In Conversation with Troy LeMaile-Stovall, TEDCO’s New CEO and Executive Director
The Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) announced in July 2020 that it had completed the executive search for a new leader with the hiring of Troy LeMaile-Stovall, a seasoned leader with deep ties to the BioHealth Capital Region (BCHR).
LeMaile-Stovall just recently officially took the helm of TEDCO and we thought it a great time to catch up with him for a wide-ranging and insightful conversation about his background and vision for TEDCO and the BHCR biotech and life science ecosystem.
Tell us a bit about your background and journey to becoming the new CEO & Executive Director at TEDCO.
I think your word ‘journey’ is an apt one. My career journey has prepared me for this in terms of academic preparation, career choices, and passion.
I should start with I am a native Texan, raised in Houston. And yes, even though I did not play, football it is in my blood; as in Texas, there are only 2 sports, fall football, and spring football. I say all that to say that I am a Cowboys fan, but love rooting for the Ravens, especially their incredibly young quarterback Lamar Jackson.
In terms of academic preparation, I am an engineer/computer scientist by training who also holds an MBA. I have been able to work as an engineer, computer scientist, management consultant, private equity fund manager, venture capitalist, community developer/organizer, for-profit/nonprofit corporate board member, C-level executive, higher education administrator, and entrepreneur.
Along the way being able to work for major entities like Rockwell International, AT&T, Bell Labs, Southwestern Bell, McKinsey, Jackson State University, the University of the District of Columbia, and Howard University, as well as smaller entities including Gulf South Capital, the family investment office I co-founded and led.
My passion along this journey has been formed by Mother’s golden rule –“The Good Lord has put you on this planet for one purpose and that is to make a difference in one person’s life; the challenge is you don’t know when that one person is coming into your life so you have to make a difference in every life you touch.”
“I am coming to TEDCO to be a part of making a difference in the lives of those with dreams that need resources, coaching, and support to make that dream a reality. That is my purpose and my passion.”
What do you believe are the biggest assets that you’ll bring with you to this new role and what is your leadership style?
The combination of my experiences and my passion. This new journey is not easy. It will take ability and perseverance – both of those I believe I have developed, but I know I will need more.
As I said at my introductory virtual press conference, I am a servant leader. And being a servant leader begins and ends with the individuals that I serve. I truly mean this – I serve/work for the TEDCO staff and not the other way around.
What’s critical is my ability to coach my future TEDCO colleagues just as I have been coached. Managing TEDCO’s talent is my #1 job. If I can identify, onboard, compensate, develop, coach, promote, and eventually transition talent, we will be able to achieve any organizational or State goal set before us.
If I work my way out of talent management as a priority, that’s a sign of doing my job well. Said another way, if the team is doing its job at the highest level collectively, then my job as stated today changes and that is a great thing for TEDCO and the State we serve.
You’ve been an executive leader in the region for some time. How will knowing the region intimately help you lead TEDCO into the future?
First, I still have a lot to learn and many key individuals to meet. This isn’t about me or TEDCO, it is about the seeding, nurturing, and growing of a culture of entrepreneurship and risk-taking in every corner of Maryland for all Marylanders, regardless of their socioeconomics, race, religion, gender, or where they are located within the region.
This is about connecting the many resources of the State to make those dreams not just a reality, but also a sustainable one.
What do you see as TEDCO’s organizational strengths and where do you see areas that can be improved?
TEDCO has an outstanding reputation that we intend to build upon. We need to ensure we are not just better at connecting TEDCO resources to our startup community. We also need to connect our startup ecosystem to all the available tools across many Maryland entities, including the Maryland Department of Commerce.
Our entrepreneurs should have access to these tools as they have enough to focus on in starting and building their enterprise.
What are the Maryland innovation ecosystem’s strengths and weaknesses as you see them and how can TEDCO amplify the former and strengthen the latter?
As you know, Maryland is blessed with multiple assets like federal labs, world-class/best-in-class higher education, and a State government willing to assist and grow entrepreneurs.
However, just as I said, talent management is key to TEDCO’s success. Talent is vital to building and sustaining Maryland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. When examining successful clusters across the country, one of the common elements is a deep talent pool in 1-3 key sectors. That deep talent pool allows for talent transferability as an individual can move easily from company to company as their skills are in demand. For those individuals that “IPO” out of a firm, we want them to have the confidence that they can start a new company knowing the talent is available in the region.
We have to not only help develop that deep talent pool, but also ensure it represents the diversity of Maryland. We must also develop metrics that aren’t about TEDCO specifically, but that speak to the “health” of that ecosystem. We must have clear responsibilities to which entity is held accountable (and which entities are in support) for each of those metrics.
In the press release about your hire, you mention the current climate of uncertainty given COVID-19, economic challenges, and racial tensions and that TEDCO will help play a role in addressing these concerns for Marylanders. Can you expand on this in a bit more detail?
Thanks especially for this question. In my introduction, I did speak about the racial divide that has always been in America but has now been exposed.
Whether one is talking about health care, economics, housing, education, digital tools, the environment, or wealth creation, there is a clear divide in this country between Whites and Blacks (and other minorities). As I stated earlier, we must develop a scorecard that measures the state of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Maryland. One of those metrics has to measure talent pool diversity as well as a breakdown of regional, racial, and gender groups in the ecosystem that are leveraging the tools of that system.
We must also be systemic in understanding that good ideas can come from anywhere, but many populations not only lack the fiscal resources to start and sustain an enterprise, but also the understanding of how to do that.
TEDCO sees itself as not only assisting others in developing that scorecard but leading to ensure the diversity of Maryland is represented in all that we do.
What is your long-term vision for TEDCO and what are some of the first steps you’ll take now that you are officially leading the organization?
The long-term vision is no different than what it is today with one word change. Today, TEDCO’s vision statement is: TEDCO will be the recognized national leader for supporting translational research, and technology-based, economic, and entrepreneurial development while being the hub of Maryland’s innovation ecosystem.
The change is to move from economic development to economic empowerment.
We must be focused on individuals and on those with innovative ideas that have potential and that TEDCO can help these entrepreneurs and companies realize this potential. We want to empower “Employee #2”, who isn’t the founder but hopes to be a key contributor to the founder, to build that innovative idea into a sustainable enterprise.
We will make that vision a reality via our Core Values:
- Accountability. We will do the right thing and have internal and public measures demonstrating this commitment.
- Collaboration. We are a collection of talented individuals that meet our own and Maryland’s goals only by doing it together.
- Integrity. We will lean to the truth even when it is uncomfortable or unflattering.
- Respect. We see and value others and their roles before our own.
- Stewardship. We will use our valuable resources to the highest and best use aligned to our and Maryland’s goals
And we will do all of these with an eye toward innovation both in how we think and operate.
Why is Maryland a great place to launch and grow a life science or tech business or to expand to and open up a new location?
As I said before, Maryland has some great assets in place but we have not been able to knit them together in a manner that creates a self-sustaining (and recognized) ecosystem.
I saw some recent data from CB Insights (see above) that showed the states with at least 1 unicorn–private enterprise valued at over $1B. Maryland has none whereas Idaho and Washington, DC both have at least 1.
No disrespect to Idaho or DC — and congrats to them for that — but given the level of resources and assets in Maryland, we have to create the environment that seeds, nurtures, and grows that future Maryland-based unicorn and is the basis for a culture of risk-taking for all Marylanders.
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