Saturday, March 12, 2011

Does your city have an innovation community?

I've been searching for a term that to describe all the cool things happening in Baltimore and like cities: something to serve as a shorthand for the energy fueling our projects and the network of smart people making new contributions to city politics, society, culture, business, and technology.

Such a term should include our vibrant tech events and our startup scene as well artistic endeavors like High Zero, Single Carrot Theater, and the Baltimore Love Project. It should also cover exciting, relatively new businesses that are not really startups anymore, large and small, like Figure53 and Millenial Media. It should describe nonprofit and social entrepreneurial initiatives like Techies 4 Good and BmoreSmart. It should call to mind people like J. Buck JabailyAmy Hurst, Matt PorterfieldBen Walsh, and Felicia Pride.

During a recent conversation, Newt Fowler, an attorney who advises a lot of entrepreneurs in this town, recently coined the perfect term: all of the above entities are examples of Baltimore's innovation community.

I know it's a trendy word but it feels very accurate and very apt.  I've been trying it out on people all week and everyone lights up when I say it. So that's what I'm going with: Baltimore has a burgeoning innovation community. How can we take it to the next level? I'm personally interested in seeing more innovation community members use the skills they've learned building events and projects to build companies.  That's one of the main purposes of a new initiative I'm working on with Monica Beeman: Startup City (more details TBA).