All of the 22 participating startups had been pre-vetted by officials from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) and then matched with appropriate investors. Some 15 investors participated in the event. They came from areas nearby, including New York, Pennsylvania and, of course, New Jersey.
Technology and life-science companies discussed strategies, business models and funding opportunities with potential investors. The event supports companies at their earliest stages and highlights the collaborative nature of the Garden State’s innovation ecosystem.
Before the one-on-one sessions, startups and investors alike received some words of encouragement, as well as an overview of the New Jersey innovation ecosystem, from Governor Phil Murphy. During his remarks, Murphy also discussed the $500 million Innovation Evergreen Fund, which he had proposed in his economic address.
Next, Kathleen Coviello, vice president, technology & life sciences investments at the EDA, went over the programs offered by the state that are designed to help invigorate the startup ecosystem. Information about all of these programs is available on the EDA website.
NJTechWeekly.com was able to connect with a number of startups at the event. [See our first story on this topic here, and our second story here.] We asked them about their fledgling businesses and how their meetings with investors had gone.
Good Harvest Company (Eric Meth and Venu Moola)
Good Harvest Company. (Lawrenceville) is a data management platform designed to allow brand marketers to effectively reach cannabis consumers by taking into account their buying and shopping behaviors, founder and CEO Eric Meth told us. There really isn’t a solid intelligent data layer out there with information on how brands can market cannabis, he noted.
“We are in our final stages of launching our minimum viable product. We are working with cannabis retailers in adult use markets that allow for sales.”Seven states that have cannabis retail locations within those states.”
Good Harvest Co. runs tags or pixels on the retailer’s websites. Some of the sites are ecommerce-enabled and others just allow consumers to browse their products. “We are starting with tagging those sites so we can track how consumers shop” and understand what kinds of products cannabis consumers are shopping for. “We can create audience segments for brands to focus on those different types of specific cannabis shoppers.” Cannabis brands are not the only brands that want to know this information, he pointed out. This could be interesting to fast food companies or snack food makers, for example.
While digital advertising for cannabis is allowed in the U.S., the channels are limited. Good Harvest will improve its’ efficiency by targeting specific consumers based on location and audience segments curated from live cannabis shopper data, he said.. Most mainstream publishers are sitting on the sidelines, rather than jumping into this category, but when they are ready, Good Harvest will be ready too, Meth stated. The company will also ensure that the consumers are 21 plus by confirming IDs via the retailer’s platforms, allowing them to meet the compliance factor.
Meth, and CTO Venu Moola, had 10 meetings with investors, Meth told us. Of the investors they met, three were already directly investing in the cannabis space. “Out of these, we’ve scheduled two follow-up meetings; and the rest, who don’t directly invest in this space right now, are very interested in it and are keeping an eye on it.” The two had some good discussions and received advice about things to look for and what to do and not to do while raising money. “It was excellent from a connections standpoint. Even though some investors were looking at the cannabis space, depending on their thesis and how they like to invest, some were not getting in so early.” However, they wanted Meth to maintain contact with them and to provide them with updates as the company reaches its milestones.
Blastar (James Corbett)
“We build products that save first responders’ lives. We are trying to bridge the gap between residents and officers,” James Corbett, CEO of Blastar (Vorhees Township), told us. The company was cofounded by Corbett, CTO Chan Yeoh and William Luong, who is the lead UI.UX developer for the group. The company, which specializes in social media management services, has built an API and developed a product called “First Responders Live,” which uses live streaming software to help police departments better engage with local communities.
The problem, as described on Blastar’s First Responders Live website, is that communications in most police departments revolve around email, texts, phone calls, etc. Distributing tasks and agendas, and keeping track of the implementation of those tasks and agendas, is nearly impossible. Oh, and add the fact that residents often complain that their police departments aren’t doing enough. Even worse, when a police department responds by saying, “Yes we are. We did X, Y and Z,” the residents respond by saying, “Prove it,” which can’t easily be done. Blastar solves these problems.
Blastar is a collaboration and communications tool for officers, the cofounders said. Police departments are unique in their structure, so they require a special task-management tool. A lot of the time, officers are on the road and not behind a desk. “We built a tool where the men and women behind the desk can easily distribute information to the field,” they added.
“We are a combination of Slack, Trello and Hootsuite for the officers. We have an API that connects out to other applications,” said Corbett. The API links with home security systems, allowing police to connect with residents through those systems.
Corbett noted that at the Founders & Funders event, he and Chan got some good advice from the investors they met with, and they believed they communicated their message well. Corbett added that they are exploring a partnership, and one of the investors gave them advice about their pricing model, which he believed to be too high. “He told me to figure out how to make it lower to make it work.” Corbett and Chan were grateful for the advice, which could prevent the company from making a costly mistake.
InquisitHealth (Ashwin Patel)
InquisitHealth (River Edge) is a tech-enabled public health company that uses peer-to-peer mentoring to help patients who are struggling with chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, pre-diabetes, hypertension and sickle cell anemia. “Our mentors are patients who are successfully managing those chronic conditions,” said Ashwin Patel, founder and chief medical officer.
InquisitHealth’s technology platform is called “Mentor1to1,” which the company website describes as the only fully scalable ‒ and fully managed ‒ peer mentoring solution.
“We train mentors to be able to help other patients,” Patel said. “This is something that has been studied extensively and validated in academia. What we’ve done is deliver a one-on-one personalized intervention to each patient based on what they are specifically struggling with. We help with filling in knowledge gaps and taking that knowledge and converting it into action. In the process, we uncover the social and behavioral determinants of health that the mentors are able to understand and appreciate, and share that insight with the individuals.” InquisitHealth gives mentors the tools to address these issues with the patients.
When asked about his talks with investors, Patel said, “We had many quick meetings that we believe would have taken us many months to set up if we had to do it on our own. This was a rapid-fire opportunity for us to develop that initial relationship with these funders that could become a bigger, broader relationship in time.”
The investors asked a lot of great questions, Patel said. He noted that some of the investors asked for follow-up information and slide decks, and offered to connect them with their limited partners, which tended to be health systems or health plans. “The first time you meet someone, you don’t want to be asking for a check,” he said. “You want to build a relationship. This is helping us develop that relationship.” Patel added that these meetings provided him with insights into what funders are looking for.