Three New Jersey Companies competed
At the winter TechLaunch BullPen, New Jersey startup Eventdex (Morganville), which has a platform for in-person, online and hybrid events, as well as an artificial intelligence (AI)-based attendee match function, took home first prize from the panel of judges.
Also competing at the business pitch event were BettorFantasy (Stewartsville) and Proximity Technology (Freehold). They vied for $15,000 in in-kind services from TechLaunch sponsors and the chance to pitch to both the JumpStart NJ Angel Network (New Brunswick) and Tech Council Ventures (Summit).
BullPen events are the brainchild of Mario Casabona, the founder and managing director of TechLaunch (Kinnelon), which has been holding these events since 2017. Those competing are advised by TechLaunch senior mentors. Judging the February event and providing feedback to those pitching were:
- George Abraham, CEO of Inkbench (Montclair), a unified platform for teams to curate, create and collaborate on marketing assets and campaigns.
- Jason Frasca, instructor at Montclair State University and cofounder and innovation strategist at Emergent Futures Lab (Clinton and Montclair).
- Meg Columbia-Walsh, tech entrepreneur who has sold and led companies to IPOs, also cofounder and former CEO of Wylei (Lancaster, Pa.).
- Mukesh Patel, cofounder of JuiceTank (Somerset), New Jersey’s largest incubator (now closed), where he helped launch 100 startups. He is currently assistant professor of professional practice at Rutgers University, as well as director of the school’s Collaborative for Tech Entrepreneurship and Commercialization.
Pitching first was Proximity Technologies, represented by business development adviser Steve Huber, who pinch hit for the founders. The startup, Huber said, “leverages different types of technologies, known as ‘proximity technologies,’ to support a number of use cases through mobile cloud-based applications.” The company uses internet-of-things sensors, near-field communication, Bluetooth and biometrics in its solutions.
As a starting point, Proximity Technologies is targeting the construction industry for mobile time and attendance; the weight automation industry for sanitation and recyclables; and the payment industry for cashless payments that can be made in remote venues where credit card payments aren’t feasible, Huber said.
An online audience member wanted to know what made Proximity Technologies different from its many competitors in the field. Huber noted that the company combines the technologies in a novel way to capture data in real time, making it a fast solution. The product can also eliminate the need for companies to purchase expensive equipment, such as industrial scales and proprietary hardware. And it does a better, more efficient job.
Frasca thought that the market opportunity in weight and elimination of fraud was an excellent place for the startup to begin, but he noted that concentrating on the other areas could dilute the company’s progress. “It sounds like those are maybe secondary or tertiary opportunities,” he said. “If you already have traction in one area, it seems like it might be best to double down on it, because you have these very aggressive sales growth targets over the next few years.”
The second presenter was Durga Mikkilineni, cofounder and CEO of Eventdex, the winner of this BullPen contest. The company’s event software includes business matchmaking capabilities for diversity events using AI. “Eventdex reinvents the B2B [business-to-business] event experience to create valuable connections and purposeful meetings,” Mikkilineni told the audience.
COVID has accelerated the adoption of online meetings, and in the future events will be online, in-person and hybrid, he said. “Our virtual services include clubhouse time, video rooms and speed networking for attendees. Users can engage social media feeds, make video calls, and even exchange business cards in the virtual platform.”
The company has a number of customers both in the U.S. and abroad. “In 2021, we generated $443,000; and in 2022, we are projected to generate close to a million dollars in revenue.”
An audience member asked about the company’s churn, and Mikkilineni admitted that there was a lot of churn, as companies abandoned in-person events and went to online events during COVID. But the company has done well with new customers who shifted to virtual. Overall, he said, 90 percent of customers come back to the company, year over year.
Columbia-Walsh gave some feedback on the presentation, noting that she thought there were large pieces of information missing. For example, she wondered if Eventdex was a technology company, and if it was going to need to build at scale. She said that she would like to see a flowchart of how the technology worked. Another missing piece of information was how the company was protecting its intellectual property.
The last presenter was Sahil Patel, cofounder and CEO of BettorFantasy, the first betting platform dedicated to combining the fast-growing worlds of fantasy sports and sports betting. The company provides a new way to engage with fantasy sports by letting users bet on their own leagues’ matchups and outcomes. Patel stated that no other sports-betting platform lets people bet on their own leagues’ matchups, and added that there are about 75 tournaments a year. He estimated that there are 70 million fantasy sports players, and that 85 percent of them would bet on tournaments if they could.
All of the members of BettorFantasy’s founding team have played fantasy football for an average of 15 years, and they are also experienced in business, having “built digital products at Fortune 500 companies and run marketing programs for innovative clients.”
The company gains users primarily through referrals, which have been working out very well. “Our ability to acquire users at a fraction of the industry average costs allows us to build a user base with free-to-play products, and cross-sell these users into popular, real money games that generate serious revenue,” he said.
An audience member asked about state-by-state betting regulations: “What is the current and future legal and regulatory landscape that you’re obligated to conform to? And how does that impact your cost structure or your revenue models?” Patel noted that the company has the formal legal opinion that the games they are operating are “games of skill” and can be operated as daily fantasy sports. He noted that the company has already identified partners in most states for geolocation, vetting of bettors and payments.
Mukesh Patel wanted to hear more about market size, given that the startup has two markets: the regulated market and the unregulated market, with various niches. He thought that it would be useful for the company to show the projected financials for its markets: the actual numbers in dollars for the total addressable market, serviceable addressable market and serviceable obtainable market.
Abraham was skeptical about the business model going forward. “It feels like your entire revenue model is predicated on a gambling model. The free model is really an acquisition model to drive people to a gambling model, where you will take some piece of the of the book or the rank … and drive your revenues from that. And that is an extraordinarily complex legal, regulatory, banking and payments set of issues that will be hard to manage and extremely expensive to navigate.”
Sponsors for the TechLaunch BullPen included Gibbons (Newark) law firm, Withum (Princeton) advisory and accounting firm, Gearhart Law (Summit) and Casabona Ventures (West Orange). Hosting the event was TechLaunch senior mentor Robin Bear. Eric Korb, another senior mentor, produced the event.