Ernie Dianastasis
Ernie Dianastasis, Managing Director, CAI, Chairman of First State Innovation

Creating a regional vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem is a key element in enabling early stage companies to succeed. Over the past six years FSI has played an important role in helping to create such an environment working with other likeminded organizations. The University of Delaware, under the leadership of President Patrick Harker (an FSI Board member), is one of those organizations.

One of the exciting new ways the University is contributing to this ecosystem is through the recently announced Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, made possible by a $3 million commitment from 1975 alumnus Charles W. Horn and his wife Patricia. The Horn Program, which is led by Dan Freeman, Director & Associate Professor of Marketing, represents an aggressive expansion of the University's support for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Horn Program will build upon the University’s established foundation in entrepreneurial studies, which includes an undergraduate minor, venture funding competitions, and an annual University of Delaware President's Forum on Innovation & Entrepreneurship. New initiatives include launching the startup experience; relocating & expanding the Venture Development Center (VDC); developing the Diamond Challenge for High School Entrepreneurs; and creating an online resource exchange.

The heart of these initiatives is the startup experience - a new, University wide program open to all University students. Students who enroll in the startup experience will learn about entrepreneurship by working with a team to try to conceive, validate and launch a high growth potential startup. The relocation and the expansion of the VDC will provide students with a state of the art facility with space for mentoring, conferencing, socializing and working. The Diamond Challenge is a new outreach program wherein high school entrepreneurs will compete for at least $25,000 in scholarships and other prizes. The online resource exchange will provide students and community members with access to important information, subject matter experts, and other resources found to be needed by entrepreneurs to sustain their efforts and speed their progress.

Ernie Dianastasis is Managing Director of CAI's Delaware Valley Operation and principal in the
Company. CAI is a global Information Technology consulting, integration and outsourcing services organization that focuses on IT productivity and has over 2,800 associates world-wide. Ernie is responsible for all CAI's operations in the Delaware Valley including Sales and Marketing, Consulting, Delivery. He has grown the CAI Delaware Valley operation from 1 to over 725 associates, making CAI the largest computer consulting firm in the Delaware Valley. He is also responsible for CAI’s business in Ohio, Michigan and oversees CAI’s operations in Shanghai, China. In addition to being founding Chairman of the First State Innovation, Ernie has been a member of The Delaware Business Roundtable since 2001 and is a former Chair. He is a member of the Delaware State Chamber Board of Directors, a member of the Council on Competitiveness and a member of the Executive Committee for Vision 2015, which is focused on making Delaware's Public Education system world class. He also serves on the Boards of Directors of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the University City Science Center and the State Science Technology Institute (SSTI). Recently, he was named Chairman of the Board for Saint Edmunds Academy, an independent Catholic School School for boys in Wilmington, Delaware. Prior to joining CAI, Ernie was with the IBM Corporation. He earned a B.S. degree in Finance and an M.B.A. in Management from Lehigh University.