A wealth of knowledgeable, captivating speakers and panelists gave insightful advice, provided guidance and enriched the New Jersey tech community in 2013. In this second part of a two-part story, we review some of the ideas and quotes they shared during the second half of the year.
The “land grab” for apps is over, said William Lessard, president and creative director of PRwithBrains (New York), at a New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC) Mobile Apps Forum at Fairleigh Dickinson University (Madison). When the first apps appeared, everyone wanted to design the next “Angry Birds” or other novelty app, noted Lessard. “I think that people are now looking for more significant engagement with their mobile devices. They want their mobile devices … to be an extension of the desktop,” he said.
Cristian Ossa, angel investor, offered blunt advice to Venture Association of New Jersey attendees: be at the top of your game when you approach the N.J angel community. “Angels are a very incestuous crowd,” he said. “We all talk to each other, we all know the good deals that are out there and we all know the deals that are floundering.” If you talk to three angel groups, you may “touch” 150 angels, Ossa told the gathering.
At the NJTC FinTech conference, held at Opera Solutions (Jersey City), NASDAQ executive vice president for transaction services Eric Noll examined the future of financial tech. Noll explored where the financial industry can go in terms of technology. “I think latency as a gain for financial services is about over. … We can invest and perhaps go from 40 microseconds to 30 microseconds, but the net material gain for getting faster is almost meaningless,” he noted.
Eileen Martinson, CEO of Sparta Systems (Hamilton), provided this advice to CEOs who are taking over a stagnant company: “You have to go out there and set the bar high” because if you set the bar at 10 percent growth, you’ll probably struggle to achieve 7 percent.” Martinson spoke at the NJTC CFO Awards Breakfast in Monroe Township.
At the Hacking Asbury event in Asbury Park, Sara Chipps, CTO of LevoLeague.com (New York) and cofounder of GirlDevelopIt.com (New York), addressed the group. She told the founders in attendance to forgive themselves for their failures and tell themselves, “It’s alright, it didn’t work out. I’m still going to pick up my laptop. I really hope this doesn’t fail, but alright.”
Former Newark Mayor and now U.S. Senator Cory Booker spoke to a group working on redesigning the city’s website at #HackNWK. He said he sees the city’s central portal as a means of empowering the thousands of people who visit it each year. Added Booker, “It should call on them to be leaders as well, to participate and engage and be a part of their community in a more substantive way … I’m excited at the idea of hacking our website and hacking local government … in a way that is righteous and … will make lives better for every single person” in Newark.
At a Small Business Administration listening tour, Suzanne Zammit, president of the New Jersey Business Incubation Network, said, “One of the major roadblocks my companies see are in bank loans, even with the microlending program for startups. Banks advertise that they have loans available, but I send the companies out there and they always come back with nothing.”
Some panelists discussing crowdfunding at a Montclair State Entrepreneurship meetup were uncertain about the prospect of its implementation. Douglas Ellenoff told the group, “Federal and state regulators are watching what will happen very carefully. What you think is a general solicitation may be still subject to antifraud laws. You may not hype your offering. Luckily, in the Twitter environment you are limited to the number of characters you can use. What you should probably do is direct people to a more involved offering.”
Panelists at an NJIT upSKILL Jobs 2.0 conference dispensed great advice to jobseekers, encouraging them to contribute to something — an organization, a meetup or open-source software — to make themselves stand out. Regarding software, Travis Rogers, software engineering director at Axispoint (New York), said, “The world has given us virtually free opportunities to contribute. … If you contribute to open-source software, you will make friends all over the world.”
Mike Dalessio, a Madison resident who is director of the Pivotal Labs New York office, gave a presentation at Asbury Agile. The talk was based on his earlier experiences programming in the enterprise. Said Dalessio, “You are always going to be battling against somebody or some process in the enterprise,” noting that “enterprise companies like their processes more than they like individuals and interactions. They love documentation maybe more than they like working with software.”
At Hack Jersey, an event at which political finance laws and campaign spending were under the microscope, veteran journalist Ben Lesser educated reporters about data. He told the attendees, “All data is bad and full of errors and omissions. If you find something too good to be true, it probably is.”
Addressing Madison Tech Meetup, Tigerlabs(Princeton) founder Bert Navarrete urged patience with N.J.’s startup scene, noting, “What we’ve suffered from — and Princeton is no different — is that you’ll often have an evangelist come through with a lot of energy, a lot of ambition to get something started. And then, after they beat their heads against the wall for so long trying to effect change, they leave,” and everything collapses. “The community has to have a long-term commitment to see this through,” he added.
At NJ Tech Meetup, Josh Kopelman, founder of First Round Capital, took on the question of New Jersey’s place in the tech ecosystem. He said, “Great entrepreneurs can come up with great ideas anywhere in the country, just like great actors aren’t all born in Hollywood.” Kopelman is from Philadelphia.