Learning from Boston

August 2013 / Abell Reports / Community Development

Based on the research findings from Boston, the report outlines considerations for investments in Baltimore’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to accelerate entrepreneurial activity, increase startup formation and create jobs.

Startup companies are a significant source of U.S. economic growth. According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, “net job growth occurs in the U.S. economy only through startup firms.”

For this reason, national, state, and civic researchers, policymakers and stakeholders have focused their attention, in recent years, on understanding what startups are, how they work, and how they can be attracted and cultivated. One thing that nearly all analyses agree on is that startup companies have a tendency to “cluster” within “startup communities” or “entrepreneurial ecosystems.” This creates a virtuous cycle: Entrepreneurship leads to more entrepreneurship, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem can deliver substantial economic development, as well as wealth and job creation.

For many policymakers, then, the question is raised: “How can my community enter this prosperous cycle by building our entrepreneurial ecosystem?” In particular, communities with assets relevant to an
entrepreneurial ecosystem—for example, innovations and innovators at large research institutions—may wonder whether those assets could be brought to bear on economic development.

These national questions have also been asked in the Baltimore region, due in part to a broad and committed set of stakeholders, who have set out ambitious goals, undertaken substantial projects and programs, and achieved success in strengthening Baltimore’s—and Maryland’s—entrepreneurial ecosystems. Baltimore’s interest in innovating, and supporting innovation, is almost palpable.

In response to this interest and these questions, The Abell Foundation has commissioned a series of reports analyzing the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Earlier this year, the Foundation released a two-part report created by the Innovation Alliance that assessed regional participants’ perspectives on entrepreneurship and innovation, and made recommendations to address related facility needs.

This report compares the state of Baltimore’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to Boston’s, a relevant comparison based on demographics, assets, and desired end state. It also illustrates some of the important similarities and differences between the two regions, with respect to their innovation ecosystems, and suggests potential recommendations for “the City of Baltimore,” or simply, the “City”—which, throughout this report, refers to private, public and nonprofit organizations and individuals in the greater Baltimore region—to consider.

This report concludes that Baltimore is an “Emerging” Ecosystem—further along than “Nascent,” but not yet “Established.” However, the City has the necessary building blocks to cultivate an “Established” entrepreneurship ecosystem.