Despite the pandemic, startups are booming in Maryland |

Despite the pandemic, startups are booming in Maryland |

In Maryland, the number of startups grew even faster. New-business applications totaled 80,550 from April to December, up 42 percent from the same period in 2019. From April to December of last year — a period when much of the nation was closed due to the pandemic — there were 3.5 million applications for new business formations filed in the U.S., up 34 percent from the same period in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For the full year, applications totaled 4.4 million, up 24 percent.

For the full year, the number of startups totaled 99,817 applications, up 32 percent from 2019. That was the largest number of startup applications in Maryland since the government began tracking the data in 2005. Changes in business protocols during the pandemic also played a role in the rise of startups, according to Holly Wade, director of research at the National Federation of Independent Business, a small business trade group.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Basu said. “Many people decided to create their own opportunities during the pandemic.” Limitations on in-person work “created a lot of opportunities,” for enterprising individuals who were able take advantage of those changes, she said.

Anirban Basu, CEO of Sage Policy Group Inc., an economic consulting firm in Baltimore, said some new business owners are people who lost jobs during the economic crisis and went back to work by becoming their own bosses. Applications both in the U.S. and Maryland spiked in January, then slowed in February, the latest month for which data are available. Still, applications remain at higher-than-average levels.

That group includes Neal Singal, a student at Georgetown University, and two partners, who used their down time from campus to establish Global-Pal Inc., a mobile app that helps groups of people share payments in restaurants, bars and various travel destinations. The app quickly determines who owes what amount on a bill. At the same time, being stuck at home — away from the office or college campus — gave some people extra time to pursue business endeavors.

The company is based in Washington, D.C., but was partly funded by the Johns Hopkins University’s fuel accelerator program in Baltimore, which helps later-stage companies with customer development and investor readiness. Global-Pal also received funding from Georgetown and from angel investors. He and his partners began the construction of the app last June and launched the business in January. “In our app, we convert that receipt into digitized information and everyone in the group can select what they purchased or what they’re responsible for and we calculate what their share is and send requests instantly,” said Singal.

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