The Greater Baltimore Technology Council (GBTC) recently announced that I've started working with them as a volunteer "Entrepreneur-in-Residence". I've been good-naturedly teased about it a bit and had a few people ask me, "so what does that mean"? Many of my friends don't know what the GBTC is or why it's here. Here's my quick explanation.
The GBTC is a nonprofit with a mission to help grow the technology sector here in Maryland. If you've been reading my blog for a while you know what a big deal that is to me. I love living here and I love building software, so anything that helps grow the tech sector is near and dear to my heart. The GBTC was the first organization to sponsor Ignite Baltimore, helping to get the word out for that first event, and they have been a sponsor ever since.
Since the group was founded in the late 90's the tech sector has changed. Today almost every company is a tech company, and many technology practitioners no longer work for companies at all. More people are in business for themselves. More projects get accomplished via the "Hollywood model" of federated teams of independent contractors coming together for a fixed amount of time. Infrastructure costs have dropped rapidly, making information technology in particular far more affordable - practically free in some cases.
The GBTC leadership is making bold plans to modernize the organization to keep pace with these changes; in fact they are poised to put the GBTC on the cutting edge of these changes, making it a dynamic organization relevant to everyone in the tech game: freelancers, entrepreneurs, small companies, big companies, local governments, education institutions, even other nonprofits.
It's early days for this transformation, but they've already taken a very bold step: they are hiring an Innovation Community Manager, an idea I've been advocating for awhile. That person's main job will be to support the grass-roots tech organization efforts that many of us have been pursuing for years. I can't think of a more effective way for the GBTC to advance its mission.
My job as EIR at GBTC is to help craft this transformation plan in a way that helps my fellow-entrepreneurs. My fellows include many more constituencies than simply other Internet startup people: we want the new GBTC to help everyone in the area who's trying to start something innovative. You might be working in a big company or at a struggling nonprofit, or in an established small business and looking to grow. Whatever the key ingredients for your continued success are, we want to help provide them. My role to that end will include advocacy and writing (like this blog post), attending staff meetings, giving feedback to different ideas, and generally just lending a hand to all of the GBTC's activities.
I don't want to steal any more thunder from the cool stuff they're working on, but I do want to say as an entrepreneur it's a great learning experience for me as I watch the GBTC board and CEO Sharon Webb make a big transformation in an institution like this. It's like they are founding the group all over again while it's still operating. There are lots of stakeholders, a heritage to preserve, and uncertainty about which choices to make to ensure future success. Very similar to the sort of environment I'm in with my own venture!