NJTW Story of the Year 2016: Newark’s Tech Renaissance

Photo: Newark Venture Partners Labs cohort with Mayor Baraka Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Newark Venture Partners Labs cohort with Mayor Baraka | Esther Surden

The year 2016 has been a boom time for tech in Newark! This city has become both a great place for startups and tech companies and a place that “gets” tech. Its streets are getting smart kiosks, residents can use smart apps to plug into city services, parks are offering “lightning fast” wireless and office buildings are being connected to world-class Internet at bargain prices.

There are incubators, accelerators and coworking spaces, as well as serious initiatives to get residents coding and to teach them entrepreneurship, so they can get jobs or start their own businesses. Meetup groups like Brick City Tech Meetup and Code for Newark are more active than ever.

All of this has been supported by the academic institutions like New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and its affiliates — New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) and Enterprise Development Center (EDC) — as well as Rutgers-Newark; big corporations like Audible (part of Amazon.com), Prudential and Panasonic; and, of course, Mayor Ras J. Baraka and his office. It’s no wonder that “Newark’s Tech Renaissance” is NJTechWeekly.com’s Story of the Year.

NJTechWeekly.com is celebrating Newark’s big year by bringing together some of the voices of the influencers who helped make tech happen in the Brick City this year. Tomorrow, we will begin publishing their answers to the following questions: “From your point of view, what have been the most important developments in tech in Newark in 2016, and why? Where do you see this going in 2017?”

Photo: The introduction of Newark Fiber Photo Credit: Esther Surden
The introduction of Newark Fiber | Esther Surden

Here are just some of the big Newark tech stories that we covered either in our newsletter or on the website this year:

  • HackNewark took place at Newark City hall in March, with a group of dedicated coders coming together to help the nonprofit organization Newark Thrives. Their efforts were successful and were eventually adopted by that organization.
  • Also in March, NJII held its Health IT Connections showcase. The institute is trying to build an economic cluster of healthcare companies that can help each other grow in the Newark area.
  • In April, Women Design the Future, a yearly event sponsored by NJIT’s Murray Center, featured speakers and panels of successful tech professionals designed to inspire women and minorities to stick with tech careers.
  • In May, Newark Venture Partners announced its new accelerator program, Newark Venture Partners Labs, saying it would provide its participants with $80,000 in exchange for a five percent equity share, and would provide add-on financing to companies that raise additional financing on their own.
  • In June, the City of Newark announced that it was embarking on an ambitious plan to educate its citizens in coding. Also announced were plans for free hotspots and data plans for residents and students. Gadget Software, a startup that had relocated to Newark, provided the software used to underpin all of the classes for youth and adults. . Mayor Baraka officially cut the ribbon at Gadget Software headquarters.
  • The Newark tech community gathered for a combined summer meetup at the offices of Newark Venture Partners in July. Participants heard about efforts — including the Technology Business Support Initiative by the Greater Newark Enterprises Corporation (GNEC) — that were helping high-growth tech businesses in the Newark area receive financial training. A group of entrepreneurs also announced the development of Locus Labs, a makerspace facility geared to tinkerers, hobbyists and students.
  • The Newark accelerator Fownders held its demo day August 8, with 12 startups pitching at the event. ArizeAlarm, an app proposed by a community member, received the $10,000 prize,  to further development at Fownders.
  • Many members of the Newark tech community presented at the TEDxNJIT held in September.
  • In October, Panasonic, Mayor Baraka and the National Action Network launched NAN-Newark Tech World, a tech education and community center. It will offer courses in Web design, graphic design, digital literacy, networking and more.
  • In October, during a Tech Town Hall at the Equal Space coworking venue (3 Gateway), Mayor Baraka spoke with Melissa Jackson about his dream of Newark becoming a place where coders are inspired to undertake civic tech projects. The City of Newark also initiated a hackathon with a $50,000 prize for coders to develop an app or software project that would enhance women’s safety.
  • The City of Newark and NJII announced in October that they were working together to develop smart city infrastructure for Newark. The City of Newark introduced sleek “Brand Newark” kiosks in the downtown district. Folks are now able to charge phones, use the Internet, connect to very fast Wi-Fi, find directions and perform other functions. Several large companies, including Juniper Networks, Panasonic, Nokia Bell Labs and IBM, are cooperating in this effort.
  • NJIT’s EDC hosted a venture summit in October to highlight the tech and life-science companies being incubated there.
  • In November, the City of Newark announced Newark Fiber, a public–private partnership that offers ready-to-go very high-speed commercial Internet at a lower cost than connections offered by private companies. The companies located at 2 Gateway were the first to get this service.
  • NJIT held an additive manufacturing (3D printing) conference in November, bringing folks from all over the state to discuss this industry. It also announced that its makerspace would be available in the spring of 2017.
  • Also in November, NJIT held its Innovation Acceleration Challenge, a competition that has two tracks. Folks from the community and NJIT students compete for prizes. This year there were many tech ideas presented.
  • Rutgers’ Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (CUEED) held a town hall December 6 regarding the Pipeline to Inclusive Innovation. This event brought together minority investors, scientists, engineers, tech entrepreneurs and participants in federal tech-commercialization programs. The idea was to encourage small minority-owned businesses to pursue federal R&D opportunities.
  • To top the year off, Newark Venture Partners Labs held its inaugural demo day in December, with nine startups pitching to more than 400 people at the Prudential Center, in Newark.

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