If you wanted to know the current status of support for startups and small businesses from the state and federal governments, tech organizations and banks, you could have Zoomed into a TiE New Jersey event in late January.
There, officials from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), TechUnited:NJ, PNC Bank and the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) talked about the programs that will bolster the tech and business ecosystem in New Jersey.
“There’s a lot of things happening in the New Jersey ecosystem. It’s very exciting. There’s a lot more to happen,” said Vijar Kohli, meeting host and cofounder of Golden Door Asset Management (Newark).
“I can’t speak for other members, but from our recent community events, members seem to be very engaged. We have 50 to 80 people attend every event, depending on the topic,” Kohli said.
Last year, the primary focus was to help TiE member companies cope with COVID, focusing on programs and incentives such as the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, as well as lesser-used sources of capital such as BIRD [Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation] grants, crowdfunding, family offices and SPACS [special purpose acquisition companies], among others, Kohli said.
Mathew Abraham, regional director of business development at the NJEDA said, “We have been really busy lately with creating programs on the grant side as well as the loan side for COVID relief.”
The authority’s COVID-19 relief programs have supported nearly 55,000 small businesses, and the NJEDA has distributed more than $238 million in economic relief since March, according to the authority.
“Our Small Business Emergency Assistance Loan Program offers small businesses access to financing that they can use for inventory expenses and any kind of working capital expenses, said Abraham. “Businesses will be eligible for loans of up to $100,000 for a 10-year term that will help sustain them during the pandemic.”
The program’s launch has been deferred in order to accommodate the rollout of additional Paycheck Protection Program financing for small businesses, according to the NJEDA.
To date, more than $2.1 billion has already been lent to New Jersey businesses through the federal PPP program.
Other NJEDA initiatives discussed included the Angel Investor Tax Credit and Net Operating Loss programs, each of which was oversubscribed in 2020, according to Abraham.
There was some noteworthy tech news, said Aaron Price, president and CEO of TechUnited:NJ, while discussing investment and venture opportunities.
“We’re looking at areas of strength in the region, including clean tech,” he said. “We’ve got a fantastic relationship with PSEG. We worked with their CEO, Ralph Izzo, and a number of their leadership to create and now renew a $50,000 startup challenge that we call the ‘CleanTech Impact Challenge.’”
Price mentioned the areas of strength for New Jersey, including health tech and smart cities. TechUnited:NJ introduced programs focusing on those two sectors in 2020 with Hackensack Meridian Health (Edison) and Verizon, respectively, thereby signaling “a direction where we believe the state has real opportunity,” he said.
“I’m very encouraged that we figured out ways to retain the talent that has enjoyed this work-from-home capability that may evolve into a hub.”
Price predicted that “we will see some large corporations that have a major presence in New York introduce an official presence in New Jersey.”
He added, “There’s a huge opportunity for us there. Google is a great example of that. They have 12,000 employees in New York City, about 25 percent of whom live in New Jersey. So, in effect, they now have a New Jersey headquarters.
“If we can figure out a way to retain that talent and attract additional companies that are here to create an environment that allows for some of those employees to start companies in New Jersey, I think we’re hitting the right track.”
Sapan Shah, senior vice president of PNC Financial Services Group (Pittsburgh), noted that the second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans is well funded. Banks will not have a problem providing loans if small businesses meet the program’s requirements.
And banks such as PNC have received tens of thousands of applications this past month. The single biggest obstacle for Paycheck Protection Program loans is application errors.
Applicants need to make sure all the details are accurate when submitting the paperwork to their banks, Kohli said.
The $10 million program expansion will support small businesses and nonprofits in New Jersey that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
TiE’s local members include 75 charter members, 47 members who followed them and 86 students, said Neetu Randhawa, TiE NJ’s executive director.
“Networking, building connections and learning from those who have been on the entrepreneurship path are at the heart of the organization,” she said. “We believe that success in business is a derivative of ties with the right mentors and connections. Members and charter members have a unique opportunity to benefit from networking with other entrepreneurs, executives from large companies, potential customers and investors.”