When Horn Entrepreneruship was founded in 2012, Barack Obama was president, Jack Markell was governor, and Wilmington’s first coworking space, CoIN Loft, was young and changing the city’s landscape. Early that year, Capital One acquired ING Direct, which had essentially branded Wilmington in a sea of orange and helped eventually establish the Riverfront as an innovation hub, restoring historic railroad buildings that today house CSC Station, Tech Impact, and, soon, Delaware State University.
When Technical.ly Delaware launched in 2014, Horn was a common subject, along with Wilmington incubator 1313 Innovation and Start It Up Delaware, organizations that led the way for newer, highly impactful organizations (run by some of the same people) like the Delaware Innovation Space and Delaware Data Innovation Lab.
Horn itself has evolved, as one would expect, expanding to serve UD students across all majors, with signature programs including Summer Founders, The Diamond Challenge and Hen Hatch. Some of the companies that have come out of Horn’s programming include Carvertise, WilmInvest, and TheraV.
One of its most successful programs, the Blue Hen Proof of Concept program (POC), was recently awarded $50,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC). It’s the second time POC has been selected as a winner in the annual competition; the program also received $750K via the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s SPRINT (Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology) in July.
Through the POC, Horn Entrepreneurship provides gap funding, mentoring and training. The funding supports building prototypes, proving technology concepts and validating that the technology will meet customers’ needs.
“Horn Entrepreneurship is focused upon creating equity through entrepreneurship, as to-date, 63% of POC participants represent one or more of the diverse groups GAFC seeks to support,” said Mike Rinkunas, associate director of commercialization programs at UD. According to Rinkunas, the GAFC award will be used to “accelerate development of viable and investable business models for Clean, Green & Blue Technologies and growth of innovative human capital in the program participants.”
Since its 2017 launch, 32 startups have participated in the POC program. These ventures have received nearly $20M in grants or investments in total, and created over 100 jobs.