Delaware, get ready to vote: Meet your nominees for the 2022 Awards

Through Dec. 7, vote in five categories honoring innovators in industries and locales throughout the First State.

They're here. (Graphic by Penji for Awards 2022 are underwritten by Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs. This article was independently reported and not reviewed by Comcast before publication. Comcast is a Ecosystem Builder client.

It wouldn’t really be the end of the year without some form of superlatives, would it?

2022 has been yet another challenging year. The tech industry has seen mass layoffs, political unrest continues here and abroad, and the COVID-19 pandemic has settled in as something we just live with now. Yet in Delaware, we’ve seen bright spots, including a tech and entrepreneurship community that has stayed on its feet through a turbulent period.

To celebrate the good things, the Awards are back in full force, with five categories and 25 nominees from all over the state. We have an eye on celebrating Delawareans who work to make local tech and entrepreneurship communities successful, inclusive and forward-facing. Your 2022 categories are: Invention of the Year, Tech Community Leader of the Year, CTO of the Year, Tech Company of the Year and Culture Builder of the Year.

The winners for Delaware will be announced on Dec. 14. But first, it’s up to you to pick the winners.

We solicited nominations from members of the community this fall and curated these final nominees based on our own reporting. Now, it’s time for your vote on who deserves to be celebrated. Voting is open through 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Read more about each nominee below.

Vote in the 2022 Awards

Invention of the Year

What product, project or release this year is best poised to change its industry?

  • Futures First Gaming high school pathway — The Delaware esports organization fulfilled a goal in 2022 when it launched an extracurricular esports program in the public school system at AI du Pont High School. A career Pathway program in esports is expected to launch next fall.
  • Blue Economy Technology Center — An expansion of University of Delaware’s Robotics Discovery Lab in Lewes, this workforce development and R&D center received $2.6 million in federal funding in 2022.
  • HouseCall VR — The metaverse’s first healthcare hub was created by Delaware podiatrist Linda Ciavarelli. Visitors to the space can learn about a variety of health conditions through exhibits and games, as well as via live events in HouseCall VR’s auditorium, which draws virtual crowds with speakers on topics such as sports injuries and women’s health.
  • Nemours gaming program, part of the Department of Child Life, Creative Arts Therapy and School ProgramsNemours Hospital for Children became one of just a handful of hospitals nationwide to employ a full-time game and technology specialist this year. Patients are able to play video games, adapted to their needs as necessary, giving them a sense of fun, normalcy and therapy during difficult times.
  • 1000 Kids CodingCode Differently created this program to expose New Castle County middle and high school students, regardless of their prior coding knowledge, to computing and programming. The no-cost program includes website design and digital TV media creation, too.
Vote in the 2022 Awards

Tech Community Leader of the Year

Who has most made this community better through coalition building, nonprofit work, access-minded initiatives, policymaking or other pathways?

  • William D. Provine, founder, president and CEO of the Innovation Space — Provine conceptualized and led the establishment of the nonprofit public-private partnership of UD, DuPont and the State of Delaware. The hub supports the state’s science-based startups with grants, incubation, acceleration and, of course, a state-of-the-art space in DuPont’s Experimental Station. Now in its fifth year, the Innovation Space has helped 50 startups raise more than $750 million in investment capital. Provine oversees it all.
  • Angela Wagner, founder of the Delaware Creative Economy — A 2022 Reinventing Delaware finalist, Wagner launched this initiative that pushes for increased opportunities, infrastructure and resources for filmmakers, musicians and other creatives in Delaware.
  • Dan Freeman, founding director of the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship program — For the last 10 years, Horn has introduced design thinking and startup building to a generation of UD students. Companies that came out of the program included Carvertise, NERDit Now, TheraV and TRIC Robotics.
  • Jet Phynx, founder of Jet Phynx Films — A filmmaker who has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, Phynx built his independent film company in Wilmington in 2017 with an eye on filling a void in the market. In August 2022, Phynx debuted the Dirty Popcorn Black Film Festival. Recent projects include directing Ashanti’sFalling for You” video.
  • Peggy Geisler, owner of PMG Consulting — A strategic planner and community builder, Geisler has helped develop nonprofit programming in Delaware, including for E3, the Wilmington Alliance and the Springboard Collaborative.
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CTO of the Year

Who is leading groundbreaking technical work within their company or organization? (Similar titles beyond CTO were accepted.)

  • Katie Lakofsky, workforce development coordinator for Delaware Bio — Laofsky’s position at Delaware Bio was created this year to spearhead workforce development and relations between universities and companies in the life sciences and biotech sectors.
  • Greg Lane, CTO of the State of Delaware — Lane has been the state’s tech chief for going on six years, during which time Delaware has implemented the Broadband Strategic Plan, the business owner resource Delaware One Stop, Delaware Shields Up cybersecurity, and the outreach program Delaware DigiKnow, among others.
  • Kyle Barkins, CTO and cofounder of Tapp Network — Tapp helps hundreds of nonprofits and government agencies solve some of the world’s most urgent challenges, including Delaware’s Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education and Department of Labor. Barkins has over 20 years of experience in marketing technology and application development, having developed over 1,500 websites and apps for some of the world’s biggest brands and organizations.
  • Alexa Dembek, chief technology and sustainability officer at DuPont — Dembeck also leads DuPont’s Science & Innovation department, helping to accelerate the growth of science-based ventures.
  • Randall Gaboriault, SVP and chief digital and information officer at ChristianaCare — As healthcare continues to evolve with technology, Gaboriault keeps Delaware’s largest health system tech forward. He is also treasurer for the nonprofit workforce development org Tech Impact.
Vote in the 2022 Awards

Tech Company of the Year

What promising startup or growth-stage company is tackling an interesting problem, shaping its industry or inspiring a brighter collective future?

  • Omipotential Energy — This 2022 EDGE Grant recipient founded by Cora Castle specializes in electric vehicle charging stations, called Curbstar, for people who live in areas with street or lot parking.
  • Versogen — The green hydrogen startup founded by Yushan Yan is developing low-cost solutions for zero emission vehicles, and announced a $4.8 million expansion to bring dozens of new jobs to Newark.
  • Moonprint Solutions — This Dover-based 2022 EDGE Grant recipient founded by Dave Cadogan is an engineering company with services that include product development, consulting and prototype manufacturing.
  • Smart Kidz Club — This edtech startup founded by Surinder Sharma got a big boost in 2022 when it was selected by Google Play to represent Delaware in its #WeArePlay campaign.
  • HARTLON — This Wilmington EDGE Grant recipient developed a bioresorbable vascular stent that aims to remove “pain, non-healing sores and risk of limb amputation caused by poor blood flow below-the-knee.”
Vote in the 2022 Awards

Culture Builder of the Year

What empathetic leader or organizer is making their workplace or professional group more inclusive, resilient or engaging? (“Leader” doesn’t need to mean they hold a leadership title.)

  • Blake “The Brain” Saunders — You may have seen speaker, entrepreneur and proud Delaware State University alum Blake The Brain keeping the show moving as host of the MILLSUMMIT or during HBCU Week. He’s also the founder of Front Street Video and Failures and Goals.
  • Jeremy Hebbel — A cofounder of Gable Music Ventures, Hebbel has been helping build Delaware up for decades now, and he is continuing to do so in his new role as project management and event specialist for the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce. Events like the Entrepreneurship Summit have a whole new vibe.
  • Christopher Bruce — If you attended the hybrid MILLSUMMIT virtually this year, Bruce and his team at King Creative made it happen. You can also catch him on King Creative’s weekly web series “That’s a Wrap.”
  • Erin Hutt and Cierra Hall-Hipkins — The founders of the nonprofit Network Connect have been serving the youth of Wilmington for more than five years with their employment program Future Culture Creators.
  • CJ Bell — As manager of special projects for New Castle County, Bell specializes in millennial retention and entrepreneurship, including the networking nonprofit The Connect.
Vote in the 2022 Awards
Companies: OmniPotential Energy Partners / Versogen / Futures First Gaming / Code Differently / Delaware Bioscience Association / State of Delaware / Tapp Network / ChristianaCare / Comcast / DuPont / University of Delaware
Series: Awards

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