Pava LaPere was a visionary student entrepreneur and champion for Baltimore who founded multiple companies and programs dedicated to encouraging and equipping students and community members for entrepreneurship. She laid the foundation for a Johns Hopkins program that went on to become FastForward U, the university’s student innovation hub, with a bold conviction that our students could change the world – and Baltimore – by building companies.
Pava was tragically killed on September 26, 2023. Our community was rocked by this news, and we celebrate her accomplishments in order to honor her, grieve, and channel her spirit as we move forward.
“We are profoundly saddened by the loss of such a talented alumna of Johns Hopkins, a devoted citizen of Baltimore, and a linchpin of our innovation ecosystem. As a student and budding entrepreneur, Pava sought ways to bring her best ideas directly into the lives of our neighbors. She was devoted to the work of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and FastForward U in creating resources to support campus entrepreneurship and to empower students with bold ideas,” says Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels.
As an undergraduate student, Pava co-founded TCO Labs and The Hatchery, both programs to help fellow students start businesses. In 2019, as a young graduate of Johns Hopkins, she won the Bisciotti Foundation Prize for Student Entrepreneurship, a $30,000 award to help scale student startups. Even as she tackled the arduous early years of a tech startup, she remained a significant contributor to campus programming, helping FastForward U design and introduce cohort-based accelerator programs, which have become a core aspect of the FastForward U program. Pava served as a frequent speaker and mentor to current students.
“Pava was a bright shining star of our entrepreneurial ecosystem,” reflects Christy Wyskiel, Executive Director of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. “Pava was not only a brilliant, diligent leader, she was also kind, curious, and inclusive at her company, in the Baltimore ecosystem, and throughout Maryland’s entrepreneurial community. I recall the moment we first met, when she urged me to provide more robust services for student entrepreneurs at Johns Hopkins. I could feel her passion and sense of mission every time she spoke, and she inspired us all. She was a serial founder who wasn’t happy unless she was starting a company or organization to help others build, grow, and learn.”
The themes of Pava’s activities were connectivity and inclusivity. She believed that connecting entrepreneurs to resources and to one another was key to unlocking the potential of entrepreneurship in and around Johns Hopkins. This led her to found Innov8MD, an organization dedicated to supporting student entrepreneurs across Maryland. She was highly collaborative and was mission driven in every aspect of her life.
In 2018, just before graduating, Pava founded EcoMap, a thriving venture-backed local tech company that helps entrepreneurs connect to resources and networks. Based in West Baltimore, EcoMap has driven change in Baltimore and for organizations and municipalities throughout the country. Pava was recently honored by Forbes as a 30 under 30 Social Impact Leader.
Says Josh Ambrose, Director of Student Ventures at FastForward U, “Pava’s impact on Johns Hopkins was transformative, her influence across Maryland impressive beyond her years, and her reach nationally and beyond was blossoming. The FastForward U community is forever grateful for the impact she had not just on us, but on everyone she met. We’ve lost a friend, a mentor, an advocate, and an innovator who married an indefatigable drive with a keen sense of humor.”
Students who were mentored by her called her a “pillar of Johns Hopkins,” “a role model,” “an inspiration.”
“Pava was such an inspiration to me when I joined FFU my freshman year. Four years later, she’s made such a bright mark on me, and more broadly the Hopkins and Baltimore ecosystem. She has left behind such a positive legacy, and we are all so lucky to have known her.” Sneha Batheja, BS/MSE, Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2023
“Thinking back to all the sleepless nights she told us about, hours upon hours, and love she dedicated to her venture and to those impacted by her products and entrepreneurship. Very few people can have such a story arc that doesn’t dissipate and continues beyond the darkness. Her words about “impact at scale” are the ringing bells that let her story live on.” Daniel Fleury, BA candidate in Computer Science, Class of 2025
Pava will continue to be a north star for Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and Baltimore’s innovation ecosystem. We will honor her work and vision in the days, months, and years ahead.