[ David Sorin is Co-Chair of the Venture Capital & Emerging Growth Companies practice at McCarter and English. On Thursday, he was honored by the New Jersey Tech Council for his role in creating and promoting the tech ecosystem in New Jersey. We’ve reposted Dave’s remarks here.]
Thank you, thank you all so very much. It is nice to know that I am finally a legend in the minds of someone other than my own. Obligatory bad joke aside, it has been my great privilege to have a front row seat, sometimes as an observer but most frequently as one of the members of the starting team, to the development and evolution of our technology and emerging growth, entrepreneurial and investor ecosystems. As everyone in this room knows, it is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, a most rewarding, exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, but always intellectually challenging and educational ride.
My love affair with NJ technology and entrepreneurship began over two decades ago when, as a newly minted law firm partner with a young family, my wife and I left NYC and Wall Street Law so that I could pursue my goal of building in NJ the legal resources necessary to meet the unique and complex securities law, financing, intellectual property, and M&A transactional needs of emerging growth tech, tech-enabled and life sciences enterprises and the investors who support them. Prior to that, NJ’s business enterprises generally crossed the Hudson and Delaware Rivers in search of such resources in NY and Philadelphia. Today, such river crossings are no longer necessary – a change of which I am particularly proud.
NJ can and should take great pride in a rich and enviable history of entrepreneurial and technological leadership, defined, in part, by Edison and Einstein, the pharmaceutical, telecommunications and information technology industries, some of the best colleges and universities in the world, a highly educated, incredibly productive workforce, and national leadership in patent issuances per capita, all evidencing our innovative and inventive culture.
Even so, nestled between the overpowering urban centers of NY and Philadelphia, NJ seemed to be without a reputation of our own. We lacked the hubs of urban/business centers and infrastructure that often foment commercialization, technological innovation, entrepreneurial fervor, and investment, leaving us without a center of commerce or a center of influence for technology and entrepreneurship.
Our universities often displayed a shocking lack of interest in commercialization. While Stanford helped to build Silicon Valley, Harvard and MIT the Route 128 Corridor, our colleges and universities left a void. Government policies failed to promote the right incentives. There was an absence of any type of statewide networking, information sharing, lobbying or educational efforts to nurture, foster, enable and sustain the change we so sorely needed. Change that would, with purpose, laser focus and proactivity, create and support an entrepreneurial and technology ecosystem.
Fortunately, in the mid-1990s, there was a small group of us, many of you here tonight as you have been annually the last twenty-some years, who partnered with a force of nature, Maxine Ballen, a local community organizer, so well-known to all of us, to begin to foster the change we needed.
I recall fondly that afternoon in the mid-1990s, when John Martinson, John Bailye, Mel Baiada, Virginia Alling, Brian Hughes, the late, great Caren Franzini, and I, joined Maxine to discuss the viability of a statewide initiative to foster and sustain a leading entrepreneurial and technology ecosystem. Right then and there, each of us committed personal, professional and financial resources to an endeavor soon to be dubbed the New Jersey Technology Council.
What a difference 20 plus years has made. Still far short of ideal, significantly less than perfect, but ever striving to improve, NJ’s entrepreneurial and technology ecosystem is an order of magnitude stronger, more vital and more sustainable than ever before. The New Jersey Technology Council may well have been the initial catalyst, followed soon thereafter by our co-creation of a venture fund and an angel network. We saw the needs and we acted to create solutions and opportunities. The intrepid companies we support develop new products, services and solutions which improve quality of life, create jobs, build wealth, and enhance productivity, creating a sustaining upward spiral.
NJTC’s success led to new and innovative collaborations. At McCarter, in addition to our support of NJTC, we support and create various meetups that have emerged to bring resources to local communities. We were among the earliest and continuing supporters of the efforts to create a national presence in technology and entrepreneurship in NJ and NJ can now boast that it is the birthplace and home of Propelify, an annual festival of technology, inspired by and now rivaling SxSW.
I wish I had the time and immediate recall to give thanks and pay homage to all of you who have contributed so mightily to the sea change in this ecosystem. Sorry to borrow a phrase oft cited, but it really takes a village. I am honored to accept this award but fully appreciate that all that has happened to help this ecosystem thrive is the result of the collective efforts of all of us working together, led by visionaries fueled by passion, energy and commitment and supported by believers and hard workers with shared goals, common values and defining principles. And, of course, that is enabled by those who provide tireless and unwavering support.
Thank you to my McCarter partners and colleagues, many celebrating here tonight, whose commitment to NJ and this community are empowering and to Randi, my wife, and Lindsay, Michelle, Jared and Kayla, my children, for allowing me to pursue my path with zeal and passion, often at your significant personal sacrifice. As my McCarter partners and colleagues and my clients know, one of my favorite words is “onward.” So, onward to even greater things for NJ’s technology and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Thanks so very much.