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Conscious Venture Lab brings accelerator to Baltimore

Conscious Venture Lab brings accelerator to Baltimore

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Jeff Cherry, founder and executive director of Conscious Venture Lab, will be working with 11 Baltimore-based companies during the Innovation Village’s first ‘Pitch the Village’ boot camp and pitch competition on Tuesday. The lab is also moving from Howard County to West Baltimore. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)
Jeff Cherry, founder and executive director of Conscious Venture Lab. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Conscious capitalism accelerator Conscious Venture Lab started its first cohort in Baltimore Monday, welcoming seven companies to the Innovation Campus at Baltimore City Community College.

The accelerator previously worked out of Howard County for its first two cohorts, but moved to the city because it better aligned with the accelerator’s goals, said founder and executive director Jeff Cherry.

“We moved because we really think in order to support entrepreneurship, we need to be in an urban environment,” Cherry said. “Our thoughts about the intersection between the evolution of business … sort of requires us to do more work in cities.”

That evolution of business requires focusing on stakeholders over shareholders, Cherry said. Those stakeholders can include employees, suppliers and the community.

To focus on that, the businesses in the Conscious Venture Lab will learn how to make those stakeholder calculations a part of the daily life of their businesses. Companies just out to make money are not a good fit for the accelerator, Cherry said.

“I don’t care if you are solving water-scarcity problems or making plastic forks,” he said. “If you are operating your business from a stakeholder mindset, you are going to be much more likely to create massive amounts of impact.”

The businesses starting the four-month cohort Monday included five from Baltimore, one from Virginia and one from California.

From Baltimore, The Baltimore Food Hub is a food-entrepreneurship incubator where food-related businesses can start out; The Cube is a membership-based co-working space for parents; Danae Prosthetics helps amputees create covers for their prosthetics; GridLion is a data analytics firm focused on helping businesses save energy and water; and Treason Toting Co. sells backpacks and tote bags.

Alexandria, Virginia, business Parkofon developed a parking management and enforcement device to help ease urban parking. California’s UJoin helps small and midsize groups run grassroots advocacy campaigns.

All of these businesses moved into the new Conscious Venture Lab space on the Baltimore City Community College Campus, where rooms of offices were renovated to create two large collaborative spaces for the cohort.

The cohort will also have access to Sagamore Ventures, a subsidiary of Kevin Plank’s private investment company, Plank Industries.

Sagamore will be providing funding to SHIFT Ventures Conscious Venture Fund, which funds the accelerator. But it will also be offering in-kind services to help the entrepreneurs, and Sagamore entrepreneur-in-residence Brian Le Gette will serve as a mentor for the accelerator’s companies.

“Those guys are really great at creating a sense of place,” Cherry said. “They’re obviously one of the best branding companies in the world, social media. So all of that talent that they have, we’re going to be tapping into.”

Other mentors for the cohort include Ahmjad Ashkar, founder and CEO of the Hult Prize Foundation; Tina Naser, a principal with Oliver Wyman; and Jacques Panis, president of Shinola.

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