(Photo by Melissa DiPento)
A few years ago, John Kirk noticed something interesting going on across the street.
His Wilmington neighbor, who had relocated from the West Coast, was building a giant touch screen device with laser wires, a projector and laptop, about a year before the iPad was released.
Richard Prieto and Kirk, a then newly-minted lawyer, got to talking and decided to team up.
From there, MUNI-Tech was born, with the goal of creating hardware and software to connect people all over the world, visually.
At first, with Kirk’s background, the pair planned to work on improving visual communication in the courtroom, but decided law is typically an area that doesn’t keep up with technology fast enough.
“But manufacturers had this problem of having multiple sites, using all of these really innovative visual management techniques, but they were all localized to a specific place,” Prieto said. “And they have these huge cross-functional teams spread out across the globe and the only way to share that information was to physically fly people to wherever they were. That’s when we said, ‘OK, I think that there’s a huge market opportunity here if we can figure that out.’”
The company formed in 2010 and now has about 10 people working and contributing to the startup, Prieto said.
Earlier this year, MUNI installed a large touch screen board in the lobby of the Hercules Building at 1313 Market St. in Wilmington. The board has rotating carousels that show the tenants of the building and their websites, weather, news and more. The MUNI team is also working to create a video display for the Nemour’s building, which will give users a virtual concierge experience. The team is also close to launching Converge, a collaborative web app.
MUNI will soon take part in DreamIt Ventures’ Philadelphia accelerator program. Kirk said his startup snuck in an application at the last minute, after debating which accelerator program to apply to — and it paid off.
MUNI will receive mentorship and funding during the course of the fall program, in exchange for a small equity stake. Kirk and Prieto said they hope to make the most of their time with the DreamIt mentors.
“We got in, so let’s focus on what we hope to accomplish. We want to show a compelling case for the market and we have a team to do it,” Kirk said.
MUNI will also have the opportunity to present their company’s work at the end of the program on Demo Day — an event which draws dozens of investors and venture capitalists.
Kirk said MUNI originally hoped to relocate to Austin, Texas, but likely plans to stay in Delaware. Kirk and Prieto have embraced the coworking spirit — sometimes working at The Loft — and would love to have MUNI employees working from coworking spaces in Delaware, Philadelphia, Austin and San Francisco.
“The entrepreneurial spirit in Delaware is very supportive and collaborative and we’re starting to get momentum. There are some business leaders here to help startups when it really counts,” Kirk said. “But we still have that very traditional corporate mindset in Wilmington that makes it difficult. But it’s starting and we want to be a part of it.”-30-
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