Loyola partners with Silicon Valley firm for accelerator

Loyola University Maryland is expected to announce Tuesday a partnership with a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm for a startup accelerator that will help students quickly form new companies — one of a handful of such programs recently launched in the Baltimore area.

Wasabi Ventures will work with the university to attract and mentor students into the accelerator program. The venture firm will provide professional staff to manage the program, oversee funding for new companies, and offer internships.

Thomas "T.K." Kuegler, Wasabi's co-founder and a 1994 Loyola graduate, said the venture will be housed in a Loyola-owned building on York Road in North Baltimore, and will begin operating this spring. Any company that Wasabi chooses to invest in will be able to use the accelerator's resources, but the firm will have a direct relationship with Loyola students, officials said.

Young entrepreneurs have been enamored of accelerator programs around the country in recent years. Such programs typically run for brief periods of time, offer a small infusion of cash and mentorship, and then "graduate" the companies so they can pursue their business model or additional funding. In exchange, the venture capital firms that run the accelerator take equity stakes in the startups.

Wasabi will make investments in student-run companies, either with cash or in services offered, and take equity stakes in the new ventures, according to Kuegler. But the new companies won't be pushed out of the accelerator and forced to fend for themselves — Kuegler expects Wasabi to continue to help its portfolio companies.

"That is why we think of the model as 'co-founding' and not just incubation," said Kuegler.

Karyl B. Leggio, dean of Loyola's Sellinger School of Business, said in a statement that the new program will allow the university to contribute to entrepreneurial growth in Maryland and "increase the scale of our efforts."

The accelerator expects to focus on technology startups, but would consider other types of businesses, such as bakeries, lawn service companies, clothing manufacturers and retailers, Loyola and Wasabi officials said.

Similar accelerator programs are launching this year in Baltimore. The Emerging Technology Center, a Canton-based business incubator, is launching a boot camp-like program to jump-start new technology businesses later this year.

And two Baltimore entrepreneurs, Greg Cangialosi and Sean Lane, are expected to soon debut their own version of a technology accelerator program that will be based in South Baltimore.



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