By Beverly Richards
Special to the AFRO
In a “normal” year, the racial wealth divide in Black communities across the country consists of a profound and deep chasm. COVID-19 and the nowhere-near-normal 2020 categorically illuminated the health, economic and entrepreneurship inequities and disparities that plague Black communities. So much so, conversations about Black wealth and business ownership have increased among organizations like TEDCO (Maryland Technology Development Corporation). “Two things,” said TEDCO CEO and Executive Director Troy A. LeMaile-Stovall; “first, we want to focus not so much on wealth creation but wealth expansion and inclusion. We must be intentional. And that leads to the second, being intentional in ensuring diversity amongst the c-level/early hires of our TEDCO firms.”
TEDCO was established in 1998 by the Maryland General Assembly to assist with funding and to serve as a resource for burgeoning technology-based businesses. The organization’s core five values — accountability, collaboration, integrity, respect and stewardship — are a benchmark for how they manage relationships. “More explicitly, we will do the right thing and have internal and external measures demonstrating that commitment. We are a collection of talented individuals that meet our own and Maryland’s goals by doing it together internally and externally. We will lean to the truth even when it is uncomfortable or unflattering. We see and value others and their roles before our own; and we will use our valuable resources to align to TEDCO’s and Maryland’s goals,” LeMaile-Stovall explained.
One of the biggest roadblocks to hopeful Black business owners launching their dream is access to capital. However, for nearly 23 years, TEDCO has filled that void. It has been the state’s leading source of funding and resources for early-stage, technology-based businesses. TEDCO offers several funding opportunities, such as the Maryland Innovation Initiative Fund, which funds up to $265,000, and the Seed Fund, another financing option for technology start-ups.
The organization has been instrumental in providing “a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state through its various programs and funds,” thereby helping to create thriving Maryland businesses. “A successful company for TEDCO can be described in two ways: 1) a 12-15 person firm that leverages technology to differentiates its offering, pays great wages and is growing; and 2) becomes a multi-million or billion dollar entity that is bought by a larger entity (maybe outside of Maryland) or is traded on a stock exchange,” said LeMaile-Stovall.
TEDCO has a dedicated team of professional mentors guiding hopeful entrepreneurs to success. In addition to resources and funding, there is advice. “I enjoy etymology, the evolution of words. People commonly use the word “hope” to express a wish, desire, or something they dream of,” LeMaile-Stovall said. “However, if we look at the Indo-European root of the word “hope” and at the Hebrew and Greek equivalents of the word “hope,” we get a somewhat different understanding of the word than how it is used in common parlance. Putting them together, yields a meaning of the word “hope” as a confident expectation that a desirable change is likely to happen. A Black entrepreneur must remain confident that change is likely to happen.”