By Raquel Guillory, Director of Communications
We wanted to share this blog from the co-chairs of Startup Maryland where they talk about their experiences on the first-ever “Pitch Across Maryland” tour meeting entrepreneurs and discovering all that the State of Maryland has to offer for small businesses and startups.
Contributed jointly by Startup Maryland Board Co-Chairs Julie Lenzer Kirk and Michael Binko:
Entrepreneurs are renowned for coming up with what seems like crazy ideas and making them reality. The big yellow bus wrapped in the Maryland state flag that has been traversing the state is a perfect example.
The idea was hatched at the Startup America national summit in January – someone from another state talked about raising money for an entrepreneur bus tour but that bus never left the depot. To the contrary, the Startup Maryland Pitch Across Maryland bus put rubber to the road September 11th and has been rolling across the state – 26 stops in all – ever since. This Friday marks theLast Stop on the tour with a celebration at Merriweather Post Pavilion, but it is also the First Step in shining the spotlight on the incredible entrepreneurs we’ve met along the way.
Since that wild hair - “Why CAN’T we drive a bus across Maryland to rally entrepreneurs?” – began to take root, the goals of this nearly three week tour through all corners of the state aligned perfectly with Startup Maryland’s four main focus areas discovered during entrepreneur town hall meetings conducted prior to the March Startup Maryland Launch Event.
Those goals are:
- Access to capital
- Access to customers
- Resource mapping
- Awareness and celebration
The Pitch Across Maryland bus tour and competition were conceived to shine a spotlight on entrepreneurs across the state as well as the ecosystem of support and services. Through this spotlight, the objective was to connect them all to each other not only within jurisdictions but across county borders and industry categories.
As the bus winds through the mountains of Western Maryland on the last two days of the tour we’re happy to report that our experience has exceeded expectations on many levels.
First, the quality and spirit of the businesses we’ve seen has been stellar. Extreme passion ignited into action – so many of these businesses already making sh-tuff happen.
Second, the rich resources we have found available are compelling. From state agencies like TEDCO and DBED to local incubators, economic development agencies, and academia there are numerous innovation-based communities ready and willing to help these businesses succeed. This tour would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of these organizations in planning and facilitating the stops along the way, customizing the message and approach to meet their community’s needs and pulling in their local businesses to support and celebrate.
The most impactful outcome for many has been the connections that developed between the entrepreneurs themselves. Grateful to have an opportunity to share their passion for their ideas and businesses, the entrepreneurs we’ve met along the way have used words like inspired, exhilerated, motivated and, we can’t leave out - relieved - to describe how they feel after their experience on the bus. They are excited to be connected to each other and to something bigger – the community of entrepreneurs assembling as Startup Maryland as well as their peers across the country through the Startup America Partnership.
As each person sits in the mobile UpStart Show™ video studio “hot seat” (named in part because the air conditioning must be turned off when recording to eliminate noise) it is their individually-crafted pitch and personal enthusiasm that must sell their idea.
And sell they have!
While the experience-levels and demographics of the presenters vary, they all have shown up and given it all they’ve got. Many of the tour stops have included feedback and mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and investors, giving folks the opportunity to hone their story before climbing aboard the bus.
The plan, as we transition into the next phase of the Pitch Across Maryland competition, is to continue the momentum created by this movement.
Once the video pitches are posted online the public exposure to the amazing and diverse businesses being built here in Maryland will only expand. We will continue to do our part to promote the innovations being developed in our state and provide the “connective tissue” amongst the ecosystem with the goal of getting these businesses the resources they need to be successful.
Ultimately, we envision the emergence of a connected ecosystem and a culture that is ignited around entrepreneurship creating the next procession of promising and successful Maryland startup companies.
So, with that, we invite you to join us.
Get out there, Up The Irons, and help Startup Maryland!
Martin O'Malley is the governor of Maryland. He writes a regular blog for his official website.