18 startups came out for the kickoff of the Spark Challenge workshop

“We see a lot of potential here,” said event organizer Gerry Moan of venture firm SmartInvest Ventures.

The crew at Phase 1 of the Spark Challenge.

(Courtesy photo)

Eighteen companies participated Thursday in the first phase of the Spark Challenge, a startup workshop organized by international venture firm SmartInvest Ventures.
SmartInvest Managing Partner Gerry Moan said the goal of the challenge was to prepare Delaware startups for investors. Participants, like Rita Chang of Delaware Startup Launchpad winner Thimble, came from various industries, including retail, social media and blockchain, and chemical engineering. (We’re waiting on a full list of participants and we’ll update here when we get it.)
“We are very excited by the talent pool that came out today,” Moan said. “That’s why we are here. We see a lot of potential here.”
Phase 1 of the Spark Challenge was set up as a day-long workshop on perfecting a pitch. After presenting their original pitches, the participants were able to break away and work one-on-one with 10 mentors to make their pitches more investor-friendly. The SmartInvest Ventures staff provided each company with a template of questions that they should be able to answer, once they reworked their pitches.
“The goal is for the contestants to gain consistency after they rework the template,” Moan said. “We have provided them with the methodology to attract investors.”
Kevin Kriss and Nick Barba, cofounders of Delaware Tech Startup of the Year 2016 COAKT, a social networking platform they described as “Upwork meets Kickstarter,” also participated in the Spark Challenge. While meeting with Moan and mentor Chris Harrelson, an attorney at the Wilmington firm Richards, Layton & Finger, the pair defined the answers to pertinent questions, including “Who is your market?” and “What is the problem you are looking to solve?”
“[The Spark Challenge] was a breath of fresh air,” said Kriss. “We are very passionate about the startup community here in Wilmington. It was nice to have a VC come in and be willing to invest the money and resources.”
Barba added that he was impressed by the diverse group of investors and mentors that came out to help the contestants.
“There weren’t just investors here. There were lawyers and other professionals. It was nice to be able to get all those different perspectives,” he said.
Moan and his team will choose the top companies to move on to Phase 2 of the challenge, which will take place throughout May 22 -24, June 5-7 and June 20-22.


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