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December 7, 2001

Helping Companies Reach New Heights

Many of Baltimore's small business incubators attract start-up technology firms by offering use of shared office resources – copy machine, fax, high-speed Internet and so on. Now tenant companies at the UMBC Technology Center can add “venture capital guru who started three successful companies before age 40” to the list of amenities.Dan Roche, the new Venable Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the UMBC Technology Center, is always up for a new challenge. Roche, who founded or was heavily involved with growing three technology companies before his fortieth birthday, is currently starting a fourth. As if that wasn't enough, he spent most of October on a climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. Now Roche is putting his business savvy to work leading the 25 companies at UMBC's on-campus technology incubator to new heights.Roche reached the 19,340-foot summit of Kilimanjaro on October 23 as the lone American in a group of 12 Australian climbers. “It is primarily a challenge of mental will,” Roche says. “It is physically tough, but much more mentally tough. Halfway up we passed a group coming back down calling it quits due to the weather and headaches,” Roche said. Two members of his party nearly turned back due to eyesight troubles caused by strong winds and high blood pressure, but they decided to press on, made it to the top and later fully recovered with medical treatment.“The climb was a lot of fun and very challenging,” says Roche. “I will never forget it. But more so, I will never forget the poverty I saw in Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. The people are good people, very proud, very clean (given their resources). It is just a very tough situation.”Roche, who taught computer science at UMBC a decade ago, is now teaching again in both the classroom and the boardroom. Through a generous grant by the Venable Fund, Roche is now a fixture of the Center's help desk. He spends his days connecting promising companies like Accelics and Columbia Technologies with area venture capital resources and working with earlier-stage firms to focus their finances and enhance their market potential.This spring semester, Roche will be working with undergrads who dream of starting companies as he teaches the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class through the Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown Center for Science and Technology Entrepreneurship at UMBC. “I've always loved teaching; I just got too busy for it,” says Roche. “I love the interaction with students, the sharing of ideas and learning from them.”Roche says entrepreneurship can't really be taught, but instead is an internal drive. “Entrepreneurs are self motivated to go out and make a lot of mistakes driving towards some vision,” he says. “My role is to help entrepreneurs trust their instincts and to share enough of my own experiences with the goal of minimizing the number of mistakes required to achieve their vision,” Roche says.

Posted by dwinds1 at December 7, 2001 12:00 AM