I'm a little late to write about this, but it's taken awhile to get my thoughts together. I'm so crazy busy with Staq right now that I'm going to write fast.
Last month we learned that gb.tc, one of my favorite Baltimore institutions, is going "on hiatus". This news filled-me with sadness and I don't want the event to go by without remarking on it. gb.tc brought a lot of vitality to the city. It felt like a uniquely Baltimore institution, something that other cities would eventually import from us. I can't think of another institution that cares about helping Baltimore develop innovative industries and people. There are plenty of foundations and non-profits around town that could argue with that statement, I suppose, but my answer to all of them would be: "yes, what you're doing is important, but you're only focused on this one small piece of the puzzle", or "you are too slow-moving and focused on top-down solutions to ever make much of an impact". That, to me, was the special competency of the gb.tc - harnessing the grassroots/bottom-up energy of technologists and helping organizing it into a force for good in the city.
The general sense I get from my peers is "the tech community is self-organizing, so we didn't really need what those guys were doing" which I think is flat-out, dead wrong. It's true that Baltimore has many interesting, vibrant events, they're for the most part labors of love done by people who have other priorities besides making the city great, and they depend on the force of personality of a small group of hard-working volunteers. There still ought to be a team of people committed to growing these events and ensuring we don't lose momentum (something I called for back in 2011). For example, I helped run the first (and so far, only) RailsGirls event in Baltimore. I think we need to be doing 2 or 3 of those per year, given how long the waiting list for that event was...I just don't have the bandwidth to do it. Who is going to pick up that mantle? (Fortunately, Girl Develop It has come to Baltimore, but look at all the time that went by between RailsGirls and Girl Develop It).
gb.tc also developed deep relationships with different parts of the city - no one else was trying to connect the more entrepreneurial part of the tech community with the public sector, as exemplified by "Hack for Change Baltimore" which had strong city support. The city would not be trying to support more hackathons this year if not for gb.tc's efforts. They've also provided free startup mentoring, the "Baltimore Weekly" podcast, amazing "Tech Crawls", and many other valuable services.
I'm not sure if I'm making sense here. Maybe go read that Innovation Community Manager post I wrote in 2011 to get a sense of what we've lost.
It sounds like Betamore is going to try to provide a soft-landing for gb.tc. I feel skeptical of the idea but I really want it to succeed - I just think there's an inevitable mismatch between the mission of a for-profit company (even a mission-driven company like Betamore) and the social-good mission of the gb.tc.
Thank you to Jason Hardebeck, Andrew Hazlett, and Sharon Paley for all of their hard work over the past few years (along with all of the other people who built gb.tc into what it was before their tenure). Your efforts made Baltimore a better place to do creative things, and we're poorer without you.