The large open space at 1313 Innovation was overflowing with people. They sat in groups and scribbled ideas on the dry-erase walls, doodled on large pads of paper, planned out scripts and gathered large stools and panda bean-bag chairs for props.
At one point, someone asked, “Can we turn the heat down in here?”
Seven small teams of technologists and innovators worked up a sweat on Wednesday during the Technology Forum of Delaware’s 2015 Idea Challenge, an event that tasked the groups with finding a solution to a Wilmington-based problem.
Teams, which had roughly three hours to prepare before presenting to a panel of judges, could choose between two challenge questions.
- What can be done in Wilmington to support a business owner who is considering moving to or expanding their business in Wilmington, using new technology (beyond a website) and better information?
- How can new technology (beyond social media) be leveraged to create the lifestyle and a community with entertainment, culture and volunteer opportunities that make Wilmington an attractive place, specifically for young professionals?
Start It Up Delaware’s team — Mona Parikh, Katie O’Hara, Keith Elliott, Nick Matarese, Mike Gnade, Richard Prieto, Eric Berry, Bob Hirschfield and Joe Figliola — finished in first place.
Scott Shaw’s Wilmington University team and Bob Watson’s “F-Techies” team finished as runners-up.
The event was judged by Kjell Hegstad of Digital Vikings, John Nowaczyk of Milestone Partners, John Kirk of Cnverg, Ben DuPont of Yet2Ventures and Evan Malone of Philadelphia makerspace NextFab.
Here are each of the team’s pitches, listed in the order presented.
Team 1: The Wildcats of Wilmington University; Captain, Scott Shaw, Wilmington University.
- The pitch: The team presented an idea for an “Uber-like” food-delivery service, delivered by drones. The team also suggested that they could provided high-school certification for students who could build the drones and certification as pilots, as well. “The First State could be the first to create a safe network of drones,” Shaw said. “If we do it first, we can franchise it to everyone else.”
Team 2: Corporate Americas; Captain, Michelle Rodenheiser, CSC Business Development Manager.
- The pitch: Their idea, “Win in Wilmington,” focused on the idea that corporate companies need innovative ideas and that young professionals need to be better connected to corporations. Young professionals could apply for “WINternships.” The benefits: young people enjoy a lower cost of living and a promising city lifestyle; the city draws in young professionals and boosts its reputation of innovation; and the corporations have their problems addressed by young, smart problem solvers.
Team 3: F-Techies; Captain, Bob Watson, Vice President and Partner, Digital Eye.
- The pitch: The team presented an idea for a mobile app, which would showcase Wilmington’s business and attractions. Using technology and software on your mobile device, you could check into local venues. The app would be free for a year to businesses as part of its licensing process. Community members would earn rewards for checking in at a local venue — points they could redeem for deals and discounts.
Team 4: Start it Uppers; Captain, Mona Parikh, Managing Director, Start it Up Delaware.
- The pitch: “New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston. Things Wilmington will never be. But that’s OK,” said team member Richard Prieto. “We have great restaurants, live entertainment and art. But they are disjointed. What we lack is cohesion.” The team pitched an idea for a series of beacons throughout the city. These light-up, solar-powered devices would provide shelter, a personal WiFi hotspot and a place to charge your phone. The beacons would also tell users what’s going on and would have the ability to rotate cameras so users could see what’s going on in another part of the city. The beacons would also provide restaurant and parking info and availability. The group also suggested quarterly “Burn the Beacon” events, like jazz festivals, tech events and so on.
Team 5: Great Dames; Captain, Sharon Kelly Hake, Great Dames.
- The pitch: The team pitched the WI line, a monorail which would connect everyone in the city. It would give users free public transportation, while also doubling as a bike-friendly path. The path — both virtual and real — would also give users access to the history of the neighborhood. “It’s about inviting Wilmington to share its stories,” Hake said.
Team 6: Cyberwolves; Captain, Dennis DeBevec, Cyberwolf Software.
- The pitch: “Heat it Up Wilmington,” a place to find what is hot and cool in Wilmington. This aggregation tool, provided in app or web-based form, would pull together government data, transit and traffic data, market data, MLS data, human resources hiring data and entertainment data. The data, the team said, is all there, but there is no way yet to query this information all in one place. “You download the app,” DeBevec said. “On a Friday night, I see where peers of mine hang out. There’s localization data and a ratings system. And a time slider, to see where people are going and congregating.”
Team 7: Four Smart Guys and Ken; Captain, Ken Grant, social media mentor.
- The pitch: The team pitched kiosks in different parts of the city. These kiosks would include a social calendar, contests, cameras. The kiosks would also allow an “Uber-type way” of getting from one part of the city to another. The kiosks could also potentially connect to other cities, both nationally and abroad. The team playfully used a giant stuffed panda prop to showcase that its kiosks could potentially connect with users in China.
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