First State Innovation: Accelerating Business Connections

First State Innovation (FSI) was founded in 2006 to accelerate Delaware’s and the surrounding region’s entrepreneurial economy by connecting people, ideas and capital. Since then, the general awareness of entrepreneurism in Delaware has grown dramatically.

The organization has held more than two dozen events featuring some 75 new and emerging companies, which have presented their business plans to investors, major corporations and fellow entrepreneurs.

FSI sponsored the formation of an early-stage venture fund three years ago, based on the lack of good venture-capital sources within the state, says Ernie Dianastasis, FSI’s chairman. The fund, Leading Edge Ventures, has raised $10 million for investment in early-stage companies, focusing on Delaware and the surrounding region.

FSI also serves as a “voice of Delaware” in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., along with other economic-development organizations such as Select Greater Philadelphia and the University City Science Center. “FSI has met often with these entities to ensure Delaware’s assets and needs are heard,” says Dianastasis.

Recently, FSI founded the Entrepreneur Roundtable, a forum where entrepreneurs meet to share ideas that improve one another’s ventures and also grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It also supported the development of a digital platform that connects stakeholders in the Delaware entrepreneurial community and provided direct support for OpenBracket Delaware.

Going forward, FSI will continue to collaborate with entities that grow the entrepreneurial economy in Delaware and the region.

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