At the NJ Tech Meetup last week, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a surprise special guest speaker, had a message for both the 150 attendees and the larger group, now numbered at more than 1,650: “We want to turn Hoboken into the tech hub of N.J. I have been speaking with Aaron [Price, NJ Tech Meetup’s founder] and Stevens Institute of Technology President [Nariman] Farvardin, and we really want figure out how we can move beyond what has been created by the NJ Tech Meetup community.”
Zimmer said she is forming a working group to understand how the city can help create a tech culture in Hoboken. “We started brainstorming about having, perhaps, a tech and arts festival, where many of you can come and showcase your businesses. As many of you know,” she said, “we draw people from all over the county and New York as well. This would be a way for you to showcase your businesses to the broader community,” she added.
For the longer term, “We want to get together and figure out how we can create an incubator space and ecosystem for startup businesses,” she said. Hoboken is looking for volunteers to research how a tech ecosystem has been created in other towns and how they made it succeed. Zimmer requested people contact her or Price if they are interested in being part of the working group.
After Zimmer left the podium, three startup companies presented. The first, and the audience choice award winner, was Danny Maloney of BridesView.com, a New York-based website that helps people plan their dream wedding through photography. The idea behind BridesView: a bride can see the vendors she likes through real wedding photography and book through the site, taking much of the hassle out of wedding planning.
Presenting for Laughcake were the very funny Adam and Todd Stone, comedian brothers building this website. Laughcake will allow users to choose a comedian who creates a short video, which they can send others for birthdays or other celebrations.
Finally, Ankit Ranka pitched Tapfame, an ingenious way for game app developers to both get discovered and increase engagement with their games by starting a contest on their apps. Developers need add only two lines of code to allow the gamers in their network to see a contest, he said. Emails sent to users will advise them of other contests available on other network apps, thus allowing for game app discovery.
The evening’s main speaker was Alex Mashinsky, a serial entrepreneur with N.J. roots who, as managing partner of Governing Dynamics, an early-stage venture capital firm, founded several companies, including GroundLink in 2005, Transit Wireless in 2004, Elematics in 2000 and Arbinet in 1996. Mashinsky has also authored patents that cover aspects of the smart grid, ad exchanges, Groupon, Twitter, Skype, the App Storeand many other top-performing web companies.
Mashinsky’s talk was entitled “The Greatest Risk Is the Risk Not Taken,” and with humor and self-deprecation he discussed not only his biggest successes but his failures, like the time he turned down a chance to invest in Google before there was a Google, telling cofounder Sergey Brin the world “didn’t need another search engine.”
Mashinsky urged entrepreneurs to discover the kind of risk takers they are by taking psychological tests readily available on the web and ensuring they are matching their personalities to what they are trying to achieve.
Finally, Mashinsky urged those on the bleeding edge to be patient. Many times, he noted, it takes a company five or so years to raise enough money or reach a stage where the idea is ready to take off. “Inspiration is extremely important. But tenacity is just as important as inspiration, because if you don’t have tenacity, you are not going to make the inspiration last,” he said.