Introducing the New Jersey Startups That Attended the New Jersey EDA’s May Founders & Funders Day, Part Two

This story covers Clean Slate, BitWealth, Reflik, Carii and Sociavi

Twice a year, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) tech and life sciences team puts together its Founders & Funders event, which matches New Jersey startups with angels and VCs. In a single day, during 10-minute meetings, startups have the opportunity to pitch to many investors, and they receive valuable feedback from their meetings that can help them as they continue in their quest for funding. We interviewed some startups that attended the event in May. You can find Part One of this story here.

Photo: Gil Olsen is founder of Clean Slate Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Gil Olsen is founder of Clean Slate | Esther Surden

Clean Slate: Clean Slate (Monmouth County) is a tech-enabled company that encourages wellness through sensory deprivation, founder Gil Olsen told us. “We are building a pilot location in Monmouth County with float tanks and a guided meditation studio. An app component will be similar to Headspace and Calm and other players in that area.”

Olsen said that his meetings with investors at the event had gone well. “There was plenty of great feedback from awesome people. It’s a quick, rapid-fire environment, so it’s tough to get a lot across in 10 minutes, but the investors were surprisingly efficient and gave me good feedback.”

Asked about the value of the meetings, Olsen said they were extremely worthwhile. “A lot of the people I met with pointed out the pain points of having a hybrid model of digital accompanied by retail locations, and trying to communicate financial projections based on that.” They suggested that he try to provide more details on the financial aspects of this model. They also gave him some marketing advice on “how to replace certain activities with this one for certain demographics,” and on “how to overcome the friction of habit replacement.”

Photo: BitWealth cofounder Jefrey Bulla Photo Credit: Esther Surden
BitWealth cofounder Jefrey Bulla | Esther Surden

BitWealth: BitWealth (Hoboken) is an entry into the blockchain space. “Our company focusses on providing opportunities for investors to get exposure to this new digital asset class called ‘crypto assets’ or ‘digital assets,’” founder and CEO Jefrey Bulla told us. “We sell investors tokens, which are digital assets. With these tokens, they get exposure to an array of other digital assets, like Bitcoin, Ethereum and others. Then we take the complexity out of liquidation for investors who want to get exposure to this.”

Bulla continued, “We do the work of researching and understanding the underlying technology” for blockchain projects, and of investing in products that have traction. “We make public on the website the performance of the tokens. If we do well with the tokens, the investors will hopefully be able to redeem them for a higher price. The transaction is liquid in the sense that we only invest in tokens you can sell at any point, and investors can go into the site with a password and see exactly what assets we hold. This is not normally possible with a bank.”

The founder had had several meetings with investors when talked with him, and he thought that there had been more than enough time to get his ideas across. “With some investors there were interesting ideas going back and forth, and I’m going to follow up with them. After all, we are building long-term relationships with our future investors.” He added that some valuable feedback included the need to improve the company’s sales materials and methods of communicating its value proposition. “The EDA organizers were great and the logistics were perfect,” he added.

In a recent update, Bulla mentioned that the startup has a new product, a bot-free social media platform for the blockchain community where users get daily rewards based on community contributions.

Photo: Reflik cofounders Ashish Vachhani and Ash Geria Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Reflik cofounders Ashish Vachhani and Ash Geria | Esther Surden

Reflik: Reflik (Somerset) cofounders Ashish Vachhani and Ash Geria  spoke to us about their talent crowdsourcing platform. “We help our employers find top talent using our crowdsourced community of over 15,000 recruiters and through our online recruitment marketplace. With our technology we are able to find the talent for employers faster and with better quality for less cost.”

The duo said that they’d had some really good meetings with investors, and were grateful to the EDA for creating this opportunity for them. “We got some good feedback as far as where we stand in the sector and how we can differentiate ourselves against some of the other companies that are out there.” Also, investors made suggestions on how the startup might do things differently from the standpoint of strategy and capital raising, and on what they should focus on first.

Photo: Carii cofounders Denise Hayman-Loa and Wun Fie Loa  Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Carii cofounders Denise Hayman-Loa and Wun Fie Loa | Esther Surden

Carii: Carii (Pilesgrove) cofounders Denise Hayman-Loa and Wun Fie Loa spoke about their startup, which focuses on collaboration and communication across organizations. It’s aimed at corporations; associations; professional companies (such as law firms); and organizations that have members, partners or customers. They can all engage with each other in a “seamless, branded and secure environment. … It’s a very horizontal solution that is very flexible to meet a lot of organizational needs,” said Hayman-Loa.

By the time interviewed the duo, they’d had eight meetings with investors. “We had some very good conversations with the people who were here, and we met a potential business partner, too!” Hayman-Loa told us. They also received some valuable feedback. “While our platform is community technology, we were told we overuse the word ‘community.’”

Some other good feedback came from Edison Partners, which said that, in their experience, the most capital-efficient companies tend to be the most successful in the long run. “We took that to mean that we should be very careful about how we use our money, and be careful about not burning through it. … We’ve been primarily self-funded to date through client funds, self-investment and a little outside investment, and it’s not easy when you are growing what could be a very big business to be that efficient. Yet, it’s good discipline and apparently leads to success.”

Photo: Sociavi founder Paula Muller Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Sociavi founder Paula Muller | Esther Surden

Sociavi: Sociavi (Keyport) founder Paula Muller told us that Sociavi is a Latin word that means “share and unit.” She said, “That is my goal. I want seniors and their families and caregivers to share moments, so they can connect and unit across long distances.”

Muller has developed an engagement platform that allows seniors who may have trouble with mobility ? whether they’re living at home or at an assisted living facility or nursing home ? to stay connected and engaged with their families and caregivers. “The senior receives a tablet that looks like a picture frame and is always running, without any intervention from the senior. Families and caregivers get an app for their smartphones so they can stay in touch with the senior by sending pictures, videos or even having a conversation. When a picture comes, it’s automatically added to a slide show; and when a video comes, it is played. When family calls for a video chat, the tablet rings then automatically opens.”

Muller is marketing this platform as an extension of the services offered by assisted-living and nursing homes, and also as something that a home-care agency might want to offer, so these entities have become her distribution channel.

After attending seven investor meetings at the Founders & Funders event, Muller noted, “I didn’t know what to expect, but the concept resonated with everyone I spoke to, and they encouraged me. I have some follow-ups to pursue. Also they gave me some advice on how to move the business forward.”


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