(Photo by Mona Parikh)
If you’ve been in the area long enough, you’ve probably heard this a million times: “It’s easy to get things done in Delaware because the state is so small.”
It’s true, the spirit of collaboration is strong in the First State. That was clear at our second stakeholder meeting of the year, held last Thursday at Archer Group in Wilmington to kick off Delaware Innovation Week 2016. The overarching theme? Collaboration. It’s a trait that’s very typical in Delawareans, in fact, so it’s not at all surprising to learn about.
We gathered local tech leaders to discuss where Delaware innovation is headed at the meeting. There was a healthy mix of representation from government, public and private sector tech advocates in the room. Many of them spoke of collaborations that were in the works. Here’s the overview.
Samantha Lukoff, deputy chief of staff at the City of Wilmington’s mayor’s office, spoke about the City of Wilmington’s initiative to give vacant storefronts and buildings a facelift. A beautification partnership between the city and artists and the Southbridge Community House will be unveiled next week. The idea is to “beautify the neighborhood to keep people from going into those buildings,” said Lukoff.
Will Minster, director of economic restructuring at Downtown Visions, said he was most proud of the 47 renovations that are among downtown Wilmington’s accomplishments this year, which included a number of projects with Buccini/Pollin Group. Minster hopes to move into retail recruitment soon to build a nighttime community in the area. His team is “looking at the types of businesses that would attract people,” he said.
That’s a move in the right direction to develop Wilmington’s urban core. So is the new Starbucks downtown, as Rory Laitila, founder of itr8group, pointed out. But when it comes to mid-career developers in the area, there still aren’t enough around to collaborate with. Which is why Laitila wants to create a space for devs to avoid the college student brain drain, when college students move out of the area after college. He’s partnering with Zip Code Wilmington to launch a software lab, one he described “as a makerspace but for developers.”
Frank DeSantis, manager at the Emerging Enterprise Center at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, has a mantra for his incubator residents: “Incubate, educate and advocate for entrepreneurs and small business in Delaware.” He said, “It’s about establishing a cadence.”
There’s also a partnership afoot between all the coworking spaces in Wilmington through the Delaware Startup Launchpad accelerator. Mona Parikh, tech community liaison at the Horn Program, who is also teaching sessions, said that she was most excited about the current cohort.
“One of the biggest things I’ve seen change is moving towards healthy competition rather than unhealthy competition. We’re too small to work against each other, if you include other organizations and share what you’re working on,” said Parikh.
Alta Field, who heads the state library system’s Inspiration Space program, said that “Delaware is very collaborative in reaching out to one each other.”
Field is also looking forward to collaborating with downstate tech advocate Rob Nicholson to develop a junior group for workshops in Sussex County.
Ken Anderson, director of entrepreneurial and small business development at the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) said he’s “excited to partner and work with all the people in the room” and that he’s “looking forward to the future of Delaware tech space.” Now that’s an invitation if we’ve ever heard one.
John Royer, managing director at InsiteHub, said the past two years have done a lot for the community. He also mentioned downstate tech advocate Nicholson and said that there’s a lot of “cool stuff” going on in Sussex County. The next step, he said, is to start “solidifying the vibe around here.”
We were glad to see the spirit of togetherness alive and well in the room, just as it was discussed in our last stakeholders meeting a few months ago.
Wanna make it in Delaware? Just collaborate with someone. You’ll soon be well on your way into establishing yourself the Delaware way.
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