How Newark Venture Partners is Making an Impact on the Brick City

Photo: Tom Wisniewski and Dan Borok at NVP Labs Demo Day. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Tom Wisniewski and Dan Borok at NVP Labs Demo Day. | Esther Surden

Newark Venture Partners held its third Demo Day for NVP Labs accelerator companies in January and before the startups took to the stage at the Prudential Center (Newark), managing partners Tom Wisniewski and Dan Borok gave an update on the progress the venture fund and accelerator has made.

NVP is a double bottom-line endeavor first envisioned by Don Katz, founder and CEO of Newark-based Audible. The VC group is investing in startup companies, and through these investments is bringing jobs and visitors to Newark. “If we do well, we will be additive to the Newark and the underlying community,” Borok said in his remarks.

Some 500 investors and members of the Newark tech ecosystem were in the audience at Demo Day. Before the program started, many of them took shots on the ice, trying to score goals at the home of the New Jersey Devils.

As of January 17, NVP had invested in 40 companies, 30 of which were in its accelerator program. About 1,800 startups in total had applied for investments from NVP and NVP Labs, which is a good number considering how young the VC fund is and compared with other, more established accelerators. NVP has put $10 million in capital to work, “and that’s less than 25 percent of our fund, so we have a lot of dry powder left,” he added.

More than 55 percent of NVP Labs startups have raised financing during or after the NVP Labs accelerator program, compared with just under 50 percent of startups from accelerator programs across the industry. “We are doing well when we compare ourselves to folks like Y Combinator, Techstars, and 500 Startups,” Borok said. “Our portfolio companies have 270 employees in total, so we are creating jobs,” said Borok. In addition, “We’ve brought north of 5,000 people here to the city for events and technology meetings.”

The fund’s limited partners include Audible, Dun & Bradstreet, Prudential, RWJBarnabas Health and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

Borok announced the addition of two more corporate investors in the NVP fund, TD Bank (through the TD Foundation) and Panasonic, “whose headquarters in North America is literally three blocks away from here.” Panasonic is doing a lot of work in the internet-of-things space, he noted.

The fund has so far raised just under $45 million, he said. Beginning with the fourth accelerator class, NVP Labs will be looking for B2B startup companies that the program can help by accelerating their growth.

Speaking to the crowd at the Prudential Center, Katz, who also founded Newark Venture Partners, told the audience that “if you want to work with a city that will be seen as the pioneering epicenter” for tech and city revitalization, “get here early and start now.”

He said that the success of NVP had exceeded his expectations. “In just a couple of years, we’ve come this far, to see this idea flourish.” And he praised those who believed in his vision when there was only the idea to believe in.

Katz also praised the 280 Audible employees who volunteered to help mentor the NVP Labs companies. “Newark Venture Partners is part of a greater ecosystem bringing back great American cities,” he said. “The business case is deep for this to be a tech turnaround story.”

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