(Photo by Flickr user Giuseppe Milo, used under a Creative Commons license)
A new event that will allow entrepreneurs to share their business ideas and get them ready for investors is coming to Wilmington this April. The Spark Challenge, a free, nine-day program that is part pitch contest, part workshop, is sponsored by Smart Invest Ventures, a venture firm that has offices in Ireland, Israel and Philadelphia.
Smart Invest Ventures Managing Partner Gerry Moan said the idea to bring the Spark Challenge to Delaware came about while he and a colleague, Charles Kerrigan, were discussing the DuPont layoffs.
“We were discussing DuPont and the similarities that situation had to the economic troubles Ireland faced in 2008,” Moan explained. “Our company was able to help a lot of people here in Ireland get back on their feet after experiencing a trauma, and we thought why not bring our company to Delaware and help the people there rebuild and rejuvenate.”
Moan said the goal of the Spark Challenge is to help entrepreneurs understand their value and potential, while developing a more global focus for their projects.
“We will help the entrepreneurs become appropriate targets for venture capital. We will make them investor-ready,” he promised.
The program is broken down into two phases. Phase I, a pitch competition on April 13, will gauge the project’s potential and make sure it is a fully developed idea. It’ll be held at the offices of law firm Richards, Layton and Finger.
For entries that make it through the first round, Phase II, will involves getting investor-ready. Participants will learn how to perform under pressure, test and verify key assumptions and hone leadership skills. Trainings will be run by Moan and his team and will take place at The Mill.
Apply by April 7.
Moan is looking for companies that have reached an early stage of maturity, meaning they have completed an accelerator and already have some validation for their product idea. We have to wonder how many Delaware startups fit into that mold (perhaps grads from the UD Horn Program’s Startup Launchpad?), but we’ll be watching closely to see who participates.
The Spark Challenge is the kickoff event that will welcome Smart Invest Ventures to Delaware, Moan said.
“We hope to build a long-term relationship with the entrepreneurs and businesses here,” Moan said. “We are here to stay for as long as we are able to help companies grow.”
Smart Invest’s portfolio companies span the globe, from Tel Aviv search company Zoomd to South Dublin, Ireland-based smart home company The HUB Controller to Belfast, Ireland-based enterprise video platform Secure Broadcast.
Perhaps this means for venture capital for Delaware?