Some of the largest tech companies in the country met with a variety of Maryland entrepreneurs on Monday to answer questions about how their technology can help startups at the inaugural Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO) Tech Fair.
Representatives from Microsoft, Google, PayPal, TikTok, Meta, Amazon, Ebay and Square all showcased how their companies could help small businesses and startups. The event in College Park gave many startups the chance to spruce up their understanding of how to use social media as a tool to promote their business or to ensure the safety of data stored in the cloud. TEDCO CEO Troy LeMaile-Stovall said the festival was an opportunity for small businesses to get close access to large companies that can often be difficult to reach.
For Baltimore sports betting startup SharpRank, that access offered an chance to better understand how to use Microsoft technology to exchange data with sportsbooks and media platforms, while ensuring their customer’s personal information remains anonymous.
“I’m a big believer in putting a face to a name, so when we do call them, they know who is calling,” said founder Christopher Adams, who in the process of raising a $2.5 million seed round.
Lloyd Emokpae, the founder of Baltimore remote patient monitoring company LASARRUS, attended the festival in part to learn about opportunities to use his technology in a different way. For example, a smart glove that is used to monitor stroke patients could have useful intersections with virtual reality, which may interest a company like Meta, Emokpae said.
Other more non-traditional tech companies also sought out the knowledge and connections at the event. Shawn Parker, co-founder of Connie’s Chicken & Waffles, a soul food restaurant with several locations in Baltimore and Delaware, pointed to a variety of technologies, such as Zoom, that he relies on to run his business. Parker’s restaurant has even built its own in-house application to help manage employees schedules and work tasks in order to minimize meetings and ensure Connie’s Chicken & Waffles operates efficiently.
“Technology is really the basis of everything nowadays. It speeds things up, and it makes things more efficient,” Parker said. “We knew that in the restaurant industry there are a lot of inefficiencies and we want to try to overcome some of them so we wouldn’t run ourselves ragged.”
Along with TEDCO representatives, U.S. Sen Ben Cardin and John F. Fleming, Mid-Atlantic regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, attended and spoke at the event. Cardin noted that technology created by small businesses is especially important for the defense sector. The Democratic senator also pointed to how many businesses not in the traditional tech sectors, such as retail, need to rely on technology.
Fleming spoke about the massive expansion of the SBA’s support for businesses during the pandemic. Normally the SBA conducts 80,000 transactions a year, over the past two years, the agency has conducted around 8 million transactions a year.
The event is part of TEDCO’s overall mission to support local technology companies through creating connections across different technology sectors, said LeMaile-Stovall, TEDCO’s CEO.
“This is about ecosystem building,” he said. “And if you really understand what an ecosystem is about, it’s about that no one of us can do it alone, that we all need one another.”