NJEN Comes to Princeton University for “Posters, Pitches & Prizes” Competition


Photo: Judges and investors network and look at posters at the NJEN Posters and Pitches event. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Judges and investors network and look at posters at the NJEN Posters and Pitches event. | Esther Surden

At the New Jersey Entrepreneurial Network meeting on March 29, tech and life science startups displayed posters describing their companies’ technologies.

They also pitched to a group of judges for prizes consisting of complimentary provisional patent-application preparation and filing services from the intellectual property law firm of Volpe and Koenig (Philadelphia and Princeton).

The well-attended event took place in the atrium of the beautiful Frick Chemistry Laboratory, at Princeton University.

Photo: Possumus Smart Cities Parking system presented by Possumus founder  Arash Sedeghi. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Possumus Smart Cities Parking system presented by Possumus founder Arash Sedeghi. | Esther Surden

This year’s winner for Best Pitch was Michael G. Dunn, founder of NovoPedics (New Brunswick), who entered the poster called “Meniscofix.” The Best Poster winner was “Possumus Smart Cities Parking Initiative,” presented by founder Arash Sedeghi. And the Audience Choice for most likely to be funded was “Visikol HISTO,” presented by Michael Johnson, cofounder and CEO of Visikol (New Brunswick).

Photo: Some of the digital tech posters at the event. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Some of the digital tech posters at the event. | Esther Surden

In his preliminary remarks to the attendees, John F. Ritter, director of the Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing, said that it was fitting that the meeting took place in Frick Hall because the building, which opened in 2010, “was built in part by royalties the university received from a patent based on the research of an entrepreneurial professor,” Edward C. “Ted” Taylor, for whom the atrium was named. Taylor’s research, which was patented by Princeton, after further development became a blockbuster Eli Lilly anti-cancer drug.

Photo: John Ritter of Princeton University gave introductory remarks. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
John Ritter of Princeton University gave introductory remarks. | Esther Surden

The Office of Technology Licensing partners with professors to protect their R&D and help their research undergo further development by either partnering with an existing company or creating a startup. “Lately, there has been a nationwide trend towards startups as a commercialization strategy,” said Ritter.

Princeton has been part of this trend over the last three years, he noted. “First, we hired a dedicated new ventures associate,” who focuses on company creation as a first step towards commercialization. “Since 2011 we’ve had an accelerator fund which provides much-needed proof-of-concept funding … and we also have a new fund called the ‘Faculty New Venture Assistance Fund,’ which provides funding for the entrepreneurial activities of Princeton researchers.”

Another entrepreneurial move managed by his office was the creation of an executive-in-residence program. “We have three EXIRs (executive in residence) available to the Princeton community, each with expertise in leadership, business development, technology transfer and entrepreneurship.” Outside the tech licensing office, Princeton operates the eLab accelerator, on Chambers Street. The opening of a wet lab incubator is expected later this year, Ritter said.

Photo: Jesse Treu, of Domain Associates. Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Jesse Treu, of Domain Associates. | Esther Surden

Keynote speaker Jesse Treu, of Domain Associates (Princeton), a Princeton alum and venture capitalist, spoke to the entrepreneurs in the room. He told them to ask themselves three questions to find out if they have what it takes to start and pursue their own business. “Is your yearning for this new and different idea deep and irresistible?  When you dream of the future, do you dream big and feel that your dream will benefit many? Can you see the opportunity, rather than the difficulty in all of its challenges?”

“If the answers to these questions is ‘yes,’ you are ready,” he told the group. These questions were included in the book “Letters to a Young Entrepreneur,” by Ricardo B. Levy, another Princeton grad, he said.

Treu spoke mostly about professional venture financing, giving a history of the venture investment world. During the industrial revolution, VC financing was mostly a “wealthy family playground,” he said. In 1933, there was the Banking Act (also known as the “Glass-Steagall Act”), which was a reaction to the bank failures that occurred during the Depression. The Banking Act said, “Thou shalt not mix banking and investing,” and thereby put an end to institutional professional venture investing.

In the mid-1970s, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) introduced the “prudent man rule,” which said that if you are a pension manager, do adequate diligence and make prudent judgements, then you can invest. “With that, the floodgates opened, and institutional investors and traditional venture capital started to grow.”

“I think you all know that traditional institutional venture capital has had a tremendous effect on the economy. Ninety percent of software jobs in this country trace their roots to traditional venture capital,” he said.

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