Over the past few months we’ve been interviewing leaders in the startup community to find out their advice on how to build a successful technology company. Through these interviews we’ve created a series of videos focusing on different topics that founders and tech leaders must deal with—everything ranging from getting that initial funding round, to building company culture, to getting your software product built, taking your product to market, and many more topics to come. We're calling this series "SmartLogic Studies."
Our first episode—First Funding—highlights entrepreneurs talking about getting their first funding round. We also talk to ETC and TEDCO, which are two economic development agencies in Baltimore and Maryland, respectively, that provide funding, mentorship, and other support to tech companies.
Featured in First Funding
Full disclosure: NewsUp and GiftCardRescue are clients of SmartLogic.
Funding sources available in Baltimore and Maryland
TEDCO funding sources:
AccelerateBaltimore, an accelerator program run by ETC.
VOLT funds (loans of $25k to $250k to Maryland small businesses and tech companies)
Who is SmartLogic?
SmartLogic is a custom web/mobile development company based in Baltimore. We are committed to help the Baltimore tech community thrive and grow. Many of our clients are startups who face an array of questions when launching their business. We want to be not only a technical resource for software development but a reserve of knowledge on everything a startup founder might want to know.
Still have questions, maybe we can help. Try our Lunch and Learn program.
First Funding stories from Baltimore-area businesses
What does it take to start your own business?
"I mortgaged my house and took friends and family's money," said Rob Wray, founder of Whitebox.
"I boostrapped for the first 3 years," said Kwame Kuadey, founder of GiftCardRescue.
Eff Norwood, the founder of Comedtech, went at it alone, "There isn’t any external funding, it’s completely owned by us."
And Andrew Schuster from Newsup worked all the time to get his dream of NewsUp up and running. "My co-founder Coleman and I were working at a marketing agency by day and running NewsUp by night," Schuster said.
Spending all of your time and all of your money on a startup may seem overwhelming but Kuadey said it's essential. "It’s very hard to just start and say, 'I’m going to look for money,' it’s really hard, I can’t stress enough how hard it is," he said.
Money from family and friends can go far when you're getting started, but there are options outside of your social circle.
Maryland's Technology Development Corporation, TEDCO, has several levels of funding. "We have our seed investment funds," said TEDCO executive director Rob Rosenbaum. "Up to $225,000 for companies who have spun out of universities or are participating with one of the incubators in the state.
Rob Wray benefitted from TEDCO's Technology Commercialization fund. "You basically write a business plan and a financial investor deck and you present it to TEDCO and they have a board of people that review these plans," he said. "If you’re accepted, you get $100,000."
Accelerate Baltimore, run out of the Emerging Technology Centers (ETC), is another way for young companies to get funding and mentoring in Baltimore. SmartLogic's Yair Flicker is one of the program's mentors. ETC president Deb Tillett says particpants get hands-on help along with $25,000 in funding.
"AccelerateBaltimore is a lean startup accelerator. We run once a year with the help of the Abell Foundation," Tillett said. "We choose 6 companies, we give them a small seed investment, which is Abell Foundation money, and we give them 13 weeks of very hands-on business mentoring. And then they launch a minimum viable product."
For Andrew Schuster, participating in AccelerateBaltimore was about more than the financial help. "It’s been an amazing experience to have the support of an entity, of an organization, like the ETC," he said. "The money is very helpful but more than anything the structure and the ability to focus on getting a product done and delivered was tremendously helpful."
VOLT Funds are another options for new startups in Maryland.
No matter how much money you invest in your startup, Schuster says you need to be all in.
"Everything I have is in this. No matter how much money we have invested from outside investors, my time, my money is completed invested into this, into this business," he said. "It’s my life, this is what I want to do. We won’t stop at anything until we accomplish our goals."