Greg Cangialosi is the co-founder and chair of Betamore, a coworking space, incubator, and campus offering classes aimed at fostering creativity in technology and entrepreneurship. Betamore CEO Jennifer Meyer and managing partner John Cammack, of Cammack Associates, joined us for this interview. After launching its award-winning campus in Federal Hill in 2012, Betamore recently transitioned to become a 501(c)(3) certified nonprofit organization.
Q: Could you describe the journey from Betamore’s founding to its current iteration as a nonprofit?
GREG CANGIALOSI: Betamore was started in 2012. It is an idea that Sean Lane and Mike Brenner and I had: to basically look at the ecosystem in Baltimore and find out where the gaps were. So we came up with a concept with Betamore which is focused on three areas: incubation, education, and community development. Through our first year, we started this business as a for-profit entity, which is basically what entrepreneurs do. And we quickly realized, after about a year-and-a-half of being in business, that it would be much better to be suited as a nonprofit entity in order to really be able to fulfill the mission of Betamore and provide the resources that this community needs.
JOHN CAMMACK: Converting Betamore into a 501(c)(3), we are making this a fiduciary for entrepreneurship. That means that we are nonpartisan; we are simply here to develop a healthier startup ecosystem that will drive civic engagement in our city, economic vitality, and social mobility. And however we do it, there is no economic incentive any more. Our mission is just to make this city stronger as a startup center.
Q: What steps did you take to make that transition as quickly and effectively as you did?
GREG: In January, we brought on Jen Meyer here, our new CEO, to take the reins and scale what we have already begun here at Betamore—which is our Betamore Academy, our co-working facility that we are sitting in now, filling out the desks in our incubator, et cetera.
JEN: On the education side, we feel like there is a huge gap that needs to be met in terms of teaching this type of adult learner who wants to get better at their technical skills, wants to have a better business acumen, wants to understand the design and arts side of their business. This will give us an opportunity to really make some—what we consider—big bets on the education side and provide real value for companies that are here.
Q: Tell us more about your mission and those companies you serve.
GREG: We are feeling this skill gap that exists between what the colleges and institutions are putting out and what the real time employers need right now. So, talent is so key to a vibrant ecosystem. We feel like we are filling that niche. Over fifty percent of our early academy students were sent to us by their employers. We have a great mix of great diversity in our class. We also have people coming in who just want to switch careers.
JEN: One of the things I want to mention: the enrollment of our last academy course was over fifty percent female. That is a great testament to who is coming through the doors and really wants to learn these helpful and useful skills.
Q: How would you characterize the role Betamore plays in the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?
JEN MEYER: We really feel like there is so much value already created within the city and outside of these city walls. Whether you look at the thirty-one incubators that are here, the acceleration programs that are here—any of the activity that is going on in terms of the tech councils—there is incredible work already being done, and we have no desire to replicate or produce things that compete with those types of efforts. What we truly want to do is continue to build the ecosystem. And what we are trying to do is find the partners who are already doing those great things and see how we can help them. If a company comes here and they are looking for something that is maybe more focused on the bio or healthcare space, we ask, ‘Can we provide them the mentors and the resources that can help catapult their growth?’ That is our job. Being a 501(c)(3) allows us to do that. It allows us to freely open up those doors, create those partnerships, and provide real substantial value for the companies that are here, so they grow.
Q: How do you see Betamore expanding in the future?
When we first started this, it was contained in the four walls of this 8000 square foot space we are sitting in right now. I think I speak for everybody when I say we are kind of big thinkers so in the future, why can’t there be more than one campus that may be suited towards different members of different constituencies in our community? One could be purely just education-focused, one where we have more facilities like this, with the community and the co-working. We may build other programs that set aside locations like Betamore. And then we have a great partnership that we just did with Comcast so all of our content here is easily filmed and recorded and we can make it all available on demand. So there are a lot of different ways that we can extend the message outside of these four walls. We want to make sure we provide the connective tissue of the entire ecosystem and so we have got a lot of great stuff coming in around that.
Q. As an organization centered on growing new businesses and entrepreneurs, you must have unique insight into what’s up and coming in our region. What’s next for Baltimore?
When I think of what we have going for us in Baltimore, I am really excited because Hopkins is waking up and they are going to go and create a capability within their organization to launch companies. UNBC are already doing it—look at their cybersecurity work. There’s the University of Maryland in health care. Teach for America. Venture for America. Baltimore Core. This talent which is here, more capital coming into the region—all we need is a big mixer that just accelerates the contact and interactions between all the different stakeholders. This thing is going to combust and take off. The role of Betamore is simply to accelerate the interactions between all the raw materials—to let the LEGOs get formed into a great company. I think we are at the beginning of something which is going to be an extraordinary period of growth for our city and region.