Mar 9, 2020

A Visualization of Baltimore’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

A colorful walk through the resources for startups and small businesses in Baltimore

Here at EcoMap, we have an abnormal love for entrepreneurial ecosystems and the data behind them. EcoMap collects a ton of data about the resources for entrepreneurs in Baltimore, and while our database is full of insights, it can be hard to distill big takeaways from a bunch of numbers. That’s why we decided to break down the data into some colorful graphics to help you better understand what’s going on in Baltimore’s entrepreneurship scene.

For this set of visualizations, we’re looking specifically at the Venture Resources for Startups and Small Businesses in Baltimore. This means all Accelerators, Incubators, Funding Programs, Coworking, Makerspaces, and Mentorship programs targeted towards both high-growth startups and more traditional small businesses ventures within the city.

Excluded from this analysis are all resources related to nonprofits, since our dataset for nonprofit resources won’t be complete for a few more months. Additionally, Events are excluded due to their transient nature, and the “Other” category is only included in some visualizations, since its broad nature makes it hard to distill meaning from it.

All data is pulled from the public EcoMap database, which you can access here. However, before we do visualizations, we make some small changes to the data to extract better insights. We are big believers in transparency, so for more information on our data, see the bottom of this post.

General Breakdown of Resources in Baltimore

First, let’s take a look at the categorical breakdown of resources in the city:

There are around 350 discrete resources in the city for small business and startup entrepreneurs (excluding events). Of these:

  • ~11 are Accelerator programs, 3% of all resources
  • ~13 are Makerspaces, 3.7% of all resources
  • ~37 are Mentorship programs, 10.5% of all resources
  • ~40 are Coworking spaces, 11% of all resources
  • ~58 are Incubation programs, 16.5% of all resources
  • ~59 are Other, 16.8% of all resources, including everything from tech meetups to tax credits to startup publications
  • ~124 are Funding sources, 35% of all resources

Funding programs make up an outsized portion of all resources, mostly because Funding is a very broad category. Around 35% of funding programs are equity-based, 25% are loan-based, 25% are grant-based and 15% have either multiple options or are unspecified. We’ll be doing a more extensive write-up about Baltimore’s funding resources in the coming months.

Small Business vs Startup Resources

Now, let’s look at the resource distribution between small businesses and startups. Here’s how we broke down the categories:

  • Startups refer to high-growth companies. Think of a company that Venture Capitalists would invest in
  • Small Businesses refer to more traditional business models, including anything from restaurants to accounting agencies to construction firms
  • Startups, Small Business refer to resources that serve both types of venture
  • Any refers to resources that serve both types, includes nonprofits & any resources that did not specify a venture type

Now that we have this basic distribution established, we can explore in more detail how the resources categories are split between startups and small businesses. There are two ways to visualize this breakdown:

1In the first model, we’re looking at the different categories of resources and how they are distributed between Startups and Small Businesses, with the main sorting mechanism being the type of resource

Some category breakdowns make sense, like the distribution of funding and incubator programs between startups and small businesses, or the fact that makerspaces don’t care what type of venture you are. But others seem odd, such as coworking spaces that discriminate between startups and small businesses, or accelerators that accept any type of venture.

While there’s a lot of small reasons why the data works out this way, a big culprit is our universities. Universities provide nearly 1/3 of all resources in the city, and university resources tend to be either highly specific, like coworking/lab spaces for only high-growth biotech startups, or overly general, like accelerators for students that accept any type of venture.

2Here’s another way to visualize the same data. This model looks at the distribution of resources categorized by venture type. This visualization makes it harder to compare resource breakdown between startups and small businesses; however, this model is perfect for understanding the breakdown of resources categories for specific types of ventures.

For example, we can see that the biggest resource category for both startups and small businesses is Funding. However, startups have a more equal distribution of other resources, like Incubators and Mentorship programs, while small businesses have some categories with very few resources, like Coworking spaces and Accelerators (the unlabeled boxes in the bottom right, which represent 1 resource each).

Having established what type of ventures the Resources in Baltimore serve, we can now turn our attention to the industry focus of our resources.

Industry Breakdown of Baltimore Resources

We’ll start this section off by saying that industry analysis is an imperfect science, to say the least. One reason for this is that many resources don’t specify an industry focus on their website, even if internally, they have one. Other resources genuinely serve all industries, which is especially true for university & student-focused resources, makerspaces, and mentorship programs.

Another reason is that some resources specify their industry focus with “We cater to companies in cybersecurity, healthcare, biotechnology, defense, finance, education, and the arts that use a technology-based approach.” For any resources that list more than four non-overlapping industry categories, we counted them as “Any.”

There’s an argument to be made for double-counting them instead, as +1 for each industry listed. This is an equally valid approach, just not the one we took in this visualization. We’re working with our software to get a visualization that double-counts, and we may update this post if that visualization is substantially different from the one we have here.

Here’s another way to look at this same data set:

Here are the big industry categories and those that are not self-explanatory:

  • Any → resources that do not specify an industry focus publicly (majority of category) and those that specify 4+ non-overlapping industry (small minority of category)
  • Technology → resources that have no primary industry focus beyond “technology driven”
  • Life Sciences → includes healthcare, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, Health IT/Bioinformatics, biology, medical devices, and agriculture/ marine sciences
  • Social Impact → includes tags such as Community/Workforce, Development, and Environmental/Sustainable/Green/Clean
  • Arts and Culture → includes film, media, journalism, photography, and other creative tags
  • Cybersecurity → Includes cyber, technology infrastructure

The result for cybersecurity shocked us, since Baltimore and Maryland are known to be Cyber hubs. At first we thought that maybe Cyber was getting the short end of our categorization approach — perhaps life-sciences sucked up some resources that also focused on cyber. However, we referenced the raw data, and there are truly just few resources that are explicitly tagged “Cybersecurity.” This definitely warrants further investigation.

Industry Breakdown by Resource Type

We won’t belabor these graphs too much, as they are pretty straightforward. Some interesting things to note:

  • The wide industry spread for Incubators is a sign that we have diverse resources for ventures at early stages
  • Baltimore has few Accelerators, (and only 5 of them meet the criteria of what most people consider a proper accelerator)
  • For an area known for Life Sciences, there are relatively few LifeSci-only funding programs

Geographic Distribution of Resources and Providers

Finally, we wanted to take a look at the geographic location of both Resources and Resource Providers in Baltimore. Interactive versions of these maps can be viewed on our site.

An important thing to note is that GoogleMyMaps doesn’t show multiple resources located at the same address, which is the case for many of our resources. If you go to the interactive map, you can select which resources you want to visualize, which reveals more (but not all) of the points. Here is the geographic breakdown by Resource category:

Here are the locations of the Resource Providers, the organizations that provide the Resources in the city, categorized by the type of provider:

If this looks familiar, it’s because there is substantial overlap between the location of Resource Providers (their main offices) and the Resources they provide. This overlap can be visualized in the GIF below, which transitions from Resource Provider locations to Resource locations (Resources have red pins while Providers are mostly yellow)

Key Takeaways

This data analysis and visualization only looked at the Venture Type focus, Industry, and Locational breakdown of resources for startups and small businesses in and around Baltimore. In the future, we plan to do similar analyses on Resource Stage focus, Resources/Providers for nonprofits, and specific analyses on each type of Resource.

Here are the key conclusions that we took away from this analysis:

  • Baltimore has a wide variety of Resources for startup and small business entrepreneurs, with a disproportionate number of funding programs
  • In general, there are nearly twice as many Resources that focus on startups than those that focus on small business. However, many Resources also cater to both types of ventures simultaneously
  • The majority of resources cater to ventures in any or multiple industries. Despite Baltimore having very strong Life Science and Cyber scenes, there are proportionately little resources that focus just on those industries
  • Incubators are the most wide-spread resource, both geographically and in terms of industry. This is promising as incubators tend to cater to our earliest stage ventures
  • The majority of resources are provided at the same location as their resource provider. This wouldn’t be too troublesome, if it wasn’t for the fact that….
  • The vast majority of Resources and Resource Providers fall within Baltimore’s infamous “White-L,” indicating that the majority of residents in the lower-income, predominately African-American “wings” of the city are not being adequately served by our current resources

These are some big takeaways, all of which warrant further investigation. If there is any topic mentioned here that you would like us to explore, or if you are a subject-matter expert in any related area, please message us!


We hope that you enjoyed this visual walk through Baltimore’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as much as we enjoyed creating it. At EcoMap, we believe that having the right data allows us to create stronger, more equitable, and more resilient entrepreneurial communities, ultimately leading to greater economic growth and social outcomes in our city.

We are a young company, but we are only getting started. This is just the first in a series of many analyses that we hope to perform — follow us to stay up to date with everything related to Baltimore’s innovation community. Also, if you enjoyed this article, please clap for it! (Did you know you can clap up to 50 times?)

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