A coworking space is made up of its members, and on the day of the Launch Pad ribbon cutting we were able to find several tech entrepreneurs who wanted to talk to us about the space.
Anchoring the coworking space is Phone.com, which moved 16 employees to Launch Pad in April. Ari Rabban, cofounder and CEO of this 10-year-old “startup,” was one of Launch Pad’s “first believers.”
A first believer, according to Launch Pad cofounder and CEO Chris Shultz, can be a supporter or even one of the the first customers. Rabban was both. And he’s so enthusiastic about his new surroundings that he’s taken many people through the space on tours, acting as an unofficial evangelist for the place. In fact, during our tour, NJTechWeekly.com got to see offices, labs and a “museum” all within Phone.com’s offices at Launch Pad.
During his prepared remarks before the ribbon cutting, Rabban noted that both Schultz and Jake Pine (from the company that restored the Hahne & Co. building, where Launch Pad is located) “had him at hello.” Phone.com had first set up shop in Newark at NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center, “and we grew, and now we have about 30,000 small businesses working with us.” One of Phone.com’s larger customers is the City of Newark.
Rabban remembered coming to the site with his team when it was still under development, and they were excited about the prospects of working there. “We brought developers from Brooklyn” and other tech workers from Manhattan, and now they are “doing the reverse tech commute with a smile,” he said. “That’s what it is really about.”
Ashley Edwards, cofounder and CEO of two-year-old tech nonprofit MindRight, works at the space. MindRight’s mission is to help youths of color heal from aspects of systemic oppression such as social violence, poverty and discrimination. The startup provides mental health coaching via text messaging to high school students.
“We’ve been looking for coworking spaces that were reliable in Newark for a while now,” said Edwards, “so I heard about this as soon as it was opening and jumped on the opportunity.” Now she can work where she lives, and where she can feel at home even when working. “What sets Launch Pad apart from other coworking spaces,” she said, “is the community.”
Andre Preoteasa, who has been around the Newark tech scene for years, is also working at Launch Pad. “My company is Systems of Systems, which provides IT solutions and strategy,” he said. The founder and CEO, Preoteasa brought the company to Launch Pad because he needed a place that had all the amenities of a WeWork, but was closer to home. In addition, “while there are other spaces we love, this one had a lot more space for us.”
One of the perks of the Hahne & Co. building is the superfast Wi-Fi, which is connected to the fiber that runs under the streets in Newark. “That’s just expected now,” Preoteasa said. He works with two other people on a remote team, and with a wide network of outside contractors and consultants. “This is the place where people come and meet and talk and do what we’ve got to do.”
Gary Mann, managing director of Jasfel Analytics, a data analytics consulting company, is another tech entrepreneur in the space. “We help organizations and governments collect information, organize it, cleanse it and analyze it to make decision.” Like Preoteasa, Mann has a number of people on staff; and while he is based at Launch Pad, they are all working remotely. “It’s an exciting facility, probably one of the best within a 10 or 15 square mile radius,” he said. “There are a lot of great companies here.”
Speaking after the event, Anthony Frazier, who is one of the founders of the Newark tech ecosystem, told NJTechWeekly.com, “My company, ABF Creative, will be building a podcast booth inside of Launch Pad that will be the headquarters for our recordings. Launch Pad and its CEO Chris Shultz have been very supportive and passionate about making an impact in Newark. I told Chris the Newark community will definitely hold him accountable on that.”
He added, “I’m happy to see Newark growing and bringing more business downtown. This won’t be the last space to open, and that’s a good thing.”