Lending a hand to Delaware startup business
Published: Monday, October 21, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013 23:10
Students with entrepreneurial aspirations are receiving increased help from the state of Delaware to start companies in state and keep them there for the long-term.
State Secretary of Economic Development Alan Levin said there are plenty of businesses around the Newark area willing to employ students both during and after their college education. Delaware has a good job market for those who have schedule limitations, such as classes or internships.
Levin said the opportunities do not end there, especially as a result of Start It Up Delaware, a company founded in response to Gov. Jack Markell’s push to bring startup companies to Delaware. In the past, Delaware has had a problem recruiting ambitious students to stay in Delaware due to lack of effort from the state government, he said.
“Entrepreneurs who graduate from the University of Delaware or Delaware State who have ideas, a lot of the time they leave Delaware or they have in the past,” Levin said. “There was no desire on the state’s part to keep them here, but now we want them to start their businesses here and grow it.”
Levin said approximately 20 businesses are enrolled in the Start It Up Delaware program, a privately-owned company that received its initial funding from a state government grant. Jon Brilliant, co-founder and board member of Start It Up Delaware, said the objective of the company is to break down existing barriers that prevent startup companies from gaining a foothold in the corporate world.
Brilliant said SIUD aims to both attract young, startup companies to Delaware as well as keep entrepreneurs in Delaware by making the corporate landscape more startup-friendly. Brilliant said he has partnered with the Horn Program at the university in order to raise awareness about SIUD, so students will be more confident about starting their own companies when they graduate.
“With the economy being the way it is, there are a lot of notions of people starting their own companies,” Brilliant said. “We want to play a role in helping people do that.”
PenguinAds, a company founded and operated by graduates, is currently working out of the Start It Up Delaware’s coIN facility, a place where entrepreneurs can work, create and learn from and among each other, in downtown Wilmington.
Delaware has historically been a hotspot for large corporations, and this makes it somewhat difficult to bring small companies to the state, Brilliant said. Delaware’ approach toward large companies contributes to a culture that discourages the allowance and acceptance of failure, which is key to the foundation of businesses and is an essential part of what SIUD stands for.
Brilliant said one of SIUD’s ideal goals would be to provide entrepreneurs with the chance to create a company that could evolve into their full-time career. However, he also said it is realistic to expect some people may use the companies simply as a stepping stone to a larger company or higher profile career.
“It depends on the individual, but it’s our goal to help you start a company, give you support and keep those companies in Delaware,” Brilliant said. “We hope that people can say, ‘I can start something here, I can build something here and it can become my career.’”
Sophomore Nicolette Ioele said she thinks the university should probably do more to encourage students to stay in Delaware after graduation. She said although the university partners with a lot of big companies like DuPont and Gore, she thinks it could do some more work to keep bright students in state.
Ioele said she plans on going to graduate school elsewhere and does not feel like there is much effort on the part of the state of Delaware or the university to keep her in the state. She said she hopes the university will partner with more small or startup companies in order to give students more job opportunities.
“I am a big supporter of small businesses,” Ioele said. “I would hope that the university cares the same about small businesses that might easily employ graduates as they do about the big businesses that can donate a bunch of money.”
Ioele said while it would be great to get a job with a big company, she thinks the jobs that will be most available to her will be with a smaller company as opposed to as a larger, more well-known company. The university should direct students to smaller companies that may have a higher likelihood of hiring someone directly out of college, she said.