Startups in Delaware don’t always look like your typical startup. But they’re as real as you get.
When you think of a startup, you may think of Silicon Valley and its endless stream of apps and algorithms. And Delaware does have some of those. But First State startups are much more diverse than that: As an agricultural state, there are agtech startups; as a long time home of scientific innovation, we have science and medtech startups; and, as a center of finance, fintech is growing.
Technical.ly started the realLIST three 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 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?
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 2017, 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.
In addition, this year we’ve added a rule that a startup on the list can not have not been on the annual realLIST before.
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 2020. 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 2020 realLIST:
Founded in early 2018 and led by Dr. Hajime Sakai, this agtech startup out of the Delaware Innovation Space (a partnership between State of Delaware, DuPont, and the University of Delaware) was a recipient of a STEM Edge Grant in fall 2019, shortly before receiving $1,000,000 in funding from The Grantham Foundation. While the company, which focuses on developing high-yield hybrid crops using gene editing, is currently working on research and development, its international team of scientists and investors, its DIS association, and its recent proof of concept publication makes it very real.
9. EZY Venture
This Harrington startup, founded by siblings Jen Stark and Bill Rohrer, is helping the CBD industry take hold in Delaware by growing and processing now-legal hemp crops into valuable CBD oil for use in supplements, cosmetics and medicinal food products. It first caught our eye when it entered — and won — an Entrepreneur track Edge Grant in Fall 2019.
This second-round EDGE Grant recipient is still in its beta stage, but not for much longer, as founder Amanda Hoffmeyer is rolling out the platform to veterinarians during the industry’s largest conferences this winter. Inspired by daycare apps, FurBaby Tracker allows veterinary offices to easily send pet parents updates, photos and information while the pet is receiving inpatient care.
What if robots could treat crops against pests with UV-C light instead of pesticides? TRIC Robotics, a Newark based startup founded by Adam Stager with pilot sites in Georgetown and Camden, Delaware, and Kearneysville, West Virginia, is working to make it an industry-wide reality.
Designed to make networking as simple as a few clicks (and no remembering to send out connection emails later), Connector Street was founded by Andrea Tinianow. It’s been available for download in app stores since its Millennial Summit launch. The Mill is a supporter — Delaware’s biggest coworking company recently launched its member network, Mill Connect, using the Connector Street app as its platform.
A self-described “compassionate capitalist,” founder Ajit George made his vertical hydroponic urban farm a reality in Riverside in November 2019. The location is not only in an Opportunity Zone, the business model is designed to help members of the community returning home from incarceration and find jobs where they can grow into management positions and, potentially, start their own indoor farms in vacant space. Harvested crops, including herbs and lettuce, will be sold to local restaurants and markets.
Sury Gupta and James Massaquoi have been traveling all over the country — including to Student Startup Madness Startup of the Year at SXSW in Austin and Startup World Cup in Boston — raising funds for 360VR Technology, a startup that uses virtual reality technology to aid first responders by providing 3D floor plans of public spaces such as schools and office buildings in the event of an emergency. The startup’s real-world projects include The Bob Carpenter Center.
The winner on Hen Hatch 2019’s alumni track, Patient Sortal, founded in 2017 by Kenny Eck, is a healthcare data management system that uses blockchain and cloud-based software to consolidate and manage all of your healthcare records so that neither you nor your provider need to access multiple accounts for a complete record. The startup got real and began taking on clients in June 2019.
WilmInvest was founded in 2017 by then-University of Delaware students Joel Amin and Bryce Fender. But it’s just been over the past year, give or take, that the social venture, has started fulfilling its mission: to renovate vacant properties and rent them, with the help of social services, to people struggling with poverty. WilmInvest also manages the properties and helps tenants gain access to services that can put them on the path to homeownership. They won Swim with the Sharks 2019, and landed an EDGE Entrepreneur track grant in the fall.
2019 was a big year for W7Energy, a science startup founded by the University of Delaware professor Yushan Yan. With a product called PiperION that aims to make zero-emission fuel cell vehicles a reality, everyone from DuPont to the State of Delaware to the U.S. Department of Energy has gotten on board with it. It was one of the first “Fast Pass” recipients at the Delaware Innovation Space, a STEM class EDGE Grant winner, and was awarded $3.4 million from the DoE. That’s just the beginning. Right now, we’re voting W7Energy most likely to be a major player in innovating global transportation technology, and that’s about as real as it gets.
This list was, as always, hard to narrow down. A lot of the startups we looked at are real, and we expect them to do big things. So here are the runners-up — a few startups we think are worth keeping an eye on (in alphabetical order):
- 2M (science)
- 4th Phase Water Technologies (nanotube biotech)
- DE-AFO (Ankle Foot Orthotics) (medtech)
- Delaware BioPlastics (biotech)
- KnowCapp (fintech)
- Lignolix (biotech)
- Neggster (fintech)
- Nuerothera (med/biotech)
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