StarTUp named North America’s top university economic development initiative

StarTUp recognized for excellence in talent development, innovation, community development

By Rebecca Kirkman on October 12, 2022

View of coworking space from above filled with people
(Nick Sibol/Towson University)

The StarTUp at the Armory—Towson University’s business engagement center for startups to the region’s largest corporations—received the highest honor for university-based economic development initiatives in North America.

At the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Summit on Oct. 11, peer institutions selected the StarTUp as the Engaged University winner in its 2022 Awards of Excellence. The award recognizes universities for engaging multiple community partners to leverage and connect efforts in talent development, innovation and community development.

“This is a fantastic recognition for Towson University and its impact as an economic leader and anchor institution in the state of Maryland,” says TU President Kim Schatzel. “The StarTUp is truly a best-in-class business engagement center and serves as a great example of all that can be achieved through partnerships with the Greater Baltimore business community.”

In September the UEDA named the StarTUp, a 26,000-square-foot space in downtown Towson, among four finalists including the The Refinery at University of Arizona, a 65-acre community of innovation within the 1,200-acre, 25-year-old UA Tech Park; the Economic Development Collaborative at the University of Kentucky, including the 735-acre Coldstream Research Campus; and Wichita State University’s 120-acre Innovation Campus.

“It’s not the amount of space or the length of time we’ve been established that matters, it’s about what happens inside that space,” says TU Executive Director of Entrepreneurship Patrick McQuown, pointing to the StarTUp staff, the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research, the eTU council and TU leadership for the program’s success. “We are so excited the impact of our work in supporting entrepreneurs and businesses has been recognized by the UEDA and our peers as we continue to push TU further.”

The recognition confirms the university’s commitment to serve as a community leader and partner by extending the talents of students, faculty and staff beyond campus boundaries to create opportunities for leadership, entrepreneurship, civic engagement and experiential learning.

The StarTUp at the Armory opened last fall in a state-of-the art space including 6,000 square feet of free coworking space and meeting rooms where entrepreneurs and executives connect with each other and to TU’s programs and people. 

It is also home to TU’s signature entrepreneurship programs like the StarTUp Accelerator, a fellowship providing mentorship, founder-centric programming, a $10,000 equity-free stipend and exposure to successful program alumni ventures. 

Since its launch, the StarTUp has contributed to the economic development of the region and beyond. 

It has supported 20 active ventures through its physical space in downtown Towson and the accelerator program. These ventures have an average annual revenue of more than $600,000 and have contributed a combined 263 new employees to the state.

Ventures from the first two cohorts have achieved a 125% increase in revenue, customers and users. Fellows in the third cohort, representing the region’s top rising entrepreneurs, have secured more than $800,000 in funding

Last spring, two TU ventures took home a total of $15,000 from the national entrepreneurship competition EIX e-Fest. In its first year entering, TU was the only school from the Baltimore–D.C. region in the finals and the only school with more than one venture to place in the competition. Jal Irani ’15, co-founder of Flave and an alumnus of the 2020 Accelerator cohort, was named one of 21 technologists building Baltimore’s future.

The StarTUp also held the inaugural TU College Cup Innovation Challenge to support students from all disciplines in developing innovations to positively impact the world. It also partnered with Cristo Rey High School to teach students entrepreneurship skills through the TU Youth Entrepreneurship Program.

Learn more about opportunities to engage with TU’s best-in-class entrepreneurship and innovation hub.