A group gathers for a photo outside the newly dedicated Pava Marie LaPere Center for Entrepreneurship, formerly FastForward U

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins entrepreneurship hub rededicated to alum and CEO Pava LaPere

The Pava Marie LaPere Center for Entrepreneurship, formerly FastForward U, held its rededication ceremony on April 6

Johns Hopkins University paid tribute to alum and EcoMap Technologies co-founder Pava Marie LaPere on April 6 by rededicating the institution's entrepreneurship and innovation hub in her name. Formerly known as FastForward U, the Pava Marie LaPere Center for Entrepreneurship will continue LaPere's legacy of supporting student ventures and innovations.

Video credit: Roy Henry / Johns Hopkins University

LaPere, A&S '19, who died in September 2023, was known as a vocal champion of entrepreneurship, both at JHU and in the greater Baltimore community. She was also an advocate for giving student entrepreneurs a physical space to work. During her years as an undergrad, she campaigned relentlessly for what would eventually become FastForward U, now the Pava Center. When its doors first opened in 2018, LaPere was there with a grin on her face. She later described the space's construction as "one of the highlights of my time at JHU."

Many who knew LaPere spoke at the Pava Center's rededication ceremony, including Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels.

Portrait photo of Pava LaPere in a graduation gown.

"Envisioning a brighter future, and investing in making it reality, is what this center has been about since its inception five years ago," said Daniels. "Today, by renaming Fast Forward University, Pava's brainchild, in her honor, we are doing our best to make sense of our loss by ensuring that this place stands as an enduring memory to her values, her energy, her dreams. A place where students, alumni, and community entrepreneurs alike are hatching new ideas and transforming them into businesses that sustain our city and our neighbors. ... [The Pava Center will] further realize Pava's belief that everyone—from a first-year student to a local business owner to a clinician inventing life-saving technology—can bring something new to the world."

During her time as an undergrad, LaPere completely changed what it meant to create a start-up at Hopkins. Recognizing the lack of resources available to student entrepreneurs, she co-found TCO Labs, a student-run nonprofit focused on creating a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem for JHU students. LaPere and her peers at TCO offered classmates new access to mentorship, resources, and networking opportunities, giving students the tools they needed to turn their ideas into viable start-ups.

As an alum, LaPere found success in her own venture: EcoMap. Under LaPere's leadership, the Baltimore-based company raised millions of dollars in funding, growing to more than 30 employees. But LaPere wasn't content to succeed alone. She worked hard to strengthen Baltimore's start-up ecosystem and continued to mentor the next generation of undergraduate entrepreneurs at her alma mater, most of whom found their start through programs that LaPere helped design.

Today, the Pava Center works with students from all nine JHU schools and partners with more than 100 teams per year across six accelerator programs. More than $200 million has been raised by student and community teams. Students interested in entrepreneurship can learn more about the Pava Center's resources, mentors, and funding opportunities by visiting its website.

A crowd of people stand up and applaud in JHU's Pava Center. One person is standing at a podium in front of all the others, also clapping.

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

Exterior image of the Pava Marie LaPere Center for Entrepreneurship, formerly FastForward U

Image credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University