Baltimore City and the Cyber Corridor

Ellen Hemmerly, Executive Director of bwtech@UMBC, has offered a compelling vision of Baltimore’s Cyber Security future in this recent Baltimore Sun Op-Ed.  In the headline she asks, “Could Baltimore be the next Cyber Security hub?”

I’d like to re-frame the question slightly.  I am already (loudly, repetitively) on record that the Cyber Corridor is already the the next Cyber Security hub.  Let’s be clear how substantial a statement this is.  I mean globally.  And for generations.  My vision and expectation for the Cyber Corridor is that in 5 years, there are only two regions where you would relocate to build and grow your Cyber Security company: Silicon Valley and the Cyber Corridor.  Other regions will spawn new companies, sure.  Most notably Boston, Atlanta, Austin, Seattle, London, Eastern Europe, Buenos Aries and Sydney.  But when you consider moving somewhere to start your company, moving somewhere to scale your company, or opening your first office beyond your headquarters, only Silicon Valley and the Cyber Corridor will be on your radar screen.

The Cyber Corridor — stretching from Belcamp, MD to Dulles, VA, more or less — has at least as much technical talent in cyber as the San Francisco Bay Area.  There is plenty of capital, even if not enough of it is unleashed in productive ways on our start-ups.  And there is a growing entrepreneurial drive.  The main lagging assets are repeat entrepreneurs, repeat CEOs with exits, experienced and connected angel & seed investors, and product management expertise.  The Cyber Corridor is turning the corner on all of these — to be explored in future posts.

What does this mean for Baltimore City?  In my opinion it means not worrying about building a cyber hub.  It means instead identifying and leveraging Baltimore City’s unique assets within this regional economy.

In short, Baltimore City is the affordable urban living environment within the Cyber Corridor.

Large swaths of the workforce that drive the cyber industry forward are young workers; single or coupled, either with no children or very young children.  I’m writing this post from The Daily Grind in Fells Point. This is precisely the kind of neighborhood this demographic craves.  So too with Canton, Federal Hill, Charles Village, Hampden, Mt. Washington.  Tech workers who live in Georgetown, Soho, or San Francisco’s South of Market would be perfectly comfortable here on about half the rent.

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Baltimore already has at least its fair share of headquarters of Cyber Corridor companies.  ZeroFOX ($27m Series B) and Red Owl ($17m Series B) are in the same building in Federal Hill, just blocks away from Inner Loop portfolio company Terbium Labs.  Spark Baltimore houses three cyber companies in its co-working space in Power Plant Live! just across from CyberPoint International.  And just outside the city limits, bwtech@UMBC hosts 41 cyber security start-ups!

I predict that in coming years regional giants like Tenable, FireEye’s Mandiant, Cisco’s Sourcefire, Booz Allen, Raytheon, Symantec, and others will open branch offices in Baltimore.  Probably in Federal Hill, Fell’s Point and Canton, maybe at Kevin Plank’s Port Covington or elsewhere.

As I’ve stressed before, Baltimore is part of the larger DC-Maryland-Virginia economic region.  A region that is on the cusp of a permanent, globally-important cyber security boom.  Baltimore has more than its share of unique assets to benefit from this boom, and is well on its way to capitalizing on those.  I see a great things in Baltimore’s cyber future.

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Baltimore City and the Cyber Corridor

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