NERDiT NOW named 2020 Reinventing Delaware winner
WILMINGTON – NERDiT NOW, the Stanton-based startup that repairs computers in innovative ways while addressing Delaware’s technology access challenges through a nonprofit foundation, has been named the 2020 Reinventing Delaware award winner by the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation.
NERDiT NOW founder Markevis Gideon said he found out about the honor just a few days before receiving the prestigious accolade bestowed on the state’s most innovative entrepreneurs. He accepted the award Sept. 16 at a much-smaller-than-normal event due to COVID-19 restrictions at the DuPont Country Club.
The Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to continuing the legacy of former Republican Gov. Pete du Pont by identifying and advancing bold and innovative ideas to create jobs and make Delaware a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Gideon said that he felt honored to be selected by the foundation, especially considering the success that prior winners Second Chances Farm, Zip Code Wilmington, Wilmington Greenbox, The Teen Warehouse, and Intern Delaware have seen since winning the award that brings a great deal of notoriety. Second Chances Farm founder Ajit George, whose hydroponic farm operation recently received $1.5 million in investment funding and a visit from Trump administration Cabinet members, frequently cites the award as something that opened new doors for him.
“It was something that we aspired to get to and it’s big shoes to fill,” Gideon said of winning the award.
Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation Executive Director Stephen Sye said that the foundation was most impressed by NERDiT NOW’s ability to not only survive the pandemic but thrive during it.
“They were able to pivot, partner, and really demonstrate the spirit of entrepreneurship to find innovative solutions to a major global challenge,” he said, pointing to the company’s efforts to get laptops in the hands of the underserved during a time when work and learning was largely moved online.
NERDiT NOW was selected for the award that came with a $2,500 cash prize from four finalists, which also included FlyGATEWAY, which seeks to further training opportunities at the New Castle Airport; Lights…Camera…Action, which wants to make Delaware a strategic hub for film productions; and The Real Opportunity Zone Benefit, which seeks to leverage the federal Opportunity Zone program for investments in Wilmington. Those ideas were chosen from among nine that were evaluated by Wilmington advisory firm Social Contract after an initial presentation of 100 ideas at the Freedom Foundation’s 2019 dinner.
Gideon said that his business learned a lot from working with Social Contract over the last six months to refine their idea, including how to order its efforts to scale up and seal new partnerships. That advice was put into quick action due to the pandemic’s “beautiful, chaotic storm,” he said.
NERDiT NOW has partnered with the Delaware Community Foundation, Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement, Discover Bank, Capital One, Barclays Bank and the Wilmington Alliance to help get technology into the hands of students and nonprofits in need during the crisis. That work has expanded their already growing profile, which exploded last October when they were featured on the ABC TV show “Shark Tank.”
Moving forward, Gideon said that he expects an audit to soon declare NERDiT NOW as Delaware’s first certified IT recycler. He’s also in the midst of training seven new employees and looking for a storefront in the city of Wilmington to move closer to his clientele.
“We’re just excited to see what’s next,” he said.
Unique to this year’s foundation event was the decision to not award the annual Freedom Award, which honors an individual or group who has championed a successful idea that led to economic growth or innovation in the private sector. While some award winners in recent years have had strong ties to Delaware, including Charlie Horn in 2019, Carol Ammon in 2018, and former Gov. Mike Castle in 2016, it has also gone to those with few or no ties to the First State, including Dr. Mehmet Oz in 2017, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2007 and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2006.
Sye said that the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation had chosen a Freedom Award winner before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and expected 200 or more people to attend the banquet dinner. Instead of hosting a more low-key affair, the decision was made to push their recipient to 2021 and instead award those who have made an impact in the Delaware community through the pandemic as “Delaware Heroes.”
After soliciting applications, the foundation honored Dr. David Chen, who helped lead the COVID-19 task force at ChristianaCare, and Wanda Rincon-Burgos, director of youth development at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington, who helped fulfill an unprecedented number of requests for monetary and food support for over 800 families.
“Dr. Chen and Wanda have made a tremendous impact on our state. Their leadership in time of crisis and need are exemplary. We are so proud to share their great woks and salute them as Delaware Heroes,” said There du Pont, a foundation board member and a son of former Gov. du Pont, in a statement.
By Jacob Owens