Paul McConnell has a vision for Wilmington — and it involves the University of Delaware.
Through 1313 Innovation, the real estate developer and property management exec hosted “The Path Forward” at Hercules Plaza Wednesday night. The event was held to celebrate what he called “the beginning” of an initiative to bring together local students, entrepreneurs, business leaders and the startup community.
"My number one goal is to get the University of Delaware to have a presence in downtown Wilmington — a successful, vibrant presence."
And he plans to do so by luring UD to downtown Wilmington.
“My number one goal is to get the University of Delaware to have a presence in downtown Wilmington — a successful, vibrant presence,” he said. “Successful for them, and successful connecting with the business community, the startups and the graduates.”
That was clear last night, as “The Path Forward” featured a handful of presentations from some of the recent entrepreneurs to come out of UD’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship.
“The excitement for me at the university comes with Julie [Frieswyk] and Dan [Freeman] and the rest of the team from Horn,” said McConnell, who also cited the work Frieswyk and Freeman have done with the Diamond Challenge. “We started these programs and they’re exceeded anything we could have imagined.”
First up to present to the audience of 100 was supposed to be Steve Boerner, a UD graduate whose live/work space Hatch House will be launching off 7th and Market this fall. But Boerner, who is also opening a location in Bethlehem, Pa., on July 1, was unable to make it to the event.
Sales coaching platform ConnectHub was next to take the podium. Founded by John Royer, the startup enlists the aid of several UD students, including programmers, developers, designers, business analysts and communications students.
Carvertise founder Mac Nagaswami and founding partner Greg Star both sang the praises of New Castle County’s business community. The innovative advertising startup has over 3,000 car drivers and has worked with over 15 clients — including the state of Delaware, ShopRite, Wilmington University, United Way and UD.
“None of this was done on our own,” said Nagaswami. “It really takes a community.”
Star added: “I don’t think we would have made the progress we’ve made so far if we had started in any other state. I really believe that.”
Next up was UD graduate Sean Carey and UD student Matt Paul, founders of a new startup called Loop. The two have developed a software that optimizes communication between emergency healthcare providers. First responders can use their mobile app to access personal information stored on victims’ wristbands.
The last two presenters are recent UD graduates who pitched their business plans. Cohesion, founded by social entrepreneur Andrew Rutter, aims to track volunteering to give volunteers a cumulative score, which they can use on a LinkedIn profile or to obtain discounts from local businesses.
In an effort to make higher education less linear, Anna Solomon presented her plan to pilot a mentorship program at UD that would guide students through finding their passions by mapping their applicable skills.
“The idea of going back to the city is really an important theme,” said McConnell. “We feel we’re right at the beginning of that here in Wilmington.”