Here we continue our story about the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Founders & Funders event in November, where promising startups were matched with potential investors.
For this article, we talked to a founder who has an app to manage a person’s entire shopping experience, a company with a contact-management product that helps enterprises capture data from networking events and trade shows, an established startup with a on-demand platform to help individuals manage their vacation rentals and a biotech company that wants to revolutionize dental care.
The event took place at Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs, a coworking and incubator venue associated with Princeton University that offers 31,000 square feet of shared wet and dry labs, as well as private offices.
Noble Mathew, CEO of Sunhill (Jersey City)
Sunhill has developed an app called “BcLapp” to manage your entire food-shopping experience through an Android or iPhone, with the aim of helping you live a healthy life, minus the stress of keeping track of your diet, Mathew said. Users can identify products they are allergic to, store their warrantees and coupons, and track their calories and expenses. They can get news about the vegan lifestyle, and they can be informed whenever there has been a product recall. “The idea is that consumers can make informed decisions,” he noted.
“I had six investor meetings. The investors gave me some feedback which was helpful for me to strategize my discussions going forward,” said Mathew. “They told me where I could improve my pitch in the future. The most interesting advice was about how much I should raise, how I could improve my runway and how long the money would last. It’s hard to strategize how much capital should be raised at this stage, especially when you are pre-revenue, so they definitely helped me.”
Tim Donovan, Jr., cofounder and CFO, and Dominick Dougherty, cofounder of ContactCode (Atlantic City)
ContactCode is an enterprise-level solution to capture the data that your sales teams or other employees obtain at networking events and trade shows, Dougherty said.
“What we found is that there is a big disconnect between actually meeting someone in the field and getting that information into your database or your CRM [customer relationship management system], where you can then market and nurture that relationship.”
He noted that the software product had come out of a real-life experience. “I’m a schoolteacher by trade and was overseeing the math department. They sent me out to a lot of conferences, and I would come back with a stack of business cards. I thought there should be a way to use the technology I have in my pocket to manage this data more effectively.”
The duo had gone to ten meetings. “We had a good 100 minutes of just learning, getting a lot of great feedback from investors. It was also great to network with other entrepreneurs in the state and to see where they were in their process. It was a great experience overall,” Donovan said.
NJTechWeekly.com asked if any of the investors had given them good advice, and Dougherty answered, “Basically, the advice that we got was to find some customers and go get some revenue, and we’ll talk again. A lot of people liked our concept, our idea and the problem that we solve. It’s just a matter of going out and validating that now.”
S. Philip Kennard, cofounder and CEO, and Jonathan Fabio, cofounder and COO of Futurestay (New Brunswick)
NJTechWeekly.com has been following Futurestay for several years (the startup raised an angel round in 2014), but this was the founders’ first appearance at a Founders & Funders event.
Futurestay is an on-demand platform for short-term rentals around the world, Fabio told us. “From a single dashboard, property managers around the world with one property or a hundred properties can instantly import their properties, their content, their rates and their rules. The platform plugs into our infrastructure we built with our partners, like Booking.com, Airbnb, Google and Expedia. We provide full automation around bookings, reservations and interactions with guests.”
The duo had already gone through a full schedule of meetings. “I personally felt like this was an incredibly productive day,” said Kennard. “Obviously, when you have groups like the NJEDA, which is trying to promote businesses throughout the state, and investors with individual sweet spots, you are going to run into some potential mismatches, which can be opportunities for either conversations to follow up on or to make other connections.”
The cofounders said that they had found several matches, and they had come in with a specific goal: “As an entrepreneur you shouldn’t be just focused on your specific needs for today, but you should be building for the future. You are preparing for the future by having these conversations,” Kennard said. The cofounders also said that they had found at least one investor who knew the travel industry extremely well and was knowledgeable about the company’s target customers.
Vivek Kumar, cofounder and CEO of NangioTx (Newark)
NangioTx is a seed-stage biotech company that has a technology platform based on the creation of new blood vessels through regeneration, Kumar told us. “We’ve shown that our platform can be used in a variety of indications for a variety of different uses, from poor circulation in the legs, peripheral artery disease to dental pulp regeneration. This platform was developed at Rice University, NJIT and Rutgers. It’s highly collaborative, and NangioTx is one of the ways we are trying to translate this technology towards humans.”
Kumar came to the Founders & Funders event to see what investors’ overall appetite for this product might be. His company is first addressing the dental market, he said. “When you have a root canal, they take out the soft tissue. We want to introduce our hydrogel to regenerate tissue. Right now, they put in rubber rods, leaving you with a dead tooth. We want to revolutionize dental care.”
NangioTx has validated its technology and recently received a federal SBIR [Small Business Innovation Research] grant to apply this hydrogel to wound healing, thus potentially expanding this platform even further, Kumar said. He noted that the company had pitched at the Mid-Atlantic Bio Angel’s first pitch contest, back in 2016. “We won it and went to the investor conference. Perhaps in 2016 we were a little young.” Since that time, “We’ve expanded the technology, tuned our formulation and optimized our product. And, today, Yaniv Sneor [founder of Mid-Atlantic Bio Angels] told us to follow up.”
Kumar said that he had received quite a bit of interest from investors at the event. “One of the other things that was very exciting about this event were the NJEDA presentations at the beginning. I had no idea of the amount of support available. Now Governor Murphy wants to bring an SBIR-matching program back.” (Some states have programs that totally or partially match the amounts of SBIR grants.)
Kumar said that they had considered locating in New York, which has an SBIR-matching program, but decided that they needed to set up shop in a state that has roots in pharma. “We are also near great schools like NJIT and Rutgers, and we are starting to build roots in New Jersey.”