[This article was first published in ROI-NJ. It is used here with permission.]
Don Katz’s dream to make Newark a hub for startups continues to be a reality.
Earlier this month, Newark Venture Partners — an early-stage venture fund that Katz helped found — announced the seven companies that were selected to participate in its latest cohort, from a pool of more than 2,600 applicants.
The Fall 2019 NVP Labs accelerator program includes BotMock, Brahmin Solutions, Galaxy.AI, MindRight Health, omniX, Speak2 Software and SpeechKit.
MindRight Health (Newark) and Speak2 Software (Holmdel) were both founded in New Jersey.
“These distinctive early-stage companies are joining a growing ecosystem in Newark powering the creation of wealth and jobs,” Katz, the founder and CEO of Newark-based Audible, said. “This new class will have access to subject matter expertise from Audible and from our corporate partners to help them get to the next level. I’m excited for them to discover how energizing it is to be here.”
Newark Venture Partners Managing Partner Tom Wisniewski said the latest cohort demonstrates the growth of NVP.
“It’s very energizing and truly rewarding to see the huge interest in the NVP Labs program,” he said. “Founders are fighting for a spot because Newark is a place that naturally understands the startup mindset of grit, determination and hard work.
“With Audible as the ultimate example, we are creating a community that empowers founders, feeds on collaboration and inclusiveness, and craves disruptive solutions for old, outdated systems.”
The announcement follows a report from The Boyd Co., citing Newark as the city with the lowest operating cost for a representative corporate headquarters facility. The report, first released by the Newark Alliance, also points out that the benefits of a Newark location include access to a wide range of employees from diverse backgrounds, and a strong technological infrastructure, including one of the fastest urban data networks, at 10 gigabits-per-second. The city is one of the few nationally that is directly accessible through air, rail and water.
“We know Newark is an ideal place for a growing business — and founders are recognizing that as well,” Dan Borok, managing partner at Newark Venture Partners, said. “The economics of a Newark location can’t be beat, and few other communities can match the level of engagement from our LPs and the city at-large. The network and guidance available here has been integral for our portfolio companies as they continue to create jobs and attract talent in and for Newark.”
This is the accelerator’s seventh class and it includes two former Techstars companies, a Forbes 30 Under 30 awardee and a Newark-founded company. It also raises the number of companies in NVP’s portfolio to 73. Today, 28 of NVP’s portfolio companies maintain an operational presence in Newark, with 60% having raised follow-on capital.
The selected companies:
- Botmock: Chat and voice are rapidly becoming required methods of interaction. Botmock is a leading platform that enables cross-functional teams to collaborate, design and test conversational experiences. For clients from Delta to Nationwide, Botmock deploys projects 5x faster and with improved results. Founded in Ottawa, Ontario, by Obaid Ahmed.
- Brahmin Solutions: Sales inventory management has become increasingly complex as sellers need to coordinate across various distribution channels: B2C e-commerce, Amazon/Walmart/etc. and wholesale. Brahmin Solutions is the only inventory management platform that allows for management across all channels. Current clients have reported a 35% increase in revenue and a 40% increase in operational efficiency. Brahmin’s superior product has grown 20% MoM via word of mouth alone and is now ready to scale. Founded in Stamford, Connecticut, by Brahm Meka.
- Galaxy.AI: Insurance carriers spend 12% of their revenue (policy premiums) in costs to process claims as they require manual vehicle inspections, amounting to an $80 billion problem globally. Galaxy.AI eliminates this cost with AI and computer vision technology that guides end-users to take the best quality images and provides instant analytics of the damage. Current pilot clients include Liberty Mutual Insurance and IAG, where Galaxy.AI has proven to decrease loss adjustment expenses up to 70% and cut estimation time by half, improving customer satisfaction and saving $15 million-plus annually for its clients. Founded in Boston, Massachusetts, by Jas Maggu.
- MindRight Health: Despite a roughly 2x increase in youth mental health issues over the past five years, there has been zero innovation to the in-person therapist model which carries a heavy stigma, in particular with communities of color. MindRight provides culturally responsive mental health coaching over text message, the highly-preferred method of communication for young people. Customers include AmeriHealth Caritas, one of the largest Medicaid insurers in the country looking to tackle social determinants of health within their youth population. Founded in Newark by Ashley Edwards.
- omniX: While there’s nearly a billion commercial cameras deployed worldwide, these video feeds are untapped in value. omniX uses machine learning and computer vision platform to analyze video feeds and deliver analytics and predictive insights with no integration required. With an initial focus on logistics and quick service retail, omniX has proven to improve conversion rates by up to 35% and optimize operations. Founded in New York by Anoop Kanthan and Muthla Al-Sayer.
- Speak2: Senior living is a $69 billion industry and is expected to grow to $80 billion by 2023. Speak2 modernizes the standard and inefficient push-button that is currently used by residents to signal facility nurses with voice software that routes a spoken request to the right support team member. It also allows for better resident communication, logs activity and syncs health requests with the EMR. Working with facilities across the U.S., Speak2 has proven to decrease staffing costs by 2x and increase pricing by resident fees by 10%. Founded in Holmdel by Matt Smith.
- SpeechKit: Over the past few years, driven by new technologies and the rise of podcasts, audio has become a priority for news publishers. SpeechKit allows publishers to automatically generate, distribute, track and monetize audio editions of their news. Utilizing the latest text-to-speech, combined with a news-customized NLP pipeline and integrations that fit naturally into newsroom workflows, the service is the only complete solution to audio news publishing. Live on 100-plus news sites, serving millions of impressions per day, SpeechKit liberates news from the page for a generation on-the-go. Founded in London by James MacLeod and Patrick O’Flaherty.
Admission to the program includes an initial investment of $125,000, space within NVP’s coworking offices, housed in the same building as Audible and Rutgers Business School, as well as guidance from an in-house growth team and robust mentorship network. The fund’s corporate partners, Audible (an Amazon company), Dun & Bradstreet, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Panasonic Corp. of North America, Prudential Financial, RWJBarnabas Health, TD Bank through the TD Charitable Foundation, Fidelco Realty Group and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, are especially engaged with NVP Labs companies, providing market-based insight, technology assistance and high-level networking opportunities. At the close of the 12-week program, NVP guarantees a minimum additional $100,000 follow-on funding to participants in their next fundraising round, and potential to receive up to $1 million from its direct funding arm.
During the program, founders have access to the program’s full-time growth director, a sales adviser, marketing and public relations professionals and a team of entry-level sales development reps to assist in outbound prospecting. The program aims to guide the companies to achieve in-depth strategic plans and scalable marketing and sales operations. The NVP mission is to help innovative entrepreneurs build distinctive B2B tech companies while catalyzing the technology ecosystem in the city of Newark.
“We understand that one of the biggest hurdles for startups is finding and hiring talent,” Allison Williams, director of NVP Labs, said. “One of the things that makes NVP unique is that we provide experts that function as turnkey staff for each company. Once you are an NVP Labs company, not only do you have a group of mentors and coaches, but you have sales reps, PR and marketing staff, and finance support. This kind of execution support is unmatched by any other accelerator program.”