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Wilmington startup NESTER wins new local pitch contest

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Brendan Kennealey Nester New Castle County Chamber of Commerce’s Cutting-Edge: Fintech Investor Ready Innovation Showcase

Brendan Kennealey pitches NESTER to the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce’s Cutting-Edge: Fintech Investor Ready Innovation Showcase on March 29. | PHOTO COURTESY OF NCCCC

WILMINGTON – It only took business owner Brendan Kennealey five minutes to sell a handful of local would-be investors on the idea for his Wilmington-based startup company NESTER, securing $4.75 million in imaginary funding during the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce’s Cutting-Edge: Fintech Investor Ready Innovation Showcase.

NESTER, which helps homebuyers and homeowners identify the costs of repairs and maintenance, was one of six fintech startups competing in the new event, and earned the most imaginary investment during the March 29 contest. The showdown was the first-of-its-kind for the chamber and required business owners to sell their company with nothing more than a five-minute pitch.

Unlike typical home inspections that come as lengthy, cumbersome documents compiled after an offer is made, NESTER produces a digestible report that homebuyers can use before purchasing a home — much like a CARFAX report, Kennealey explained. The service also outlines a “NESTER fund,” or how much a homeowner would need to save in addition to the mortgage to cover those now-expected repair and maintenance costs.

“The important part of this is we’re independent,” he said. “We’re not trying to sell a homebuyer anything other than our service.”

Brendan Kennealey Nester Wilmington

Brendan Kennealey founded NESTER after noticing that home maintenance was often an afterthought to homebuyers. | PHOTO COURTESY OF NESTER

While Kennealey said he’s not new to selling people on ideas worth their investment, his business is still quite new — NESTER officially launched at the end of 2022.

“Right now, the challenge in a sense — which is good and bad — is that no one else is doing this,” he said, noting that he was also impressed by the other companies’ pitches during the event. “It takes a little time, but it’s been well received.”

Judges included Swanlaab USA Ventures’ Managing General Partner Martin Hunt, Delaware Idea Club Investments’ managing member David Liss, founder of The Mill Robert Herrera, President and CEO of Delaware Technology Park Michael Bowman, Director of Economic Development for New Castle County Charuni Patibanda, Executive Director of Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation Stephanie Johnnie, President of SCORE Delaware and financial advisor Mike Profit, and analyst for Ben Franklin Technology Partners Anthony George.

“Pitch competitions by definition, they’re fun and competitive, but they’re also good practice for emerging entrepreneurs to get in front of an audience,” Bowman said. “Trial by fire is important when you’re an entrepreneur and how you stand up against your peers and with a crowd.”

Kennealey — who Bowman said “stood out as kind of an experienced CEO” — competed against two businesses from northern Delaware and three from Philadelphia: Beeline, Exuity, FundingFuel, SnapRefund and Walkthrough.

Alysse Bortolotto, New Castle County Chamber of Commerces director of economic development, said the pitch contest will return during future Cutting Edge programs, the next of which is slated for Tuesday, June 27, with a focus on health care and biotech.

“It’s important for startups to see what lands with investors,” she said, noting that these kinds of events give companies an opportunity to “finesse their pitches” and practice before going all in during a higher-stakes competition like the chamber’s Swim with the Sharks.

She said she hopes more investors become interested in allotting real venture capital in the future.

“We need to showcase that Delaware has a lot of innovation here,” she said. “We have a lot of great local talent and innovators.”

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