Newark Community Members Observe Increased Interest in Tech Entrepreneurship and a Changing Narrative for Newark
[These responses were written as part of NJ Tech Weekly’s End-of-Year coverage. We asked Newark stake holders to respond to this question: “From your point of view, what have been the most important developments in tech in Newark in 2016 and why? Where do you see this going for 2017?”]
From Judith Sheft:
[Judith A. Sheft is the associate vice president of Technology and Enterprise Development at the New Jersey Innovation Institute at New Jersey Institute of Technology.]
I have been involved with the technology community in Newark for over a decade. I am most excited by the growing interest in technology entrepreneurship by the students and faculty at the city’s higher education institutions. This desire to explore technology startups is not limited to business students but extends to all disciplines.
To address the need to provide these technically focused students and faculty with a foundation in business models and value proposition assessment, NJIT has been fortunate to receive NSF funding for an I-Corps site. Through this program, we have been able to provide support to 76 teams of students/faculty/industry mentors to explore opportunities to commercialize technology. These teams get out of the building and talk to customers to learn about the real world feedback for their inventions.
Several of our teams have gone to receive follow on funding from the NSF SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program, foundations and other federal grant programs. These early indications of success by our students have the ability to transform Newark through technology based economic development.
From Anthony Frasier:
[Anthony Frasier is a digital strategist, tech entrepreneur, author and public speaker. A Newark native, Frasier has a long history of mentoring and advising startups and community infrastructures, to solve real problems and build solutions. Frasier has been instrumental in bringing up a new generation of black and minority technology leaders.]
In Newark, we saw many people waking up to the potential of what Newark can be. Mayor Ras Baraka talks a lot about Newark 3.0 and I think that’s important. We can’t forget Newark’s history, but it’s important to help weave that history into the next stage of this city instead of dwelling on the past.
In 2016, we saw the narrative begin to change. Newark Venture Partners, Fownders, new office towers, both NJIT and Rutgers-Newark expanding, positive news in the media and more. In 2017, we will continue to see that narrative change. A big part of what I intend to do is help empower organizations in Newark to tell their story to help accelerate that change. Technology will continue to be the catalyst to help bring Newark forward in more than just startups.
From Ari Rabban
[Ari Rabban is the co-founder and CEO of Phone.com and a veteran of the IP-communications industry. He has served as president and advisor for two VoIP companies, as senior executive at VocalTec Communications, and as strategy manager for Lucent Technologies. Rabban currently serves on the boards at the New Jersey Technology Council and the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership. ]
New Jersey has long been recognized as a world leader in telecoms R&D. We’re leading the charge to bring back those glory days. The city of Newark is one of our largest customers and a real proving ground for our business phone solution in the cloud, but we’re not standing still. We’re re-energizing New Jersey’s leadership position by opening a platform for developers to integrate and build on what we’ve created.
At Phone.com, we’ve been part of the Newark tech scene for three years and in the area even longer. We’ve seen real changes happen here, thanks in no small part to organizations like the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Newark Venture Partners, New Jersey Tech Council, New Jersey Tech Meetup and the New Jersey Institute of Technology — where we are currently headquartered. There are also new partners like Fownders, bringing startups from all over the world to Newark to build their business.