This coming fall, downtown Wilmington’s tech and entrepreneurship cluster will get a little more … clustery.
Hatch House Ventures, a nonprofit live/work space for student entrepreneurs, is days away from locking down its second location off Market at 103 W. 7th St.
The first location, in close proximity to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., will open July 1.
According to Hatch House founder Steve Boerner, branching out before fully establishing the flagship space is all in the master plan.
“Our real goal is to be a national network of houses,” said Boerner, who received his master’s in engineering in technical entrepreneurship from Lehigh. “We have the model to do that.”
At its core, Hatch House is a live/work startup incubator for young entrepreneurs balancing their duties as founders with their collegiate responsibilities. Boerner supplies tenant entrepreneurs with affordable housing and office space, a mentor with experience in their field and access to venture capitalists through regular investor pitch competitions.
“We have connections with New York City-based venture capital firms that are eager to see how companies develop out of Hatch House,” Boerner said. “We have angel investors in the Lehigh Valley that have invested in student companies or early-stage seed companies and they’re anxious to see the competitions we do.”
Boerner is hoping to set up a similar arrangement here in Delaware. Why Wilmington? Boerner said after touring over 50 properties in the Tri-State region, Wilmington just makes the most sense.
“Wilmington was perfect,” he said. “There’s so much entrepreneurship and commerce — our target market is there. This is a great fit.”
Boerner said he’s received around 30 applications from entrepreneurs eager to shack up in the Lehigh Valley location. Five have been accepted. Boerner plans on scooping up five to eight local entrepreneurs for the Hatch House in Wilmington.
Those student entrepreneurs will live and work on the third floor of the building at 103 W. 7th St. The other two floors will be leased as standard apartment units and commercial office spaces until the demand grows. In a couple years, Boerner wants to house about 20 entrepreneurs in the Wilmington location.
Boerner said the inspiration for Hatch House was born from his own experience as a student entrepreneur, where he “saw a lot of ideas and businesses dying on the vine.” And while he said there are over 30 houses around the country that have a similar business model (mostly on the West Coast), none have the nonprofit setup he’s developed with Hatch House.
“We’re not in the risk business. We’re not taking equity [from tenants],” he said. “I haven’t come across anybody else quite like us.”
If you’re interested in applying for a space in the Hatch House, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.-30-
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