Entrepreneurs are Building a Better Baltimore



This week Engine is traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. For more updates follow #RiseofRest on Twitter.

This week marks the fourth Rise of the Rest road trip, and our first stop was Baltimore, Maryland. While we often hear about the challenges facing Baltimore, during our full day tour we saw another Baltimore story—a story about opportunity, innovation and economic development. Baltimore is one of the busiest ports in the United States and has a thriving healthcare sector, in large part driven by Johns Hopkins University’s hospitals and world class research facilities. Baltimore has 11 more universities and it’s just miles away from from major federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Security Agency which draws technology security talent to the region.

On our visit to Baltimore, we caught a glimpse of how entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the city’s leading industries. In the security space, we stopped by ZeroFox, a young, but fast-growing company with a cloud-based security platform that blocks malicious content from social applications. TechCrunch called its team “a who’s-who of some of the best and brightest security technologists.” We visited Fast Forward, an accelerator at Johns Hopkins that advances and commercializes technologies developed at the university. Many of the companies at yesterday’s culminating pitch competition also focused on new technologies in the health sector. ShapeU is a data-driven application digitizing the personal trainer, Sonavex offers a platform to detect blood clots, and Edessa is an automated hand washing system. The winner of the $100,000 investment from Steve Case was Sisu Global Health, a medical device company with an innovative blood transfusion product for healthcare providers in emerging markets.

We also saw some signs of entrepreneurial success in Baltimore, first and foremost at Under Armour headquarters. Under Armour has called Baltimore home since its inception. The company now has over over 1,000 employees, making it one of the city’s biggest employers. Their campus spans the Baltimore harbour and, unsurprisingly, includes a state-of-the-art fitness center complete with Under Armour’s newest wearable technology and health-tracking devices. Though Under Armour is no longer a startup, Baltimore entrepreneurs commented on how supportive the fitness-wear company has been of the ecosystem. The last startup tour of the day was at OrderUp, a food delivery platform acquired this summer by the Chicago-based Groupon—a sign to many of Baltimore’s competitive consumer technology sector.

We also sensed the broader commitment to fostering greater and more inclusive economic prosperity in Baltimore. The cries for justice after the killing of Freddie Gray this summer resonated deeply with the community and local leaders here, and many entrepreneurs are thinking about how to create new economic opportunity that’s accessible to more of Baltimore’s residents. One promising sign is the opening of Baltimore’s own Impact Hub—a local outpost for social business leaders that will open its doors within months. During a sneak peek of the space we heard from one young company making it easier for the formerly incarcerated to find jobs, as well as from a new local ice cream maker employing some of Baltimore’s youth.

Overall, we sensed great optimism in Baltimore about the potential to build on the city’s existing talent pool and create new solutions where challenges remain. From here, we’re traveling up the Northeast corridor to Philadelphia. Stay tuned for more dispatches from the road.