Churn at Baltimore's Emerging Technology Centers
In the world of technology incubators, it’s all about the churn.
This week, one startup company is joining Baltimore's Emerging Technology Center, while another is “graduating” — or moving out of Baltimore’s tech incubator into its own space. That kind of churn for the city’s Emerging Technology Centers is a good thing, said Ann Lansinger, the incubator’s president.
The ETC, which has more than 70 Baltimore startup companies under its wing in two locations, wants mature firms to move out on their own so they can make room for the next crop of early-stage entrepreneurs, she said.
This year, 11 companies have graduated, while 10 have moved into ETC offices and another 14
have opted for a less-involved, affiliated membership in its startup community. Last year, 23 companies graduated.
“It’s all about churn,” said Lansinger. “Getting companies in the system, getting them nice and strong and then out on their own and then bringing in new ones.”
The company that’s ready to fly on its own is Lookingglass Cyber Solutions. It makes data visualization software that federal defense agencies and large commercial enterprises can use to detect threats lurking just outside their computer networks. One of their main clients is the Department of Homeland Security.
Brian Garmey, the firm’s president, said it started at the ETC about 3 1/2 years ago and has grown to be both cash-flow positive and profitable — a good position for a small company in the burgeoning field of cybersecurity. The small company (he declined to say how many employees they have) is moving into an office a few blocks away from the ETC, in Canton.
“We feel very optimistic,” Garmey said. “We’re excited. We’re getting more interest and have more momentum than we ever had.”
Meanwhile, a company called StraighterLine hopes to build momentum in its move to Baltimore’s ETC offices at the former Eastern High School building on East 33rd Street. The online education startup was founded in Washington as an offshoot of an online tutoring company called Smarthinking.
StraighterLine makes required college courses available online and for less money than one might pay at a traditional higher-education institution. Students can take their early coursework through StraighterLine and save money, and then take courses in their major at an institution of their choosing, the company says.
Currently, StraighterLine has agreements with 17 colleges, so students can transfer their coursework credits from the online school. The goal is to get colleges across the country accepting course credit from StraighterLine, said Burck Smith, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.
“What we’re doing has the potential to be disruptive over the next couple years, in a good way, for the students and for the schools,” Smith said.
Smith, who grew up in Baltimore, wanted to return to the city from Washington because he sees it as a better location for an online education startup. His company is taking over some of the office space left behind by MoodleRooms, another online education company that graduated from the ETC this year.
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