Local tech incubator launches accelerator program

The Emerging Technology Center, Baltimore's main incubator for technology firms, is hopping onto the latest trend in cultivating startups by launching its own accelerator program.

Modeled after similar programs across the country, the ETC's "Accelerate Baltimore" venture seeks to entice entrepreneurs from around the United States to move to the city and launch a company.

The program, launched with $110,000 in seed funding from the Abell Foundation, seeks to entice five companies to Baltimore for a three-month boot-camplike program where mentors work with founders to develop a minimally viable technology product for the marketplace. The new startups will be based, rent-free, in the ETC in Canton during the program.

At the end of three months, the entrepreneurs will get a chance to pitch their ideas and products to investors, who can choose to fund their ventures with more money and help take them to market. The ETC hopes to put a class through the accelerator two or three times a year, officials said.

There's one big catch: The companies have to stay in Baltimore for five years, unless they are acquired.

Ann Lansinger, the president of the ETC, said the new accelerator would fill a gap for early-stage entrepreneurs. She said she plans to work closely with Greg Cangialosi and Sean Lane, two entrepreneurs and investors who announced last week that they were launching their own "hybrid" accelerator program in Locust Point.

"How do we really flesh out the full ecosystem for Baltimore?" said Lansinger. "There are gaps in pre- and post-incubation. We've been looking at how to fill that out."

The success of these accelerators is often tied to the broader venture capital market. Mergers and acquisitions, and initial public offerings for established technology companies, instill confidence in smaller "angel" investors to take risks on startups, as they have faith they can sell their stake for more money to a deeper-pocketed investor.

The value of venture capital deals across the U.S. for the first three quarters of this year have significantly outpaced results from the same period last year, according to the National Venture Capital Association. Last year, $17.7 billion in venture capital deals were struck in the first nine months of the year. This year, that number is $21.2 billion, according to the NVCA.

The ETC accelerator appears to marry for-profit motives with urban economic development ideals, in a public-private partnership. It is a partnership between the ETC, the nonprofit Baltimore Development Corp., which provides a pipeline of funding from the city to the incubator, and the nonprofit Abell Foundation.

The ETC and Abell will take an 8 percent equity stake in each company that goes through the program, plus a 2.5 percent royalty, capped at $150,000.

"We think a public-private partnership is perfect," said Lansinger.

Applications can be found at acceleratebaltimore.com. The deadline is Jan. 31. The ETC plans to announce the first five companies in mid-March.



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