Catalyzing growth and collaboration among innovative organizations in Maryland’s startup ecosystem
George Davis is the incoming CEO of The Maryland Technology Development Corporation, otherwise known as TEDCO. Since its creation in 1998, TEDCO has been a leading provider of funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs, innovators, and early-stage companies in Maryland and beyond. The organization runs a broad range of programs focused on bringing groundbreaking ideas to life and forging business collaborations between Maryland’s many science, technology, and educational institutions.
TEDCO’s board of directors appointed George as CEO in June. Prior to joining the organization, George held leadership positions at a number of a investment, research, engineering, and technology firms, including GM3/Gamma 3, Gemstone Biotherapeutics, Perthera, Avatech Solutions/Rand Worldwide Inc, and Aether Systems.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about your history and background. When did you first get involved with the entrepreneurial community in Maryland?
GEORGE DAVIS: One of the things I’m extremely proud of is that I’m a Marylander. I grew up in Maryland. I’ve worked in Maryland my entire career. I’ve got success stories—been an operator, owner, inventor; I’ve worked for big companies and small companies.
It started in my early days at Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which I started in the early 80s. That division of Westinghouse is now a big division of Northrop Grumman. I had the pleasure to go in and work with a tremendous set of scientists, technologists, engineers, and great strategists for 16 years. I found an old friend of mine, David Oros, who had left Westinghouse, we’d become very good friends there, working together for 15 years. David started a new business focused on looking at enterprise solutions for advanced wireless data and mobile computing. This was very, very early days. We realized that the path to success was to drive applications, because the world was not ready for a platform yet. If we could show success through applications, we could be on our way.
That triggered a direct involvement in the financial sector. Who needs data, real-time, more than financial people—brokers, dealers? We cut a deal with Reuters and we were able to get real time feed into our facility and we started pushing out real time data on handhelds: stock quotes, news, et cetera—things that are very available today—it’s been commoditized, but we were the first ones to do that in a very rich environment. We landed some marquee customers—people like Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab—built a pretty good company, raised about $16 million in capital from some angel investors as well as some strategic investors, including people like 3Com and Reuters.
We got on trains and went to Wall Street and figured out that part of the process. We saw all this capital, just looking for opportunity. We were able to raise over $120 million in an initial public offering at $14 a share. Three months later it was at $300 a share. There was a phenomenal bubble going on. Dave called me again and he said, “you know George, we’ve got to do a secondary.” I said, “Wow, this is crazy. This isn’t going to last. This access to this capital probably isn’t going to last, but we’ve got to go get it.” I said, “You’re right.”
The bankers agreed. We had a good story, we were landing some customers, we bought a company, we were building up, we were now at maybe 200 employees—we had 10 and now we’re 200—we were moving in that direction and we were getting some marquee business. We got back on the road and we went in the United States, we went to Europe—we went all over the place—and we were able to capture over $1.5 billion in additional cash and loans.
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