Today, Baltimore entrepreneurship ecosystem leaders Innovation Works and Squadra Ventures announce their partnership to collaborate on the development of community-based mentorship and advisory network programs to support entrepreneurs in Baltimore and beyond.
With a shared vision to advance the entrepreneurial community in Baltimore and increase its effects beyond the region, the organizations believe that leveraging shared resources and leadership knowledge will accelerate the development of programs that impact entrepreneurs from day one.
“If we bring together the people that care about the city, those who share a common interest and strive for a better Baltimore, we are able to achieve our goals faster and with more impact than when we stand alone,” said Jay Nwachu, President and CEO of Innovation Works. “We realized we were both putting massive effort into building an executive mentor network, and that we could learn so much and move so much faster by working together. Baltimore has a tendency to compete with itself, so we see this as an opportunity to build a better, smarter, more focused mentor network that understands and speaks to the needs of the city.”
Innovation Works is a collaborative resource network that connects neighborhoods, entrepreneurs, social innovation assets, and investors to build sustainable neighborhood economies in Baltimore. They work with social entrepreneurs from idea to scale.
Squadra Ventures is a venture capital firm led by founder-operators that invests in early-stage cyber and national security companies. With their headquarters in Baltimore City, they work to apply significant resources beyond the check, working hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs to win and leave a lasting positive impact on the world.
Innovation Works’ focus on social enterprises has always prioritized supporting entrepreneurs rooted in Baltimore’s communities. In order for entrepreneurs to thrive, they need a community of advice, mentors and peers to surround them as the scaffolding to their journey.
IW launched the Mentor Network in the Fall of 2018, modeled after the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, before accepting social enterprises into its pipeline in Spring 2019. The goal was to first ensure that Executive Mentors would be ready to serve as key assets for Innovation Works supported enterprises before launching programming. IW launched with roughly 40 mentors and has since grown to over 80 mentors in its network spanning expertise in social impact modeling, business fundamentals, legal, finance, go-to-market strategy, and manufacturability.
Meanwhile, in the fall of 2020, Squadra launched the Squadra Operators Network. The program was designed to connect experienced executives, founders, and investors that have built, led, grown, or run companies with team members at our portfolio companies in a mentor advisory capacity. To date, this network has over 40 leaders serving as operators to team members at every level across the Squadra portfolio of companies. The program has resulted in business wins, employee promotions, improved retention, and key performance achievements.
After a key conversation this spring between Squadra’s Managing Partner, Guy Fillippeli, and Innovation Works’ Founder, Frank Knott, the team recognized the opportunity to collaborate on these key initiatives.
“While our investment thesis is not regionally bound, we recognize that Baltimore is our hometown, our headquarters, and our community. Our success will be intertwined with Baltimore’s and with the state of Maryland,” said Guy Filippelli, Managing Partner at Squadra Ventures. “We aim to do everything that we can to be great citizens of this ecosystem and serve as a model for the cumulative power and outsized impact of shared effort and true collaboration.”
Through this partnership, Squadra Ventures will partner with IW’s recently launched Innovation Works Mentor Advisory Board to jointly improve mentor to entrepreneur relationships and deliver new mentor training, development, and engagement programs that serve their shared community of entrepreneurs. Margaret Roth, Squadra’s Chief Operating Officer has been an executive mentor for IW and serves on the Innovation Works Advisory Board.
The partnership’s first event — Fail Fest — will be held during Baltimore Innovation Week on Monday, October 3, 2022 from 2:50 – 5:00PM at the ETC located at 101 N. Haven Street in Baltimore City. Fail Fest will bring 10 innovators to the stage to tell the story of a time they massively failed and what they learned from it. Registration is open at — https://2022.baltimoreinnovationweek.com/session/failfest.