Back when Christy Wyskiel worked in finance, she could see Baltimore was bursting with talent and innovation. So, why weren’t start-ups planting roots and growing? It clicked once she co-founded two companies here: Baltimore lacked things like investor connections and physical space that was suitable and affordable for start-ups – not insurmountable obstacles.
Wyskiel knew the city was primed for more, and she recognized its leading research institution — Johns Hopkins — could help. Today, as executive director of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and the university president’s senior advisor on innovation and entrepreneurship, Wyskiel is dedicated to cultivating local talent and companies, ensuring obstacles don’t become permanent roadblocks.
“If you look back at Hopkins’ history we’ve invented many amazing things over time—dialysis, discovery of using vitamin D for health benefits—but we haven’t necessarily built companies or large products from those discoveries,” Wyskiel said. “I think the opportunity really lies within supporting those entrepreneurs be they student or faculty entrepreneurs that want to take those discoveries and bring those products to market.”
JHTV helps transform the university’s innovations into market-ready products and services, and nurtures startups, offering entrepreneurs incubator space, legal and accounting help and an array of support services, from identifying potential funders to assisting in licensing technology to a partner.
Under Wyskiel’s guidance, JHTV has nurtured more than 160 companies in areas ranging from information technology to medical devices and robotics. The companies have raised more than $3 billion in venture funding since 2014. And JHU start-ups average “roughly $500 million a year in VC funding, up from less than $100 million in the decade before JHTV was created,” according to Technical.ly.
This kind of stand-out success helps Wyskiel make her point.
“When investors and entrepreneurs see a critical mass of companies in Maryland and in Baltimore raising significant dollar amounts, they realize this is an ecosystem where they can build, hire great talent and raise the money they want,” she said.
Not just Johns Hopkins
Wyskiel supports more than JHU-backed ventures. JHTV’s two FastForward innovation hubs, one in Remington and the other in East Baltimore, offer office and lab space to JHU and non-JHU entrepreneurs, as well as mentorship and coaching on things like writing a business plan and applying for patents.
“Christy has shown unwavering support, not just for us, but for so many Baltimore startups,” said J.J. Reidy, co-founder and CEO of Urban Pastoral Collective, an urban farming operation that received help from JHTV.
Wyskiel’s passion for supporting Baltimore’s entrepreneurs and the city at large extends across her life. She has mentored dozens of local entrepreneurs, helping them refine their value propositions, network with investors and become better managers. She serves on the board of The Abell Foundation, known for investing in technologies and advocacy efforts to improve life in Baltimore. She is also the co-founder, with her husband Matt Wyskiel, of the Baltimore Next Generation Investing Event, which raises money for local K-8 education.
“The work that I’m doing, I hope, here at Hopkins will change the skyline of Baltimore,” Wyskiel said. “And the work I’m doing in the community, I hope, will make it possible for everyone to participate.”