New businesses face daunting challenges before and after they launch. Just navigating the path to launch can be overwhelming.
Montgomery County, Maryland, aims to make that journey less challenging through its Business Center, which includes three innovation centers — in Germantown, Rockville and Silver Spring. These incubators help businesses achieve a soft landing in the county. The Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) works in partnership with the Business Center and the incubators to help companies launch and gain access to the resources they need.
Each incubator in the Business Innovation Network has specific industries that it focuses on, but the incubators can accept any business when it makes sense for the business and the county:
- The Germantown Innovation Center specializes in life science companies. It features wet lab space, offices, shared equipment and a partnership with Montgomery College’s state-of-the-art biotech facilities.
- The Rockville Innovation Center supports medical technology, cyber, health IT and life science companies. In the heart of Rockville Town Square’s VisArts Center, near the Rockville Metrorail stop, it features a large coworking space for startups.
- The Silver Spring Innovation Center emphasis is on health care information technology and cybersecurity. It provides a setting with an industrial feel for health IT and cyber companies and offers unique support for minority-, female- and disabled-owned businesses.
All three incubators provide space on a flexible basis without long-term lease obligations. They also offer free education opportunities for companies as they establish themselves and a support system that includes seminars and training sessions for client companies, referrals to relevant business growth resources, CEO roundtables and networking events. The county’s incubators are also part of the Maryland Department of Commerce’s Global Gateway Program, which supports soft landing activities for international companies setting up a U.S. headquarters or East Coast location in Montgomery County.
To learn about the incubator program up close, WTOP spoke with three entrepreneurs about their companies’ use of the innovation network as a launchpad for their startups in Montgomery County.
How incubators act as business hubs
For Deka Biosciences, the Germantown incubator proved profoundly instrumental in starting the company, which designs and develops new immunotherapy treatments for patients with cancer and autoimmune diseases, said John Mumm, president and CEO. Deka Biosciences therapies focus on each individual’s molecules to stimulate the immune system to destroy tumors.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without them. They have completely enabled us to grow faster than I’ve ever grown a company before,” Mumm said of the Business Innovation Network.
Tracy Rausch, founder and chief innovation officer of DocBox, expressed a similar view. The Silver Spring incubator “has given us a home in Montgomery County to be able to have better and closer interactions with the various government agencies and our sponsors,” she said.
Rausch described DocBox as a digital health business that can help doctors and nurses improve decisions in intensive care units by making health data available at the point of patient care.
Working with the team at the Rockville incubator, Mario Urdaneta, founder and CEO of Micro Recycling Systems, learned about new capital funding sources that he hadn’t considered. That led to a micro-grant for purchasing scientific equipment.
“When you are developing and enabling technologies, you are asking your stakeholders, your future customers, your financiers, to think of, to dream of a future that currently doesn’t exist,” Urdaneta said. “I have found a stark difference in the reaction from people when I tell them that I’m part of a Montgomery County incubator. It’s as if suddenly they are open to what I have to say.”
Micro Recycling Systems is developing innovative technologies and next-generation recycling machinery that he described as 100 times smaller in size and price than current options. “The goal is to enable the capture of vast amounts of plastic that is currently without a path to recycling,” Urdaneta said.
How incubators deliver tangible results
There a real bottom line value in launching a new business from a country incubator, said Mumm, who has experience starting companies in both Boston and the San Francisco Bay area.
In particular, he talked about the “triple net” benefit of working from an incubator when it comes to space: real estate taxes, building insurance and maintenance.
“If you have never started a company before, you really don’t understand that having facilities ready to go, having the lights on, having a backup generator, having a freight elevator — all these things that all of the incubators have in place, if I were to try and build that the price point just to get into a space would be a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” Mumm said. “That’s a couple of hundred thousand dollars that I would much rather spend doing research or hiring people or something that.”
Plus, Montgomery County offers an environment that’s second to none in the country to help entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses.
Rausch pointed to the region’s “population base of human capital to be able to hire. And in some areas, that’s actually a tough find.” Then, there’s also the world-class universities and research communities, along with access to federal government agencies. “Everything’s at your fingertips to be able to be part of the process,” she said.
Location matters to all three entrepreneurs, with each one citing the proximity to government agencies as beneficial, particularly the Food and Drug Administration in the case of Deka Biosciences and DocBox. Rausch also said she works closely with the Army. And Urdaneta said he has benefited from being close to the National Institutes of Health and to Defense Department facilities in the region.
MCEDC works in partnership with organizations like Montgomery County’s Business Center and its incubators to help businesses start and grow in the county. MCEDC connects businesses to top talent, partnerships, resources and incentives. As one of the most diverse counties in the country, Montgomery County is a welcoming place for business growth.
Be next for success in Montgomery County, Maryland. To learn more about the Business Innovation Network and launching a startup in Montgomery County, connect with @BINMCMD and the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation @thinkmoco.com, or visit montgomerycountymd.gov/business and thinkmoco.com.