To Brendan McAdams, the earlier a startup can start getting sales traction, the better. It means a product is not only gaining traction with customers and generating revenue, but it can also help open doors with investors.
“Nothing validates an idea like somebody paying for it,” he said.
McAdams is set to bring sales education to a group of fledgling Baltimore startups over 13 weeks next year. He’s the program director for the 2022 edition of AccelerateBaltimore, the city’s original seed accelerator program from ETC (Emerging Technology Centers) that’s now in its 10th year.
Applications opened to startups recently for this year’s cohort, and are being accepted through Dec. 5. Supported by the Abell Foundation, the five startups selected for the 13-week program receive $50,000 in funding, access to advisors, weekly group sessions and one-on-one coaching. The program is agnostic about specific industries or verticals a company is working in, but it is seeking early-stage companies building a scalable tech product that can benefit meaningfully from the investment.
“We’re looking for companies that are early stage and that have a really solid idea about who their customer is and what the customer’s problem is,” McAdams said. “We want something that has a tech focus and we want people that are really motivated to be involved and engaged. We want people that can make the most of both the seed investment that they get and also the network of people that they’re going to be involved with in AccelerateBaltimore for the 13 weeks.”
An 11-year Baltimore resident, McAdams comes to ETC with 25 years of startup and sales in telecommunications selling to Bell Labs and AT&T, financial services selling to Wall Street and starting healthcare startup Expertscape.com. He then served as a sales and marketing consultant to startups, and serves as fractional chief revenue officer and VP of sales to companies. Now he’s focused more on coaching, with the firm Kiinetics and serving as a host of the “Let’s Chat Sales” podcast.
Through each experience, McAdams said he’s seen the impact of focusing on sales from the get-go. He sees AccelerateBaltimore as an ideal place to work with startups through that process firsthand.
“I’m trying to…make sales a more of an important part of the early execution for a company,” McAdams said. “You can go out and start talking to customers before you’ve built anything, and the advantages of that are just enormous.”
The act of talking to customers alone provides a much clearer picture to a founder of what they should be building, what would lead customers to buy it and how to think about product-market fit, he said.
Along with McAdams’ insights, ETC will be bringing in guest speakers, investors and potential partners, and seeking to connect startups with the Baltimore entrepreneurial community. It’s one that has grown in the 11 years McAdams has lived in town, and part of that reason traces back to AccelerateBaltimore. Of the 52 companies that participated in the program over nine years so far, 70% are still in business. They’ve created more than 430 jobs and raised $34.5 million in follow-on funding, per ETC.
Sounds like they’ve made a few sales.