“Startup Maryland Initiative Rallies Entrepreneurs” The Business Monthly

June 6, 2012 Written by  Comments Print

Julie Lenzer Kirk was sold on the idea of a Startup Maryland initiative from the beginning. The regional initiative, launched out of the Startup America Partnership, is driven from within the community and led by entrepreneurs.

“I heard what the goals of the initiative were: to celebrate entrepreneurship and bring the ecosystem together.

By “ecosystem,” Kirk means the living, breathing circle of entrepreneurs at all stages of business in the state, along with the people and resources that support them. Kirk found that the function of Startup Maryland very closely aligned with her role as executive director for the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, an initiative of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

Building on the themes forged by the national partnership, Startup Maryland strives to connect innovation communities and recognize the importance of startups, ramp-ups and speedups to the state and regional economies. Startup Maryland rallies entrepreneurs, supporters and other innovation stakeholders around four main initiatives: access to capital; celebration/awareness; resource mapping; and revenue opportunities/corporate connections.

The program also sponsors events, such as a recent contest in which winning pitches received two tickets to TechCrunch’s famed “Disrupt New York” conference. In addition, members of Startup Maryland also have access to resources such as “virtual round tables” on a variety of business-related topics.

Behind these events is a leadership team that includes Kirk — a serial entrepreneur herself — and other entrepreneurs who are determined to drive Startup Maryland forward as a resource for current and future business owners.

Unique Regional Ties

Startup Maryland is unique among initiatives of its kind because of its close ties with both Startup Virginia and Startup DC.
Jonathan Aberman, founder and director of Amplifier Ventures, in McLean, Va., is chair of Startup Virginia and is on the organizing board for both Startup DC and Startup Maryland.

“We want the states to work together because entrepreneurs want more widespread resources,” he said. “Maryland has got great infrastructure for entrepreneurs — between the business incubators, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation and the universities,” he said.
Entrepreneurs who are already established in their businesses should consider checking into Startup Maryland to see if they can serve as a resource to other entrepreneurs, he added. “I’m living proof that you can do good stuff at the same time you’re operating a business. The unifying theme in my entire life is around helping entrepreneurship to happen.”

Substantive Resources

Jason Jannati is chief communication officer of greeNEWit, an organization founded to help build more sustainable communities and better economies through energy efficiency and conserving the use of natural resources. greeNEWit helps homeowners, businesses and municipalities adopt best practices to cut costs and achieve energy savings.

Jannati said joining Startup Maryland was a wise move for him, since he always comes away from events with ideas for increasing sales and growing his company.

“It would be very easy for this to be just another branding thing, but Julie is just as energized as we are,” he said. “The entrepreneurs, in their roles of running Startup Maryland, are amazing.”

The feeling of a supportive community has been a springboard of inspiration, he added. “For us, it’s just so different to have a warm community available. It has everything to do with the people involved.”

greeNEWit is growing, and now has 40 employees and close to $5 million in revenue. Its leaders have to be careful about how they spend their time, said Jannati, but anytime a Startup Maryland event occurs, it’s marked as a priority.

“You either meet somebody, or get inspired, or find out something about yourself you didn’t know.”

University Joins Team

The University of Maryland has become involved in Startup Maryland as well. Dean Chang, who directs the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute as well as the Technology Advancement Program, serves on the organizing board for Startup America with Kirk, Aberman and others.
“It is very natural for the university to have some role in Startup Maryland,” said Chang.

One philosophy behind Startup Maryland is to leverage existing programs that might not be well-promoted but nonetheless are valuable to the entrepreneurs who need them, he said.

“As more people become aware of programs that exist, it will have a significant impact,” he said.

Startup Maryland also plans to offer job fairs for college students to help connect them with entrepreneurs and startup companies.

“What we hear time and time again from startups in this region is that they’re really short on programmers and web developing,” said Chang, “so we are inviting students from all the regional schools for one job fair, and we will invite all the startups from the region as well. We’ll market it under Startup Maryland, Startup Virginia and Startup DC. This will have a big reach.”

Original Source