15 ventures with underrepresented founders share $170,000 in Startup302 grant prizes

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Fifteen tech-enabled startups with at least one team member from an underfunded demographic are sharing $170,000 in nondilutive, nonrestricted grant monies from Delaware’s fourth Startup302 competition, which was coordinated by Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) and partners from throughout Delaware and beyond.

Companies competed in five categories and represented multiple industries in the live pitching round, which took place May 16 at Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware. All three finalists in each category were awarded as follows:

– Delaware Impact

1st: Futures First Gaming (Wilmington, Delaware) – $20,000 plus a one-year membership to World Trade Center Delaware and a marketing consultation with Aloysius, Butler & Clark

2nd: The LeGrand Company (Hockessin, Delaware) – $10,000 plus a one-year membership to World Trade Center Delaware 

3rd: Tri-State 3D Tech & Design Firm (Wilmington, Delaware) – $5,000 plus a one-year membership to World Trade Center Delaware

– Early Stage

1st: Inclusion Unpacked (New York, New York) – $9,500 plus a marketing consultation with Aloysius, Butler & Clark

2nd: HouseCall VR (Wilmington, Delaware) – $6,500 plus a one-year membership to World Trade Center Delaware

3rd: Kazi Konekt (Atlanta, Georgia) – $4,000

– Environmental Impact

1st: Dunya Analytics (Wilmington, Delaware) – $20,000 plus a one-year membership to World Trade Center Delaware and a marketing consultation with Aloysius, Butler & Clark

2nd: Baleena (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – $10,000

3rd: Sundial Foods (Albany, California) – $5,000

– FinTech

1st: Lipaworld (New York, New York) – $20,000 plus a marketing consultation with Aloysius, Butler & Clark

2nd: Sharely (Fort Myers, Florida) – $10,000

3rd: Instarails (Alpharetta, Georgia) – $5,000

– Life Sciences

1st: Swan NeuroTech (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) – $20,000 plus a marketing consultation with Aloysius, Butler & Clark

2nd: BioLattice (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – $10,000

3rd: Graftable (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – $5,000

Finalists with University of Delaware-affiliated founders also were considered for the Blue Hen Prize, which was sponsored by the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship program:

1st: Dunya Analytics (Wilmington, Delaware) – $7,500

2nd: The LeGrand Company (Hockessin, Delaware) – $2,500

In addition to the finals-day activities, competitors benefited from participation in educational networking events with potential advisees and funders. These included a welcome reception on May 15 and a breakfast with investors on May 17.

“We’re so grateful for the ongoing support from sponsors and community members for this exciting competition, and, as usual, we were extremely impressed by the quality of the startups who made it to the finals,” said DPP Director of Innovation Noah Olson. “Startup 302’s mission to support founders from underrepresented backgrounds is such an important one, and this year’s finalists not only further enhance the wellspring of innovation developing in Delaware but offer technologies and solutions that truly will make the world a better place.”

Startup302 launched in 2020 and is coordinated by DPP and partners from the local, regional and national innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems with an aim to foster diverse perspectives, promote inclusive and equitable consideration and attract diverse communities of founders to the region. Competing companies must be technology-based or tech-enabled with high-growth potential and at least one founding team member from an underrepresented group: women; people of color, including African Americans, Latin Americans and Native Americans; and members of the LGBTQ+ community – all of whose ventures are underinvested in relative to their demographic’s percentage of overall United States population. Including this year, Startup302 has awarded $813,000 in funding to 52 ventures since the first finals took place in 2021.

There is no charge for companies to enter. This year’s competition launched in December and attracted more than 100 applicants from throughout Delaware and across the United States as well as Mexico and two countries in Africa. Two preliminary rounds and a semi-final round, all conducted remotely, determined which ventures would compete in the final in-person round.

Finals day began with Michelle Harris, Delaware District director, Small Business Administration, giving the morning keynote address on how SBA assistance for small businesses helps boost the U.S. economy. Erika Lucas, founder of StitchCrew, gave the afternoon keynote “The Majority Economy: Economics of Why We Need to Invest in Diverse Founders.” Other speakers included Don Mell, executive director and site leader for the Delaware Market of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., who discussed Chase’s new program to help with environmental impact, and Molly Giordano, executive director of Delaware Art Museum, who welcomed participants to the venue and invited them to view the exhibition “There is a Woman in Every Color.”

The educational panel discussion “Preparing for Funding” was moderated by Troy C. Farmer, owner of EVA Enterprises and manager of the Delaware Small Business Development Center’s Community Navigator Program. Panelists were Christine Parrish of Ardent Technology Solutions; RoseAnn B. Rosenthal of the First Fund; Marcie Reilly of The Innovation Space; and Blessy Thomas of Innovative Capital Growth Fund.

Judges for the finals included Regina Barry of Ashland; Jonathan Burbaum, Entrepreneur in Residence, The Innovation Space; Dora Cheatham of First State Hydrogen; Cynthia Conway of Oakwise Marketing; Daniel Freeman of Horn Entrepreneurship; Christine Galib of Venture University Venture Partners; Juliana Green of FMC Ventures; Elyce Hall of the Small Business Development Center; Martin Hunt of Swanlaab USA Ventures; Anastasia Jackson of the Delaware Division of Small Business; Nicholas Moriello of Highmark; Dwayne Parker of Highmark; Janet Reed of Potter Anderson; Luz A. Sellers of the Women’s Business Center at True Access Capital; Billy Taki of ResilienceVC; Amy Walls of Discover Bank; Troy Wilford of Horn Entrepreneurship; and Laura Wisler of the Delaware Division of Small Business.

Judges for the preliminaries and semi-finals included Nathaniel Brese of DuPont; Desa Burton of ZipCode Wilmington; Leopoldo Carbajal of DuPont; Cora Castle of OmniPotential Energy; Ryan Hamilton of Ashland; Ellyn Herbert of the Small Business Administration; Lisa Hoffman of FMC; Garry Johnson III of First Founders; Katie Lakofsky of the Delaware BioScience Association; Jeff Meth of DuPont; Michael Mills of DuPont; Pedro Moore, Fintech Incubator/True Access Capital mentor; Liz Nutting of Discover Bank; Dwayne Parker of Highmark; Mike Rinkunas of Flying Pig Ventures; Maggie Schano of Highmark; Lori Sefton of the University of Maryland; Jeff Snellberg of Pennsylvania Angel Network; Lauren Swain of the Delaware Division of Small Business; Xavier Thomas of DuPont; Joe Zilcosky of the Delaware Division of Small Business; Deb Travers of The Innovation Space; and Matthias Weber of Mighty Capital.

Pitch sessions were moderated by steering committee members Alysse Bortolotto of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce; Troy Farmer of EVA Enterprises; Cathy Holloway of the Emerging Enterprise Center; Ayanna Khan of the Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce; and Marcie Reilly of The Innovation Space. Other steering committee members included Salaika Adams of the Women’s Business Center at True Access Capital; Daniel Anzueto of StartOut; Sara Crawford of Sara Crawford, Consultant; Emiliano Espinosa of the Chesapeake Agriculture Innovation Center; Sarah Mailloux of the Small Business Development Center; Darren Stephenson of Bronze Valley Gener8tor; Linda Walck of Horn Entrepreneurship; and Troy Wilford of Horn Entrepreneurship.

Sponsors included the Delaware Division of Small Business (Innovator Level); Discover Bank (Business+ Level); Chase (Supporter+ Level); DuPont, FMC, Highmark Delaware and the University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship Program (Supporter Level); Ashland, Bronze Valley VentureLab, Delaware Small Business Development Center Community Navigator, The Innovation Space, M&T Bank and Potter Anderson (Basic Level); and Aloysius Butler & Clark , Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Limo, Delaware Small Business Development Center, Hyatt Place Wilmington Riverfront, StartOut, True Access Capital Women’s Business Center and World Trade Center Delaware (In-Kind Level).

“DPP and its partners are excited to showcase these amazing companies and to help give them exposure, connections and a monetary boost to keep them moving forward on their entrepreneurial journey,” said DPP Innovation Manager Erica Crell. “We thank our sponsors and all of those who help bring this program to life and allow it to continue successfully impacting underrepresented members of the startup community.”

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