NVP Labs Demo Day is Wednesday

Photo: Newark Venture Partners managing directors Dan Borok and Tom Wisniewski Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Newark Venture Partners managing directors Dan Borok and Tom Wisniewski | Esther Surden

A new class of Newark Venture Partner Labs companies will take the stage at the Prudential Center in Newark on Wednesday, June 27; and investors and members of the New Jersey tech community are invited to watch them pitch.

This group of startups will be different from the previous classes.

The six startups that make up this cohort are B2B companies that have already gained some market traction. The job of NVP Labs was to help these companies position themselves in the marketplace and get them ready to scale, Tom Wisniewski, managing partner of Newark Venture Partners and NVP Labs told us.

The companies presenting are as follows:

  • PeopleJoy (Philadelphia, Penn.) creates scalable financial-retention tools that help human resources departments attract and retain employees from the Millennial and Gen Z demographics.
  • ClassTag (New York) addresses the $70 billion parent-directed advertising market by helping brands sponsor classrooms, thereby turning parents into brand advocates.
  • Designity (New York) is the first virtual design agency aimed at the $60 billion outsourced design industry.
  • LendingFront (New York) builds the pipelines that allow banks to profitably participate in small business lending.
  • Mobility Capital Finance (New York), or “MoCaFi,” is a mobile financial services platform for people without access to traditional banking or credit.
  • Vetty (New York) is building a “verified LinkedIn” platform to help companies hire freelancers.

“We’ve chosen to take companies that are farther along. All have had revenue, all of them are in market. …We’ve found that those are the companies that value us most, and are the ones we are able to help the most,” Wisniewski said.

Talking about the shift to the B2B space, Wisniewski noted that NVP Labs thinks of itself as a startup. “We’re a two-year old venture capital firm and we are trying to do things differently,” he said. As the VCs gained experience through the Labs program, “we looked at product/market fit” and reconfigured to focus on post-accelerator companies.

The program now homes in on “go-to-market” strategies and sales, he said. “We’ve brought on a full-time head of [sales] growth, Kevin Petry, and we’ve built a team around him. We do a comprehensive assessment of all the go-to-market pieces the sales approach, sales operations, sales team, customer success across the whole spectrum of companies when they enter. And then we do one-on-one coaching and development work” to improve marketing messaging, collateral materials, conversion rates, etc., he said.

This works well for companies that have only one or two clients. “We take whatever they are already doing and improve it.”

Newark Venture Partners also has an advantage because, as a fund, it has corporate limited partners (LPs) like Audible, Amazon, Panasonic, Prudential and Dun & Bradstreet, which are open to piloting the startups’ products and services. Founders are also able to develop relationships with the LP partners, and this is a way to accelerate their companies during the three-month period and beyond. “We want all the companies to stay [in Newark], so we need to help them after the program is up,” Wisniewski said.

This year’s crop of startups has another distinction. Every one of them has either a female founder or a founder of color, Wisniewski told us. “We didn’t do this by design.” The VCs picked the best companies that fit its new criteria, he said. Wisniewski believes that NVP Labs’ commitment to Newark and its double bottom-line approach to investing, which aims to bring jobs and visitors to the Brick City, attracts diverse companies. Several of the founders in this group already live in New Jersey, he added.

This year’s Demo Day will feature a keynote speech called “Arc of Digital Tech Trends, Corporate vs Start-up Roles in NJ’s Transformation,” to be given by Steve Van Kuiken, senior partner at the New Jersey office of McKinsey & Company (Summit) and the North American leader of Digital McKinsey. He authored the McKinsey report on New Jersey’s future in innovation.

Also, Scott Simonelli, founder and CEO of Veritonic (New York), an NVP portfolio company, will be joining a panel discussion about when music and data collide. The other participants will be John Harrobin, senior vice president of marketing at Audible (Newark), and Ian Schafer, president and chief marketing officer of Muzik (West Hollywood, Calif.).

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