The program was established in partnership with Montgomery County, but belongs uniquely to the Maryland Tech Council.
VMS, now two years into operation, answers two vital questions for the Maryland technology and life sciences ecosystem: 1) how do early stage entrepreneurs with potentially disruptive technology and lifesaving cures or equipment get from concept to scalable operations? And, 2) how does Maryland enhance the eco-system around these young companies and leaders to develop and support future growth? Maryland is an excellent incubator with federal, state, local and university level support for the very earliest stage commercialization efforts. And VC’s have taken successful Maryland start-ups with all the right components into mass production, marketing, IPO’s and lucrative exits. But to get from the first to the end stages in Maryland has been difficult with a gap in support; both financially and educationally for the entrepreneurs in this start-up period.
VMS is a program based on the well-established and highly successful MIT Venture Mentor Services Program. Five Maryland business community leaders were trained in team mentoring at MIT and lead the development and delivery of this program in Maryland. Our partner, The Montgomery County Economic Development Commission, has funded the initial investment and a year-long pilot program. They continue to fund operations in Montgomery County. The program offers services Maryland-wide and expects to continue its organic growth in Baltimore and the metropolitan Washington area as well as on Montgomery County.
VMS provides free mentoring services in a unique team approach to selected young company CEOs. Mentors are carefully selected successful entrepreneurs in their own right and specialists in key business services that young companies need. They are specially trained to teach through asking questions and to provide perspective that leads the entrepreneur company leaders to achieve their own goals and to do their own work. Mentors meet regularly to select the mentee companies, analyze issues and trends and, in general, form connective tissue within the community for shared experiences and a growing eco-system. The mentee companies must be connected in some way to Maryland and must have a technology or life science related product or service with more than a proof of concept – in other words some revenue stream from their product or service offering and at least one full time employee. These are the companies in the Maryland “gap” – beyond early stage commercialization government support but not strong enough to attract the attention of VCs.
Entrepreneurs and their mentee companies are accepted into the program without a termination point. As the companies evolve, the teams evolve to address the pragmatic growth issues facing the companies. Success is not measured by graduation, but rather in terms of growth for the companies and the community. In these first two years of operation, the program has grown to 25 companies, 60 trained mentors; and seed capital raises of $5.6M. Each company has its’ own metrics for success as well. VMS continues its expansion and welcomes expressions of interest in this intentionally elite but growing network of technology and life science companies and entrepreneurs.