Delaware’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: It Takes a Village

written by Dora Cheatham, Director, Economic Development Council, New Castle County Chamber of Commerce & Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

 

Last week’s Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit – co-hosted by the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Emerging Enterprise Center and the Delaware Small Business Development Center and held at the DuPont Country Club – with the aim of gathering together entrepreneurs, mentors and small business resources – was proof positive yet again that Delaware’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is unlike any other.  Keynote speakers gave a big picture view of entrepreneurship and innovation, while entrepreneurs and innovators who had been there, done that and had the scars to prove it shared their knowledge, expertise and experiences both in the traditional and scientific startup arenas.  Small business resources were on hand for assistance and there was networking – lots of networking.

Guest Speaker Michelle Christian – SBA Regional Director – articulated what we in Delaware know all too well but so often fail to shout from the rooftops:  that as a state, our entrepreneurial resources work in tandem – rather than compete – to help budding entrepreneurs and startups.  This doesn’t mean that every entrepreneur or startup is a star in the making.   What it does mean, is that good ideas, the ones that pass the “sniff test”, have an entire support system behind them ready, willing and able to help them succeed.

Take D150 Fueling for example.  The brainchild of three friends from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey who met on the University of Delaware rowing team, the idea for a fueling innovation system that sends fueling professionals to refuel business vehicles at a customer’s lot was incubated at the University of Delaware’s Horn Program.  An invitation to apply for an NCC Innovates Sponsorship Award from New Castle County’s Department of Economic Development won them a year’s membership in the Emerging Enterprise Center Resident Program, which was announced at last year’s Entrepreneurial Summit.  On winning the award D150 stated that one of the reasons they wanted to keep their ties to Delaware is “the great community and how much people are willing to help us out.”  Since winning the award, D150 have generated over $3.5 million in revenue, created 5 full time and 2 part time jobs, invested in additional vehicles are on track for continued for continued growth throughout 2019.

On a wholly different entrepreneurial SAS Nanotechnologies illustrates an even broader ecosystem that Delaware enjoys.  Founded by Dr. Sumedh Surwade, it all started with his PhD and Post-doc research in Polymer Science and the fundamental and application aspects of nanomaterials.

After completing his research, Dr. Surwade landed at Delaware Technology Park (DTP) where he continued to refine his technology and develop environmentally friendly, self-healing anti-corrosive coatings.  He also began to formulate his business idea.  While at DTP, he learned about the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA) and the DESCA TechConnect Workshop.  Dr. Surwade says:

“DESCA events were my main source of networking and these helped me tremendously in connecting with experienced professionals. Going through the TechConnect Workshop and getting direct and honest feedback on my technology from experienced industry professionals was very useful. Their feedback helped me to broaden my thinking, evaluate different applications of my technology and focus on commercialization.”  

DESCA also helped Dr. Surwade form his Advisory Board, connected him with strategic partners, and brought him into contact with Lou DiNetta of the Delaware SBDC who worked closely with Dr. Surwade to help him win an SBIR Phase I Grant in the amount of $225,000 and apply for a Phase II award in February of 2019.

Realizing the important of connecting and networking, Dr. Surwade also joined the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce where he learned about, and was encouraged, to pitch for the Emerging Enterprise Center’s annual Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition, sponsored by New Castle County’s NCC Innovates Initiative.  This led to another win:  $10,000 in cash, a 6 month membership in the Emerging Enterprise Center incubator, 6 months of accounting services and IT consulting services.   At the Emerging Enterprise Center, Dr. Surwade has a place to hold conferences, meet with customers and seek additional advice and resource assistance – most recently, connecting him with the Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership (DEMEP) to help him source a toll manufacturer and connect him with additional strategic partners. 

Just a few months after his Swim with the Sharks win, Dr. Surwade was invited to pitch again at DESCA’s Venture Forum where he was approached by a VC firm seeking to invest in SAS Nanotechnologies.

Since emerging from the research world, SAS Nanotechnologies have navigated what is commonly known as the “valley of death” in science innovation with the help of organizations that are dedicated to helping them commercialize their technology successfully. 

These are just two of many stories that illustrate how “it takes a village” working in unison to drive economic development, and a myriad quotes that can similarly illustrate the concept – but let’s go with one from Henry Ford:  “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart…but help is at hand!

Sometimes the idea is the easy part.  And for scientists and technologists it’s just the beginning of a very long road.

For 2018 Swim with the Sharks winner Sumedh Surwade of SAS Nanotechnologies it began with PhD research which led to a proprietary, patent pending anticorrosive coating technology that not only prevents corrosion but also heals and protects metals from corrosion in the cause of surface scratches or damage.  Next came an NSF SBIR grant for further development, and conversations with potential strategic partners for technology testing and licensing. Today, Dr. Surwade is evaluating additional applications and routes to market, including manufacturing in Delaware.  That’s the short version.

Sharron Cirillo of SC Associates presents Sumedh Surwade with an SC Associates Business Starter Backpack as they discuss his short- and long-term accounting needs.

You would think it ends once the technology is developed, proven and accepted.  Not quite.  Then comes the day to day blocking and tackling of running a business which requires just as critical a foundation.  Fortunately, the EEC and its partners are here to help.  Having won the EEC’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition, Dr. Surwade will be receiving a New Castle County Government NCC Innovates $10,000 award that he will be using to purchase vital testing equipment.  This equipment will speed up product commercialization by reducing the time (and associated cost) of testing from 10 days to 3 hours.  And last week, Dr. Surwade met with Rich Roux of Info Solutions, LLC and Sharron Cirillo of SC Associates, SWTS sponsors, and both of whom donated services to the winning company.  Info Solutions, LLC have discussed what Dr. Surwade’s IT needs will look like as he seeks to scale SAS Nanotechnologies, and SC Associates will be working with him to ensure that the financial processes he has in place can adapt and grow as his business grows.   As for the Emerging Enterprise Center…. Dr. Surwade is all set to hold his first Advisory Board meeting at his new Riverfront Conference Room!

Richard Roux of Info Solutions talks to Dr. Surwade about IT considerations as his business grows.

SAS Nanotechnologies Wins This Year’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition

Written by Dora Cheatham, Program Manager, Emerging Enterprise Center

Beating out eleven other startup companies, and despite tough competition, SAS Nanotechnologies cruised into the no. 1 position to win the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition—now in its 6th year and with a Grand Prize totaling over $16,000 in cash and services.

Dr. Sumedh Surwade from SAS Nanotechnologies responds to questions from the judges following his pitch. Photos courtesy of Bob Horton, Creative Image Associates

SAS Nanotechnologies won this year’s award with their proprietary, patent pending anticorrosive coating technology that not only prevents corrosion but also heals and protects metals from corrosion in the case of surface scratch or damage. Founded by Sumedh Surwade, and growing out of his PhD research, the technology was recently awarded an NSF  SBIR  grant to further develop the technology. Dr. Surwade is already in conversations with potential strategic partners for technology testing and licensing and is considering additional routes to market, including manufacturing in Delaware.  Dr. Surwade plans on using his winnings to purchase testing equipment that will speed up product commercialization by reducing the time and cost of testing from 10 days to 3 hours.

For the second time this year, the Emerging Enterprise Center, Delaware’s first small business incubator located at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, partnered with New Castle County Government, as well as multiple sponsors, to offer the prize package which included:

  • Cash prize of $10,000 from the New Castle County NCC Innovates Program
  • $2,000 business startup and bookkeeping package from SC Associates
  • $1,400 in IT services from Info Solutions
  • 6 month membership in the Emerging Enterprise Center Virtual Incubation Program (valued at $1,800)
  • New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Marketing Package (valued at $1,400)
  • One year membership in World Trade Center Delaware (valued at $395)
  • One year membership in New Castle County Chamber of Commerce (valued at $350)

Each applicant was judged based on a combined score of both their written application and oral pitch.  Judging criteria included business feasibility, understanding of market need and opportunity, clear articulation of value proposition, go-to-market strategy and soft skills.  Three finalists were then selected to pitch before a live audience and a new panel of judges at the Emerging Enterprise Center Luncheon which was held at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington.  The three finalists included SAS Nanotechnologies, D150 Fueling and Smart Kidz Club.

The Grand Prize winner was selected based on a combined judge/audience vote (85%/15%).  The judges included former Swim with the Sharks winner Amira Idris (Thera-V), Dr. Daniel Young (Goldey Beacom College), Sam Waltz (Strategic Capital & Business Counsel) and Dr. Janet Reed (Potter Anderson Corroon, LLP).

Above: Dr. Sumedh Surwade from SAS Nanotechnologies accepts his award from New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer
Back left to right: Dr. Daniel Young (Goldey-Beacom College), Bob Chadwick (New Castle County Chamber of Commerce), Sam Waltz (Strategic Capital & Counsel), Dr. Janet Reed (Potter Anderson Corroon, LLP).
Front left to right: Amira Idris (Thera-V), Dora Cheatham (Emerging Enterprise Center), Matt Meyer (New Castle County Executive), Dr. Sumedh Surwade (SAS Nanotechnologies), Tamarra Morris (New Castle County Government).
Photos courtesy of Bob Horton, Creative Image Associates

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition Finalists Announced

An impressive group of entrepreneurs presented to a team of judges this week in the preliminary pitches for the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Annual Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition.

A total of 12 companies pitched before the final three were chosen.  These three companies will compete for more than $16,000 in cash and services in front of a live audience on 28th September, to be held at the Grand Opera House on Market Street in Wilmington. The Grand Prize represents a combination of partnerships with New Castle County Government and the NCC Innovates Program, as well as entrepreneurial service providers and sponsors, including SC Associates, Info Solutions and World Trade Center Delaware. The finalists include:

D150 Fueling, LLC is an on-site fueling and fuel marketing company for commercial fleets that offers Ultra-Low-Sulfur Diesel, Biodiesel and Off-Road Diesel.  Coupled with FuelCloud software, D150 Fueling offers a fueling program tailored to an individual fleet’s need that saves time, money and emissions.  With contracts in hand, D150 Fueling is in full launch mode and ready to expand its market.

SAS Nanotechnologies, LLC has developed a proprietary, patent pending anticorrosive coating technology that not only prevents corrosion but also heals and protects metals from corrosion in the case of surface scratch/damage. Growing out of PhD research, the technology was recently awarded an NSF SBIR grant to further develop the technology and is already in conversations with potential strategic partners for technology testing and licensing.

SmartKidzClub, Inc. is an innovative, affordable EdTech platform that creates original, currently relevant and unique educational content that is designed to interact and engage with the large and growing majority of the new generation of children ages 1-11 that is using, and has access to mobile devices.

All 12 applicants submitted a 5 page business canvas and were invited to present a preliminary pitch before a panel of judges.  Each applicant was judged based on a combined score of both their written application and verbal pitch.  Judging criteria included business feasibility, understanding of market need and opportunity, clear articulation of value proposition, go-to-market strategy and soft skills.   The 3 finalists will pitch before a live audience and a new panel of judges at the Swim with the Sharks Luncheon to be at the  Grand Opera House (Studio 1) in Market Street, Wilmington.  The winner will be selected based on a combined judge/audience vote (85%/15%).

All of the applicants – who have been invited to showcase their business at the event with a small table – included:

  • 360VR Technology
  • Body Wisdom Wellness
  • Craft Beverage Services
  • Culture Crush
  • Elev8 My Life
  • Mail Express Services
  • Mamaste Doula & Birth Services
  • My MedChoices
  • Vegan Healthy

The Emerging Enterprise Center is an initiative of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and New Castle County Economic Development Council.  The Emerging Enterprise Center is a business incubator that helps start up businesses develop a long term sustainable model, grow their business, and learn essential entrepreneurial skills.

Since its inception in 2008, the Emerging Enterprise Center has assisted 42 businesses.  These businesses have generated over $62 million in revenue and employed 200 people while in the program.

NCC Innovates: Entrepreneurial Sponsorship Award Finalists Announced

When New Castle County Department of Economic Development launched NCC Innovates, it was with a specific goal in mind:  to support economic development through entrepreneurship. Through NCC Innovates, New Castle County chose to sponsor a one-year membership to the Resident Incubator Program at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Emerging Enterprise Center.  The sponsorship includes office space and amenities, 24/7 access to the Emerging Enterprise Center, one-on-one business mentoring, business growth workshops and a one-year membership in the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.

A call for applications was issued in April and two finalists were selected on Friday, June 8, 2018.

D150 Fueling, LLC is an on-site fueling and fuel marketing company for commercial fleets that offers Ultra-Low-Sulfur Diesel, Biodiesel and Off-Road Diesel.  Coupled with FuelCloud software, D150 Fueling offers a fueling program tailored to an individual fleet’s needs that saves time, money and emissions.  With contracts in hand, D150 Fueling is in full launch mode and ready to expand its market.

SAS Nanotechnologies, LLC has developed a proprietary, patent pending anticorrosive coating technology that not only prevents corrosion but also heals and protects metals from corrosion in the case of surface scratch/damage. Growing out of PhD research, the technology was recently awarded an NSF SBIR grant to further develop the technology and is already in conversations with potential strategic partners for technology testing and licensing.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer will be announcing the winner of the NCC Innovates Entrepreneurial Sponsorship Award at the 2018 Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit.
NCC Innovates is a program developed by the New Castle County Department of Economic Development that identifies opportunities to specifically support economic development through entrepreneurship, attract new companies to New Castle County and develop a strong innovation ecosystem.

The finalists were selected after submitting a 5 page business canvas which included information on the business, market and industry landscape, go-to-market strategy and financial estimates.  Each application was judged on several criteria, including business feasibility, understanding of market need and opportunity, clear articulation of value proposition, go-to-market strategy and realistic financial projections.

The jury consisted of five members of the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Advisory Board and represented a broad background of interests and expertise.  The winner will be announced by County Executive Matt Meyer on July 12, 2018 at the 2018 Delaware Entrepreneurial Summit organized by the Emerging Enterprise Center and the Small Business Development Center and held at the DoubleTree by Hilton on Concord Pike.