(Photo by Objective Photography)
Budding tech communities have two needs. They need more companies. And they need better companies.
Last year, Technical.ly started the realLIST, an annual look at the most promising early-stage tech companies in each of our markets. Its name comes from a question that has often been debated in the Technical.ly newsroom: Is that tech startup real?
What does it mean to be “real”? In Delaware’s inaugural realLIST post, our CEO Chris Wink described it like this:
For companies, the idea must be clear and, more importantly, the team must be serious. By nature of the fledgling status of a startup, there’s limited track record, just a mix of what our reporters hear from those in the know and what we see ourselves. And so that’s what we often debate: What do you think of that company, are they real?
First, we laid down the rules for what we qualify as a “tech startup,” since there’s no single definition set in stone:
- Founded no earlier than 2014, following an early startup definition of ours. (That kept us from including representative stalwarts like IndieGameStand, surging biotech spinout White Dog Labs and health IT startup Kurbi.)
- Derive most of their revenue from an innovative product, so no agencies like CompassRed or The Barn Creative.
- Show some track record of success.
- Remain independent, meaning not having been acquired (like Zenbanx) or gone public.
- Headquartered and primarily staffed in Delaware (no Hoboken-based LendEDU or Aztec Exchange, for example).
It’s worth stating the obvious: These rankings are not scientific. These are the 10 companies we’re most excited to follow in 2018 (although we do love a good case for why we might be wrong).
(By the way, this informed analysis is a keystone of the community journalism we produce at Technical.ly. If you find this information valuable and unique, please consider becoming a member.)
So, without further ado, here is Technical.ly Delaware’s 2018 realLIST:
In 2016, founder Pedro Moore came in second at the Delaware Startup Launchpad accelerator with just an idea: To create better funding opportunities for startups and investors, including everyday folks interested in investing in their community. Today, FundingFuel is a equity crowdfunding platform for investing in local businesses, with a waitlist.
When Middletown’s Shrinkabill made the list last year at No. 10, it was still more or less a very promising side project for founder Jordan Wolff. When we caught up with him in August, the little company that negotiates with companies to lower its clients’ bills had shown significant growth and an expanded team that included two partners, three advisers, three full-time staffers, two bloggers and an SEO specialist. Can they go the distance and become a leader in consumer advocacy? We’ll continue to keep an eye on it in 2018.
8. NerdiT NOW
After taking second place in the 2016 Hen Hatch pitch competition, founder Markevis Gideon set his sights on taking over the consumer tech support and repair sector now dominated by his former employer, Geek Squad. With fast turnarounds, affordable pricing and branded vintage ambulances converted into what Gideon calls “tech food trucks,” as well as a brick-and-mortar location in Newport, NerdiT NOW is all over our radar.
Winner of Dev Product of the Year at our own Delaware Innovation Awards in November, Textable has come a long way in a short time — the company launched its beta in April 2017. The product is a text platform for businesses designed to save time for both the company and their customers by reducing the need to communicate by phone. Now fully released to the public, we look forward to seeing where this very promising startup is headed.
When founder Trevor Brown pitched his product at the Spark Challenge during Delaware Innovation Week, it was clear that the biomedical engineer, whose work is based out of the Delaware Technology Park’s newest wet-lab incubator space, had come up with a potentially lifesaving solution to the problem of prescription opioid abuse. DEact neutralizes opioids so that they are useless and can be disposed of safely. While it’s still very new, its timeliness and potential impact makes it very real.
Formerly known as Vibrating Therapeutic Apparel, this medical startup founded by onetime University of Delaware track star Amira Idris has won numerous startup awards, including our own Delaware Entrepreneur of 2016 award. With this year’s rebrand, Idris is taking her innovative pain solution for amputees to the next level.
Last year, this textbook aggregator founded by UD/Horn Program student Jim Jannuzzio was so new we decided to wait it out before declaring it realLIST material. In the 12 months since, the BookBandit app and website have publicly launched, caught the attention of Google and won our own Tech Startup of the Year award. Jannuzzio, who graduates in the spring, has hit on a particular pain point among his peers: the high cost of college textbooks.
Founded by Jason Bamford, Jordan Gonzalez and Keith Doggett, recent UD grads from the Horn Program, Geoswap has evolved quite a bit into a solid app that combines deals and discounts with localized social media. It was our partner app for Delaware Innovation Week, when users could use it to find events, locate nearby restaurants and shops, and share comments and photos about the events in real time. In December, they landed the designation of “Official app of SantaCon NYC,” a gateway into their first market outside of Delaware: New York, New York. NBD.
2. Danio Diary
The exciting thing about Danio Diary is it’s unanticipated potential. Developer Gabe Humphreys and his team created an app for caregivers to easily communicate with doctors and family members securely, making it easier to keep everyone on the same page. And it works great for that use case. The platform, with its extreme security, has also been adapted for other uses outside of medicine, however: even the Department of Defense has shown interest.
Delaware’s alternative WiFi provider, founded by former ING CTO Mark Thompson (our 2017 CTO of the Year) and Mike Palita, has taken off — and with the costly, often-frustrating WiFi services provided by Comcast and Verizon, it doesn’t look like it’s coming down any time soon. WhyFly is easily the most recognized startup in Delaware. People who don’t follow the tech scene at all know about it, want it and/or already have it. Its coverage area in centered in Wilmington with much of the state waiting on availability, but it’s a young company and is already laying down infrastructure downstate so, hopefully, the beaches will have WhyFly by summer. Plus, they’re committed to net neutrality regardless of changes to FCC policy.
A few observations from the list:
- Not much growth in fintech startups. Fintech is happening in Delaware, but not so much with startups. Banks like JPMorgan Chase and Barclays, which have a strong presence here, are evolving into fintechs, though obviously not startup fintechs.
- Where are the women? Last year’s list featured four woman founders/cofounders. This year features one.
- Racial diversity is still strong. There were four founders of color on last year’s list. This year, there are five.
- Outsized University of Delaware presence. Fully half of the startups have some kind of tie to UD.
- Even more medical products. Last year’s list featured two medical products; this year there are three.
- Just three raised outside capital. Delaware startups continue to be a bootstrappy bunch, though we’ve heard from several founders that they’d like more opportunities to not be.
So, that’s our second annual Delaware realLIST. What will change next year? What would you change this year? Tell us in the comments below. And thanks for your support.
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