Abell Salutes: The Emerging Technology Centers

June 2013 / Salutes / Community Development, Education

For helping entrepreneurs grow companies “further and faster” and “creating new jobs in Baltimore.”

Tom Murdock was teaching school and saw a need—in his case, in the classroom learning process. Following the pattern of so many similar and successful start-up stories, he began to put together a business plan designed to fill that need— inviting friends in to share.

The plan led to a relationship with cofounders (in Long Island) and to a meeting with the Emerging Technology Centers (ETC) in Baltimore. Mr. Murdock says, “At that point our group found itself happily in the ETC’s incubation process, where we were introduced to managers whose contributions to our start-up’s organization and growth became a chapter in a book we began writing together.” This history, written together, led to the founding start-up company known today as Moodlerooms. There are many Moodlerooms stories where the plot involves, at a critical point along the way, the involvement of the ETC.

The ETC is an initiative of the Baltimore Development Corporation, a nonprofit technology business incubator that works with early-stage Baltimore-based technology entrepreneurs. The ETC describes its involvement with these fledgling companies this way: “We move their business ahead further and faster than they could on their own.” To back up the claim, the ETC has data: It estimates that in the 14 years in which it has been operating, ETC companies have created companies in excess of $375 million in economic activity for Baltimore City.

In its mentoring relationship, the ETC offers a comprehensive array of business services: flexible turnkey solutions that free the founding entrepreneurs to focus on the critical success factors driving the business. The ETC incubator offers office space with common conference rooms and services, relieving companies of a number of administrative details.

The full-time ETC staff assists companies by providing strategic planning; help with decision making on product development and marketing; and use of an extensive network of volunteer mentors and professional service providers to give start-up companies unprecedented access to business, university and government contracts, public and private funding sources, and new opportunities with both early-stage and mature technology companies.

Over its 14 years in existence, the ETC has had an impressive record of results:

  • Of 281 companies assisted, 85 are still in business as of this writing;
  • All graduate companies remain in Maryland, 56 percent in Baltimore City;
  • More than 2,000 jobs have been created at an average salary of $70,000;
  • More than 1.5 billion in outside investment has been raised by ETC companies; and
  • Thirty-nine percent of the companies have successfully transferred technology from a university or federal lab.

Deborah Tillett, president of the ETC, points out the defining characteristic of the ETC: “The ETC provides more than the opportunity for individual companies to maximize their growth potential, it provides a creative environment in which like-minded entrepreneurs can increase their companies’ potential through shared learning, partnerships, joint ventures, and collaborations. Some other companies we have served include Looking Glass, Groove Commerce, Ainsley & Co., Millennial Media, R2i, Straighterline, and CSA Medical.”

In a typical year, the ETC receives about one-quarter of its operating budget from Baltimore City—the remainder is earned in the form of fees and services from its 86 portfolio companies.

Abell Salutes ETC president Deborah Tillett, for helping the many start-up Moodlerooms get off the ground fast, and go further than the founders could on their own, and for helping to create jobs in Baltimore.