Propelify Innovation Festival Exhibitors Talk About Making Connections

After Propelify on October 6, we spoke to several of the startups that had exhibited during the innovation festival. We asked them to tell us the one thing they had taken away from the event. Was it a piece of wisdom from the stage? Sound advice from an investor? 

What we heard time and again was that the biggest benefit of the festival was the connections these individuals made. They said it in many ways, but it all amounted to the same thing: bringing back to the office the relationships they started at the event. They also talked about how the event was exciting, high energy, meaningful and awesome.

Below are some comments from a few of the exhibitors that talked to after Propelify was over.

Notitia Biotechnologies

Notitia booth at Propelify | Courtesy Notitia

Jeffrey Zhao, cofounder and CEO of Monmouth Junction-based Notitia Biotechnologies, a Rutgers biotech spinout founded in 2019, was more than enthusiastic about the reception he had received. “I’m really grateful we were able to go to Propelify,” he told us.

Notitia Biotechnologies focuses on the beneficial bacteria that are the foundation of a healthy gut microbiome. The startup promotes the “Foundation Guild” bacteria, based on a discovery by Rutgers professor Liping Zhao, and it has developed a test to figure out what level of the bacteria an individual needs to have a healthy gut. When necessary, the company can spur the growth of the bacteria with a nutritional formula. Notitia Biotechnologies is pursuing two tracks: One is direct to the consumer in the form of a supplement; the other is a clinical path that can transplant healthy bacteria into a patient who doesn’t have any, but it will need FDA approval.  Notitia has received some seed-stage funding, and it’s now doing a small-scale pilot of its wellness product with the general public.

Zhao told us that Propelify was the first public debut for the company, and that “the most valuable thing was the connections and the business cards we brought back from Propelify. We met a ton of potential business partners who want to partner with us in selling our wellness product. We also met some potential investors who were very interested in our technology because we are also looking for investment to grow the company. We also met individuals who were interested in participating in the pilot. All these connections we made at Propelify are of high value.”


The Exovolar booth at Propelify | Courtesy Exovolar

Guanhao Wu, founder and CEO of Exovolar Industries (Union City), explained his futuristic company to us. Founded in 2019, Exovolar is developing a personal autonomous flight system that is hands free. Flight is controlled through the legs, leaving the hands free to manipulate tools, or in the case of the military, guns. One example for the future would be the use of this technology to make repairs on a bridge. It will be much less expensive to use than current methods, he said. A combination of jet engines, an exoskeleton, and a patented thrust vector nozzle makes this all work, he said.

The company doesn’t want to limit itself to military or industrial uses. Wu sees a day when we will all be able to strap on his invention and fly. “We are working on a futuristic technology, but we are making it useful,” he said. “We believe the way to make it practical is [to have] a human’s lower body can control the flight,” leaving the hands free to do other tasks.

Wu told us that his exhibit at Propelify was an attempt to raise awareness of the startup. He wanted to connect with academics and people in industry, and all those people were at Propelify, he said. Wu also spoke to three investors during the Captivate Talent Investor Speed Dating event, who gave him “valuable feedback on our project.”  The people who stopped by the booth became valuable connections as well. Several had connections to local manufacturers who would could help the company produce prototypes and products. “This can lower the costs of our efforts by finding partners” locally, Wu said.

Hureka Technologies

Hureka’s new mTap alternative to business cards | Courtesy Hureka

Roopak Gupta, cofounder and CEO of Hureka Technologies (New Brunswick), also one of the exhibitors, explained his company to me. Hureka Technologies does software product development, as well as digital marketing for startups, and brings these two functions together to create customer journeys for small businesses.

Gupta said that it was an awesome feeling to be able to exhibit at Propelify, and it was especially meaningful for the company because they  launched mTap, their digital business card at the show. He told us that he had used mTap to create 65 LinkedIn connections with people who had stopped by his booth at the exhibition.

When we asked about the one thing he took back to the office from the event, he answered that it was the “energy,” which “will let us move forward for the next 12 months, before another Propelify.” He added that he was especially glad to be releasing a “green” initiative, helping people use less paper, when he launched the digital business card.


Pharoah Jefferson of DatChat | Courtesy Pharoah Jefferson

Pharoah Jefferson, executive vice president of DatChat (New Brunswick), told us that his company “is the place you go online to speak to your friends like you would speak in your living room. It’s a safe space for privacy, with patented technology that keeps your data secure without having to think or worry about it.”  

According to the DatChat website, “DatChat, Inc. is a blockchain, cybersecurity, and social media company that not only focuses on protecting our privacy on our devices, but also protecting our information after we have shared it with others. We believe an individual’s right to privacy should not end the moment they click ‘send’, and that we all deserve the same right to privacy online that we enjoy in our own living rooms.”

Jefferson added,One thing I learned from attending Propelify was how much I missed networking in person and seeing people eager to learn about new innovations.  The energy and excitement were contagious, and helped to make a 12-hour work day go really fast.”

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