouraged by people who have a vision of a world and then find out how to build it. Universities are a pipeline for social impact and innovation, and we are grateful that we can play a small role in supporting a convergence of innovators and educators in Baltimore.



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