Opinion: How to Help the Growing New Jersey Tech Community

Photo: Aaron Price of NJ Tech Meetup Photo Credit: Danny@Customphotoshoot.com
Aaron Price of NJ Tech Meetup | Danny@Customphotoshoot.com

In a recent email to NJ Tech Meetup members, Aaron Price, the group’s founder and organizer, shared two ideas for how to help the growing N.J. tech startup community:

Be best in class. Wrote Price, “We must be an order of magnitude better than our competitors. Whatever you’re working on, do it amazingly well. This may sound simple and obvious, but the impact of excellence — truly excelling at whatever you’re working on — betters the brand value of technology in N.J. for all of us. This means making every pixel on your product really shine. Put more simply, a rising tide lifts all ships.

Be a tech champion. “If you’ve attended one of my NJ Tech Meetups, consider yourself an ambassador of entrepreneurship and technology,” Price said. “Being an ambassador is as easy as telling your neighbor about a cool company you saw give a demo in N.J., then bringing him or her to a tech event (anywhere). The value of awareness is enormous for both our N.J. community and the tech community at large. Spread the word and welcome those from around the state. While it’s all a lot of fun, it’s also incredibly important, as I believe our industry represents the future of economic opportunity for our state and our country.”

As editor and publisher of NJ.TechWeekly.com, I will add a few more ideas to Price’s:

Publicize your efforts. Of course, I want to be the first person you call when your startup has a breakthrough event. But there are plenty of avenues for publicity in New Jersey, and I believe the more you get, the more New Jersey’s reputation for being a startup hub is enhanced. Maxine Ballen of the New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC) recently said the same thing in an interview she did with me. And Aaron Price has reiterated this concept.

Publicity may not get you venture money, but in volume, it can make New Jersey’s tech scene cool. Talk up the Garden State! When you do your TechCrunch interview, make sure you say you got your start in New Jersey, and mention the help you received from the community here. Tout your business to NJBIZ, and talk about the tech community. Reach out to your hometown online newspaper and your N.J. alumni website. Tell NJTechWeekly.com and other news outlets when you are holding a Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaign so we can mention it to our readers. And when you  hold that campaign, be “Jersey Proud.”

Talk up the tech community on social media. Boost your fellow startups on social media. Whenever they announce an accomplishment, comment on it. Tweet about your colleagues’ funding and product announcements; tell the world about N.J. innovators you find interesting; and when you discover something great that comes from N.J., spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, your blog, wherever.

Break down those silos. I am often contacted by a tech or e-commerce startup that seems to have come out of nowhere. These folks have been operating out of their homes, other businesses or garages, and they haven’t interacted with any other members of the N.J. tech scene. Sometimes I hear about great companies located within incubators. They may be receiving the professional help they need from lawyers, accountants and mentors, but they aren’t taking advantage of the greater benefit derived from networking with the community outside incubator walls. So if you read about an interesting company, or someone who developed a great app, reach out to that firm or individual. Ask them to be a part of the greater community. Invite them to attend a tech meetup, venture event or gathering for startups sponsored by the NJTC. Consider partnering with them. Invite them to become involved.

Help South Jersey companies feel they belong to the New Jersey tech community. There are plenty of startups in the southern part of the state. Those companies are somewhat disconnected from the corridor that runs from Princeton northward. Consequently, they tend to migrate to the Philadelphia tech scene. We need to be able to bring them into the fold somehow and make them feel part of the vibrant tech community in New Jersey. If you hear of a great tech company starting out near Rowan University or in Camden, reach out to it and evangelize! Let’s make these startups feel proud to be part of the New Jersey tech community at large.

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