(Photo by Jim Graham)
Technical.ly is celebrating its 10th birthday this year — and even though Technical.ly Delaware is only half that old (we launched in June 2014, the same year Wilmington was named “Murdertown” by Newsweek), we’re taking a look back at the last decade of tech in the First State, and sharing some of the biggest stories we’ve covered in the last five.
What Delaware looked like in 2009
The U.S. financial crisis may have been in recovery, but looking back at 2009 in Delaware, things were pretty bleak (or on the verge of bleak). It was the year the Boxwood GM plant closed, and WFD firefighters faced layoffs for the first time in city history.
Hercules, the company whose namesake building is now best known as the home of 1313 Innovation, had been acquired by Ashland in 2008. The building was known for its lavish modern setting, its atrium filled with flora and fauna and — this is true — indoor waterfalls flanking the escalators. The idea of bringing nature into Hercules’ corporate space was pretty cool, but it was gone by 2009.
(Who would have thought that delivering food to Wilmington office buildings in the late ’00s would come in handy for writing an article in 2019?)
On the Wilmington Riverfront, things looked brighter (unless you were a fan of Kahunaville, the burnt-out remains of which would become the Delaware Children’s Museum that year). The Shipyard Shops outlets were still a thing, but the financial crisis had hit it hard. Today, those buildings house The Emerging Enterprise Center and a massive Planet Fitness.
But when you thought of The Riverfront in 2009, it was all about ING Direct, with its prominent orange ball branding. They transformed the area from the train station to the Riverfront Market into a modern work setting, where employees enjoyed the kind of laid back atmosphere not normally associated with banks at the time. The cool Railroad Building location was probably the closest thing to The Mill in 2009, minus the coworking.
All of that would end just a couple of years later, when ING Direct was acquired by Capital One in 2011. That’s not to say that Capital One did Wilmington wrong — it’s one of Delaware’s top tech employers — but there was a specific, different energy in 2009. This is something we’ve gone through multiple times, most notably with MBNA in the 1990s. In the end, the loss of ING Direct in Wilmington contributed to the startup era that would follow.
Big Delaware tech stories from 2009 to 2014
Between the launch of the flagship Technical.ly Philly in 2009 and Technical.ly Delaware in 2014, the tech/startup scene started brewing. There were three events in particular that stick out from that period:
- In 2010, Delaware’s first coworking space, CoIN Loft, was launched by Wes Garnett, Pedro Moore and Steve Roettger. Technical.ly Philly covered it. CoIN would lead the way for other incubators and coworking spaces in Wilmington, including 1313 Innovation, The Mill, The Hub and the organization it evolved into, Start It Up Delaware.
- In 2012, entrepreneur and investor Charles Horn helped launch the the Horn Program In Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware. Now called Horn Entrepreneurship, the program has launched several successful startups, including Carvertise and TheraV. We covered its five-year anniversary in 2017.
- In 2013, real estate developer Paul McConnell teamed up with Digital-Vikings to turn part of The Hercules Building, which his firm McConnell-Johnson purchased in 2005, into a startup incubator. 1313 Innovation officially launched in 2014, the same year Technical.ly launched in the Delaware market.
The Dow/DuPont merger
The impact of the 2015-2017 Dow/DuPont merger on Delaware cannot be overstated.
It wouldn’t be overstating it to call the merger a metaphorical bloodbath that affected not only employees (and Delaware had/has a lot of DuPont employees), but most of downtown Wilmington, as DuPont sold off the Hotel du Pont, the DuPont Building and the Nemours Building (all now Buccini Pollin properties) as well as other landmarks, including the DuPont Country Club (which was ultimately co-purchased by Zip Code Wilmington cofounder Ben du Pont).
It was a dramatic change for what was, for decades, a company town. Banks came and went, but there was always DuPont.
Dow/DuPont’s newly branded DuPont is headed toward becoming a major employer in Delaware again, but it’s hard to shake the virtual gutting that took place in 2016. Interestingly, stories about the DuPont merger got relatively little traffic on Technical.ly Delaware, which suggests that it didn’t necessarily directly impact the tech and startup community as much as new ventures like Zip Code.
The top 10
So what were the stories that made waves on Techncal.ly Delaware in its first five years? Here’s a list of our top 10 stories that followed the most impactful moments during that time, in chronological order:
- 23-year-old founder wants to turn your car into a rolling billboard — 9/4/14
- One of the first founders we ever covered, Mac Nagaswami of Carvertise, is still a regular Technical.ly Delaware feature — it’s no longer a startup, but a national, Wilmington-based company. Take a VR tour of their new(ish) location by the Christina River.
- Is Wilmington University’s new 41-acre campus bad for Delaware? —11/11/14
- Wilmington University’s expansion was and is a big story for tech, among other industries, and economic development. Technical.ly cofounder (now CEO) Chris Wink took a critical look at the school’s choice to build its new campus on Concord Pike in suburban North Wilmington rather than downtown. This story went contrary to a lot of other reporting in Delaware, and was more than a little controversial. Today, WU Brandywine is in its first year of classes, and Wilmington North is evolving, with spots like the BioDome and a second location of The Mill, set to open this year.
- Markell on Zip Code Wilmington: ‘Government could not have done this’ — 6/2/15
- Before coding school Zip Code Wilmington came together thanks to some of the state’s top technologists and advocates, then-governor Jack Markell flew out to the Bay Area, hoping to bring a Silicon Valley coding school to Delaware. Turned out, we had everything we needed here.
- This Delaware law is behind Google’s recent restructuring — 8/11/2015
- If you love Delaware General Corporation Law — and who doesn’t — this is the story about how a little amendment allowed a tech giant to create a holding company without needing permissions from the shareholders of the constituent corporations, allowing it to focus on its most valuable subsidiaries.
- Here’s a first look at The Mill, a new coworking space landing in Wilmington this spring — 11/17/15
- The Mill isn’t Delaware’s first coworking space, but it’s built the state’s most recognized coworking brand. If WeWork is Starbucks, The Mill is Brew Ha Ha, a brand so ingrained in Delaware’s identity that Wilmington didn’t have a Starbucks until 2015. This year, The Mill has become even more a part of the greater community, with public events at Theatre N, including local live music and an upcoming comedy night.
- CSC is getting a tech makeover and looking for IT hires — 4/20/16
- CSC is a resilient company, from its founding over 100 years ago in Wilmington to the survival of all of its employees working on the 87th floor of Two World Trade Center on 9/11. In 2016, it officially became a full-on tech company, and set out to build an HQ on Route 48 that rivaled anything in Silicon Valley. That HQ opened in mid-2017, and it’s pretty fabulous (you can check out the first floor at NET/WORK on March 20).
- JPMorgan Chase forges ahead with fintech hires — 4/29/16
- Some think of financial startups when they think of fintech, but in Delaware, most fintech companies are international banks. JPMorgan Chase has worked hard to draw technologists in Delaware, with its state-of-the-art Technology Center and technologist outreach. A bank hiring in Delaware is hardly news — but 1,400 tech jobs? A big deal.
- Wilmington’s Swift Financial acquired by PayPal — 1/10/17
- We get fewer drop-what-you’re-doing breaking tech stories in Delaware than the other markets, but PayPal’s acquisition of Swift Financial was definitely one of them.
- Delaware wants its HQ2 pitch to attract all businesses, not just Amazon — 10/20/17
- There’s got to be an Amazon HQ2 story, right? Our most widely read story on the topic was “‘We are on this big time’: Wilmington will pitch for Amazon HQ2” — but we’re highlighting the pitch day, because it showed that Delaware wasn’t so swept up in the HQ2 mania that they created a pitch that had no use when all was said and done and Amazon went somewhere else. The pitch video, #OptionsinDE by Short Order Productions, was designed to attract all kinds of businesses to Delaware (and it still holds up).
- We need to talk about why Jocelyn Harper left Girl Develop It — 10/5/2018
Why is this a relevant tech story? The number of hits this piece has gotten in just a few months suggests that, as our tech communities become increasingly diverse, discussions need to transcend dev and coding languages.
Finally, Technical.ly Delaware’s all-time most-read article is an evergreen piece that doesn’t represent big tech event in Delaware, but rather a question we know lots and lots people have: “64% of Fortune 500 firms are Delaware incorporations: here’s why.” It has gotten hits consistently since it was published by Chris Wink in September 2014.
Of course, these are only a few of the stories from the last five years. Share your favorite moments with us on Twitter.
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