Site Selection magazine
twitter linkedIn facebook email email email
A SITE SELECTION INVESTMENT PROFILE
MARYLAND
From Site Selection magazine, March 2024
SHARE THIS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

A Ticket to the Game

Maryland’s bid to lure global

MARYLAND
Dot, Inc.’s Ehrum Choi and Marjorie Cota of bwtech@UMBC
Photo courtesy of Marjie Cota

by Gary Daughters
A

hrum Choi, a young tech entrepreneur from South Korea, was among those at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium doing the “Go Ravens” cheer when the home team dusted the visiting Lions last fall. It was Choi’s first brush with the NFL. She sat in a suite and met some former Ravens.  

“One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had,” she remembers. “It’s more than a game. It’s really an art.”

Choi is chief sustainability and impact officer for a Seoul-based company called Dot, Inc. that designs experiential, digital products for the visually impaired. Dot, which is looking to expand into the United States, is among more than two dozen companies registered overseas that have taken up residence, free of charge for six months, in Maryland business incubators and accelerators. The state picks up the tab for the “soft landing,” its hope being that up-and-comers like Dot will come to love Maryland so much they’ll put down permanent roots. Officials say their Global Gateway Soft Landing program, launched in late 2022, is both unique and uniquely Maryland.

“It helps address a challenge we have, which is that Maryland is a small state and people don’t always think of us the way they think of say, California,” says Jessica Reynolds, senior director of the Office of International Investment and Trade at the Maryland Department of Commerce. “What we’re saying is that we believe Maryland has so much to offer and is going to be such a great fit that we’re willing to pay for you to try it out.”

Hailing from such far-flung countries as Japan, Colombia, Singapore, Romania, Nigeria, the Netherlands, France and Australia — 19 nations in all — the 27 early-stage companies approved for the Global Gateway program thus far represent industries that include quantum computing, cybersecurity, life sciences, aerospace, manufacturing and agriculture. In addition to office and conference space, the program offers them mentorship, access to entrepreneurs, educational programs, networking events and targeted matchmaking meetings with Maryland businesses. Informal contacts, like the one that landed Ahrum Choi in that box at M&T — as a guest of Nemphos Braue, a Towson law firm whose specialty is supporting entrepreneurs — can carry major weight going forward. Eleven of the program’s participating companies have since registered in Maryland. 

“If you survey foreign companies and why they choose a location,” says Reynolds, “so often, it’s simply because they had some connection there to begin with. If we can get them to build these relationships, then we can essentially get them rooted in Maryland.”

A ‘Game Changing’ Experience

Dot is among a half dozen of the program’s participants to have been hosted at bwtech@UMBC, a sprawling incubator at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Another is Galaxkey, a UK-based data security startup, whose CEO Randhir Shinde has called the Global Gateway program a “game-changer” for his company.

“The personalized assistance we received from the bwtech team,” says Shinde, “has been invaluable, addressing our specific needs and challenges with a level of dedication that exceeded our expectations.”

As one of the program’s 18 participating accelerators and incubators, bwtech@UMBC has a record of shepherding early-stage companies toward success. Fearless, a Baltimore-based digital services company, passed through a decade ago on its way to a spot on the Inc. 5000, where it landed in 2022. Marjie Cota, the incubator’s director of entrepreneurial services says clients that come through the Global Gateway program get “a little bit more time and attention” from her team.

“We want to make sure,” she says, “that they’re getting connected to the right people within the state to help them build their businesses to be successful here.”

At bwtech, the stars of the show are the Entrepreneurs in Residence. They offer hands-on mentorship to people like Randhir Shinde and Arum Choi. Their backgrounds, says Cota, span fields that include digital transformation, sales and marketing, product development, software management and biosciences. The expanding team now numbers ten, says Cota, and includes the likes of Chris Haug, an equity fund CEO and managing director of Startup Grind Maryland, which boasts 12,000 members. Haug joined the Entrepreneurs in January. 

“They bring decades of experience to the table in starting their own companies, both successful and unsuccessful,” says Cota. “That’s part of the learning process. You fail and teach other people how not to make mistakes.”

Decision Time

Landing South Korea’s Dot, a venture that’s growing and innovating, would be a feather in the cap of any community in the country. Now with 60 employees, says Choi, the company earned a “Best of Innovation” shoutout at CES 2023, the closely watched Vegas tech show. Its “Dot Pad,” built on proprietary technology, is a tactile graphic device for the visually impaired that can convey images, maps, graphics and charts in both tactile form and braille-text. Among the company’s most ambitious projects is its installation of Dot Pad technology in kiosks placed in airports, train and subway stations and museums in South Korea. The company plans to demonstrate the product at the annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in California. 

Leveraging introductions arranged through bwtech and through her own initiative, Choi has reached out to potential partners in Maryland. They include Blind Industrial Services of Maryland, a contractor to the U.S. Defense Department, and a Frederick manufacturer called The Kiosk Group. She says Dot will expand its presence in the U.S. this year. 

“We’re working with NVDA, Google and Apple,” says Choi. Beyond her valuable, new network of contacts in Maryland, Choi says Dot appreciates the access to the federal government that a Maryland address can offer. Her English proficiency vastly improved since her stint at bwtech, Choi can comfortably drop a reference to the federal GSA Schedule, which guides government agencies in product and services procurement. She’ll be returning to Baltimore soon. 

“My impression about Maryland,” she says, “is people are always asking, ‘How can I help you, how can I assist you, how can I connect you?’ It opens lots of opportunities.” 


This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Maryland Marketing Partnership. For more information, please contact Jessica Reynolds at jessica.reynolds@maryland.gov. or visit business.maryland.gov/global 

Dot, Inc.’s award-winning Dot Pad
Photos courtesy of Dot, Inc.

Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.

 



Site Selection online is a worldwide service of Conway Data, Inc. ©1983-2024, all rights reserved. Data is from many sources and not warranted to be accurate or current. To unsubscribe from our print magazine, contact Julie Clarke. For general inquiries, visit our contact page. For technical inquiries contact the Webmaster.