Deb Tillett, president and executive director
The path of entrepreneurship can often be a long and lonely road, that is unless Deb Tillett has something to say about it. A successful entrepreneur, veteran of the video game industry, professor, and long-time mentor to founders and startup hopefuls, Tillett is an integral figure in Baltimore’s tech ecosystem, leading the charge to develop and connect Baltimore’s technology-entrepreneurship community.
A technology and innovation center focused on growing early-stage companies, ETC provides business, technical, and networking connections and resources through four programs: Beehive Baltimore, Accelerate Baltimore, Pioneer Baltimore, and Incubate Baltimore. Since its inception in 1999, ETC has received national and international recognition, including as a World Top 5 Public Business Incubator, for its work with more than 700 companies. And its statistics are impressive: 65% of the startups ETC has supported are still in business after five years; 75% remain located in Maryland after leaving ETC; and 43% are women or minority-owned.
Those statistics mean something to Tillett, who frequently talks about the impact Baltimore’s tech community can have on the city and the people within it.
“I am constantly reminded that the city has the resources, smart people and connections to make great things happen,” she said in the Baltimore Sun, later telling the Daily Record, “I think the opportunity quotient here in Baltimore is over the top… You are one degree of separation from anyone you need to know.”
Opportunity for every entrepreneur
Tillett has long understood that no one solution fits all and makes sure to offer a variety of programs designed to guide founders and startups, from AccelerateBaltimore, which is geared to bringing MVPs to life, to PioneerBaltimore, ETC’s “startup in a box” aimed at helping working professionals test the waters of tech entrepreneurship. And the Beehive, ETC’s fully-equipped co-working space, provides all the amenities needed to create and connect comfortably. (Coffee? Gym? Community? Check. Check. Check.)
Across more than two decades, the companies ETC has supported have raised over $2.3 billion in follow-on funding while making their mark on Baltimore’s – and Maryland’s – economy through economic activity, tax revenue and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of thousands of jobs.
Tillett’s efforts have garnered well-deserved attention and awards. She has been called one of the 100 most influential women in computer gaming, Baltimore’s innovator of the year, and a key Maryland Influencer.
Despite the accolades, she remains resolutely focused on her mission of preparing entrepreneurs for what’s ahead.
“I tell people, if you think you’re going to fail, you will. The other thing is that entrepreneurship is a marathon. You need to train. You need to prepare for the cramp at mile 16,” she said in Baltimore Magazine
And, at every stage of the race, Tillett is there to help.