Tag: Baltimore

Startups

Yair Flicker and Margaret Roth: Why We’re Launching a…

Yair Flicker and Margaret Roth: Why We’re Launching
a Venture Program to Grow Startups in Baltimore

July 10, 2019

As Johns Hopkins graduates and entrepreneurs who have grown companies over the last decade in Baltimore City, we have seen many choices that lead to success for startups as well as those that lead to failure.

Yair Flicker
Yair Flicker

While some startups fail because of a lack of market fit, or due to competition or scale issues, one of the most painful types of failure for us to see is uninformed technical decisions leading to bad product development, wasting time and money. We believe that with the right technical guidance, startups can make the correct technical choices the first time around.

When we were at Johns Hopkins, being a student entrepreneur or a startup co-founder wasn’t a thing people talked about. There was no innovation lab or Lunch and Learn with founders or pitch competition. There was no FastForward or Makerspace or, for that matter, Brody Learning Commons. In other words, there was none of the supportive infrastructure, and there were no resources, to help students get ideas off the ground and turn them into companies. But after meeting our co-founders, creating real ideas worth investing in during our 20s, and finding a community of entrepreneurs and builders across the city, we decided to stay in Baltimore after graduation.

Our decision meant many things. It could be harder to raise capital or connect with customers, for one. But it also meant we could become part of a tight-knit community of aspiring entrepreneurs and dreamers. It meant that when we needed help, we were one degree away from someone who would move us forward. And it meant that as our companies continued to grow, we would have the opportunity to give back and help other entrepreneurs and founders start validating their ideas and designing the technical solutions to bring their businesses to market.

That’s why this summer, our company, SmartLogic, is offering an opportunity for one startup to bypass the technical failure point through $400,000 in product development investment and mentorship from the SmartVentures program.

Margaret Roth
Margaret Roth

We see SmartVentures as an opportunity that brings together value on several fronts. The startup gets access to the technology development and mentorship it needs to scale, getting around some of the limitations of the smaller capital market here in the mid-Atlantic. SmartLogic, in turn, gets equity and a chance to see some of the gains from a company we’ve helped build by investing time and expertise. And we help grow the local startup ecosystem — the winning company must be located in or relocate to Baltimore.

We’re looking for a startup that is ready to grow, that is past its initial minimal viable product, and that has market traction in the form of revenue but is constrained by a need for product development and technical expertise. Our goal is to work with the winning company over the next year to 18 months to build a scalable product, help it find and hire full-time technical staff and get to the next big growth stage, like raising its next round of funding.

Applications are being accepted now, and we’ll review entries through Aug. 30. We hope to see lots of Johns Hopkins University teams apply, as we learned so much there of what we needed to be successful.

Yair Flicker (master’s degree in computer science, 2006), started SmartLogic, which develops web and mobile apps, in 2005 in his apartment with a friend and classmate. Margaret Roth (master’s degree in teaching, 2012; bachelor’s degree in English, literature and environmental Earth science, 2011), made friendships in a school of education classroom in 2011 that would become Yet Analytics. Today, they serve on the board of ETC Baltimore and work to support the next generation of Baltimore startup founders.

Connect with Flicker on LinkedIn or at yair@smartlogic.io. Contact Roth on LinkedIn or at margaret@smartlogic.io.

Social Innovation Lab (SIL)

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nneka N’namdi Battles Blight in Baltimore…

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nneka N’namdi Battles Blight in Baltimore One Home at a Time

March 28, 2019

Nneka N’namdi was outside her home in Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood on Mother’s Day weekend 2016 when she almost witnessed a “tragedy.” Children were riding bikes on the sidewalk of Fremont Street, next to four row homes being demolished. No barrier existed to prevent the children from falling into the 6-foot-deep, debris-filled holes.

It was in that moment the self-described “technoartivist” decided to tackle one of Baltimore’s biggest problems: the many dilapidated, unsafe and vacant properties throughout the city. N’namdi founded Fight Blight Bmore (FBB), which is developing a smartphone app through which Baltimore residents can report blighted properties.

N’namdi describes FBB as a “social, economic and environmental justice initiative” based on neighborhood data. She wants to use technology, art and activism to engage people about the impact of blight: FBB’s motto is “A blighted Baltimore is a bleeding Baltimore.”

Nneka N’namdi

A graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Morgan State University, N’namdi is director of community wellness at The Living Well, where she curates community space for artistic, economic and social ventures. She also is a co-creator of SisterGather, which holds events for women of African descent.

With FBB’s membership in the 2018–19 Social Innovation Lab cohort, N’namdi is using the year to design the app and tailor it to customer needs. Meanwhile, she also is practicing what FBB preaches by developing two formerly blighted properties in her neighborhood.

In five words, what does your organization do?

Inform, support, advocate, report and account.

What are your goals and how will you get there?

I want Baltimore to be free of blight, especially concentrations of it. I also want development in the city to happen without displacing or disenfranchising existing populations. And real estate ownership across classes to reflect the city demographics.

We will reach these goals by providing data, information and a tool for the community to enable and mobilize its visions.

Why did you choose Baltimore as your startup’s home?

I chose Baltimore because it is ground zero for restorative justice for African-descended people in America.

What opportunities make it a good place for growing a business or organization?

Baltimore has a few organic and authentic spaces that support growing a business or organization. For example, The Living Well has a Center for Social and Economic Vibrancy where artists, innovators and healers can launch their ventures. It provides spaces, technical assistance and access to a variety of support services, including photography, grant administration and strategic planning. It’s been the support of The Living Well that has pushed FBB this far.

In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one (positive) thing that separates Baltimore from other innovation hotbeds?

Baltimore is a city of many colleges and universities, which creates and supports a culture of idea generation and curation.

If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?

I would tell myself to find partners for the business from day one.

What book are you currently reading?

“The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins.” How ironic!

What innovator do you look up to? Why?

I look up to Stephanie “Safi” Edwards because of the visionary way she used hair design and fashion to heal the hearts and minds of #BaltimoreGirls. She created a nuanced expression of black womanhood and girlhood in Baltimore through art that created safe space for black women and girls to unpack and address racial, gender-based, sexual and economic trauma. Her work is humanity in its highest form!

It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?

I have a few favorites: Terra Café, Land of Kush, Flight and Teavolve. I also keep Healthy People Juice and City Weeds’ micro greens in my fridge at all times.

What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?

My favorite thing to do in Baltimore is to shop in the emerging and growing business owned by black Baltimoreans.

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Follow Fight Blight Bmore on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The organization, along with the other members of the 2018–19 Social Innovation Lab cohort, will present its work at the Impact + Innovation Forum 2019 on April 30. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

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