Baltimore leaders and entrepreneurs joined Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday evening to celebrate the official grand opening of the FastForward 1812 innovation hub in East Baltimore, where 19 local startups have already set up shop.
The flagship site for Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the bright and modern new facility at 1812 Ashland Ave. offers offices, labs, and communal workspaces and amenities to help fledgling ventures develop and build their products.
Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels said the space will "serve as a launching pad for entrepreneurs from not only from Hopkins but also, in fact, from across Baltimore," providing a hub for "scientists, clinicians, legal experts, and venture capitalists" to intermingle.
The 23,000-square-foot space opened in January within the growing Eager Park neighborhood, at a spot within walking distance of Johns Hopkins' East Baltimore campus, home to the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the university's schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing.
Below the office and workspaces on its open-concept top floor, FastForward features 15,000 square feet of lab space, including cold storage and shared scientific instruments.
"When you think about the innovation and the technology and the biotech companies that can grow right here … it doesn't get much better than that," said Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, adding that the companies that form from FastForward "will be a part of the economy" in Baltimore.
Landon S. King, executive vice dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, echoed that aspiration of nurturing products that "get started in Baltimore … and stay in Baltimore."
The new space replaces FastForward's interim hub in the Rangos building on North Wolfe Street, increasing available lab space sevenfold, according to King.
Mike Batista, CEO of the digital health startup Quantified Care, moved into FastForward 1812 when the building opened this winter. A big advantage, he said, is having "a place where you can bring in a client or potential investor" for meetings in the shared conference rooms.
Batista also described a buzz of activity and "crosstalk" at FastForward, with different startups mingling.
"You get a lot of flow, businesses visiting," he said, naming Apple and Microsoft as two companies whose reps had recently been to the space.
Entrepreneur Amanda Allen said she likes to hide out in the little "phone booth" nooks at FastForward when she really needs to "crank some stuff out."
Allen's startup, Emocha—which works on mobile solutions for public health issues, including Ebola—rents two office spaces in the building along with a desk seat. They were the first to move into FastForward in January.
The innovation hub more than doubles FastForward's footprint in the city, according to Tech Ventures, which helps inventors and entrepreneurs license their innovations and build business partnerships.
Another FastForward hub near Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus is scheduled to relocate this summer into a new 9,000-square-foot space within the R. House building in Remington.