Get Ready! Propelify Innovation Festival Scheduled to Fly Again on Hoboken Waterfront May 17
Photo: The crowd at Propelify 2017 Photo Credit: Esther Surden
The crowd at Propelify 2017 | Esther Surden

Photo: Aaron Price at Propelify 17 Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Aaron Price at Propelify 17 | Esther Surden

If you are in the tech and entrepreneurship community, and aren’t familiar with Propelify, you should be.

Propelify is the tech and innovation festival that takes place on the Hoboken Waterfront each spring. It’s the place to be if you want to stay ahead of the curve and see what’s coming around the corner. It’s a day filled with fun, innovation, startup talks, connections, tech and so much more.

Last year some 10,000 people from the region attended the festival, listening to speakers on two stages; checking out booths and sponsors; having on-the-spot job interviews; pitching to investors; and celebrating the tech, entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in the region.

This is the festival’s third year, and the organizer, Aaron Price, is promising that it will continue to be a place where real business is done, where learning that elevates entrepreneurs and startups happens and, of course, where valuable connections are made.

This is not a day off, he emphasizes. This is a day to accelerate your business. “There is so much opportunity for people to find jobs, talent, clients, press! This is a great opportunity to find companies that you might have had to knock down doors for,” he said.

Price promises that Propelify will continue to have its carnival atmosphere, with a Ferris wheel, drones, virtual reality and augmented reality, fireworks, some musical presentations and a scavenger hunt that will keep attendees engaged. There will be a quiet center provided by BuddhaBooth (New York); an e-sports gaming lounge sponsored by Red Bull (New York); and a Voices of Progress space, compliments of Audible (Newark).

Legal Reviews, Hiring Opportunities

On the serious side, attendees will be able to pitch investors and have a legal review with McCarter & English’s  emerging growth companies team. There are lots of practical reasons to attend the festival: access to investors, the chance to learn from people with experience in a wide variety of fields, opportunities to hire or be hired and opportunities for press, Price said.

However, “We are also focused on broader community initiatives. There is a positive impact, as individuals or teams can interact with people who share the same cultural goals of building something in the world that makes a difference.”

When Propelify (then called “Propeller”) first launched, some people wondered if Price could pull it off, but the first festival was a resounding success and, “We are here to stay,” Price said.

“The first year was about, ‘Is this real?’ The second year was about, ‘Wow, it is real,’ and this year we say, ‘We believe we can be the defining community organization for the Northeast.’ The event has quickly grown into one of the largest technology events in the world, and we’re not slowing down. People who share our ethos of being absolutely determined to make a difference belong there.”

Fresh, Relevant Content That’s Ahead of the Curve for 2018

The momentum for Propelify is not slowing down, Price said. “We have more community groups involved this year than last year. We’ve had an insane amount of inbound speaker requests, exhibitor interest and sponsor interest.” He acknowledged that the team behind Propelify faces the challenge of making the program fresh each year.

Fresh content includes new exhibitors and speakers.

For example, there is a casting call for Entrepreneur TV’s show Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch. Of the companies that have gone on the show, 35 have received investments, totaling $10 million.

As for the companies represented by featured speakers, “Plated was acquired during the year, and we’ll find out what happened with that; Boxed had an acquisition offer also, and didn’t go through with it, and we’ll learn a little bit more about that story. The Economic Development Authority in New Jersey has a new presence and a new energy, and we’ll hear from EDA CEO Tim Sullivan about what the EDA can do and how they are looking at things in a fresh new way,” Price said.

Price noted that Audible’s Voices of Progress will focus on encouraging female leaders; and Jet.com (Hoboken) will have a similar initiative to highlight women in technology.

 Representatives from Hoboken will discuss the future of smart cities, including Hoboken’s progress toward its smart city goals.“We move with the culture and aim to be slightly ahead, highlighting the right dialog onstage and around the venue,” said Price. “So people will hear fresh ideas that are current or ahead of their time, and meet companies that are doing things that are new, fresh and different.”

Startup Competitions

There will also be a startup competition focused on the future of work and education. It’s for startups that use technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, natural language voice and the internet of things. Startups can apply to enter this contest before May 1. It’s sponsored by Entrepreneur magazine, as well as by Pearson (Hoboken),  TradeStation (Plantation, Fla.), Mercer (New York)  and Sprint Business). Entrepreneurs could win $3,000 and a spot on season three of Entrepreneur TV’s “Elevator Pitch.”

There will be another startup contest, called “Startup Humanity Heroes,” which is a joint venture between Propelify and Techonomy (New York). They have partnered to highlight entrepreneurs and companies focused on solving some of the world’s biggest problems. The United Nations has designated 17 goals known as  “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) that are targeted at such issues as poverty, hunger, education and water pollution. “To qualify, make sure you are aligned with one of the UN SDGs,” Price advised. “Your product or service must be in market (at least in beta), and open to anyone, anywhere in the world.”  The top ten competitors will receive free exhibitor space at Propelify and a $3,000 prize. Apply now.

Explaining the need for this second contest, Price said, “I would like to see us, as an organization, lean into the social movement, and highlight not just where the ball is going in general in the startup community, but also how people are making a positive impact in the world. … We want to surface these companies and celebrate them.”

The Propelify Innovation Festival takes place on Thursday, May 17, on the Hoboken Waterfront, with a rain date of Friday, May 18. Register here.

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