Business and civic change can go hand-in-hand. To solve some of the city’s most pressing challenges, they’re probably going to need to.
This ethos was on display as the five entrepreneurs who were part of the 2020 class of ETC’s AccelerateBaltimore accelerator program pitched virtually on Wednesday night.
Led by John Davis through 13 weeks, the program brought a mix of curriculum from both entrepreneurial experts and PitchCreator, mentorship from a collection of local entrepreneurial leaders, and funding of $50,000 courtesy of the Abell Foundation. At demo day, they got a chance to showcase what they’re building.
Here’s a breakdown, with links to videos of each pitch:
The founders: Angel St. John and Rob Drayton
The problem: Companies have a role to play in creating equity, but there’s a disconnect. St. Jean explained how, in a former role, company leaders tried to fire her for raising issues about how Black people were being treated during a company diversity, equity, and inclusion training.
The solution: An equity in action score, which puts data behind a company’s work on equity and creates a clear bar to reach. It’s based on over 100 metrics and feedback.
Quotable: “Equity requires diversity, inclusion and good governance, but those alone have not and cannot create the equitable world that we’re all seeking,” St. Jean said
The founder: Nneka N’namdi
The problem: Baltimore has 80,000 to 90,000 abandoned properties, most of which are concentrated in Black neighborhoods as a result of decades of racist policies. This affects health outcomes, including higher asthma rates, and lower life expectancy. And the data to track info on these properties is disjointed.
The solution: An analytics tool that combines crowdsourced data with municipal and other property data. It’ll be offered as a subscription-based service to answer questions like, which houses should be developed first? Where are concentrations of evictions happening? And who owns the property?
Quotable: Speaking of maps that showed concentrations of COVID-19, Nnamdi said, “it’s no surprise that the most blighted neighborhoods are those most impacted by a virus that literally takes your breath away.”
The founder: Muhummad Najee-ullah
The problem: There’s a coming shortage of tech workers to fill the multiplying roles that will be open over the next decade. “If we see our young people as trainable, viable candidates, then the question is how do we get our young people to be that talent?” Najee-ullah said.
The solution: Provide an onramp to STEAM activities with academies and pop-up events that offer exposure to technology like robotics, drones, 3D printing, and augmented and virtual reality. Plus, 21st-century skills like communication, creativity and critical thinking.
Quotable: “I’ve witnessed fun turn to felonies quick when kids don’t have consistent activities to fall in love with,” said Najee-ullah, who is from Baltimore.