By Eileen Ambrose, The Baltimore Sun
July 24, 2012
Baltimoreans, got a great idea for a web or mobile product? Do you have the passion — and energy — to turn that idea into a reality?
If so, Betamore wants you.
This new incubator venture, set to open in September in Federal Hill, will be a place that entrepreneurs — for a monthly membership fee — can call home temporarily while getting access to the mentoring and networking needed to turn ideas into viable products. Betamore also will offer classes, such as such as Angel Investing 101, along with more extensive courses on running a business.
"We like to call ourselves an urban campus for entrepreneurship and technology-based companies," says Greg Cangialosi, one of the founders.
Co-founder Mike Brenner offers a catchier description: "We're a gym for nerds."
Baltimore and Maryland have other incubators for tech companies, and Betamore will be the latest in a city that's gaining a reputation for high tech jobs. Forbes magazine last year named Baltimore the second-best city in the country for high-tech jobs — largely because of its proximity to the federal government.
This is a needed bright spot for a region that lost its only Fortune 500 company with the out-of-state acquisition earlier this year of Constellation Energy, and the fate of the bankrupt Sparrows Point steel mill is up in the air.
Betamore is run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Cangialosi founded Blue Sky Factory, an email marketing company that he sold about a year ago. Brenner launched the web studio Sunrise Design, and earlier this year sold his online publication, Startup Baltimore, to a Philadelphia company. Betamore's third partner, Sean Lane, is a founder of the software company BTS and chairman of Omni Science Technology Partners, an early stage venture capital firm.
Space is limited at Betamore and would-be entrepreneurs must apply to be a member. Betamore recently started sending out applications to people who have signed up for its email list at Betamore.com. So far, the list has more than 300 names.
Not just anyone with an idea will receive a membership. (To find the right fit, Betamore's application asks such questions as, "Beyond your work, what are you passionate about?" and "Provide us with an anecdote about something you've been a part of that you consider unique.")
"We're looking for people that are just on a mission to get their companies up and running," Cangialosi says. "On a mission to build something. On a mission to get to that next level."
They also must be coachable, he adds.
Betamore will occupy nearly 8,000 square feet on the top floor of the new 1111 Light Street building.
It will have two levels of membership. A $200-a-month "community membership" is designed for the entrepreneur who only needs to use Betamore's facilities periodically, say, a couple of times a week. Those members will be able to reserve space based on availability. On any day, Betamore will have room for 40 community members.
A "dedicated membership" will run $400 to $450 per month. For these members, Betamore sets aside a dedicated workstation that can be used 24/7. (Brenner noted that the cost of the inaugural round of memberships might be lower than the prices quoted here.)
Betamore will offer a stable of mentors to guide members. Cangialosi says angel investors and venture capitalists will come through regularly "to talk to these entrepreneurs and get to know them." Betamore will host happy hours on Friday night for members and guests.
Betamore also will build bridges to Maryland colleges, offering internships and apprenticeships to students, Cangialosi adds. That way these budding entrepreneurs know they don't have to leave Baltimore to be part of a start-up scene, he says.
"We don't want to export anyone that we don't have to," he says.
Cangialosi adds that he hopes to import entrepreneurs from outside Maryland to Betamore.
Start-ups will be expected to graduate out of the space in 12 to 18 months, allowing room for a new class of entrepreneurs, Brenner says. Grads, for instance, could move to the Emerging Technology Centers, Baltimore's prime incubator for tech firms.
Besides workstations, Betamore will have a 50-person classroom, which will offer three-hour classes on, say, how to create a buzz for your company for $20 to $40, as well as multiweek courses on business for several hundred dollars. Classes and courses will be open to the public.
Cangialosi says the goal is to establish an educational program that can be used by outside businesses for further training and professional development of their workers.
Betamore itself is a start-up, and those in the tech community give it a high chance of success.
"If anyone can pull it off, these guys can," says Deborah Tillett, president of the Emerging Technology Centers. "They have a great deal of experience in start-ups and being successful."
Elana Fine, managing director of the Digman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, College Park, agrees.
"They have the passion to make this successful," Fine says. "In 12 to 18 months, something like Betamore will continue to raise the visibility of Baltimore" as a place for entrepreneurs.
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