'Beta City' event will showcase Baltimore region's entrepreneurship

A new entrepreneurship event called 'Beta City' is set for Oct. 1 in Baltimore.

Entrepreneurship hub Betamore and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's private investment firm will host a new, one-day event this fall to showcase the city's startup companies, the groups said Monday.

The event, dubbed Beta City and set for Oct. 1, will offer attendees hands-on interaction with the region's entrepreneurs, who will show off their products and services.

The idea for the event sprang from the former Tech Night event, which annually showcased the city's technology companies for nearly 25 years, said Jen Meyer, Betamore's CEO. That event, run by the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, ended in 2013.

"It's a great opportunity, especially for companies that don't have huge budgets, to potentially give them some visibility," Meyer said. "When you don't have that extensive budget and extensive manpower to make that happen, this is a good way to do it."

Beta City will anchor the fourth annual Baltimore Innovation Week, a series of festivals, conferences and summits for the city's entrepreneurs and investors to gather and discuss ideas, companies and products. Baltimore Innovation Week starts Sept. 25 and runs through Oct. 2.

Beta City includes an opportunity for select firms to pitch to venture capitalists, a demonstration event and an awards ceremony intended to spotlight individuals and businesses.

The Venture Pitch Day will be hosted at Betamore's Federal Hill offices and is designed to connect venture capitalists with local startups, with about nine to 12 companies selected to present. Later there will be a VIP event at City Garage — a 130,000-square-foot building in Port Covington that Plank Industries is converting to a entrepreneurship hub — that will feature demonstrations from up to 30 local startups.

Meyer said the organizers were hoping for 1,000 attendees. She declined to identify the companies expected to attend, saying those details were still in the works. General admission tickets are $65; the organizers are also selling sponsorships.

The event also will be a stop along the monthlong bus tour Pitch Across Maryland, a video pitch competition for startups and other companies.

Greg Cangialosi, Betamore's co-founder, said they expect to attract people from local technology companies as well as larger companies like money manager T. Rowe Price Group, as well as local investors, "makers" and people from the arts community. ("Makers" are do-it-yourself technology tinkerers who are crafting products.) They also want to attract a national audience of investors and entrepreneurs.

"We're basically celebrating all the good things that are happening here, putting people into one environment where they can connect," he said.

City Garage, where the VIP event will be held, is still under construction and does not yet have a use-and-occupancy permit, but it is expected to by the time of the event, said Demian Costa, a partner at Plank Industries.

"We've got a lot to finalize on City Garage as far as that's going," he said. "One thing we hope to do more of is host events like this. We've got a great space, great location."

Costa said Plank, who founded Under Armour in 1996 at the age of 23, planned to play a larger role in fostering innovation in the Baltimore area. But he declined to discuss details.

"I don't know what that looks like," Costa said of Plank's plans. But he said of Beta City, "we were able to support it and we'll support it, and we hope to support more just like it."

Plank, who ha become a billionaire creating Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sports apparel brand, has been investing in firms such as RedOwl Analytics, a Baltimore-based data analysis firm, and Urban Stems, a Web-based flower delivery firm headquartered in Washington. He's also interested in developing the city's future, stating last year that he wants Baltimore "to be the coolest city in the world."

Cangialosi said the event will be different for those familiar with the former Tech Night events, but it will "fill a void" of celebration for the startup community since Tech Night ended. The city's startup scene has been gaining momentum in the two years since Tech Night ended, he added.

"There's a greater mission to put Baltimore on the map," he said. "A lot has changed in the last 24 months, so it'll put a spotlight on that."

cwells@baltsun.com

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