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Jess Gartner

26, Tech entrepreneur Jess Gartner is a 24/7 sort of entrepreneur. When she's not running her fledging education tech company, she's teaching a college course, freelancing as a photographer or managing a bed-and-breakfast in her home. The B&B is her strategy for paying the mortgage while she's in the tricky early-startup phase with Allovue, a Baltimore-based software firm that aims to help school leaders better handle budgeting. So far, it's working. She's also feeling good about how things are going for Allovue, which she started in February. The company landed $25,000 from AccelerateBaltimore -- a program run by the city's technology business incubator and funded by the Abell Foundation -- to build a prototype, one of six firms selected from 122 applicants. She said she's receiving other commitments. Her goal is to pilot-test an early version of her software in schools this fall. So how does she do it all? "I don't know!" she said, laughing. "I'm just pretty organized. ... There's a lot of hours in the day." One role she decided to exit this year is education director at Betamore, a new business incubator. That job was gearing up to full time, and so are her responsibilities with Allovue. Gartner came to Baltimore in 2009 with Teach For America. She spent three years teaching middle school -- while earning her master's at Johns Hopkins -- before leaving to join a venture-capital firm. There, it occurred to her that she could marry her first career -- "I still felt very passionate about education" -- with the startup world. "I am very confident she's going to be successful," said Neil Davis, a vice president at the Emerging Technology Centers, which selected her for the AccelerateBaltimore funding. "She's really smart, she's really driven and she is incredibly passionate about whatever she does." Gartner said there's no financial software specific to schools, which juggle funding sources, some with complex spending restrictions. She wants to ease that budgeting challenge and help administrators figure out how to allocate to best effect -- for instance, by letting them see how the most successful schools prioritize. "I really feel like the possibilities are endless," she said. -- Jamie Smith Hopkins
Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun photo
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