One of the key challenges to growing and retaining Delaware’s talent pool of entrepreneurs is facilitating a meaningful interaction between industry and university students. It’s that pipeline from opportunity to success that Delaware is building today.
While there is still work to be done, there are many organizations committed to providing the needed resources for startup companies — organizations that offer the necessary elements including education, mentoring, networking, access to funding and a place to work.
Here is what that pipeline might look like today for a student entrepreneur or technologist who wants to build her business locally.
Where does the entrepreneurial spirit begin? The Horn Program in Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware is committed to providing world-class academic programs that are enhanced through experiential learning opportunities within the greater ecosystem. In addition to educating university students, the Horn Program has developed some innovative programs to expose and engage regional high school students to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Tomorrow’s leaders have opportunities to connect with industry through enrichment activities that include competitions, mentoring, lectures and internships, to name a few. The Venture Center on campus is an accessible and welcoming clubhouse for entrepreneurs and new ventures and hosts regional events aimed at bringing together the greater network.
The Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP) at the University of Delaware serves as the portal for engagement between industry and academia, and houses the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a nationally certified, Small Business Administration (SBA)-funded organization that offers consulting, education and access to innovative tools to any small business, regardless of industry, from retail to high technology.
Access to capital is a challenge in any region for a young company aiming to grow quickly.
That’s why I joined with other experienced tech business leaders to form the Leading Edge Venture Fund, through which we plan initial investments of $50,000 to $250,000 for high-potential early-stage companies. This fund aims to support economic development by diversifying the employment base in Delaware.
Then, for companies that have outgrown the coffee house but might not yet need the traditional office space and specialty offerings of a place like the Delaware Technology Park, innovators and dreamers need a place to get together to share ideas. For that, they go to Start It Up Delaware’s industrial, hip coworking space in Wilmington. The space provides access to office necessities, events and educational opportunities.
The region will continue to create and promote resources to create, grow and retain startups and talent. Delaware is a great place to learn, live and do business. All of these organizations need support, so consider learning where you might be able to get involved with regional startup activities.