UpRise 2.0: UpSurge’s Startup Advancement Strategy

Unveiling UpRise 2.0: UpSurge’s Startup Advancement Strategy

Since our launch in 2021, UpSurge has engaged more than 300 founders, 100+ investors, 50+ private sector leaders, 40+ entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs), 25+ peers across the country, and 40+ public and civic leaders. What we learned is Baltimore has dynamic founders and talent, but barriers to generating better outcomes for startups to succeed. Our team identified three major gaps related to startup advancement in Baltimore:

Lack of connectivity, alignment, and efficiency in our tech ecosystem, including among entrepreneur support organizations;
Underdeveloped customer and capital engagement streams with local startups; and
Inequitable access to resources for underestimated entrepreneurs, including funding.

In order to begin addressing these gaps, last year, UpSurge embarked on a journey to improve startup advancement through building the capacity and connectivity of our tech startup ecosystem. Our goal: to empower tech founders with clear opportunities to increase the velocity of advancing their businesses by removing barriers and reducing friction in our local tech ecosystem.

UpRise is UpSurge’s startup advancement strategy. We initially focused on testing offerings for high value connections, including with investors, as well as on-demand tactical business advice for post-Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage founders . Through these pilots (more below), we identified areas where UpSurge adds unique value and where we might be duplicative. We have come to embrace the collective power and potential of our entrepreneur support organizations and investor community and are now focused on our role as a convener and a mobilizer of high value connections for our tech hub locally and nationally.

As Baltimore Tech’s ecosystem builder, our commitment to you is transparency as we learn and iterate on ways to advance our ecosystem effectively and equitably. Our four UpRise 2.0 strategies, including our learnings and iterations, are shared below. These strategies were included in the priorities in Baltimore’s EDA Tech Hubs proposal. We are proud to share that we have already begun the work on these priorities alongside 18 entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs), 18 venture capital partners and funders, and 11 major corporate and enterprise partners.

Startup Strategy Sessions (S3): A Successful Pilot and Unique Offering!

The goal of our quarterly Startup Strategy Session (S3) pilot was to facilitate deeper and more productive relationships between local founders and investors. We iterated on format to reduce the power dynamic between early stage founders and seasoned investors and create a safe space for brainstorming and strategic thinking. S3 has received very positive feedback from 11 founders and 14 investors alike. We are doubling down on this success and expanding the S3 pilot to be a regular fixture of UpSurge’s programming on a bi-monthly basis and attracting investors from across the Mid-Atlantic Region.

We are also planning to launch a Customer S3 series with the largest enterprises in our region. The importance of product-market fit and customer relationships for companies that sell or partner with large businesses (B2B) is understated in our ecosystem. Local enterprises have not been deeply engaged with startups until now. Our goal is to create access points with corporates and institutions to build relationships, gain knowledge about procurement pathways, and reduce the timeline to product-market fit. In time, if we are successful, we think we’ll see more pilots and first contracts between local startups and our biggest enterprises – corporates, universities, and government.

We’ll be working with our network of ESOs to help us build an equitable criteria for pipelining startups into these opportunities and we will work with startups who we’ll rely on to share information about their company stage, customer targets, and needs more regularly with us.

UpRise Masterclasses: A Front Door for Innovators and National Tech Leaders!

UpRise Masterclasses, an event series open to all, has proven to be popular, especially among early-stage founders. During our 2023 programming, we identified UpSurge’s unique value proposition: our network of national and regional tech and business leaders. So, while we’ll continue to showcase unique programming and industry-specific education from our ESO partners, we’ll be shifting our focus to delivering high-impact fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs, investors, and national experts from our growing network. Masterclasses are a great way for founders to meet and learn from leaders in their field and network with peers with shared interests.

UpRise Masterclasses

Elevating “Big Nodes” and Future Enterprises

Big Nodes are highly networked founders, exited entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate leaders who attract attention, can provide access to their substantive networks, and generate big wins for our ecosystem.

We are particularly focused on elevating Future Enterprises (FEs), the founders and leaders of our leading tech companies in Baltimore. By nurturing stronger relationships with Baltimore’s Future Enterprises, we aim to help them grow, highlight their industry expertise, and elevate them as leaders in the tech ecosystem. Marketing their stories and boosting their advocacy at the local, regional, and national levels will lead to a stronger ecosystem for the next generation of founders.

Leveraging our Network and Partnerships for Tech Startups

Founders sit at the core of our work and we are building out the networks to support these leaders and the advancement of their companies through building strong partnerships and facilitating a feedback loop that improves efficacy of our ecosystem’s startup advancement services.

Initially our UpRise Experts program offered an on-demand platform to meet with seasoned experts and entrepreneurs-in-residents offered at no cost to founders of any post-MVP stage startup. While well-intentioned and positively rated by 30+ participating founders, it faced challenges with low engagement and we realized that many of our ESO partners were offering similar programming. We decided to redirect our efforts to building strong partnerships with local Entrepreneurial Support Organizations (ESOs) and Economic Development Organizations (EDOs), which has enabled us to focus on marketing and enhancing existing startup advisory programs and building a stronger feedback loop to enable better outcomes for founders.

Furthermore, to advance startups in Baltimore, it is important for us to have alignment on the winning strategies and needed investments among service providers and tech and entrepreneurship advocates. By investing our efforts in supporting the work of ESOs and EDOs across the region and state, we aim to amplify and enhance program efficacy and bolster advocacy efforts to the public and private sector as it relates to economic development.

Equitech Tuesday: EDA Tech Hub Proposal Submission

UpRise is here to help Baltimore’s tech startup founders fully leverage the networks and nodes of our ecosystem! As you take in these offerings, we welcome any and all feedback and comments that you may have. And, if you’re an ESO, investor, or corporate partner who wants to be more involved, email Rimjhim Khandelwal and join the UpRise revolution!