[Reposted with permission from NJTC’s Tech News. Vaynerchuk was the keynote speaker at the March 31 NJTC Venture Conference.]
TechNews recently had the chance to talk to Jersey’s own ultimate businessman Gary Vaynerchuk and get his insight on the state of entrepreneurship and start-ups in New Jersey. Gary’s entrepreneurial spirit started at a young age and just keeps on going. Using his business savvy, he transformed his family’s wine store into a $50 million dollar business by launching WineLibrary.com. Now, with his brother, he has built VaynerMedia, an agency that helps Fortune 500 companies find their social media voice and build their digital brands. Stop there, no way. Most recently, Gary launched VaynerRSE, a $25 million seed fund that will help invest in and launch the next generation of world-changing technology companies.
What is the state of entrepreneurship and start-ups in New Jersey?
Jersey’s challenge is no different from any state that is close to a big hub such as New York. People are drawn to the gusto of New York. First, as a State we have to create an environment to attract the right people and businesses. We need more conferences, more co-working spaces and most importantly we need to court the entrepreneurs. Jersey needs to have a rationale for technology to stay in New Jersey. Technology needs to be part of New Jersey’s story.
What can we do better in New Jersey to strengthen the tech ecosystem?
To strengthen the tech ecosystem we need to pick cities and mayors that have gusto. For example, I’m in the process of finding space for VaynerMedia and no one in New Jersey has reached out to me. There is a lack of offense. As a State, we need to utilize leaders to be the anchors and figure out how to use them as incentives. Jersey made a push with bringing Pharma companies and jobs to the state. They need to do this with technology. Our gift is also our curse-New York is close by and we need to provide incentives to attract technology companies to New Jersey.
Which areas of technology have the greatest opportunity?
Demand marketplace economies, such as Uber. When it comes to the suburbs, anything that helps people become more efficient such as food delivery and picking up kids from school. Building apps that save time are key. For example, I’ve created the app Resy, which allows you to reserve tables at the best restaurants for a minimal fee. People don’t expect to be able to do this but would paying $10 for a table at a restaurant you would have to wait a year to get into be something people wouldn’t want to do? It’s all about time and access.
Your core thesis is: Are you marketing like the year you actually live in? How should New Jersey businesses be marketing this year?
If you’re selling to anyone ages 20 to 40, you have to use social networks. People using direct mail and pop-ups on Google are marketing in 2006. People’s attention is on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter streams.
How can businesses not focusing on social media start and do it right?
The answer isn’t complicated-educate yourself. These are the things you must do: Go to conferences, buy books, read, visit blogs and watch YouTube. If these don’t work for you, hire someone and watch them do it.
How can New Jersey ensure a better pipeline of tech savvy and skilled graduates?
Teenagers in New Jersey need to hear stories and be inspired. We need to be on the offensive. We need to create co-working spaces and more conferences. We need to reach out and create a signature technology event in New Jersey. We have graduates from Rutgers and Princeton but no incentives. We need to create the honey and the bees will come.
What do you look for when you hire people?
I look for candidates with grit, hunger and scrappiness and New Jersey has that. It’s a big advantage.
Please tell us one interesting fact that people might not know about you?
If you go to the North Edison baseball field, you will see a plaque commemorating the Little League game in which as a catcher I threw out eight base runners.
Gary Vaynerchuk, general partner, VaynerRSE is a storyteller entrepreneur, video blogger, self-trained social media expert and a best-selling author.