Renee Winsky helped to shape TEDCO, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, in its formative years. As the organization continues their 25th anniversary celebration, Winsky recalls her time at the helm with pride.
“The marvel of TEDCO is it works both with innovators and entrepreneurs. It will make sure what’s being developed has the right business acumen behind it,” Winsky said.
Hired in December 1999 by TEDCO’s first executive director, Phil Singerman, Winsky was the first employee Singerman added as well as his deputy director until he left in December 2005. When Singerman left, Winsky served as interim president and executive director until she was formally named president and executive director in February 2007.
Winsky led TEDCO for more than two years before leaving in August 2009 to become the CEO of the Tech Council of Maryland (now the Maryland Tech Council). All told, she spent 10 years at TEDCO and continues to support its mission. Or as she puts it, she is “still bleeding TEDCO” today.
“The opportunity to work with Phil and grow the staff to 15 people at one point was exciting. It was very new,” Winsky said of TEDCO, which has been providing startup funding and resources to Maryland businesses for 2 1/2 decades.
Staying true to its mission and values
TEDCO supports early-stage technology and life sciences companies in Maryland. The Maryland General Assembly established TEDCO in 1998 to facilitate the creation of businesses and support their growth throughout the state.
“What the Legislature created is what our mission was, and we stuck to the statute,” Winsky said. “It’s a simple statute to understand. The Legislature created the organization specifically to move technology out of our labs and into our companies.”
TEDCO has followed the same guiding principles since its formation: focus, partnerships, presence, leverage and assessment.
It has also adhered to its core values of accountability, collaboration, integrity, respect and stewardship.
“These core values were tested in an interesting way during my leadership when the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission was established,” Winsky said.
The General Assembly created the commission as an independent unit within TEDCO in 2006 to establish criteria, standards and requirements ensuring stem cell research financed by the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund complies with state law. Legislators also mandated a process of peer review and adherence to National Institutes of Health guidelines, Winsky said.
Embryonic stem cell research was a controversial topic then, but that did not deter TEDCO and the commission from fulfilling the Legislature’s mandate. The commission made 24 awards totaling $13.1 million in its first fiscal year.
“To this day, I don’t know where any of my staff stood on embryonic stem cell research,” Winsky said. “We had a mandate to give away the dollars in a fiduciary and accountable way and we did that with a completely aboveboard, ethical process that continues today.”
The process was so efficient that the Legislature increased the commission’s funding in its second fiscal year, allowing it to make 62 awards totaling $23 million by choosing from among more than 200 applications. The commission also added its first full-time staff member.
“After the first year, we figured out what kind of staff we needed,” Winsky said. “We needed someone (Dan Gincel) who was diligent in managing a lot of research grants, paperwork, reporting, details and dollars, but we also needed somebody who could speak to the researchers in their language and who understood the science and relevance of the projects. We waited a year to figure out that was the type of person we wanted.”
Leading into the future
Winsky still sees some of the foundational elements from TEDCO’s formative years reflected in the organization today. “We piloted some programs that haven’t worked, but we also piloted many programs that are more successful now than they were years ago.”
Winsky attributes the organization's ongoing impact to its current core values and guiding principles. “What has changed is the language. For example, ‘ecosystem’ is a big word now. We didn’t use ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ back then, but it has always been about technology transfer and development and supporting entrepreneurs.”
TEDCO’s current CEO, Troy LeMaile-Stovall, agreed. “Our business model produces a lot of productivity, so we're consistently one of the top deal makers in Maryland and the nation,” he said.
TEDCO has also broadened its reach in the state and in the types of deals it makes. For example, its resources for entrepreneurs include a Rural Business Innovation Initiative, Urban Business Innovation Initiative and Women Entrepreneurs Leadership Programs.
TEDCO’s focus is the same as when Winsky joined TEDCO. “The focus is still technology. The focus is still development. The focus is still the entrepreneurial community,” Winsky said.
“As long as the General Assembly continues to support TEDCO, our Congressional delegation continues to support it and our entrepreneurial community demands the products, services and programs it provides, I don’t see much changing, except maybe doing better with more,” she said.
TEDCO is your source for start-up success in Maryland. Learn more.
TEDCO, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, enhances economic empowerment growth through the fostering of an inclusive entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem. TEDCO identifies, invests in and helps grow technology and life science-based companies in Maryland. Learn more at tedcomd.com.
Source: Baltimore Business Journal