The latest tenant at 101 N. Haven St.—the King Cork & Seal building which hosts an underground science lab, an art gallery and studio, a manufacturer of precious metal plating solutions, and other businesses—is Emerging Technology Centers, a nonprofit technology incubator that will be moving out of the Canton Can Company in October.
ETC, a venture of the Baltimore Development Corporation, was launched in 1999 to help small technology start-ups and entrepreneurs establish themselves in the tech world.
“At the time, it was sort of the dot-com boom, and everybody thought tech was the darling,” said Deb Tillett, President of ETC.
The company was founded with a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and city money, Tillett said.
“It was a brand-new thing,” she said. “Over the years, it has really grown and blossomed, and the successes have fed on themselves.”
Today, ETC receives a stipend from the city, but also “we earn our money through the programs and services we offer,” Tillett said.
A press release about the move to Highlandtown states that of 284 companies assisted by ETC over the years, 85 percent are still in business. All graduate companies have remained in Maryland, and 56 percent have stayed in Baltimore City.
Tillett said that while graduate companies have no obligations to stick around, “we show the advantages of doing business in the city.” Plus, companies who relocate to work with ETC become Baltimore City companies, Tillett said.
She likened the ETC incubator to triage in medicine: “It’s what the entrepreneur needs, when they need it,” she said of ETC’s services.
Tillett said that start-ups and entrepreneurs have told her over the years that they have two main needs when getting a business of the ground: “access to capital,” and “access in general.”
“What you’re interested in [as an entrepreneur] is like-minded people and access to touch points,” she said. Some of the advantages of working with ETC, she added, are “who we know and who we can put them in touch with…Plus our knowledge of the city and state funding that’s available.”
Companies that incubate at ETC have an average stay time of 26 months.
“After a point, they’re no longer in need of hand-holding and early startup services,” Tillett said.
Currently, ETC has a “prospect pipeline” of about 45 companies, TIllett said, which are companies that ETC continues to speak with and monitor.
ETC will rent the entire third floor of the King Cork & Seal building. Tillett praised David Seibert, owner and landlord of the building.
“He’s really into the neighborhood and revitalization,” she said. “He’s got a real commitment.”
ETC’s press release notes that the new location is close to Highlandtown’s Main Street and the arts and entertainment districts. The new location will house 31 in-house start-up companies.
In the release, Southeast Community Development Corporation Director Chris Ryer notes that the Highlandtown community is a perfect fit for ETC.
“Highlandtown is being ‘reinvented’ by a new generation of residents from all over the globe,” he said. “Its youth and diversity will be a great fit with the ETC.”
ETC also has a location at Johns Hopkins Eastern, 1101 E. 33rd St., which it will continue to utilize.
by Erik Zygmont