What is Betamore?
Betamore is an incubation, co-working, and education technology space in Federal Hill that focuses on early-stage companies and all the people and organizations that support them.
In practical terms, that means tech start-ups, right?
It is for tech start-ups, absolutely, but it’s also for other kinds of start-ups. We have social leagues in our space, for tech, but also for sports. We have Urban Teacher Center, which is a not-for-profit, and then, in our co-working space, we actually have a real hybrid of folks who work here. We have everything from financial managers to developers to digital marketing experts to somebody who works for a congressman. It serves a really broad community.
You took over for [Betamore co-founder] Mike Brenner in January. What are your plans for Betamore?
I got to work with Greg Cangialosi, Sean Lane, and also Mike Brenner when they started Betamore, so I’ve kind of seen the iterations as it has developed over the past two years. When I came in, I felt like I had a really great platform to move things forward. So it’s going to be technical education, business education, and also design. And we’ll be focusing on a full, yearlong program for our educational offerings.
The second piece is that Betamore is obviously a campus here in Federal Hill—it has four walls—but the reality of it is that we serve a community that is much larger than that. So we’re going to be creating a membership for that community. It will be anyone who is outside of these fours walls who wants to be engaged with Betamore and all the activities we’re doing. We’re also creating a free resource called Baltimoretech.org. It’s a new website that is absolutely free. This is a way for us to say, ‘Here’s what’s going on in Baltimore and Maryland in terms of tech and innovation.’ So if someone were outside of our region, we want them to have a one-stop shop to see everything that’s going on in this area. We also want the people who come here to relocate or start their company to get linked in quickly and seamlessly.
And then the last piece is we’ve created a membership board, and it’s for the entirety of Betamore, not just Betamore companies that are here in the space. It’s for the entire community and we have almost 40 people who’ve signed up to contribute their time, expertise, and experience to the companies that are here and the initiatives and activities that we’re going to be doing to drive these companies forward. It’s pretty exciting.
For people who don’t know what the educational course offerings are, can you give a quick overview?
There are the front-end and back-end web development courses. In addition, we’ve done mobile, PHP, and we’ve done a Python course. Those are very specific areas, but it has allowed people to get more depth and focus in the areas they’re interested in. So that’s been really well received. We’ve done a WordPress course for anyone who’s looking to become more efficient at WordPress. We’ve done a SEO [search-engine optimization] course. We create programs based on what we’re hearing from our community members in the actual Betamore campus. So if they’re like, ‘We need a crash course on SEO,’ that’s what we’re creating.
Tech can be intimidating, but Betamore’s classes are open to all skill levels, right?
Tech can be really scary. You walk into a room and you’re like, ‘Am I the only one who doesn’t know this already?’ We don’t want tech to be scary for anyone. We want everyone to be comfortable with it and know that they can be a part of it. No mean people allowed! The reality is you can come here for a one-hour workshop if you just want to dip your toe in the water or you can come here for a 10-week course, and you can get quite a bit more proficiency, and you’re not spending a college education to do it.
How realistic is the goal of making Baltimore a tech hub?
I think it’s already happening. The Baltimore-Washington region is the second largest for tech employment. We’re already a hotbed just because of our proximity to the intelligence and cyber-security agencies. In addition, there are huge tech groups that have started here, like Laureate, Advertising.com, and Millennial Media. Then, on top of that, you have the universities. It’s almost a shame if we don’t do this, because then we’re not maximizing our capabilities or the capacity that the city has to welcome this type of talent.
There’s a perception that women are marginalized in tech culture. Thoughts?
I guess I don’t see that so much in Baltimore. And trust me, I’ve read all the stories. I honestly feel like Baltimore is open and totally willing to accept the best talent that’s here, regardless of your background, race, or gender. When you have 20,000 jobs to fill, that kind of stuff is not going to fly. Because your competitors will outpace you by hiring all these talented people, and a lot of them are going to be women, a lot of them are going to be from different backgrounds—ethnic, religious, whatever. If you want to compete, and if you want to be one of the top providers here, none of that stuff is going to matter.
What about people who say, “We want to hire women but we never see any good candidates”?
They’re not looking hard enough.
What’s your background?
I grew up all over. My dad worked for the government, so we moved every four years. I was born in D.C. We lived outside of Philly. I lived outside of St. Louis. And then we moved to Clarksville when I was in high school, and so we have lived here ever since. My mom put her foot down and said, ‘We’re not moving anymore.’ She said to my dad, ‘You can travel for your work.’
I went to school here in Maryland for both undergrad and graduate school. My undergrad was in business at Frostburg. I got my MBA at Loyola and then my first job was actually in the high-tech field, so I worked for a website hosting company and a domain name registrar. And then I actually worked at Athire [a recruiting service for tech companies], so that kind of started my love affair with technology and with early-stage start-ups.
Where did you pick up your tech skills?
My technology background and experience came through my actual work.
Do you think you would’ve gone to Betamore if it had existed back then?
Oh my god, 100 percent.