In a state not known for easy access to venture capitalists, it’s common for high-growth local startups to flee to regions with more VC opportunities. gBETA, by contrast, is drawing ecosystem builders to Delaware in a real, tangible way. To the more insular among us, that may sound like something to be wary of. But for anyone ready to move Delaware forward as a real player in the regional tech scene, it’s a revelation.
Bronze Valley, a Black-owned and -focused VC firm, CDFI and venture lab out of Birmingham, Alabama, launched its first VentureLab accelerator cohort in Delaware earlier this year. That program concluded this week with the gBETA Showcase at CSC Station, featuring pitches from the five startups in its inaugural Delaware cohort.
The event’s vibe was a little more metropolitan, a little more dynamic than the average local networking event. People had come from around the country to celebrate the cohort, including Bronze Valley VentureLab founder Neill Wright and founders from New York, Maryland and beyond, mingling among Delaware technologists there to check out the new accelerator.
Investing in Delaware
“This is sort of a watershed moment for us,” Wright, who grew up in Delaware, told the crowd gathered for the showcase.
“We started [in Birmingham] in 2018, and really didn’t know what the path forward would look like. But we also were very cognizant of the fact that there was a disparity of capital flowing to diverse founders. Darren has done a phenomenal job of introducing us to this ecosystem,” he said, referring to Program Director Darren Stephenson (a 2023 RealLIST Connectors honoree).
gBETA is a gener8tor accelerator — one of 44 across the nation, but a first in Delaware.
Joe Kirgues, cofounder of the Wisconsin-based gener8tor, came to Delaware from Madison for the event, bringing an enthusiasm for building great things in places that sometimes get left behind.
“My business partner and I had the idea 11 years ago that if we weren’t the most passionate about our own community, what did that foreshadow?” Kirgues said. “Didn’t we have a responsibility to everyone who had made things great for us to pass it forward?”
The startups in this cohort are established, growing and ready to launch funding rounds for $1 million to $6 million. They are:
- AI product photography app Rush Roto
- AI weight management app The Difference
- International fintech app Sika
- AI infrastructure management platform infra ai
- Accessibility-forward mental health app Toivoa
Some of the startups, like infra ai, have relocated to Delaware. Another, Rush Roto, was developed after its founder moved to Delaware. Two are Startup302 winners.
All now have a connection with Delaware that can only strengthen the state’s ecosystem.
Growth through collaboration
Over the past couple of months, we’ve heard one word repeated by founders, connectors and economic developers in the state: “silos.” Delaware’s technology sectors have largely been operating separately with little collaboration even within the state, let alone beyond its borders.
gBETA is one of a handful of new programs that aim to grow the state’s ecosystem through regional (and beyond) collaboration, including Launch Point Labs, the Delaware Coastal Society accelerator, and an upcoming NASA startup showcase in partnership with The Innovation Space.
State Sen. Darius Brown, one of the legislators in attendance, along with New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, was instrumental in getting the program off the ground in Delaware by helping to secure funding from the state.
“It’s a part of what our work should be,” the senator said. “I believe that the state of Delaware is a place where opportunity lives. And so we want to drive investment to bolster and support those budding innovators in our state.”