The Capital, Annapolis, Md., Inside Business column
Feb 10, 2013 (The Capital - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Renee Winsky spends her days listening to funding pitches and discussing business plans over coffee.
As the new head of the Chesapeake Innovation Center, Winsky is responsible for helping the incubator's eight member companies grow. Before that, she was president and founder of the consulting firm Bay One Group LLC. Winsky also served as CEO of the Tech Council of Maryland and president of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO).
In July, she was asked to serve as the interim executive director of the CIC, which has graduated 50 companies since its inception 2003. She applied for the job and was awarded it Oct. 1.
Winsky talked to The Capital about the CIC's past focus on terrorism, its future plans with health information technology and other innovations.
Where do things stand now with the CIC
"(When CIC started) we were all about homeland security, all about the Department of Defense, trying to help the Department of Defense find innovative things to battle this new (cyber) enemy we had. But when we looked back at these 50 companies, about half were in the national security space and the other half were just doing innovative technology.
"Most of our programs have focused on our partners with the (National Security Agency) and Department of Defense and national security and we're going to continue that. We have too robust of a network not to continue to nurture that. But at the same time, we're looking at health IT, smart grid and critical infrastructure companies because we can serve them."
What attracted you to this job
"Here I was working with (companies) on their business plans, working with them on their marketing strategies, looking for new customers, doing business development. These were things I didn't dabble in before but found very rewarding in order to be able to help these companies. So at the end, I tossed my name into a hat and I got the job."
What's a typical day
"One of my primary roles is to recruit new members, so I try to get out into the community, talk about CIC, talk about what we can do here and the services we provide for our resident members.
"My door is always open for any of our member companies to come in with a challenge or an issue. We've had a number of companies that decided to apply and compete for the InvestMaryland Challenge. So I was reviewing lots of applications and helping them to refine what was essentially a four-page application for $100,000 in the first round.
"Anytime they want to stop by and they've got an appointment with an angel investor and they want to practice their pitch, I give them the time. (They) practice the pitch, and (I'll) be critical of it, because you want them to be successful. Any of those things can happen in any given day."
What does it mean to have a company graduate from the CIC
"One of the most important things about business incubation is that a company has come to an incubator looking for help, looking for assistance at finding avenues to new customers and learning things they didn't know about business.
"They might be the holders of their technology, they might be the developer of the greatest widget in the world, but they can't sell it. They can't find a customer. They don't know how to write a business plan. We can provide them with all of those things.
"Companies that graduate from incubators have a leg up on other companies because (the other firms) haven't had that nurturing, haven't had that attention. They haven't had that development."
"Health IT, certainly our national security focus. We're working on our calendar for the year. We will have a number of TechBridge events that provide an opportunity for innovative companies to present to an audience of either our national security partners or new health IT partners to look for collaboration.
"We want companies who want our help. Another key thing about companies that come through a business incubator, the ones that are successful are the ones that are coachable. Those that are coachable are successful because they know they can't do everything on their own.
"They know they need help. They know they need mentorship. They know they need other people's expertise to help them be successful and that's what we're doing here. And we want to do more of it, so bring 'em on."
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