It wasn't just talk when Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer spoke at the NJ Tech Meetup last March asking for help in developing the Mile Square City into a place where tech companies would want to go.
Since then the city has held four Hoboken Tech Task Force (HTTF) meetings and is moving forward with initiatives to make that dream a reality. And all this is happening with the help of the emerging tech community there.
Addressing the NJ Tech Meetup on July 17, 2012, Zimmer reiterated her support for the tech community, noting that Hoboken is interested in piloting tech initiatives: “If you have a technology or idea you think you'd like to pilot with the city of Hoboken, or something that will benefit the city of Hoboken, I'm all ears. I'd like to hear your concepts.”
NJTechWeekly.com spoke recently with Matthew Wade, Hoboken resident and CEO of Talisman Guidance Solutions, a startup that builds web-based curriculum-planning tools for the higher education market. Wade and Aaron Price, crafterMania CEO and NJ Tech Meetup founder, are cochairing the HTTF “to identify how we can further establish Hoboken as a digital playground,” Price said.
Wade said about 25 volunteers, many of them entrepreneurs who have recently undergone the startup process, are applying the lessons they've learned to “game-plan how they are going to execute the initiative.”
At first the volunteers, whom Price said come from diverse backgrounds, didn't know exactly how to position themselves. They took some time to come up with a clear mission for the committee: “To establish Hoboken as a regional hub that will inspire the creation, support, growth and attraction of technology businesses.”
The task force has since identified initiatives ranging from attracting investment to setting up additional offices to putting forth infrastructure initiatives and educational opportunities, Price said.
The committee has created some subgroups. The communications subcommittee, for example, will be building a website to allow the community at large to reach out to the task force. Representatives from Stevens Institute of Technology are involved, determining how they can better integrate the school into the fabric of Hoboken.
“The tech culture subcommittee is working on a plan to implement WiFi citywide and is discussing how to bring high-tech panels to Washington Street that identify when PATH trains arrive. This would create some buzz for Hoboken while also creating an infrastructure for doing business,” Wade explained.
One subcommittee is working on establishing as much coworking space as possible, Wade said. Hoboken is already home to Mission Fifty, one such space spawned by NJ Tech Meetup member needs and a smaller space called HarvardLaw74, near the PATH station.
Some HTTF members have been asked to identify cities that have “done this before,” reach out to them and learn from their experiences. For example, some metropolitan areas have already managed to implement free WiFi.
Chris Ferreira is establishing a NJ Tech Breakfast to gather those tech enthusiasts who are looking for monthly morning networking, sometimes in Hoboken. Ferreira, founder of Numina Networks, said his involvement in the HTTF and the N.J. tech scene in general spurred him to get the group going. He wanted to “bring the tech community closer and encourage networking... A breakfast seemed like a natural fit, given that there weren't any in N.J. yet.”
While the task force hopes to inspire Hoboken community members to start their own businesses, as well as establish mentoring resources, “we are also going to help existing businesses here,” said Wade.
“More and more talent will come to Hoboken wanting to go to the restaurants in town, and the restaurants and coffee shops will want to work with our community. For example, you might see entrepreneurs who would otherwise work out of their apartments working out of a restaurant that provides WiFi,” and the restaurants will be happy to have them there, he added.