Tech Forum challenge generates big ideas

By Christi Milligan

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Ken Grant, foreground, uses a selfie-stick to showcase the participants in the 2nd Annual Idea Challenge, a quick-fire pitch session, sponsored by the Technology Forum.

The Technology Forum of Delaware hosted the 2015 Idea Challenge, a quick-fire pitch session where seven teams were given just three hours to brainstorm and present tech-based initiatives to make Wilmington a better place to live and work.

Start-It-Uppers, a team of innovators from Start It Up Delaware, won the event with a walkable-Wilmington initiative. The centerpiece of their idea was the “Beacon”— multiple solar-powered kiosks placed at key locations throughout the city that would offer everything from a docking station to information about available parking, as well as heat maps and cameras to highlight popular events and attractions.

“You check it out virtually before you go there physically,” explained team captain Mona Parikh, who added that the idea includes quarterly “Burn the Beacon” events to draw visitors, similar to the success of the Burning Man community-and-art event in Nevada.

This was the second year for the Idea Challenge. Tech Forum chairman David Gates said the event combines technology and creativity with a
passion to make a difference. This
year’s focus came straight from the city of Wilmington’s Strategic Action Plan.

“The Tech Forum supports it, but we wondered, ‘How can we help and leverage technology in this situation?’” said Gates.

Teams were charged with pitching ideas that went beyond basic website and social-media campaigns. While Internet research was allowed, presentation tools were limited to old-school pencil and paper.

Several team captains rounded up their own teammates, while Tech Forum organizers put together others. Teams could focus on either supporting a business owner who’s moving or expanding into the city, or offering new technology to enhance the lifestyle, entertainment and cultural opportunities for young professionals.

Four Smart Guys and Ken, led by social-media expert Ken Grant, pitched a similar kiosk idea that offered a different option in the way of interactive games and broader connectivity on an international level.

Pitches varied from a drone-based food-delivery network known as “Fuber,” offered by the Wildcats from Wilmington University, to “Win in Wilmington,” a corporate-driven “win exchange” that connects innovate needs with “winternships,” pitched by the team, Corporate Americans, from Corporation Service Company.

F-Techies, led by Digital Eye vice president Bob Watson, presented a mobile app, free to first-time business owners who would encourage and follow customer check-ins to local businesses, earning the customers points.

Great Dames, led by Sharon Kelly Hake, revealed a “Wi-Line” monorail that would connect downtown Wilmington with the art loop, local businesses and entertainment, and the Riverfront.

Finally, big-data aggregation was the focus of Cyberwolves, led by data expert Dennis DeBevec. The app would collect government information, transit and traffic stats, and MLS real-estate data, and also follow business transactions. “What do you want to see, and how do you want to see it?” asked DeBevec, who said data could be shown by simple numbers or graphs.

According to Great Dames team member Carol Arnott Robbins, being a part of the Idea Challenge was exciting because Wilmington is home to so many. “Wilmington is the place to be somebody. We want to live here. We want to play here. We want to work here,” she said.

The winners will present their idea to the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation.

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