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Fintech, mergers and HQ2: Delaware’s biggest tech stories of the last 10 years

In the past decade, the First State's tech and business landscapes have changed dramatically. Here are the most impactful stories from our five years of reporting and beyond.

Correction: Newsweek named Wilmington "Murdertown" in 2014, not 2009. (2/10, 6 p.m.) is celebrating its 10th birthday this year — and even though 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 Philly in 2009 and 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. 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 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 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 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:

Finally, 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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