©2018 by Delaware Founders Initiative

Meet The Team

William M Topkis

President & Board Chair

WILLIAM (BILL) TOPKIS has been an active entrepreneur and entrepreneurial advocate for over 40 years.  A University of Delaware Graduate in Business Administration and Economics, Bill served two years as a Lieutenant in the US Army before embarking on a career in Insurance and Financial Services.  A serial entrepreneur, he founded and served as President and/or Partner of several companies, including Topkis Associates, Topkis Financial Group, Wilmington Financial Group, Topkis & McDermott, LLP and Topkis Financial Advisors, LLC.

Bill has also served on multiple Boards and Steering Committees, among them the Senior Advisory Council for the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, the Advisory Council for the Del-Mar-VA Council of Boy Scouts,  and the Delaware Chapter CLU & ChFC of American College. In March 1995, he joined two US Presidents, several Supreme Court Justices and many other Eagle Scouts as a recipient of the "Distinguished Eagle Scout Award" presented by the Delmarva Council of Boy Scouts and approved by the National Council of Boy Scouts for contributions to the community.

Bill is Married to Judith Lange Topkis and has two daughters, Nicole Topkis Pickles and Julie Topkis Nason, and three grandchildren.

Lou DiNetta

Board Member

LOUIS DINETTA is presently Manager, Technology Business Development at the Delaware Small Business Development Center that is hosted by the Office of Innovation and Economic Partnerships at the University of Delaware. He is an active board member of the Delaware Founders Initiative and a mentor for the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance Tech Connect program.  His efforts are aimed at growing technology-based small businesses and start-ups by providing guidance for entrepreneurs to develop their products through non-dilutive government funding.  He is highly knowledgeable of the SBIR program and throughout his career has submitted and won a number of grants totaling over $30 million.

Lou has over 40 years of experience in small business technology companies, published more than 20 technical papers, managed the P&L for research and development organizations, commercialized products and has been a researcher at the University of Delaware’s Institute of Energy Conversion and Vice President of Advanced Products at AstroPower, Inc.  He has been a principal investigator or a senior key person on grants and contracts with NIH, DOD, DOE, NASA, NSF, and USDA including a highly successful Phase III XLERATOR grant with DOE.  In addition, Lou is well versed in various forms of government contracting and reporting requirements including DCAA compliant accounting and indirect cost negotiation.

John Legaré Williams

Board Member

JOHN LEGARÉ WILLIAMS is President of The Williams Law Firm, P.A. (www.TrustWilliams.com), where for the past 18 years his practice has focused on business transactions, business litigation, real estate and trust matters.  He is admitted to practice law in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts.  He received his B.A. from Williams College and his juris doctor from Emory University School of Law.  He is also the President of Agents and Corporations, Inc., a registered agent and e-commerce incorporation service (www.IncNow.com), representing 18,000 Delaware entities, including over 1,000 series LLCs.  Agents and Corporations, Inc. is public benefit corporation and holds the honor of being the first Certified B Corp in Delaware and the first registered agent to be a Certified B Corp worldwide. During law school, he held externships in the Delaware Court of Chancery, Delaware Supreme Court and for The Coca-Cola Company in its patent legal department.

John is a lifelong entrepreneur starting Black Diamond Seal Coating after his junior year at Tower Hill School and operating it during the summers of college. His teams seal coated 500 driveways in New Castle County from 1993-1997. He also ran a DJ business in college. He applied for and attended the first Delaware Founder Initiative Launch Pad to determine the feasibility of starting a software company built around automating the series LLC using artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. In 2017 he presented at TEDxWilmington on this subject.  

John was appointed by the ABA to serve as an advisor to the Uniform Law Commission for the Drafting Committee of the Uniform Protected Series Act.  He has been engaged four times as an expert witness on the series LLC. He also represented a series LLC in Chancery and Bankruptcy litigation. He is Past-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Partnerships and LLCs Committee for the Real Property Trust and Estates Section.  He is a frequent speaker nationally on the topic of Delaware LLCs and in particular the Delaware Series LLC.  He also is the inventor of an issued US patent for a "System and Method for Processing and Dynamically Segregating Business Assets" utilizing the Delaware Series LLC.  He also operates the website (www.SeriesLLC.com) which is an e-commerce platform dedicated to the Series LLC. 

John is active with a number of nonprofits including:

  • Christina Conservancy (President)

  • Downtown YMCA (Vice-Chair)

  • Wilmington Rowing Center (President)

  • Kalmar Nyckel Foundation (Previous Chair)

  • Delaware National Guard (Honorary Commander)

  • Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Delaware (Membership Chair)

  • University of Delaware Men's Crew (Assistant Coach)

  • Christina Navy (Founder)

  • Delaware Natural Areas Advisory Council (Governor appointed council member)

  • One Commerce Center Condo Council (President)

  • Rides for Vets (Board Member)

  • 18th Representative District Committee (Vice Chair)

  • Downtown Visions (Board Member)

  • Chamber of Digital Commerce (Member)

  • American Bar Association (Beneficial Ownership Transparency Task Force)

Dora Cheatham

Board Member

Newest Board Member Dora Cheatham is the Founder and Principal of Austen Marketing & Communications, a full service marketing and communications agency that focuses on building and delivering value for small and medium-sized businesses through product/program development and communications.

Prior to this, she led International Business Development with Celeste Industries Corp—a subsidiary of ITW, Inc—where she implemented and managed New Product Development & Marketing procedures to create and commercialize new products on the global stage, generating several million dollars in new business and helping to establish Celeste Industries as a world leader in aviation industry specialty chemicals, publishing several articles and editorials in aviation industry publications on innovative cleaning technologies in aviation industry cleaning.

A passionate believer in innovation and economic development, Dora also manages operations and marketing for the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA) with implementation of the Innovation to Invoice (I2I) Program that helps technologists commercialize sustainable technologies. Dora also supports FAME (Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering) to STEMulate® Change in STEM education in Delaware.  She also recently led the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Council and Emerging Enterprise Center activities, helping startups and small businesses build a sustainable business model, and supporting county and state initiatives to help drive Economic Development in Delaware, including the support of key innovation and industry hubs and driving discussions that enable the development of programs to build Delaware’s talent and workforce pipeline. 

Dora spent her early years studying and/or working in the UK, France, Spain and Cyprus, holds degrees in foreign languages and international business from Thames Valley University and the University of London, and speaks fluent French, Spanish, and Greek.  In addition, Dora has completed multiple continuing education courses in New Product Development, Strategic Marketing, Strategic Sales Negotiations, and Operations and is a certified Business Advisor. 

In 2018 Dora received Delaware Today’s “Women in Business” award and was named one of Delaware’s “People to Watch in 2019” by Delaware Business Times. 

Christina Pellicane

Lead Instructor

Christina Pellicane is the Director of Commercialization Programs for the Horn Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Delaware. In this role, she manages several initiatives including a $2M Proof of Concept program, the Horn Venture Mentoring Service and the UD I-Corps Site. Christina is also an independent consultant through her company Antevasin with projects including the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology with VentureWell and The New York Academy of Sciences’ NYSERDA Proof of Concept Center Metrics and Evaluation Project. She is a nationally certified NSF I-CorpsTM Instructor and Lean Launchpad educator at schools and incubators around the world.
Previously, Ms. Pellicane served as the Executive Manager of the NYC Regional Innovation Node, funded by the NSF for $3.74M, as the northeast NSF I-CorpsTM Node led by CUNY in partnership with NYU and Columbia. She also served as CUNY’s manager of the PowerBridgeNY program, funded by NYSERDA for $10M. Prior to this, she held positions as a Clinical Business Administrator and Study Monitor at a veterinary clinical research organization, AlcheraBio, and a Research Associate at a biotech startup, Venenum Biodesign.

Ms. Pellicane holds a B.S. in Biology and Animal Science from the University of Georgia and a Master of Business and Science with a concentration in Biotechnology and Genomics from Rutgers University.