SmartLogic Studies is highlighting some of the places that set startups and entrepreneurs up for success.
This episode—Where to Work: bwtech@UMBC—focuses on the incubator/co-working space at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and two of the companies that call the incubator home.
Featured in Where to Work: bwtech
- Ellen Hemmerly, Executive Director of bwtech@UMBC
- Delali Dzirasa, President of Fearless Solutions
- Andrew Mavronicolas, Co-founder of BackPack ‘Em
Spaces we’ve already featured in Where to Work:
Check out every episode of SmartLogic Studies.
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bwtech@UMBC, helping businesses grow in Baltimore County
When Delali Dzirasa founded his company, Fearless Solutions, he knew exactly where to put his office.
“UMBC is really home base,” he said. “I came out of UMBC so I know a lot of the folks, a lot of the leadership already.”
Fellow UMBC alum Andrew Mavronicolas chose to work out of UMBC because his business, BackPack ‘Em, was born there.
“Myself and the other co-founders, we started as a project in one of our final senior year courses.”
Their paths were different but Dzirasa’s and Mavronicolas’ roads both led to bwtech@UMBC.
“bwtech, which is what we refer to it as, is a university-affiliated research park, has three incubators,” said Ellen Hemmerly, the executive director of the space.
The three incubators have different focuses. One is a life sciences incubator, another focuses on clean-tech, and the fastest-growing incubator is cyber-security based.
Mavronicolas works out of the cyber security incubator and appreciates being a short walk from UMBC’s main campus.
“Communication between the university and bwtech has helped us in not only having the space, but being able to be close to the campus that we’re working with.”
BackPack ‘Em helps college students safely sell books and other materials directly to each other.
But bwtech@UMBC is more than a desk close to the university.
“Our role is to provide space, resources and help for entrepreneurs trying to build their businesses,” Hemmerly said.
Dzirasa says the resources he gets from the incubator have been crucial to his success.
“A lot of the support they provide has been huge,” he said, “from speakers that come in, to advisors saying, ‘Hey, don’t focus on that. You need to focus on this at your stage.’”
bwtech@UMBC has a rotating list of entrepreneurs in residence who provide guidance to the companies that work in the space.
“These are people that have built companies, sold companies and gone through success and failures,” Hemmerly said.
It’s not just help at the top that UMBC provides. The university has proved to be a great recruiting source for Fearless Solutions.
“I think last year we were 50% UMBC alum that worked with us, “ Dzirasa said. “So it’s been a great avenue to help us grow.”
BackPack ‘Em isn’t ready to start hiring but the founders appreciate knowing the resource is available through bwtech@UMBC.
“This gives us a sense of professionalism,” Mavronicolas said. “We have an actual meeting space with dedicated meeting times.”
Executive director Ellen Hemmerly says for earlier stage companies bwtech@UMBC is a critical part of their success.
“We’re not just meeting in someone’s basement,” Mavronicolas said. “We’re in an office space and are taking it seriously when we’re here.”
The BackPack ‘Em team shares the co-working space of communal desks and tables, while Fearless Solutions has private office space. Both say the networking is one of the most important elements of working at bwtech.
“The interaction and collisions that happen between companies is huge,” Dzirasa said. Fearless Solutions has had “opportunities in the work that we’ve done with other companies in the building.”
The networking doesn’t end in the incubator.
“I think that energy that comes with a bunch of tech people coming together is invaluable,” Dzirasa said. “We absolutely love and want to stay in this environment.”