The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Founders & Funders event, on June 1, brought together some 35 startup founders and 27 angels and VCs who invest in New Jersey companies. Most founders had several meetings scheduled with investors, each lasting 10 minutes.
NJTechWeekly.com has been following Founders & Funders events for a number of years. During these events, we talk to startup founders about their companies and ask them about their meetings with investors. For the most part, the founders are pleased with their access to investors and with the investors’ willingness to give advice and connect them with their networks.
Anthony Frasier, CEO of ABF Creative (Newark)
We’ve been following Anthony Frasier, CEO of ABF Creative (Newark), and his career since he was the organizer of Brick City Tech Meetup and Startup Newark in 2012, in a quest to generate a Newark startup ecosystem. His newest startup, the three-year-old ABF Creative, is a multicultural podcast network and production company, Frasier told us. “What we do is we fill the void of the lack of diverse content in the podcast space.”
Frasier came to Founders & Funders “to connect with some investors that can help us to juice up our original content creation capabilities. We are looking to raise about $1 million and we already have about 50 percent of that committed.”
The podcast network already has a number of great partners, including ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s (South Burlington, Vt.), the podcast network Wondery (West Hollywood, Calif.), the Newark-based audio book creator Audible and many others. “But now we want ABF to be focused on a lot of original content. That way, we can hire a sales team to advertise against our inventory that we’ll be building up. Also, we’ll be able to license and create multichannel opportunities for ourselves for content and intellectual property that we control, wholly 100 percent. We can only do that if we have the staff to do that, and the money to do it as well. So that’s the reason why we want to connect with as many investors as possible.”
We caught up with Frasier after he had met with seven investors, and he said the meetings went well, and that everyone liked the company’s podcasts and the energy that Frasier brings to the table. “We saw people who were a perfect match, and we saw some people who weren’t a perfect match. Yet those people knew investors who were right for us. So even if the matches weren’t 100 percent right, they still had connections, they still had networks that they offered to plug me into.” Frasier added that “while I didn’t get direct advice from anyone, the event gave me a lot more confidence.”
Peter Collins, Cofounder and CEO, and Linda Jan, Cofounder and CTO of Phoresis (Princeton)
Peter Collins, cofounder and CEO of Phoresis (Princeton) began our interview with an explanation of what his company does. “We have a process for the purification of water that we believe will reduce the cost of purifying water to drinking standard so much that we will make drinking water affordable for the hundreds of millions of people in low-income countries that don’t have access to it today.
“That’s the long-term vision that gets us out of bed, that drives us forward. Meantime, we have also been identifying lots of industrial processes where there’s a need to clean up the wastewater streams so that they can recycle and reuse water in industry, instead of injecting it into the drains and into the watercourses.”
A Princeton spinout, Phoresis’ technology was developed in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, at the university’s School of Engineering and Applied Science by Howard Stone of Princeton, the inventor, and is exclusively licensed from Princeton by Phoresis.
“We have a symbiotic relationship, a really close relationship with the engineering school to further develop the technology. And that’s a relationship we expect to continue indefinitely over time. So, we expect to be New Jersey based into the indefinite future.”
We caught up with Phoresis after the startup had only had two meetings, but the second of those meetings went as “well as is possible,” Collins said. The investor tried to arrange a meeting with a fellow investor in Brooklyn for later that afternoon, but that was impossible, so they set a date for a meeting via Zoom or phone a few days later. He was very excited because this was a “potential investor, that would bring not just money, but, frankly, also know-how around manufacturing and prototyping, which would get us to market a lot faster.”
He added, “There are two kinds of investment: smart money and dumb money. And it’s the smart investments we are after. If you get dumb money, it can actually be a burden because then, when you hit bumps in the road, they don’t understand that there are bumps in the road. And suddenly they panic, and they want their money back, right? Whereas this investor would bring a great deal of relevant, related experience that complements what Linda and I have.”
The company is currently located at Princeton University, but will need to move out of the University labs by the end of the year. Collins was hopeful about receiving help from the NJEDA to do that.
Valentine Aderin, Founder and CEO of Bamigbe (New Brunswick)
Valentine Aderin, founder and CEO of Bamigbe (New Brunswick), a global logistics company with a twist, told us that Bamigbe is the fastest, safest and most efficient way to send and receive packages globally. “We are dedicated to the timely worldwide delivery of packages. Founded in 2016, Bamigbe has evolved from a domestic package delivery platform to a global expedited delivery servicer.” Bamigbe does this through a membership platform and an app.
“For the past several years, we’ve been doing this manually. You have a product you want or you have an item you want to deliver to a different part of the world. You call us and we’ll find you someone that is going to that destination. We’ll arrange the meeting, you give the items to them, and they will deliver them for you. Now, we have just launched our new mobile app, making that process easy, and also making it easy to expand the network,” Aderin said.
“We look at it as a global network of people that are sending packages, receiving packages and delivering packages for other members.”
Aderin told us that Bamigbe verifies everyone who signs up to become a member. And there’s no fee involved. “We do ID verification, self-verification, phone number verification, email address verification. You also have to sign up with a valid credit card to have access to use the app. In the past three or four years that we’ve been in business, we’ve had zero claims. Everyone that sent out something on our network received a package.”
We caught up with Aderin after he had had six investor meetings. “I’m glad I came because some investors were interested, and some were not. But some said, ‘I know someone that would love to invest in this.’” And they gave him contact information to follow up with them.
Also, he got some good advice. “We came in looking for an investment of about $2 million to $5 million. But when I spoke to one of the investors, he recommended that we come in lower and we do the investments in milestones. This way, we’re not giving away so much of our company. We don’t want to give away 55 to 60 percent of our company because we’re looking for so much money. If we do the investments in milestones, we are better off. That was very good advice that I didn’t think of.”