When ESEC’s Mike Thielke set out to design an accelerator program serving the unique needs of the F3 Tech community, he found the perfect partner in Chris Hlubb. Recognizing Maryland already boosted various seed accelerators, Mike found that most were not well suited to the distinct environment of agriculture and aquaculture.
After 15 years developing and managing businesses in these sectors, Chris returned home to Maryland in 2018 to advance and develop agritech and aquatech projects and to mentor entrepreneurs through the F3 Tech Accelerator. Combining his technical savvy, creative business development approaches and international relations successes in agriculture and aquaculture, Chris embraced the opportunity to shape an accelerator tailored for the food, farm and fish ecosystem.
“Instead of generating grants, we’re interested in helping our start-ups generate revenue as quickly as possible. We want our participants to build products and start selling immediately, realizing that time-to-market is always more important than perfecting the product/service.”
An Ellicott City, Maryland native and Gilman School grad, Chris aspired to work in medicine, beginning his career in research labs at Johns Hopkins. He jumped into the corporate world after a few years to commercialize and develop neuromonitoring services.
In 2004, Chris traveled to Chile at his family’s request to develop and export wine and gourmet products to the U.S. and Europe. In the process, he helped develop a competitive advantage for Chilean agricultural producers. For six years, he worked in international trade, product development, and agricultural marketing and compliance, helping to certify organic and Fairtrade farms.
“In 2010, I was recruited by a Miami conglomerate to help advance their imported food distribution business, e-commerce drop-ship program, and burgeoning aquafarm, which raised Endangered Species Act listed sturgeon.”
Sturgeon Aquafarms gave Chris the opportunity to combine his knowledge of genetic research, executive management, and international government relations to “make an impact in not only business, but in society.” More importantly, it taught him crucial problem-solving skills so critical with entrepreneurs.
“The project forced me to develop solutions to an ‘impossible problem.’ After three years, I provided the Fish & Wildlife Service with a level of confidence, aptitude and compliance to obtain the only existing permit to trade in Endangered Beluga sturgeon.”
Chris believes that some accelerators fail participants because they focus on lecturing and not implementation. “We expect that everyone has already completed most – if not all – of their academic career, so our goal isn’t to lecture them. They join so we can teach them what not to do.”
The harsh realities of the start-up environment F3 Tech wants to create are based in implementation, revenue generation and speed-to-market. “Most start-ups forget to ask themselves why anyone would want their product and why anyone would buy it from me?”
Chris will lead the Accelerator’s third weekend workshop November 2-3 in Columbia. Focused on financial initiatives, the five start-ups will define their revenue development, financial management and funding needs, as well as visit the Maritime Applied Physics Corporation to learn about commercializing technology.