[Contributor Givon Zirkind worked hard during Propelify, visiting as many booths and businesses as he could. ]
This year's Propelify Innovation Festival, held in Hoboken on May 18, certainly connected people and ideas in a way that made business happen! There were entrepreneurs, businesses providing services to entrepreneurs and established businesses providing goods and services that help entrepreneurs make their businesses thrive.
Budding entrepreneurs came to Propelify to learn the ropes and find service vendors for their business needs. Angel investors were also present, as were those looking to buy viable startups or to work with innovative products. Virtual reality (VR), the springboard for the next technological leap, was on display at several booths.
Last year's festival was a smashing hit, with over 8,000 attendees. This year, there were over 10,000 attendees. Companies such as Jet.com (Hoboken) came to Propelify to recruit. Innovation is a big business in Hoboken, and companies like Deloitte (Jersey City, Parsippany, and Princeton), Nokia (Murray Hill) and Samsung (Ridgefield Park) went to the festival to seek new technologies to buy.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer had this to say about Propelify: “We’re excited to welcome back the Propelify community and bring this opportunity to our residents to learn more about tech companies and perhaps even find a new career.”
Introducing the Entrepreneurs
Upon entering the festival, the first two booths you saw were from Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken). With its goal of “practical” research and engineering, Steven's is one of the large supporters of innovators and startups in New Jersey. The first booth belonged to Stevens Venture Center Incubator, which promotes “Innovations, Ideas and Entrepreneurship” and has a coworking space in the Pearson Building, just across from the location of this year's festival.
Adjacent to the first Stevens booth was one for the Stevens College of Arts and Letters. The Music & Technology program there has produced innovative technology such as loudspeakers for cell phones, surround sound audio decoders and digital signal processing (DSP) products. As Professor Seth Cluett said with a smile, when asked what products that enhance one’s experience of art have to do with entrepreneurship, “Everyone listens to music. That's a pretty big market share.” The College of Arts and Letters also has a Sensory Computation, Experimental Narrative Environments (SCENE) Lab, which develops virtual spaces and VR technology.
Innovative Technology Buyers, Incubators and Accelerators
Just beyond the Stevens exhibit, Deloitte had a booth; it also sponsored a pavilion for “Investor Speed Dating.” Approximately 200 startups participated, speaking with investors for short intervals, and the booth was packed. Deloitte invests heavily in technologies, especially those useful for their financial services, robotics and analytics. The company also has relationships with some of the vendors exhibiting at the festival, such as Arria (Parsippany), a maker of Natural Language Generation (NLG) software technologies.
The representatives at the Samsung NEXT (New York) booth were also looking for new, viable technologies to acquire. Nokia’s contingent was scouting for new tech, as Nokia is always interested in hearing about innovative technology, we were told. In addition, Nokia Bell Labs (Murray Hill) was there to showcase some of its cutting-edge VR technology. Likewise, T-Mobile, which is headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., had representatives there looking for new technology to buy and selling their business communication and Web services.
2020 Startups is a new 90-day program for early-stage entrepreneurs that provides premier workspaces, on-site marketing assistance, mentorship, executive education workshops, and training in investment relations for a highly subsidized cost. 2020 Startups has two locations, one in New York City and the other at Bell Works, in Holmdel.
The NYC Innovation Collective had a booth publicizing its consortium of 79 accelerators in New York and New Jersey. This consortium provides a space for leaders of accelerators to meet and share best practices and resources.
EntreprenYOURS is a unique accelerator sponsored by the law firm McCarter & English (East Brunswick), in a partnership with other leaders, such as BDO (Marlton, Woodbridge and New York), Gearhart Law (Summit), CohnReznick (New York), Crystal & Company (New York), Phone.com (Newark ) and others in the New York/New Jersey business ecosystem.
When raising venture capital is made easy, that’s a good thing. Crowd Funding NJ (Newark) has a novel approach to funding that’s based on newly enacted legislation. It offers a marketplace for New Jersey startups to raise capital from sources in the state, such as individuals, friends, family and local investors. By keeping the funding sources within the state and keeping the individual contributions small (less than $5,000), Crowd Funding NJ avoids regulation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and a lot of red tape.
Software Vendors and Developers for Startups
In the entrepreneurial market, many people have an idea for an app, but don’t have any programming skills. Finding a good app or Web developer is tough, according to many who have gone down this route. In fact, you need more than just a developer; you also need a designer, a tester and specialists in documentation, promotion and marketing. Several vendors, including some very large ones, came out to Propelify to address these needs. There were several software development companies—large and small—offering to develop websites and apps for entrepreneurs, as well as other computer services.
People10 Technologies, based in New York and Bangalore, is a software developer for startups and large enterprises. People10 does more than just make websites and apps. The company also specializes in quality assurance (QA), backend programming and user interface design and testing, and in DevOps (the building, testing and release of software). It offers both onshore and offshore options for DevOps.
Google Cloud had a booth, and one of its affiliates, ROI Training (New York), was giving training seminars in their products and services that are useful to entrepreneurial businesses, including but not limited to website building. The seminars were packed.
Dito (Manassas, Va.) is a company that assists entrepreneurs with their use of Google APIs and Google services (such as Google Maps). It also helps companies move their storage to the Google Cloud and work with Google digital storage. Dito provides its services to startups in retail, healthcare and other industries.
Sunflower Lab (Somerset) provides custom software and, as an Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner, provides cloud development for businesses.
Marketing and Social Media for Startups
Many marketing and social media companies were present at Propelify to offer products and services that are useful to entrepreneurs. Some of these companies offer services based on big data and artificial intelligence (AI), with a view to improving the business performance of startups.
The company inSuite (Paris and Mamaroneck, N.Y.) sells a social media engagement app that watches social media channels and tweets for you. Filtering by hashtag is not required, and posts can be extracted in real time. Demographics, including location, are available.
Creative Circle, which is based in Teaneck, is another marketing and design firm that exhibited at Propelify. Creative Circle provides a job-matching service for creatives, as well as interactive advertising.
Genesis Media (New York) is a firm that provides online ad technology, working with big data and AI to improve Web page performance by increasing real-time user attention. The company uses proprietary data science to analyze online attention in order to increase views and create ads best suited to each bit of content. Genesis asserts that its software results in a video completion rate (watching the whole video) of 70 percent of viewers, and that it triples engagement through smart advertising that uses big data. The company also does marketing campaign studies, as well as research and analysis, that result in insights regarding audiences and content.
Savavo stands for “See Acquisition, Velocity, Algorithms.” Reps from the Utah-based company came to Propelify to present their product to entrepreneurs. Savavo offers turnkey software, aimed at chief marketing officers, that encompasses all marketing needs, both online and offline. The software uses AI to develop and implement marketing strategies; and it can analyze marketing campaigns.
Do you need a new product? Are you listening to the market, but aren’t sure what you’re hearing? Freehold-based New Haircut (with offices in Asbury Park and Timisoara, Rumania) is a product-development company that also provides marketing services. It offers workshops for clients in which they discuss problems and potential solutions, which are then prototyped and tested. Voilà!Innovation!
Claim it! (New York) is an app from a Newark Venture Partners accelerator company. It is a service that offers sweepstakes in which members can win various products. The featured products are always free, but marketers have access to a 5,000-member user base made up primarily of millennials.
Local Businesses Supporting Startups
Of course, there were basic business suppliers such as Staples and Phone.com. The latter’s phone service can make a new startup look like a much larger company.
Members of the Hoboken business ecosystem and other supporters of startup businesses were also present at Propelify. One of them was Jet.com (Hoboken) — a recent graduate from startup to established business after its purchase by Walmart. Jet.com's juggler was not to be missed! Jet.com was scouting at the festival, as the company is currently recruiting senior-level developers to mentor junior developers.
New Jersey has seen a growth of coworking spaces. Several were represented at Propelify, making the public aware of their existence.
Vi Hub Coworking offers spaces in Holmdel and Oceanport. The Holmdel space is located at Bell Works, the former Bell Labs building that is now a modern office facility. The other space is collocated with TetherView (Oceanport) at Fort Monmouth, in the former officer's club there.
MakerBar is nonprofit maker space located in Hoboken, with tools that are free to members and to those participating in a class. MakerBar is also home to DEFCON 201, the New Jersey DEFCON group, which holds its monthly meetings at MakerBar. DEFCON is one of the largest hacking communities in the world.
Lawyers and Accountants for Startups
Grant Thornton, (MetroPark), a long-time member of the New Jersey business ecosystem and a nurturer of startups, had representatives at Propelify as well, offering the firm’s specialized accounting services, which are tailored to technology companies and startups in such areas as “cleantech,” digital media and software.
Likewise, the law firm McCarter & English, whose venture practice specializes in startups and technology companies, from concept to commercialization, had a booth at the festival, manned by some of its lawyers.
Also at the festival was Morgan Lewis, an international law firm with 30 offices across the globe. It specializes in corporate law, patents and intellectual property. Morgan Lewis has offices in Princeton.
HR Service Providers to Small Companies
Oscar Health (New York), which provides health insurance to individuals and small companies, had its own representatives at the festival, who offered their services to startups. Oscar has just announced that it would again be offering insurance plans in New Jersey, after having left the market for a year.