Monday, September 28, 2015

Innovation Week Baltimore: Pitching to Steve Case

At Baltimore's Innovation Week the schedule is packed with attempts of harnessing the future.

Open Works' MakeScape 2015 was one such event in which Will Holman of BARC showcased the future makers space on Greenmount Avenue with a fair of Baltimore makers.
MakeScape 2015

A stop on Steve Case's national bus tour dubbed "Rise of the Rest" on Monday at the Museum of Industry was another.  As AOL co-founder Steve Case noted in an op-Ed on occasion of his Rise of the Rest Baltimore stop
"Baltimore is becoming more than just a port-city but an emerging, Mid-Atlantic startup hub with innovative minds especially in health, defense, research, education and technology. The city's tech talent grew by 42 percent between 2010 and 2013, making it one of the fastest growing markets nationally. Roughly 90 percent of the region's entrepreneurs are in jobs when they start new businesses, which shows that founders have the confidence and resources to take the plunge."

The 42% number I had also heard from Will Holman before. It gives Baltimore makers and innovators courage and it provides the buzz that brings interest and critical mass to Charm City. Steve Case and his journey across the country is part of a story that is larger than Baltimore: For him it is nothing less than the rebirth of America as a place of entrepreneurs, innovation and production, a revolution. He provides this optimistic overview on his website:
Rebecca Chen of the Deutsch Foundation,
funder of MARC
This is the beginning of a new era for entrepreneurship across the U.S. — high-growth companies can now start and scale anywhere, not just in a few coastal cities.
Revolution's "Rise of the Rest" with Steve Case is a nationwide effort to tell this story and work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. Since 2014, Steve Case, the Revolution team, and partners have visited 14 cities and invested a total of $1.5 million in new businesses.

Impact Hub, Baltimore at MakeScape
Attendance at the Museum of Industry suggested strong interest evident by a considerable crowd filling the place to capacity, youngish folks heavily engaged in networking banter and intense liking conversations even before Steve Case's talk moderated by a Financial Times journalist and the pitch of young Baltimore entrepreneurs even started. . 
Bluesky founder Greg Cangialosi who exited and sold the company in 2011 to found Baltimore Angels and Betamore, is an innovation and start-up granddaddy (Bluesky was founded in 2001). He spoke about community investors and the "the next stage of capital formation" as part of a strategy to bring more venture capital to our shores. His 2013 company Betamore is a 501c3 non-profit providing educational programming under the guidance of a 75 person advisory board. "Our ecosystem is growing" he says and  "We want to make Baltimore a  global destination for innovation."
Case's campaign name "rise of the rest" stems from his observation that 75% of all venture capital goes to only 3 states: California, Massachusetts and New York.  He is trying to give the other states a greater share and is taking his bus to 19 cities across the country. Baltimore is stop #15. His favorite stop, he says and gives a few plausible personal ties, one being that "Alex Brown in Baltimore ...took AOL public", another that he lives in nearby DC and has family here. "Money in the community is sitting on the sidelines" he says and people like he and Betamore's Cangialosi want to change that because "the best way to invest sustainably in your community is to invest in the entrepreneurs who grow the economy and grow jobs".
A large crowd attends "Rise of the Rest" event
When somebody asks Case if it matters these days what gets started where, he speaks at some length about Under Armour (which seem to be not represented at the event) but then concluded that even today where location is not as important anymore "focus matters... areas should focus".on their strength even though technically you can start about anything anywhere today". 
The highlight of the gathering was "the pitch" of eight Baltimore start-up entrepreneurs that presented their case in five minutes to a five person jury including the Baltimore innovator who founded Order Up which then could ask questions for another three minutes. After the mostly health and Hopkins centered pitches (yes, Baltimore showed "focus"), the jury awarded $100,000 as a check written from Case's personal account as the audience was assured. Criteria for the jury evaluation included  how bold the idea is, job creation, the business plan, diversity and audience reaction. 
Sisu Global won the prize for her innovation in auto blood transfusion work mostly applied in Africa, work that the pitch said could "affect 11 million lives". Carolyn Yarina, Chief Executive Officer, Gillian Henker, Chief Technology Officer and Gillian Henker, Chief Technology Officer shared the stage to receive the big check. Three women scoring well on the diversity metric as Steve Case admiringly remarked.
Sisu Global representatives get the prize
Sisu Global Health is a for-profit social enterprise. Our team firmly believes in a double bottom line of health outcomes and profitability to sustain our initiative. For over four years, the Sisu team has performed research in Ghana, Zimbabwe and India to develop our patent-pending technologies and business model.
But Baltimore cannot rest. Start-ups are discovering cheaper US territory elsewhere, too. Leaders in attracting them are Minnesota, Utah, Nebraska and Michigan. With Innovation weak a big flag is waving over Baltimore. 
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

The BBJ with Case on the bus on  his Baltimore tour (article)

at times the innovation zeal takes on an almost religious character

Steve Case explains his take on Baltimore

The Maryland Start Up bus and the Rise of the Rest bus meet up at the Museum of Industry
Rise of the Rest alludes to the 75% of venture capital all concentrating in three states
Case makes the case for "the rest".

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