Tech Entrepreneurs Honored at NJ Immigrant Award Program


One would think technology entrepreneurs from around the globe looking to make it big in the United States would set their sights on Silicon Valley.

In fact, New Jersey attracts many of the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs. The Garden State celebrated these individuals at the second annual New Jersey Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards program, in December, presented at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Rothman Institute, Silberman College of Business.

These awards, supported by a broad coalition of 17 business groups, advocacy organizations, associations, local and bi-national chambers of commerce in NJ. honor first-generation immigrant entrepreneurs who have established successful companies in New Jersey and have given back to their communities.

In January, NJTechWeekly.com caught up with three of the award winners from tech companies around the state.

Photo: Mario Casabona accepting NJ Immigrant of the Year award in December. Photo Credit: Courtesy TechLaunch

Mario Casabona accepting NJ Immigrant of the Year award in December. | Courtesy TechLaunch

Winner: Mario Casabona

Born: Small town in Sicily

Title: Founder and CEO of TechLaunch; Founder and CEO and of Casabona Ventures

Award: 2014 Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year

Why did you come to the United States, and specifically to New Jersey?

My parents and I originally immigrated to New York City, and a few years later moved to New Jersey. They saw New Jersey as a great place to raise a family and for work opportunities.

What does this award mean to you as an immigrant and a tech entrepreneur?

The award represents an acknowledgement of the hard work, dedication and accomplishments made by my peer immigrant entrepreneurs. It’s especially an honor and a humbling experience to be chosen by other immigrants.

What suggestions do you have for new immigrant tech entrepreneurs?

I have several. Embrace the American dream. Success is relative. Stay focused on your future goals without losing sight of the much bigger picture. Be persistent without being stubborn. Learn from your advisers. It takes a team effort to build and execute a plan. Be understanding without compromising principles. Surround yourself with very smart people. Family first and, most of all, enjoy your journey.

Photo: Rita Gurevich, winner of the Casper Wistar Award for Growth Photo Credit: Courtesy SPHERE

Rita Gurevich, winner of the Casper Wistar Award for Growth | Courtesy SPHERE

Winner: Rita Gurevich

Born: Russia

Title: Founder and president, SPHERE Technology Solutions

Award: Casper Wistar Award for Growth

Why did you come to the United States, and specifically to New Jersey?

I came from Russia, and the U.S. was always the place that my parents wanted to emigrate to because of the incredible opportunities that individuals have here. We were fortunate to have been sponsored for citizenship by a synagogue in New Jersey, and that’s how we came to live here.

What does this award mean to you as an immigrant and a tech entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur in technology, I find it exceptionally gratifying to be recognized for the growth of my company. I think that it shows that for a woman and an immigrant the possibilities are wide open, and with hard work anything is possible.

What suggestions do you have for new immigrant tech entrepreneurs?

Work hard, work hard, work hard then work a little harder. Perseverance is the key, but make sure that you have a product or idea that people are willing to pay for. You may have a great thought for a product or service, but if there is no market, all you have is an idea.

Photo: Grigore Burdea accepts Nicholas Marcalus Award for Sustainability. Photo Credit: Courtesy NJ Immigrant Entreprneur Awards

Grigore Burdea accepts Nicholas Marcalus Award for Sustainability. | Courtesy NJ Immigrant Entreprneur Awards

Winner: Grigore Burdea

Born: Bucharest, Romania

Title: Founder. president and chairman of the board, Bright Cloud International Corp.

Award: Nicholas Marcalus Award for Sustainability

Why did you come to the United States, and specifically to New Jersey?

Living in Romania under communism was not encouraging for ideas, and intellectuals were marginalized. Even though I was valedictorian in college, I was not allowed to become a professor there. Instead, after getting my Ph.D. from NYU, I have been a professor at Rutgers for 20-plus years. Coming to New Jersey was related to my joining Rutgers.

What does this award mean to you as an immigrant and a tech entrepreneur?

It is a recognition of the innovative bioengineering work that my company and I have done, benefiting the U.S. and [New Jersey]. It is also a reminder that our country was built by immigrants, and a recognition of the small but hardworking Romanian community that contributes to the New Jersey economy.

What suggestions do you have for new immigrant tech entrepreneurs?

Persevere, believe, execute.

[NJTechWeekly.com was unable to interview the fourth winner. Raj Sadhu received the Einstein Award for Innovation.  Sadhu’s company, VESAGHealth, created a smart watch, inspired by Raj’s need to monitor his parent’s health remotely, a major concern for all immigrants and many people who are working away from their parents.  

Photo: Rajendra Sadhu received the Einstein Award for Innovation. Photo Credit: Courtesy VESAGHealth

Rajendra Sadhu received the Einstein Award for Innovation. | Courtesy VESAGHealth

During his acceptance speech Raj shared, “It is a proud moment for me as a New Jersey immigrant of Indian descent and US citizen, to accept this award.  I came to this great land of opportunities, the United States of America in the year 1997 with great hope and expectations as any other immigrant and was not disappointed.  The wonderful culture, education and environment of this land encouraged me to pursue my entrepreneurial instincts.”]

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