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An ecosystem grows in Delaware: 15 years of tech and change, locally and beyond

Technical.ly was born in 2009. So were Bitcoin, Windows 7 and Minecraft. Here’s a snapshot of the biggest local and global changes in innovation, fintech, gaming and more.

A still from ING Direct's "Touch the Ball" ad campaign. (Courtesy ING Direct)

In February 2009, Technical.ly published our first article. Fifteen years later, we're still here — but a lot has changed. We're celebrating our anniversary with a look back, and a look forward.

If Technical.ly were a person, it would be a 15-year-old with an active Discord account and a well-worn Nintendo Switch. 

Officially born on Feb. 9, 2009 in Philadelphia, Technical.ly has, over the years, seen an evolution of the tech ecosystems we cover (Delaware launched in 2014) — and, in many ways, of technology itself. 

In 2009, Obama was the new president. Android was coming in hot alongside the two-year-old iPhone that would ultimately dominate the US smartphone market. Willow Garage’s experimental PR2 robot learned how to open doors and plug itself in, raising fears that machines would soon outsmart humans. Bitcoin was born when Satoshi Nakamoto established the first block of the cryptocurrency’s blockchain. Vuzik’s Wrap VR sunglasses were predicted to be the future of mixed reality, and they looked surprisingly closer to glasses than a 2024 full-face headset.

It was the year that brought us Windows 7, Google Wave and “Minecraft.” “Wii Sports,” the interactive fitness video game, was wildly popular, and Riot Games released “League of Legends.” Social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, were massive, as the internet shifted from something you use sitting at a desk to something you use everywhere.

Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009 tested the limits of the internet, crashing websites and platforms including Twitter, Wikipedia, the Los Angeles Times and AOL Messenger, which apparently was still in use at the time. Google mistook the massive number of identical searches as a cyber attack and shut itself down.

Wilmington, the land of orange

Meanwhile, in Delaware, Wilmington had a very specific brand: ING Direct orange. The Dutch online bank — we would call it fintech today — moved into the city in 2000 and proceeded to buy and renovate the old, vacant brick buildings around the train station. It turned those properties into cool, modern workplaces that employed around 1,300 employees, many of them tech workers.

But in 2009, ING’s presence was near its end; ING US would be sold to Capital One in 2011 to pay off debts in the EU.

Today, those buildings house CSC Station, Tech Impact and the Riverfront campus of Delaware State University.

Elsewhere in Wilmington, the Nemours Building, the Art Deco-style property that is now home to The Mill, Theatre N and several floors of residential apartments, was a DuPont office building. Same goes for part of the DuPont Building, which now features Chemours offices, apartments and the DECO food hall.

Wilmington’s “innovation” presence wasn’t limited to ING and DuPont, though.

In 2009, Steven Roettger, Wes Garnett and Pedro Moore opened the CoIN Loft, the first co-working space in Delaware on West 9th St. CoIN was eventually managed by the state-funded Start It Up Delaware in 2013, which set off a chain reaction: Within a few years, there was 1313 Innovation in the old Hercules Building (now home to Chancery Market), which connected the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship program in Newark to the city in the latter half of the 2010s.

Overall, it was a pretty memorable year. Besides the above, we had the first of unfortunately few Fringe Wilmington festivals, construction began on The Queen Theater and we were hit with Snowmageddon.

What was the media doing in 2009?

Technical.ly entered a new world of media, a time when content by demand was one of the biggest media trends. Demand Media, founded in 2006, was the king of freelance-based, SEO-driven content farms (though they seemed to believe that they were not content farms, despite paying per-article fees so low that its freelancers had no choice but to work in volume).

In ‘09, if you searched for just about anything on Google, you would get Demand Media content up front in the form of eHow and Livestrong step-by-step articles. The company was generating more than 100,000 titles for its freelancers a day. This, it was said, was the future of media, right or wrong. It was terrible for writers, awful for journalism and internet users hated it.

It would be another couple of years, but Google would kill these content farms with the Panda update in 2011 — which no doubt helped make it possible for localized online news sources like Technical.ly to grow.

Companies: ING Direct / The Mill / Capital One / 1313 Innovation / Microsoft / Technical.ly
Series: Technical.ly 15th Anniversary
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