After a postponement and revamp, the first Startup 302 is about to kick off - Delaware


Nov. 23, 2020 12:19 pm

After a postponement and revamp, the first Startup 302 is about to kick off

Now with a focus on equity in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, the competition is holding an info session in December, ahead of the February application deadline.
Startup 302 is coming.

Startup 302 is coming.

(Screenshot via Startup 302)

December will be here before we know it, and if you’ve been thinking about applying to participate in the inaugural Startup 302 virtual pitch competition in April, you’ll want to put a pin in Dec. 10.

That’s when, at noon, interested founders have the opportunity to meet virtually with the Startup 302 steering committee, learn all the details of the competition, and ask questions.

Startup 302 was conceived by the Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) as a neoFest event aimed at bringing startup founders from all over the world to Delaware. When COVID-19 hit, neoFest, originally planned for May 2020, was postponed a year. Startup 302 followed suit.

Instead of simply pushing the event back a year, DPP pivoted in September, announcing a revamped virtual Startup 302 with a new focus on underrepresented founders impacted by funding inequities — just 2.6% of VC funding has gone to Black and Latinx founders combined in 2020, as of the end of August — and strengthening the startup community here in the region.

“Innovation thrives when diverse perspectives are fostered and included,” said Ariel Gruswitz, director of innovation at DPP, in a statement. “Startup 302 aims to improve access and equity across the First State’s innovation ecosystem.”

Participating startups must have at least one founding team member from an underrepresented group, which includes Black, Latinx and Indigenous founders, as well as woman founders. These founders often face hurdles when pursuing angel investment as well as traditional bank financing.


Prizes for Startup 302 winners will include more than $150,000 in prize money, access to mentors and valuable connections within the startup ecosystem, including introductions to potential investors.

“Regardless of funding type, underrepresented founders have historically faced many challenges accessing the capital necessary to launch, scale and succeed in business,” Gruswitz said. “Bias — whether explicit or implicit and whether systemic, institutional and/or unconscious — is the primary issue, and cultural and communication differences contribute as well.”

Garry Johnson III, founder of the First Founders Accelerator, is a member of the Startup 302 steering committee.

“Delaware has a unique opportunity to position itself as a leader of inclusive and equitable innovation,” he said. “I’m excited to contribute to collaborative efforts like these that attract diverse communities of founders to the region.”

Other members of the Startup 302 steering committee are venture capital advisor Pedro Moore and representatives of the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance, the University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship Program and Delaware State University’s College of Business.

The application deadline for Startup 302 is Feb. 14. There is no cost to enter. The finals of the competition will take place virtually in April.

For more information and to apply, visit To register for the Dec. 10 info session, go to its event page.


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