TEDCO Provides Funding, Mentorship and Connections to Start-Ups
Gerald Meggett first heard about TEDCO when he was a guest speaker to a class of middle school students during Black History Month in Annapolis. He was there to speak about how to start a start-up and his entrepreneurship journey. Meggett is the co-founder and CEO of CircleIn, a student-to-student tutoring app that allows classmates to get the help they need in real time. His contact at the middle school told him about TEDCO, and it piqued his curiosity. “She said ‘Are you looking for funding? Have you heard of TEDCO?’” says Meggett. “From there it was an email to TEDCO, and we started a conversation,” Meggett says. Many conversations and an application later, a partnership was born.
CircleIn (formerly MyQVO) is the recipient of one of TEDCO’s former Technology Commercialization Funds, which now along with the Cyber Security Investment Fund (CIF) has been transformed into a single Seed Funding Program. This fund allows $100,000 for start-ups such as CircleIn to help boost efforts to develop and commercialize new technology-based products.
Since 1998, TEDCO has been in the forefront of entrepreneurship and innovation, bringing ideas to market and serving as the bridge between ideas and market reality. TEDCO has made over 400 seed investments over 14 years through eight active funding programs, translating to $22 million awarded to start-ups with $1 billion follow-on funding. TEDCO has buoyed entrepreneurs as well as industry through their stable of funds, mentorship programs and resources for entrepreneurs and innovators across the state. Funds such as Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII), Rural Business Innovation Initiative (RBI2) and Seed Investments Funds (SIF), to name a few, provide capital investments in a variety of amounts and terms, and run the gamut in providing funds and support to foster innovation, whether it’s in the idea, start-up or expansion stage.
“We have the ability to fund, manage and help develop companies from Day 1 early seed all the way to late stage to-market,” states TEDCO CEO George Davis. “In the future, we are looking to make that bigger and better and to find partners in the venture world to grow with us, co-invest with us and drive more capital into the arms of early stage innovation companies.”
Meggett credits his partnership with TEDCO with putting CircleIn in a better position to execute their mission. “We’ve benefitted immensely from our partnership with TEDCO,” says Meggett. “Funding from TEDCO has allowed us to secure more customers/partners, add depth strategically and we are now in a far more attractive position to attract more seed investors.” In addition, CircleIn is now forming partnerships with one of the fifth largest school districts in the country as well as the largest school district in the country. “By having these funds, we’ve been able to go after these larger customer partners,” he adds.
Pat Hudson, Sr., owner of True Chesapeake Oyster Company, also credits TEDCO with helping them overcome some initial hurdles and grow its business. True Chesapeake Oyster Company is an aqua farm in Ridge, Md., and a recipient of a Rural Business Innovative Initiative (RBI2) fund. Hudson explains that when True Chesapeake started out about five years ago, aquaculture in general was very new and there were a lot of failures. True Chesapeake wasn’t finding much in the way of financial support, as at the time aquaculture was not acknowledged by the federal government. In addition, there were initiatives for growing the oysters but not for developing equipment, and neither Hudson nor his son had the time or the money for business development. When his son, Pat Hudson, Jr. identified the need for an oyster tracking system, they just didn’t know where to start to make it a reality. Until they found TEDCO.
“We sat down and went through a plan to see what we needed, what were the priorities, and how we could get some support,” says Hudson. TEDCO connected True Chesapeake with a bar code company in Arizona, creating a more efficient way to track oysters. “With this bar code system, when we put these oyster cages in the water, it would scan the bar code and the information is fed into a software program, giving us a much better idea of inventory for market,” says Hudson. Future plans include working with TEDCO on another application for an oyster counter, using an “eye” to scan instead of counting manually.
TEDCO has also made a strong commitment to being an advocate for women- and minority-owned businesses. Bolstering and supporting innovation from minority-owned businesses has been a key bench point for Davis right from the start. “Since my first day on the job, I have felt it is obviously necessary that we be the champion of inclusiveness and access for minorities and women-owned businesses in the state of Maryland,” he says.
This spring, TEDCO launched their inaugural Minority Business Pre-Seed Fund (MBPF) for African-American tech entrepreneurs in Maryland. Through a partnership with The Harbor Bank of Maryland Community Development Corporation (HBCDC), both TEDCO and Harbor Bank contribute funds, allowing for an investment of up to $40,000 to provide capital as well as mentorship to shepherd African-American tech innovators and contribute to TEDCO’s mission of fueling innovation and economic development in the state. The program is off to a great start, with three recipients out of over 100 applications. This year’s recipients are: Emagine! Technologies, Game ChangeHer and Panacea Company.
“The innovative ideas that we have seen are fantastic,” says Davis. “We want to build within our gateway services a true inclusive, innovation empowerment hub that’s all about directing, training, developing, funding and servicing the minority and women-owned business communities from a start-up perspective.” He adds that the future success of MBPF will drive support from the state and from industry. “I think we can turn this into something that’s really trendsetting, not just in Maryland but nationwide,” he says.
TEDCO’s commitment to empowering minority and women owned businesses is also evident in the firepower of their speakers at the Expo. Held on Oct. 25 at the Baltimore Hilton, many of the speakers at the Expo are women and minority CEOs and business leaders. These speakers and many others will be on-hand to bring their talents and vision to Expo attendees.
“The real premise of the Expo is to celebrate entrepreneurship,” says Davis. “In addition to getting access to venture people in industry, attendees can attend tracks on raising money or developing a business and get access to our great lineup of partners and industry leaders in Maryland.”
TEDCO’s ability to foster and shepherd Maryland-area start-ups, innovators and entrepreneurs only serves to benefit industry in the state. Backing their mission of leading innovation to market, Davis notes that the benefit to industry is that TEDCO can be a source of finding innovation to help with growth. “Industries need to spend a lot on research & development and why not leverage what’s in your backyard?” says Davis. “Finding technologies and opportunities through partnering and strategic relationships can really move the needle on their innovation roadmap.” I95 Content Marketing