Startup Trends in Baltimore, Maryland

SHHH – Don’t Tell Anyone But Did You Know . . .
Baltimore – “A well-kept secret”, a city with a rich history in the arts, technology and innovation. To this day, it continues to be a city of firsts— but you probably didn’t know it!

Baltimore’s Firsts

The foundation for it is Baltimore’s long history of being the place for “firsts.” Baltimore was the home of the country’s first investment bank in 1800, Alex Brown, making it the original source of the number one thing all entrepreneurs need, Capital. It’s the place where Thomas Moore in 1803 chose to invent the electric refrigerator, which keeps the craft beer cold for those dedicated entrepreneurs. Then, the city that was first to use hydrogen gas to illuminate its streets in 1816, allowing the hard working entrepreneurs to stay even later at the office and still be able to walk home safely! Many years later, it became a home of one of the first local news organizations dedicated to innovation. gives entrepreneurs a chance to read all about what other entrepreneurs are doing.

Baltimore’s Entrepreneurial Activity

These facts and many others often go unnoticed. So does most of Baltimore and its impressive entrepreneurial activity. For example, the city of Baltimore launched its first business incubator, ETC, to assist early stage companies back in 1999. More than 350 start-ups have been assisted by ETC over the years and have brought over $1.8 billion in outside capital to the city, creating more than 2500 jobs. Again following trends in 2012, with the support of the Abell Foundation, ETC launched the first lean startup accelerator in the state of Maryland, AccelerateBaltimore (AB), and one of the first co-working spaces Beehive Baltimore came online at ETC that same year. Since that time, the city has seen the arrival of eight other business incubators, two other business accelerators and three new co-working spaces. The ETC currently assists more than 101 companies its two locations, and the city is still seeing demand for ever more cool, collaborative space.

One of the Largest Computer Gaming Clusters in US

Here’s another well-kept secret about Baltimore: it’s the home of one of the largest computer gaming clusters in the nation. It started back in 1983. Today, it’s still producing firsts. One of the innovative startups that recently completed the AccelerateBaltimore program is called Brinkbit. It’s at the forefront of html 5 gaming platforms for developing cross platform games and then deploying them. The company started with two art school grads, a big idea, and $25,000 in early stage funding. Now, they are revolutionizing mobile gaming. The AB program also graduated a company called Unbound Concepts a web and mobile app that matches teachers, students and readers of all kinds to just the right book. The founder, a former educator herself, saw the writing on the wall as US education standards were changing. She jumped at the chance to create a technology-based answer to the problem what is a grade level appropriate text, novel or assigned reading.

baltimore coworkingThese two are just some highlights of ETC’s recent programs. The Beehive Baltimore is buzzing with activity every day, ranging from solopreneurs; a single entrepreneur trying to grow their business while being part of a larger community to fun, boisterous groups solving big problems. One of the groups is Baltimore Corps, a non-profit made up of inspired, dynamic and tenacious Fellows trying to bring change to the city in which they live.

Though Baltimore is a first among others, there is still much to be done, more capital to raise, more problems to solve and more ideas to nurture. The future looks positive for this continued trend. It’s all happening in a dense urban environment with a livable, walkable, affordable waterfront, major universities graduating impressive talent, a dynamic arts and music scene with festivals galore and more craft breweries popping up by the month. So drop by anytime. There is an empty desk waiting for you and your big idea.

Deb TillettDeborah Tillett
President and Executive Director, ETC (Emerging Technology Centers)
Ms. Tillett is responsible for management and oversight of the City of Baltimore’s Technology and innovation center. She spent 25 years in the computer gaming industry, was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Gaming in 2006, started her first company in 1985, has an MBA from Loyola and serves on multiple advisory boards.



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