Newark Venture Partner Labs Cohort Companies Talk About Lessons Learned During Their Accelerator Experience
Photo: The Newark Venture Partners cohort with managing directors, NVP Labs founder Don Katz and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka Photo Credit: Esther Surden
The Newark Venture Partners cohort with managing directors, NVP Labs founder Don Katz and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka | Esther Surden

After NVP Labs, the Newark Venture Partners accelerator, graduated its first class in December, we asked cohort members: What was the biggest lesson you learned as part of your experience? All of the startup founders who responded to our questions had something positive to say about NVP Labs. Several were unable to name just one lesson learned.

For example, Dream Forward CEO Grant Easterbrook said that “NVP Labs was an amazing experience for our business. It's hard to pin down a single moment as the best lesson. Every week we received top-class coaching on sales, fundraising, presentation style, legal and more. Our business has grown leaps and bounds compared to where we were when we started the NVP program in September.” Dream Forward is a 401(k) platform that incorporates AI technology so employees can work through their challenges and stay on track for retirement.

For David Einzig, founder of KiDCASE, the lesson was that there “truly is power in numbers. The opportunity to immerse yourself with so many other founders at a similar stage in their companies life cycles, along with the NVP Labs partners and staff, has given me access to new perspectives on our business, as well as additional strategies we can deploy to hit our goals. Founders are all too often isolated from such opportunities, working in small teams, and can struggle with poor decisions as a result.” KiDCASE is a parental control solution for the Apple iPad.

The Importance of Great Mentorship and Refining the Pitch

Max Adler, CEO and co-founder of Alphachannel.io said that he learned the importance of great mentorship during the program. “Tom, Dan, Dimitris and the Audible mentors provided great advice and strategic input throughout the program.” Alphachannel connects brand marketers with curated production partners to create innovative, technology-based marketing content.

Miryam Ahmed, vice president for business development at Navinata Health said that for his company, the main lesson learned “was refining our investor pitch and how to prepare for the overall funding process, from initial screening presentation through the due diligence phase. NVP's mentorship and hands on support were invaluable in helping us mold our story and pitch across different groups of investors, from individual angels to organized angel groups, to later stage institutional investors. The partners were also very helpful in helping make introductions to investors.” Navinata Health is re-building the broken connection between pharmaceutical brands and busy physicians.

The advice given to Sales Huddle founders to “constantly strive to put our ideas and business in front of people from all points of view, in order to search out and find criticism that is crucial to growing a stronger business,” was valuable to that startup, said Sam Caucii, CEO.  “The environment the NVP team puts you in allows you to seek out and have conversations with many points of view, all of which are valuable to better understanding if your business is on track. At the same time, it has also taught me that the person that understands your business the best is you (the founder).” Sales Huddle is increasing employee performance with a mobile game platform for employee training.

Focus, Focus, Focus

For Bowtie CEO Ron Fisher, learning to focus on the benefits the product provides to the targeted customer base was key. “NVP shared research techniques with us and got their hands dirty working with us on exactly how to tell the narrative of our product. We learned that it's critical to mine the customer for insights and figure out what will really get them excited — something we had not been focused enough on before. We then took those insights and reconfigured our product narrative to match their needs.” Bowtie is a plug and play chatbot solution for any business on any messaging platform. The Bowtie bots let users order food, book appointments or purchase items over SMS, Facebook Messenger and voice enabled communications channels.

UpChannel CEO Jacob Katsof said that his biggest takeaway from the experience was about focus. “What are the most important objectives for your business? Figure that out, then put your head down and execute on it. This means saying no to a lot of great ideas, putting deals on hold and even letting go of employees.” UpChannel connects smartphone manufacturers with their customers, enabling recurring relationships and data-driven insights through a mobile app.

Focus was also the lesson for Barkly CEO Dave Comiskey, who said that naming just one lesson he took away was a challenge. “Perhaps the greatest lesson learned was the value of focus. A lot of young companies go in too many directions to be successful in any one specific area. We quickly learned this lesson while at NVP and have picked a few key areas where we know we can succeed. We're keeping our focus on those areas and are already seeing the results.” Barkly is a service for pet owners to arrange on-demand services in a few taps.

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