Newark Venture Partners Labs (NVP Labs) executed a very successful Demo Day on June 27, with the six members of its cohort ready to aggressively take on their markets and grow.
So how does NVP Labs do it? We asked the members of the 2018 class what, in their experience, sets Newark Venture Partners apart. This is part one, and it features PeopleJoy (Philadelphia), ClassTag (New York) and Designity (Newark).
Here’s what we learned:
PeopleJoy: Emeka Oguh, CEO
What is PeopleJoy? Harvard Business School graduate Emeka Oguh, a Newark native, said that PeopleJoy helps companies attract, engage and retain talent using student loan assistance as an employee benefit. Students come out of college with an average debt of $40,000, he noted. “Studies show that one dollar put towards the right employee benefit is more impactful and more cost-effective than that same dollar put towards salary.” PeopleJoy has developed a plug-and-play solution that lets HR teams make direct matching contributions to their employees’ student loans. It’s a Software-as-a-Service offering.
How has NVP Labs helped the company? “Access to the incredible talent just upstairs at Audible was transformative for PeopleJoy. We met with Anne Erni, chief people officer; Cassandra Lammers, vice president, total rewards; Alexandra Hsiao, senior UX manager; and Guetty Dahan, director, member engagement and retention. [They] each gave us valuable advice and feedback on the content, messaging and functionality of our website and application. As a direct result of these conversations, our team has begun implementing changes that will increase our sales pipeline, enhance the end-user experience and improve our online presence.”
ClassTag: Vlada Lotkina, cofounder and CEO, and Jason Olim, cofounder and CTO
What is ClassTag? ClassTag is a classroom customer-relationship-management and collaboration platform, helping teachers to communicate with parents. It applies proven business principles to the classroom with a product that improves teacher productivity by means of process automation. Also, “We increase parent participation with analytics and omni-channel communication,” Lotkina said. “And we provide funding for the classroom by providing the first trackable media channel to reach parents in a classroom context, revolutionizing this $70 billion market.” By Demo Day, 80,000 parents were using the system, and Lotkina predicted that the company would grow to 800,000 users, 10 times the current number, “in the next few months.”
ClassTag is a free platform. “We reward teachers for using it with free classroom supplies,” said Olin. “This has allowed us to build our business without suffering through the slow sales cycles” typical in education. “We tap deep corporate advertising budgets instead of relying on corporate funding.”
How has NVP Labs helped the company? “In our weekly reviews with NVP managing partner Tom Wisniewski, as well as a number of mentors like Brad Schrader, with Harvard Business School Alumni Angels, and the chairman of New York Angels, Brian Cohen, we were pushed to understand what makes ClassTag special, why teachers love the product so much, and what it would take for our business to grow exponentially.
“These conversations led us to the development of ClassTag's Marketplace, which is a rewards program focused on giving teachers much-needed supplies and resources when they’re using ClassTag to improve communication with families. This is a real breakthrough in the industry; it focuses on core parent-engagement measures, such as reaching every parent or getting parents to attend parent-teacher conferences.”
Designity: Shahrouz Varshabi, founder and CEO
What is Designity? Designity is the first virtual design agency that connects designers with creative art directors who supervise emerging talents from top design universities, Varshabi said. And the company provides clients with “design-agency quality at marketplace rates.” He added that “over the last 12 months, with no sales and marketing in place, we’ve completed over 1,000 projects for small and large-sized brands.” The company has also acquired more than 6,000 New York-area designers for its platform. Varshabi noted that great user design and video can increase sales for companies by 200 percent, and that companies are beginning to understand this. The other platforms, like Upwork (Mountain View, Calif.) and Fiverr (New York), are limited to small projects, and “it’s cumbersome to manage and hire the right designers.” Designity lets creative directors form teams comprising many designers to execute large advertising campaigns. Emerging talent works on these projects for less money in order to build their portfolios, thus lowering the cost of design for the client.
How has NVP Labs helped the company? “After three months in the NVP Labs program, we've made some significant changes, including the development of a new subscription model for Designity clients. The coaching and expertise available to us through NVP has helped us to really explore and develop our own niche in the market, and increased our ability to service a broader base of customers. Also, working out of the Newark space, surrounded by creatives, really provided an atmosphere that encouraged us to think inventively, and helped us to expand our own business network.”