Jamie McDonald, CEO of Upsurge Baltimore

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Jamie McDonald is CEO of Surge Baltimore. Jamie is an experienced entrepreneur, movement builder, speaker, workshop leader. Prior to joining Surge, she was an advisor to global entrepreneurs, social innovators, and impact-focused executives at companies, organizations and philanthropies.

Jamie spent the first 16 years of her career as an investment banker at Deutsche Bank, where she was a managing director leading the Private Equity Coverage Group. When she left Deutsche Bank, Jamie became an entrepreneur. She was the co-founder and CEO of Give Corps, a crowdfunding and community building software platform that was by acquired by Network for Good, one of the nation’s largest online charitable giving platforms, in 2014.

After the sale of GiveCorps, she founded Generosity Inc. to bring her passion and experience with scaling companies, community mobilization, narrative development and transformative innovation to businesses and organizations. She has synthesized her experiences into the Big™ model for movement building and systems change. She takes clients and speaking audiences on an interactive journey to first understand what it means to think big, and then provides a step-by-step process that anyone can follow to find the courage, build the model, and then take the “leap” into changing their work- or the world.

Jamie is also devoted to her adopted city of Baltimore, where she is engaged in a range of initiatives and organizations. She serves (or has served) on nonprofit boards like Open Society Institute, Impact Hub Baltimore, Venture for America, and Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab, The Center for Urban Families, Job Opportunities Task Force, Innovation Works Baltimore, and

Betamore, among others. She is the Founding Chair of the first large-scale Light and Innovation Festival in the US, Light City Baltimore, which has attracted more than a million visitors and generated nearly $100 million of economic impact for the City. She also offers her BIG workshops for free to cohorts of Baltimore social entrepreneurs, providing them with both her coaching and training, and facilitating peer-learning cohorts meant to strengthen the civic fabric of the city.

Jamie has been featured in print, TV, radio, and podcasts, including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the White House Social Innovation Blog, NTEN, The Baltimore Sun, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Southwest Airlines Magazine, Southern Living, Baltimore Magazine, The New York Times, Aspen UK, Forbes Russia, the Huffington Post, among many others. She has also been featured in “Women Make Great Leaders,” by bestselling author Jill Griffin.

Jamie is an experienced keynote speaker, workshop leader and emcee. Her style is warm, authentic and engaging–the kind of presenter who everyone wants to be friends with. Her ability to connect and inspire keeps her busy traveling, and she hopes to meet you soon.

Career Highlights

  • Managing Director, Investment Banker focused on Private Equity Firms
  • Co-Founder and CEO GiveCorps, sold to Network for Good in 2014
  • Lead strategist, Giving Tuesday
  • Creator and Chairperson, Light City & Labs at Light City, an annual festival of light and innovation conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Light City has been attended by more than 1 million visitors and has generated nearly $100 million in revenue for the city of Baltimore since 2017
  • Speaker and Inductee, The Smithsonian, American Philanthropy (permanent collection on philanthropy)
  • Author of BIG, The Giving Day Guide and other widely disseminated learning guides
  • Author of BIG, coming 2021

UpSurge Baltimore is building an engine to propel Baltimore into the top tier of US innovation cities. Our work centers on founders, tech-enabled and national-scale businesses, helping to launch, support, grow and celebrate high-impact startups. UpSurge is also developing strategies to attract new companies, talent and capital to Baltimore.

We are students of the country’s brain hubs - cities we admire for their ingenuity and economic success - working to build an innovation economy where people from all backgrounds and cultures belong. One that cultivates and nurtures the diverse, high-growth startups that create high-quality jobs and offer career mobility and higher wages.

In 2030, Baltimore will be widely recognized as the nation’s first Equitech City - a diverse, thriving hub of innovation and the model for a new kind of startup city. Entrepreneurs and investors from around the world look to Baltimore as a launching pad for transformational companies, and more Baltimoreans will see the knowledge economy as a pathway for their own upwardly mobile futures. High-quality jobs and higher wages will spur new investment in our neighborhoods, small businesses, cultural institutions and nonprofits.

Tech economies are at the heart of thriving US cities, and we believe that Equitech will be a force multiplier on the traditional tech economy - where diversity is a competitive advantage. Over time, not only will entrepreneurs and investors around the world look to Baltimore as a launching pad for transformational companies, but more Baltimoreans will see the knowledge economy as a pathway for their own upwardly mobile futures.

As the cultural framework for UpSurge, Equitech provides a lens to attract, align and support transformational startups – not a filter to exclude them. Equitech companies cross industry sectors and capture hearts, minds and wallets for a variety of reasons.


  1. UpSurge Ecosystem: The movement-building engine focused on education, support and problem-solving for entrepreneurs; attracting capital, companies and talent; telling the Baltimore innovation story around the world; mobilizing Baltimore around the Equitech culture and framework; and building opportunity pathways.
  2. UpSurge Investments: The vehicle for direct company investments, which will start with a Techstars accelerator partnership and eventually house future investment pools. Techstars is a critical component of our overall efforts, providing a channel through which to attract and engage promising startups, and raising Baltimore’s visibility among their network of 16,000 investors, mentors and founders.
  3. UpSurge Community Teams: Knowledge nodes led by local industry sector, activity and community leaders who will contribute focused expertise to develop strategies that nurture, support, attract and retain startups. Teams will comprise diverse participants from tech, industry, neighborhoods and academia - all local leaders who understand the opportunities and challenges before us and as such are best situated to develop the strategies that will shape our future path. Ideas for new teams are emerging as we continue conversations with people across the ecosystem. To-date, they include the industries and innovation activities below:

UpSurge is building on the strength of Baltimore’s vibrant small businesses and large companies. Both are vital to a flourishing city. UpSurge's focus on growing the number of startups and scale businesses adds an important layer to the local economy; these companies typically offer higher base wages, career mobility and benefits. The challenge is to build a startup city that draws broadly on the brilliance of its populace–across neighborhoods and cultures–as founders, workforce, mentors, investors and thought leaders. Growth in the number of private-sector, high growth jobs is foundational to Baltimore’s future.

We start with an incomparable platform -- the strength and culture of our existing startup and tech ecosystems, and a host of factors known to accelerate a successful innovation economy:

  • Globally recognized universities at the forefront of innovation.
  • Gamechanging startups in life sciences, digital health, cybersecurity, FinTech, MarTech, and ClimateTech.
  • Largest city in the leading state for federal R&D spending.
  • Renowned public and private anchor institutions, like NIH, NSA, Applied Physics Laboratory, NASA/Goddard, Amazon, AstraZeneca, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Constellation, Exelon, T. Rowe Price, Under Armour and so many more.
  • Location on the Amtrak corridor, a major international port and beautiful, affordable neighborhoods.


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