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Budding tech communities have two needs: More companies and better companies.
Technical.ly started the realLIST two years ago as 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 breaks it down 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?
Now, since there’s no single definition set in stone, we needed to lay down some rules for what qualifies as a “real” tech startup.
- Founded no earlier than 2016, following an early startup definition of ours.
- Most of its revenue comes from an innovative product, so no agencies like CompassRed or The Barn Creative.
- Has shown some track record of success.
- It remains independent, meaning not having been acquired, merged or gone public.
- It is headquartered and primarily staffed in Delaware.
For the Delaware RealLIST, qualified startups don’t necessarily have to be squarely in the tech realm – biotech/medical technology are included, as well as startups that utilize tech, but whose products are non-tech.
It’s worth stating the obvious: These rankings are not scientific. These is merely a list of 10 companies we’re most excited to follow in 2019. And, of course, feel free to argue your case if you think we’re 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 2019 realLIST:
One of two medical device companies designing products for the amputee community, Empowered Technology’s team – consisting of two biomedical engineering students from the University of Delaware, a certified prosthetics/orthotics professional and a lab tech/maker – has developed an innovative knee prosthetic. “The Knee” is designed to reduce falls, especially in elderly patients, and keep amputees walking longer as they grow older. They’re still in trials, but this is a startup to watch.
This personal journal app with the social media format has enough downloads in the Google Play store that we’re convinced they’re not all friends and family of creator Matt Sharp. It’s a simple but brilliant way to organize your thoughts and ideas privately, while encouraging the idea that not everything belongs on social media. Still very new, but we could see the concept going places, especially amid the rise in social awareness around mental health and anxiety.
A co-first place winner at Hen Hatch 2018, WilmInvest has been getting quite a bit of attention for its social venture business model, which includes fixing up vacant properties and providing housing to people in the community suffering from mental illness, addiction and chronic veteran homelessness. Founders Demetrius Thorn, Bryce Fender and Joel Amin are active in the community, including the Raising Kings pitch competition, which an early version of WilmInvest won in 2017. There have been serious talks with the city about making their plans reality – might 2019 be the year it happens?
The first fashion startup to make the Delaware realLIST, AndAgain makes the cut thanks to an innovative concept that separates them from traditional clothing businesses. Founded by University of Delaware graduates Morgan Young and Greg Harder, the young company is firmly a part of the startup scene, having developed its business concept through Horn Entrepreneurship and gone on to base their office at coworking space 1313 Innovation. Through online freelance platforms like Upwork, they contract seamstresses across the U.S. to sew their sustainable fashions out of pre-existing denim. They then collaborate with visual artists, who create designs that are transferred to the garments. How will the company evolve? We’ll be watching.
A $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is pretty real, and so is the solar cell technology behind this Newark-based startup. The four University of Delaware doctoral students/alumni who founded the company developed a technology to create solar cells at a low temperature, which are highly efficient and more cost-effective than current solar panel technology. You may not see the names Robert Opila, Abhishek Iyer, Meixi Chen, David Angel and James Hack in lights in the future, but there’s a chance their tech will help light the future.
FundingFuel founder Pedro Moore had a great 2018. It seemed like every time we turned around, his a equity crowdfunding platform for investing in local businesses was winning. Most notably, he was selected as a finalist in the Black Enterprise pitch competition and invited to present the company – founded in 2016 – at the 2018 Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit in San Francisco, where he took first place.
When we put out a call for suggestions for the 2019 realLIST, this new app from Newark’s Green Line Business Group (which also brought us Danio Diary) got lots of love. This timely app allows users to call upon their community (a college campus, or a neighborhood, for example) for backup if they’re being harassed or if there is a crime in progress. Nearby users who are alerted can help by recording the incident and reporting it in real time. It can also instantly alert the community to emergencies such as an active shooter. Now that the app is fully available on Android and iOS, we’re looking forward to see how its used.
In August, TheraV founder Amira Idris took her startup’s pain management device for amputees, ELIX, to the Amputee Coalition of America National Conference in Louisville, Ky., where the company was introduced to the public for the first time. The response was positive, as hundreds of people from the amputee community tested out the drug-free vibration therapy on their own phantom pain, many of whom placed pre orders for the product. As the ELIX finally gets into the hands of consumers, TheraV is one to watch over the coming year.
Ranked No. 8 last year, NerdIt Now came on the scene in 2016, when it came in second at the Hen Hatch pitch competition. Founder Markevis Gideon had big plans for the consumer tech support and repair startup, known for its branded vintage ambulances converted into what Gideon calls “tech food trucks” – and the NerdIt Now team delivered in 2018, with the opening of a full-service location at First State Plaza in Stanton, Del., the addition of a gaming section and the expansion of its nonprofit that provides free refurbished computers to low income families.
A few observations from the list:
- Social consciousness is prominent, with most of the 2019 startups having some notable mission to make the world better.
- There’s been a lot of wondering when small fintech startups will boom in Delaware – but maybe we should be focusing more on medtech.
- An improvement in female representation. Last year’s list was down to just one female cofounder. This year features four, including the cofounders of Empowered Technologies and SHIO.
- Racial diversity is still strong. There were five founders/cofounders of color on last year’s list. This year, there are six.
- Outsized University of Delaware presence. More than half of the startups have some kind of tie to UD.
- What ever happened to… Two of last year’s realLIST rankers, Textable and Bookbandit, have not updated their web presence since early 2018. Last year’s No. 3, Geoswap, pivoted into programmatic event advertising in 2018, but have not updated social media in several months. We have emails out to the company’s teams, but if you have updates on these startups, let us know.
- Yes, WhyFly technically still qualified for the realLIST this year, but for all intents and purposes we’re considering them an established company at this point, not a startup.
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