Baltimore Entrepreneur Community Mourns Pava LaPere: ‘She Was Our De Facto Leader’

Pava LaPere grew up to be a transformative force in Johns Hopkins and Baltimore’s startup scenes.

At a vigil Wednesday night in Mount Vernon, LaPere’s father Frank described a stubborn girl who snuck out of the house to ride her bike across town in the middle of the night and started her first waitressing job at 15. Hundreds showed up to pay their condolences.

“We’re going to take her away from Baltimore, but her presence will never leave here,” Frank LaPere said

Baltimore Police found the 26-year-old tech CEO dead from blunt-force trauma Monday morning at an apartment building on the 300 block of West Franklin Street in the Mount Vernon neighborhood.

Police Commissioner Richard Worley said Tuesday that police have an arrest warrant for 32-year-old Jason Billingsley in connection with LaPere’s death.

Police searching for Baltimore tech entrepreneur Pava LaPere’s killer: ‘He will do anything he can to cause harm’ ]

LaPere, 26, co-founded EcoMap Technologies while still a student at the Johns Hopkins University, from which she graduated in 2019.

Last month at freshmen orientation, LaPere, who first moved to Baltimore from her hometown of Tucson, Arizona, spoke on a panel about her experience as an undergraduate. She said she first intended to be a doctor before changing majors from computer science to sociology while launching her first startups.

“If you in your heart of heart know that the idea that you’re working on is interesting and novel and there is a nonprofit or business model that can be sustained by it, you need to stick with that, despite what people say,” LaPere said on stage at the Johns Hopkins freshman orientation.

“Take your time here to try to find what topic you genuinely enjoy because that is where the intrinsic motivation comes in and don’t worry if you swap majors four times to do it. Take all the classes.”

While at Hopkins, LaPere helped build a startup accelerator program for students to practice business models and pitches.

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“We had over 800 students in our accelerator program last year up from 0 in 2017 when she first came to me and said we needed one,” Christy Wyskiel, Executive Director of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, said. “She was the architect of all that. Baltimore’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is in mourning this week. She was our muse. She was our de facto leader.”

EcoMap Technologies, which has around 30 employees and whose main customers are local governments, nonprofit and universities and industries associations, publishes data maps and contact lists of business, nonprofit, legal and venture capital networks around the country, including an overview of Baltimore’s Black-owned business community.

In August, the company shared that it had raised $8 million from venture capital firms, according to a news release. At the vigil, colleagues spoke of LePere’s commitment to a policy of ensuring her staff was at least half women and half people of color.

EcoMap co-founder Sherrod Davis said LaPere, who owned a black cat named Beans, liked to talk out ideas walking around Patterson Park. Co-workers described the 5-foot-2 LaPere as a large personality who spoke with her hands and loved Baltimore.

“One of the things about Pava is she was never at a loss for words,” Davis said. “I’m from Baltimore, and the running joke was everyone thought I was from out of town and she was the original Baltimore resident.”

Instead of candles or prayers, vigil attendees let out a cathartic scream Wednesday night.

“There are naysayers saying ‘no’ to Baltimore, but I can promise you Pava LaPere was louder,” Davis said. “Pava has got our back, and when Pava has got our back, boy do I like our chances.”

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