A helping hand for Md. tech startups

Ann Lansinger helps fledgling firms learn to fly as executive director of Baltimore's Emerging Technology Center

August 09, 2004|By Elliot A. Wiley Jr. | Elliot A. Wiley Jr.,Special to Baltimoresun.com

Ann Lansinger is executive director of the Emerging Technology Center (ETC), a non-profit business incubator with headquarters in Canton that aids start-up technology-based companies. The ETC provides office space at subsidized rates, offers mentoring services and assists with other resources.

Lansinger has led the incubator since its inception in 1999. She was appointed by the Baltimore Development Corp.

Lansinger attended the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Continuing her relationship with UMBC, Lansinger took over as the school's incubator manager in 1989.

After leaving UMBC in 1997, Lansinger was self-employed as a private consultant for two years. She worked with a company in Prince Williams County, Virginia, on incubator feasibility. In addition, she worked as a marketing assistant for a small information technology company.

Aside from her work with the ETC, Lansinger is president of the Maryland Business Incubation Administration. She also is chief coordinator for the National Business Incubation Association.

In an interview, Lansinger discussed the ETC and its mission.

What is the ETC and its purpose?

The Emerging Technology Center is a technology business incubator, and its sole purpose is economic development and technology commercialization. We achieve that mission by working with either newly formed companies or with companies that have come to us that are developing a new technology product or service and have a desire for business services, business adviser services. From an economic development point of view, we're hoping to grow technology companies in the city.

As executive director of the ETC, what is your job?

I've got a couple of hats that I wear. Since we're running a facility, I have a landlord hat. We rent space, we provide shared administrative resources sort of thing. We provide a full menu of business services. My other hat is to direct a program of delivering customized mentoring services to each and every one of our tenants.

This means that we're going to help them with business planning, with market strategy, with product launch. We'll find assistance for them for legal issues, for revenue modeling, for any aspect of business that a company is likely to encounter. It's our contention that it would be difficult for any entrepreneur no matter how well prepared to start a business and have all the resources to bear or to know all the various aspects of business well enough personally.

So what we do is work with volunteer mentors in the city. We also have some in-staff expertise to sit down one-on-one with the entrepreneur, diagnose what their company's needs are and think through with them what they need to do in order to try to get to the next step of their company's growth more quickly and more effectively then they would have left on their own to find those resources.

Some of the people we work with that volunteer their time in the city are leading lawyers, accountants; we have people who do marketing for their business. We work with some academics and we work with serial entrepreneurs who have done this before. We also look to the universities. We can put them in touch with technology sources if they need consulting or they need partnering or they need to find interns or hire students. So there's virtually nothing we won't do to help a company get to the next step.

The ETC has three locations in Baltimore City. Is each location developed equally or is there an order of importance among the three sites?

There is no order of importance. [Canton], you'd call our administrative office. We just opened a new incubator over at the former Eastern High School, so that one's new. We still have a lot of space available for leasing there. The other one is the Bard Life Sciences Labs. That's at 600 East Lombard Street; it's a part of Baltimore City Community College. Now that one is one that we're planning to phase out within a year or so. And that's being done because I don't think the college is planning to keep that building for the long term and because the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins [University] are both building life sciences research parks.

Do you plan on opening up another center?

No, I plan to shut down the Bard Life Sciences Labs and work with the two organizations that are going to be providing facilities to startup companies to help them with their incubation needs.

In your opinion, by joining the incubation process, does a business acknowledge it cannot stand alone in its earlier stages? How long after the incubation process begins does a business reach a level where it can stand on its own?

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