Among the must-haves of just about any modern tech and entrepreneurship community is a business diaspora.
You know, a corporate giant or some swelling brand that attracts top-level talent and spins the best out into a nascent ecosystem. The legends are Hewlett-Packard or the Paypal Mafia for Silicon Valley, but think also about Advertising.com for Baltimore or Safeguard Scientifics in Philadelphia.
No doubt Delaware’s credit card sector represents that work broadly. But ask enough Delaware tech leaders, and there is little debate on what company had the most outsized role in forming today’s tech community foundation: ING Direct, the retail banking spinout of the European financial services conglomerate that had a wild decade-long run in Delaware before being acquired by CapitalOne for $9 billion as announced in 2011. From a small team, the ING Direct division grew to 1,700 employees and 7.6 million customers, with a core focus on online banking and a brand promise tied to technology.
ING Direct was led Arkadi Kuhlmann, a colorful Canadian-bred banking executive who is now the CEO of Zenbanx, the fintech startup aiming to grow to a team of 150 in the coming years. But Arkadi is not the only ING Direct alumnus who is now a fixture of Delaware’s tech business community today. Here are others we know (if we’re missing someone, tell us in the comments):
- Jim Kelly, former CapitalOne executive who was on the Zip Code Wilmington founding board and helped launch the Silicon Valley East stakeholder group.
- Kjell Hegstad, a cofounder of the Digital Vikings mobile consultancy and part of the development team for 1313 Innovation, the Wilmington tech incubator housed by the McConnell Johnson real estate company.
- Greg Shelton, also a cofounder of Digital Vikings and 1313 Innovation.
- Lisa Ford, the director of digital marketing at Capital One.
- Mark Thompson, one the ING Direct CTO and now a cofounder of WhyFly, the WiFi-offering startup.
- Mike Palita, also a WhyFly cofounder.
- John Royer, a cofounder of InsiteHub, the e-learning app firm.
- Stephen Payne, the lead of software at ZenBanx.
- Darren Mahoney, a cofounder of CompassRed, the data analytics firm based at coworking space The Mill.
- Todd DeCapua, whom we’ve interviewed before, is now Senior Director of Technology and Product Innovation at Wilmington-based Corporation Service Company.” He co-authored the O’Reilly published book Effective Performance Engineering.