So who’s going to be the next Second Chances Farm, Zip Code Wilmington, The Teen Warehouse, Wilmington Green Box, or Wilminvest?
Eighteen people with ideas they believe will create jobs and make Delaware a better place to live, work, and raise a family will get their chance Wednesday, Nov. 13, to convince attendees at the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation’s Sixth Annual Reinventing Delaware Dinner that their idea deserves to move forward in the process.
The top idea at Wednesday’s event will move to the next phase of the program which is a scoping workshop led by Social Contract, for the opportunity to receive six months of focused development led by Social Contract or the University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship Program – all paid for by the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation. The Foundation’s board will also select six to eight additional ideas from the evening they feel deserve to participate in the scoping process.
Of the more than 60 ideas submitted for the 2020 competition, 18 will make their pitches at this week’s dinner. Ajit Matthew George went to the dinner last year with low expectations for how his Second Chances Farm – a vertical farm designed to decrease recidivism that is now hiring 30 people for its new facility in the Riverside neighborhood – would fare in the competition.
“The process was exceptionally rigorous, but Social Contract provided an in-depth review of every aspect of our idea,” said George, who ultimately won the competition. “It sharpened our focus. And at the beginning, there was no cash prize – it was for bragging rights. But they surprised us with a check for $10,000 at the end.”
Stephen Sye, executive director of the foundation, said the initial review committee saw a record number of submissions, with improved quality of submission and an increase in the number of for-profit submissions, due to what he said “is a greater understanding that for-profits can have a social component.”
“I think the makeup of the room will be very diverse, with more submissions coming from downstate,” Sye said. “I think we could see some significant game changers if these folks can clearly communicate that at the dinner.”
Four to six participants will move on to participate in the development process from January to June, and the strongest ideas will repitch to the board in Augusts. Two ideas will be recognized at the foundation’s Freedom Awards dinner next fall, and Sye said they hope to be able to present checks to those winners again but that depends on the support of the community, his donors, and his sponsors.
“This is really about ideas that will have the greatest impact on Delaware,” Sye said when asked whether location or socio-economic status will play a role in the final decision. “Any idea can come from any person.”
The 18 finalists have submitted ideas that include:
- Teaching individuals from underserved communities how to be tech entrepreneurs through use of retrofitted ambulances and unmanned kiosks to repair computers and mobile devices (NERDiT NOW, which recently appeared on Shark Tank).
- Studying the use of “Bloom Boxes as the primary source of energy for a wireless third rail streetcar loop in Wilmington in partnership with DuPont’s Electronics/Battery division.
- Making Wilmington a “smart” city, leveraging its citywide wireless internal network (WhyFly).
- Impacting the community through gaming and creating a system that will jump start economic development.
- Expanding a software platform that uses 3-D modeling to collect critical information about buildings that can be used for emergency responses and planning and facility management.
- Giving Delaware’s community of artists, producers, and sound engineers a place to hone their skills.
- Creating a shared services hub for all nonprofits in Delaware.
- Elevating student voices by establishing a committee of 12 high-school students from across the state to discuss and upgrade stateside curriculum.
- Combatting subprime auto lending by providing low-interest rate financing to clients in low-to-moderate income communities.
- Providing nonprofit aviation education to Delaware.
- Providing a one-stop-shop solution to energy efficiency improvements to owners and managers of commercial buildings.
- Creating a customer-centric healthcare choice platform with transparent pricing, negotiated procedures of excellence, measured outcomes, and Center of Excellence accountability.
- Creating an automated service that uses UV-C light as a non-chemical alternative to pesticides for treating pathogens on strawberry farms.
- Connecting the neighborhoods bordering I-95 through community events, door-to-door outreach, pop-ups, and collaborative murals on bridges.
- Using library resources to facilitate a startup incubator club with a meetup schedule.
- Developing programs for college students to train and certify as Peer Recovery Specialists and serve the needs of others with mental health or substance use conditions.
- Create a Delaware You Tube channel and social media network featuring global video bloggers and famous social-media influencers to increase the visibility of Delaware.
- Creating a year-round, tuition-free, independent school for Wilmington’s underserved students with instruction with an equal balance between academics and self-empowerment.
All of the ideas presented will be posted on the Foundation’s website shortly after the event.