Baltimore Tech Community,
Each New Year presents us with an opportunity to reflect, reprioritize, renew our goals and reshape our purpose. Moving into 2024, let’s resolve to continue acknowledging that the tension between top-down and grassroots efforts is where culture is created and focusing on progress over perfection.
In the immortal words of Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Reflecting on this past year, we experienced so much as an ecosystem:
In January, we welcomed Maryland’s 1st Black Governor to office and proclaimed that we will be a competitive economy and an equitable one. Our state now boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
In February, UpSurge brought together 30+ accelerators, incubators, and entrepreneur support partners with the goal of creating a model of company formation and advancement for any entrepreneur to navigate our tech ecosystem with an intentional focus on shifting cultural awareness, democratizing networks of influence, and increasing access to financial capital for Black, women and other underestimated founders. We’re now incorporating that model into our EDA Tech Hubs Phase 2 proposal.
In March, we rallied and responded to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Founders, investors, advisors, bankers, lawyers, HR experts, and others dropped everything to support the stability of local companies and our ecosystem. That support continues with partnerships like Harbor Bank and the Black Founders Table.
In April, Governor Moore delivered the keynote address for our 2nd Techstars Equitech Demo Day at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore will welcome the 3rd TSEQ cohort in March 2024.
In May, we celebrated the 100th Equitech Tuesday. Tomorrow we will gather for the 130th time!
In June, GBC announced their bold, multi-year agenda, with a landmark agreement to combat vacant properties just last week.In July, we decided to go after EDA Tech Hubs, a once-in-a-generation federal funding opportunity. On October 22nd, the Ravens victory over Detroit wasn’t the only win buzzing around the stadium. Baltimore was one of 31 metropolitan statistical areas designated as a Tech Hub and we are on our way to submitting a successful Phase 2 proposal.
In August, UpSurge + Fearless brought the ecosystem together for the most coordinated single-day effort in support of our tech startup community in Baltimore history. The Black Tech Week pitch day brought over 60 key stakeholders across industry, city, and state, Baltimore Young Professionals (BYP) and the Equitech Community together for 6 unique sessions. A day many of us won’t soon forget. The power of the collaboration and coordination of our ecosystem was on full display. An in-person brainstorming session with the leadership of Lightship Foundation last Monday, has Baltimore positioned to host a Black Tech Week offering for the next generation of young Black founders in 2024 and beyond!
In September, we welcomed new members to our tech startup community and lost one of its most notable and passionate members. Founder and CEO of EcoMap, Pava Marie LaPere saw a future where access to information and opportunity would not be a limiting factor for anyone working to build or better their life through entrepreneurship. Her legacy will be carried forward by this community. In March 2024, Johns Hopkins Fast Forward U will be renamed the Pava Marie LaPere Center for Entrepreneurship.
In October, we grieved and healed as best we could… and we are still grieving and healing TOGETHER! Our tech community is recognizing the humanity we share and supporting each other in very human ways. That’s a culture of belonging in tech!
In November, I was announced as the next CEO of UpSurge. The reaction of the tech community and the city was overwhelming. I am grateful for the opportunity to take the helm of this locomotive and, in partnership with other leaders and organizations, intend to usher in a new era of participation and collaboration to benefit the equitable economic growth of our tech startup community.
In December, we celebrated the foundation set by UpSurge’s founding CEO, Jamie McDonlad and acknowledged the contributions and progress made by individuals in generations before us. Shifting culture and changing systems takes, in Common’s words, “the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy.”
As we look to 2024, let us continue to press forward with the generational work of transforming Baltimore into the first Equitech city in the world…
a thriving tech hub where diverse entrepreneurs launch transformative companies; where the tech workforce comes from and lives in our neighborhoods; where wealth is created and prosperity is shared across every zip code; where the seeds of technologies reshaping society are planted, have rooted and are flourishing.
In this New Year, let’s show each other and the rest of the world a New Baltimore. The Baltimore we are creating together!
See you this week at Guilford Hall Brewery for the final Equitech Tuesday of 2023, where we meet to bring those visions for our city come to life!
CEO, UpSurge Baltimore