What community leaders continue to keep the Delaware tech and business communities close?
In 2020, Technical.ly brought you the inaugural RealLIST Connectors, a comprehensive roundup of folks working to build their local tech, entrepreneurship and innovation community by linking others with an eye toward future growth and inclusivity.
That list included around 75 Delaware innovators and the many different initiatives they started and organized, with one common feature: It’s not just about them, but a real investment in their city’s tech and business community, and about leaving it better for future generations.
Each year, we add a new, smaller batch of connectors to the list; check out 2021’s addendum here. This year’s list includes nominations from the community, as well as newsroom picks based on reporting over the last couple of years by Delaware reporter Holly Quinn, with contributions from Managing Editor Julie Zeglen and CEO Chris Wink.
So, here it is — the 2022 edition, and a peek into our source book at some of the most future-facing, highly impactful connectors you should know, in alphabetical order.
P.S. This list, we acknowledge, is very focused on Wilmington and New Castle County. We’d love to know about more downstate connectors! If you or someone you know deserves to be here, tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opening a brick and mortar bookstore in 2021 is notable in itself in this age of Amazon and COVID-19. Books & Bagels, located at the corner of West Seventh and North Harrison streets in West Side Wilmington, is more than a mini Barnes & Noble. Instead, B&B showcases indie authors, workshops, local businesses and poetry open mics.
Sara Crawford, cofounder, Original Coloure Collective; creative director, Anara Original; program director, Women’s Business Center at True Access Capital
Combining art, events and support for local businesses, Crawford is a connector who brings together creators of color for collaboration, with a focus on supporting Black-owned businesses during the pandemic and beyond. In her role at the True Access Capital WBC, Crawford is in charge of business growth programs for women.
Danny DeJesus, founder, United Tech Project
DeJesus is committed to helping returning citizens get and keep tech jobs. That means he’s someone to know if you or a family member has a record that makes employment challenging to find, as well as if you want to get involved with anti-recidivism training and support as part of a community effort to improve Delaware. His Wilmington-based org recently partnered with a certain tech giant to bring Google Career Certificates to the tristate area via scholarships.
Rysheema Dixon, founder, RD Innovative Planning
Until recently, Dixon was a City Council member. Then she resigned her position to focus full time on her consulting business, with clients that include Pathways to Apprenticeship, Energize Delaware and ChristianaCare. The biz also boasts an online social entrepreneurship training school and an international project with social entrepreneurs from Liberia.
As the head of the virtual events platform Markee and a (relatively) recent transplant from the West Coast, Doig is a strong supporter of Delaware’s tech scene and the potential for a mutually supportive ecosystem. In other words, find your local providers and buy, and sell, locally.
After nearly 20 years with GSK, Fleming made the move to president of the Delaware Biosciences Association, aka DelawareBio, in 2020. There, he leads economic and workforce development initiatives for Delawareans (and future Delawareans) in life sciences fields including biotech, greentech, healthtech and agtech.
PMG — that’s Planning, Management and Growth — is a strategic planner for social impact projects such as Wilmington Alliance’s Second Chances and The Pete Du Pont Foundation’s E3. Geisler makes connections that create collaborations, including PMG’s own recent workspace team-up with Blue Blaze Associates.
Chris Glanden, founder and host, BarCode podcast
If you’re in cybersecurity, Glanden and his network of industry experts, both regional and international, are worth knowing. His Barcode podcast, with its happy hour atmosphere, has monthly live shows at local watering holes, where you can meet the guest and connect with other cybersecurity pros.
As CEO of the seven-year-old Purpose PR, it’s Green’s job to know who’s who in the region, and her diverse clientele, including Gable Music Ventures and Network Connect, represent the community’s vibrancy. Purpose recently moved to a new office in Old New Castle, but Green still has a Wilmington presence via CSC Station.
The Riverside neighborhood in Wilmington has faced decades of challenges, including flooding from overflowing Brandywine River after Hurricane Ida last year. Miraculously, The Warehouse, the state-of-the-art, teen-run community center that Herring helped make a reality, was spared. The transformation of the high-poverty area is ongoing, and WRK’s programming is spreading beyond Riverside as The Warehouse’s workforce development program has a floor in the new Delaware State University building on the Riverfront.
Nicole Homer, cofounder, Hx Innovations
Homer’s bioengineer husband, Von, brings the science and innovation to the 2021 RealLIST Startups honoree, and Nicole brings the business, including networking the tech and sports scenes in Delaware. She was a recent speaker at TEDxWilmington, and, along with the Hx Innovations team, works to support youth in STEM and the success of Black technologists.
Founded in 2019, Network Connect is a growing nonprofit based in Wilmington with statewide outreach. That includes the youth workforce development program “Future Culture Creators,” which aims to turn disengaged high school students into leaders in business and the community with the help of a network of local partner organizations.
Ayanna Khan, president, Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce
Khan launched the Delaware chapter of the Black Chamber of Commerce in 2020, and has been making an impact on the state ever since. It’s more than hosting ribbon cuttings for new businesses — though of course there are many of those — the DEBCC also leads the EnrichDelaware program, an intensive business growth education program for underrepresented business owners that recently had its first graduation.
Gabrielle Lantieri, economic development manager, Cornerstone West
One name that comes up often, especially when we speak to West Side Wilmington entrepreneurs, is Gabrielle Lantieri. Through her work with Cornerstone West, the parent of West Side Grows Together, Lantieri is a leader in neighborhood revitalization, not least of all in helping businesses develop and thrive. As a speaker at the EnrichDelaware! graduation, she demonstrated her commitment to the city’s small business community, welcoming graduates to come to her for advice anytime.
Michael Maggitti, executive director, Downtown Visions
Maggitti was selected in 2021 to replace previous ED Martin Hageman after a nationwide search that ultimately led them to promote from within; Maggitti had been with the organization for 14 years. He is in charge of Downtown Wilmington’s uniformed DTV ambassadors, as well as the organization’s initiatives and resources.
Malfitano is a valuable contact as VP of one of Delaware’s oldest and most resilient companies alone. But his role as showrunner for CSC Station, home to some of the city’s most impactful startups and organizations including the Data Innovation Lab, Code Differently and PMG/Blue Blaze, is next level.
Pedro Moore, venture capital advisor; founder of FundingFuel
Moore’s clients include Daymond John of “Shark Tank,” but more than that, he is one of the few VC professionals in Delaware, and he shares his expertise with the biweekly FundingFuel newsletter.
DuPont spinoff Chemours has a downtown Wilmington headquarters, an R&D facility at the STAR Campus at University of Delaware, and a leader committed to social equity, collaboration and supporting the greater community. The company also recently announced that it will participate in greentech startup Versogen’s development of clean hydrogen technology development.
Michele Schiavoni, vice president of external relations, Delaware Prosperity Partnership
The Delaware Prosperity Partnership continues to help the state grow economically, and Schiavoni is up front as a connector, strategist and builder of entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems. Before DPP, she spent nearly 20 years in communications with ChristianaCare.
Laura Semmelroth, director of creative placemaking, Wilmington Alliance
Wilmington Alliance recently unveiled its Kitchen Collective commercial kitchen at Grace Church in Wilmington, a game-changer for local food industry entrepreneurs. Semmelroth leads the project, which aims to develop dozens of new businesses a year.
Dr. Hara Wright-Smith, director of economic development and inclusion, Wilmington Alliance
Dr. Wright-Smith joined the Wilmington Alliance team in 2021, bringing experience and a deep knowledge of Wilmington’s history, as is the author of the book “African Americans on Wilmington’s East Side.” Her focus with the WA is equitable employment and small business.