On Tuesday night, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley gave a fireside chat at 1776 where he answered questions and shared his unique perspective on effective governance, the role of entrepreneurship in the economy, and the policies that he thinks will foster innovation in the United States. He was introduced by DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who is a big supporter of DC Tech and startup innovation.
O’Malley sat down with 1776 cofounder Donna Harris and answered several pre-written questions from the audience. The questions ranged from how governments can help entrepreneurs get support to finding the balance between innovation and regulation.
He admitted that Maryland has not quite caught up with areas like Boston, NYC, or San Francisco. However, the state is hustling and has come up with 16 strategic goals to accelerate the innovation curve. In coming up with these goals, they evaluated the state’s strengths and weaknesses. Strengths included the number of PhDs in the region and the presence of federal government agencies that fund research and innovation. One notable weakness was the state’s lack of venture capital.
“The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline…these are the things that move you forward.”
Since taking office in 2007, O’Malley has appointed a Chief Innovation Officer to the state government as well as helped create the Maryland Venture Fund. They are also working to change the ways that state universities award tenure – putting more focus on commercial and innovative ventures rather than just publication.
When asked how collaboration can be fostered between innovators and governments, especially when a lot of startups are tackling problems that have been traditionally “government issues,” he warned that startups should be cautious with the word “disruption” when dealing with already-overwhelmed government agencies. Instead, disruptive technologies should be re-packaged as “innovative solutions” that offer efficiency and stability. In fact, the role of the Chief Innovation Officer (FYI: his name is Michael Powell and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org) is basically to act as a liaison between “disruptors and government agencies” – to help maintain a balance between innovation and regulation.
So what if you have a startup and are interested in selling it to the government? What are some ways to stand out? O’Malley recommends finding examples of how similar products or solutions have worked in other governments or large organizations such as hospitals. Do all you can to show how it is low-risk, reliable, and efficient.
Startup talk aside, what else is O’Malley thinking about as far as future plans?
“I’m seriously considering running for president in 2016. But I’m not here to make any kind of announcement on that.”
So how’s that for a non-announcement announcement?