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Don’t try to change the critics: 3 pieces of advice from investors at TechBreakfast

Here's what you missed at the investor-focused edition of TechBreakfast.

At TechBreakfast, August 2016. (Photo by Megan Anthony-Keogh)
This is a guest post by 1313 Innovation's Megan Anthony-Keogh.
Full disclosure: The author of this story helped organize the event.
Two years ago, even last year, I wouldn’t have dreamed of hosting a well-attended tech event in August at 8 a.m. Last week, we did just that.

With nearly 80 attendees, the conference room buzzed excitedly before the program began. There were students from the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware, startups from coworking spaces like The Mill, CoIN Loft and 1313 Innovation, in addition community organizers like Emma Cowdery of Global Delaware, Rana Fayez of Technical.ly Delaware and Robert Herrera of The Mill.
Ron Schmelzer, organizer of TechBreakfast, greeted the crowd and quickly dove into the programming, starting with a presentation from Wayne Kimmel, an investor with Philadelphia’s SeventySix Capital. His focus was on networking and how that’s helped him achieve success as an entrepreneur and as a venture capitalist. He stressed that he only works with companies that are “good people trying to change the world for the better.”
These words have stuck with me. While it seems like such a simple concept, it’s been successful for him. It’s a theme I’ve seen repeatedly in the Wilmington tech scene. And it seemed to continue through the demos and onto the investor panel.
During the demos, one of the most intriguing companies was Philly-based Olive Devices with Renee Kakareka (yes, lots of Philly, but we hope to get Delaware companies at TechBreakfast soon). Her concept is to create wearable tech that helps people with disabilities be part of society without any intrusive or isolating devices, like eyeglasses for the deaf that convert speech to text on the lens of the eyewear.
Again, the theme of “good people changing the world for the better” reverberated through the event.
The investor panel was the finale of the event and the crowd was just giddy with questions. The panel included Pedro Moore of First State AngelsBrett Topche of Philly’s MentorTech Ventures and Kimmel.
The resounding themes the investors agreed upon were:

  • You’re investing in the people, not concepts.
  • Don’t try to change the critics. Find the believers to invest in you
  • There’s talent and investments being made everyday in this region. You don’t have to go to New York or Silicon Valley.

I can’t help but relate this to the tech scene in Wilmington. There are stakeholders who work tirelessly to improve it and connect our startups with customers and investors. There are believers like Paul McConnell that invest in it every day. What’s invigorating to me is seeing the different community organizers come together for one event to support our small but growing ecosystem. Hopefully, as the Delaware tech scene grows, we can do it again with more of a showcase on Delaware investors and startups.

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