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RealLIST Connectors 2023: Meet 20 (more) Delawareans leading the tech and startup community into the future

New to the local tech scene? Looking to expand your network? Here are some of the most connective leaders you should know to get involved in the First State.

Clockwise from top left: Doneene Damon, Greg Godbout, Alexis Harris, Eric Smith, Gianna Whitver, Mike Pfeifer, Darren Stephenson and Jim Lee. (Courtesy photos, graphic by’s RealLIST Connectors 2023 is underwritten by Arcweb. The list was independently reported and not reviewed by Arcweb before publication.

Update: As of mid-June, CIO Jason Clarke is leaving state government for a role in the private sector. (6/29/23, 3:20 p.m.)
If you’ve ever felt unsure of who to connect with to get deeper into the Delaware tech and business community, keep reading.

In 2020, when the world felt the most disconnected, launched RealLIST Connectors, a now-annual roundup of people working to build their local tech, entrepreneurship and innovation community through the power of connection, whether linking others to networks, jobs or resources.

Delaware’s RealLIST Connectors are forward-looking innovators with an eye on inclusion, ecosystem building and making things better for future generations. Each year, we add a new batch of connectors to the cohort. Check out Delaware’s original 75-person list from 2020, and the 2021 and 2022 addendums.

This year’s contribution includes nominations from the community, as well as newsroom picks based on reporting over the last couple of years by Delaware reporter Holly Quinn, with contributions from Managing Editor Julie Zeglen.

So, here it is — the 2023 edition, and a peek into our source book at some of the most future-facing, highly impactful connectors you should know, in alphabetical order.

P.S. We’re always looking for people to spotlight on our ReaLISTS. If you or someone you know deserves to be here, you can submit a nomination all year round.

Zakiyyah Ali

  • Executive director, Tech Council of Delaware
  • In March 2023, Tech Council of Delaware officially launched, with Zakiyyah Ali as its official inaugural executive director. As far as the tech ecosystem goes, the Council is all about connection and building a sustainable tech hub with an inclusive talent pipeline in Delaware. A long-term regional connector, Ali previously served as senior director of workforce development for the City of Philadelphia.
Zakiyyah Ali speaking at the podium at the launch event.

Zakiyyah Ali speaking at the podium at the Tech Council of Delaware’s launch event. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

Cora Castle

  • President, OmniPotential Energy Partners
  • As a cofounder of OmniPotential, a greentech startup that places electric car charging stations (and helps push through legislation to make their placement possible), Castle gives to the community through environmentalism. But she doesn’t stop there: She is an advocate for social justice and equal access who often shares her expertise as an entrepreneur as part of the MILLSUMMIT and other events.

Jason Clarke

  • Chief information officer, Delaware Department of Technology and Information
  • From expanding wireless broadband access to making sure Delaware’s digital resources are accessible, Clarke is a people-focused CIO who can be found connecting with the tech community, advocates and high school students on the tech topics that concern them, including how AI is being implemented in the state.
Speakers on stafe at the AI in DE event.

Jason Clarke (in blue suit) at a Tech Forum event. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

Erica Crell

  • Manager of innovation, Delaware Prosperity Partnership
  • Erica Crell is nearing one year at DPP, where she helps to find and foster the most innovative companies through initiatives like Startup 302, and drawing growing out-of-state companies to Delaware. She’s no newbie to economic development in the state, though — Crell served as program coordinator at the Emerging Enterprise Center from 2015 to 2020.

Doneene Damon

  • Chief diversity director, Richards, Layton & Finger
  • Damon holds the distinction of being the first Black woman president of a law firm in Delaware. She is still with that firm, Richards, Layton & Finger, now as chief diversity director, a role that allows her to mentor high school and college students considering a career in law and showing them that the field has a place for them, even if they don’t look like the majority of law professionals.
Doneene Damon in white blazer with black tshirt

Doneene Damon. (Courtesy photo)

Gayle Dillman

  • CEO, Gable Music Ventures
  • Dillman cofounded Gable in the ’90s to bolster a Delaware music scene that only really worked for cover bands. If you’re seeing an original band of artist in Delaware, there’s a good chance Dillman had a hand in it. Beyond that vital service for the arts, she is also committed to economic development in the state by partnering with small local businesses across industries. And, of course, there would be no Ladybug Festival without her.

Jessica Gibson Brokenbaugh

  • Executive director, NERDiT Cares
  • NERDiT Cares, the community foundation of tech repair and recycling company NERDiT Now, has been donating refurbished devices to individuals and families for years now. A new location in downtown Wilmington led by Gibson Brokenbaugh connects people with technology by offering free tech training and apprenticeships.
Jessica Gibson Brokenbaugh

Jessica Gibson Brokenbaugh. (Courtesy photo)

Greg Godbout

  • Director, Delaware Coastal Society
  • Most tech accelerators in Delaware are in Wilmington or Newark. The Delaware Coastal Society, led by Godbout, is committed to creating a thriving tech ecosystem in Sussex County by focusing on its biggest potential: the ocean. Potential startups include data analysis and AI, robotics and environmental technology. In his day job, the Rehoboth Beach resident is also the chief growth officer of Baltimore-headquartered digital services firm Fearless.

Greg Godbout. (Courtesy photo)

Alexis Harris

  • Founder, First State Destinations
  • Are social media influencers community connectors? They are when they run Instagram accounts like Harris’ First State Destinations. Looking for a place to get brunch? A B&B near the beach? A tour of the new apartments downtown? Harris has got you. No one makes Delaware look more like a place you want to be.

Alexis Harris. (Courtesy photo)

Lillian Harrison

  • President and CEO, Elevated Community Development Corporation
  • Seaford-based Harrison launched Elevated CDC five years ago as a workforce development opportunity for Delawareans on probation, parole or work release, as well as veterans and homeless residents. Harrison has supported the community as an entrepreneurship coach, business builder and grant writer, and is also a real estate agent in Sussex County.

Isheta Kulshreshtha

  • President, Delaware Entrepreneurship League
  • DEL is Delaware’s first entrepreneurial network created for and by youth, building programs that connect high school students throughout the state to further their ventures and foster personal development. Kulshreshtha led the DEL leadership team to host the successful DelawareLaunch, a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition featuring high school students from Sussex, Kent and New Castle counties, with much more on the horizon. Her nominator wrote: “Isheta is an innovative connector, empowering those around her to employ their networks to succeed in developing their initiatives. Even outside of DEL, she seeks to build meaningful relationships with those around her.”

Katie LeCocq

  • Kitchen manager, Wilmington Kitchen Collective
  • As manager of the Kitchen Collective, LeCocq helps food-based entrepreneurs launch businesses out of its two updated commercial kitchens at Grace Church and First & Central Church in Wilmington. A visual artist, LeCocq previously served as communications manager at Servian Girls Academy Delaware.

Jim Lee

  • Futurist and founder, Stratfi
  • Delaware’s futurist, Lee shares his insights on the investments and the economy through his strategic investments company and via talks, panels and articles, some of which we’ve published on as guest posts.

Jim Lee. (Courtesy photo)

Kevin Palladinetti

  • Principal, AI du Pont High School
  • As the first public school principal in Delaware to turn a classroom into an esports arena and commit to launching an esports industry Pathway with partner Futures First Gaming, students are learning about the many careers in the growing industry, including design and development, coaching, management and marketing.

Mike Pfeifer

  • Founder, 1440 Film Co.
  • If you’re somewhere where things are happening in Delaware, especially if those things involve economic development or community growth activity, don’t be surprised if you see Pfeifer and his video team there. 1440 stays busy with contracts, but it also does a community project each year for free.
Mike Pfeifer working the Zip Code I/O shoot

Mike Pfeifer. (Courtesy photo)

Eric Smith

  • CEO, Launch Point Labs
  • This former VP of Carvertise — once a Delaware startup itself before becoming an international company — cofounded the startup studio Launch Point Labs with Kyra Gilmore, Travis King, Damon Martin and Brandon Mahoney in 2021, and has established himself as a valuable community stakeholder. By its nature, a startup studio is all about connections, with a pool of designers, marketers and advisors ready to help startups fill talent gaps as they grow.

Eric Smith. (Courtesy photo)

Darren Stephenson

  • Program manager, gALPHA Bronze Valley VentureLab Delaware
  • As Bronze Valley Ventures moves to bring more VC funding and startup support to Delaware, Stephenson manages its new gener8or-powered accelerator, now in its inaugural cohort. The program aims to mirror the success of Bronze Valley’s work in Birmingham, and could be a game changer for the First State.
Darren Stephenson, program manager for Bronze Valley Venture Lab

Darren Stephenson. (Courtesy photo)

Nick Strickland

  • Technology business advisor, Delaware Small Business Development Center
  • As a DuPont chemical engineer who previously developed and spun out a new brand from the company, Strickland supports upcoming entrepreneurs by mentoring them through his SBDC position, and through speaking engagements including the 2023 MILLSUMMIT.

Gianna Whitver

  • Cofounder, Cybersecurity Marketing Society
  • A relatively recent transplant to Delaware, Newark-based Whitver is a connector extraordinaire in her industry of cybersecurity marketing well beyond locally. The growing Society has hubs and events across the country, but Whitver is committed to being an active part of the Delaware ecosystem as well.
Two women smile and hold podcast microphones.

Cybersecurity Marketing Society cofounders Maria Velasquez and Gianna Whitver (right). (Courtesy photo)

Leonard Young

  • Founder, DelawareBlack
  • Young started DelawareBlack as an online news site that shared events and stories geared toward the state’s Black communities that were often overlooked by mainstream local media. It’s evolved into a national network connecting Black communities across the country — but locally focused DelawareBlack is still thriving, especially on its active Instagram.

Read Delaware’s original 75-person RealLIST Connectors list from 2020, and the 2021 and 2022 addendums.

Companies: Tech Council of Delaware / OmniPotential Energy Partners / Launch Point Labs / Cybersecurity Marketing Society / Delaware Prosperity Partnership / NERDiT NOW / Fearless / State of Delaware / Arcweb Technologies
Series: RealLIST Connectors / RealLIST

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