The second New Jersey Founders & Funders Event held by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA), on Sept. 17, 2014, was a resounding success, according to startup entrepreneurs at the event who spoke with NJTechWeekly.com.
Thirty startups from New Jersey were pre-matched with 17 angel and venture capital investors for 10-minute meetings that took place at the Technology Centre of New Jersey (North Brunswick) in a kind of speed dating format. Many startups attended at least five meetings.
According to Kathleen Coviello, Director of the Technology & Life Sciences Division, EDA staff worked very hard to ensure that both investors and entrepreneurs would gain something from the meetings. Their hard work seems to have paid off.
Sandeep Nalgundwar, of Bridge-x Technologies (East Windsor), said he found the event to be quite helpful.
Bridge-X helps big brands like Columbia Sportswear sell to the retail market. “We are a business-to-business software company that allows retailers to connect to companies like Columbia and actually place orders, check orders and invoices and other business,” Nalgundwar said.
Nalgundwar thought that the EDA event was fabulous. “Frankly, we had never heard of anything like this existing in New Jersey. We always had to look westward for all the funding needs we had.” Nalgudwar added that he had spoken to two investors so far that day, “and we already had requests for second meetings from both of them.”
He praised the New Jersey EDA for ensuring that company founders were pre-matched with investors. “You already know who you are going to meet. We could prepare, and the investors could prepare.” At the EDA event, there was no risk of meeting investors blind, only to waste time figuring out that they had no interest in your kind of software. “I appreciate that EDA took the time to make sure that we were matched to the right funders.”
Frank Graziano, CEO of Chromis Fiberoptics (Warren), came to the EDA event to raise two rounds of financing, one a bridge round from an angel and the other a Series B expansion capital round. “There is a mix here of funds and angels, and we’ve had some of them interested in our company.”
His firm makes optical fibers out of high-transparency polymers that are used in high-speed data connections over very short distances. “We are an alternative to copper and optical fiber over high-speed links,” he noted. “We are potentially disruptive. We have a new technology that we think is a copper killer.”
When we spoke to Graziano, he had already been to several meetings with investors, and he called the event “speed dating for entrepreneurs.” Graziano said his meetings were fruitful, with at least three investors expressing interest in continuing the conversation. “A couple of the funds we met with were not in our wheelhouse, but they wanted to meet with us anyway, with the idea of possibly introducing us to other people who would be interested in our company. So there wasn’t a single meeting that was a waste of time,” he said.
Wayne-based Career Network USA is building a job-seeker and career platform called “Career Networking for Life” to help job seekers and companies network on a high level. “We are trying to enable deep, lifelong connections between people to help them find jobs and find employees, and to fill the needs of the job market that are not being filled very well right now,” said cofounder Sunil Kumar.
Kumar described his meetings as “very productive.” He added, “We are in the initial stages, and the investors provided some feedback about what we need to do to get to the next stage. We hope this will lead to future meetings for follow-up.” While Kumar said that he liked the EDA format, he wished that there had been a little more time to explore his ideas with the funders.
Niru Mallavarupu, CEO of the TechLaunch company MobileArq, spoke with several potential angels and venture partners. “We had some great meetings. Some investors expressed an interest in doing more due diligence, and we got excellent feedback,” she said. “In fact, we met a venture partner who had invested in a competitor, and he gave us some interesting background information, such as what he thinks about the space and how we should be approaching it. It’s not just about getting an investment. It’s about meeting the entrepreneurs and other angels here and getting feedback.”
Mallavarupu also wished the sessions had been a little longer, and that there could be a more formal way to let participants in the hall know when the next session was about to begin.
Daryl Bryant is CEO of StartupValley, an equity crowdfunding portal for startups. He attended the event with company CMO Adam Smith to find a lead investor for their seed round.
The meetings “have been great so far,” Bryant said. Smith added, “Either they’ve told us that we may be a little too early for them, or at least one person told us he would be interested, but he couldn’t be a lead investor, and if we found a lead investor he would invest into our round. We also met with some investors who said they will connect us to partners of theirs who do early-stage investing.”
Saroosh Gull, of EventCombo (Englewood Cliffs), had already met with three investors when NJTechWeekly.com spoke to him. “The energy and positivity is really, really helpful,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur poses its own problems, but having a venue that brings entrepreneurs and investors together creates synergies and more motivation to continue forward with the business idea. “What I found fantastic about today is that the investors are helpful in providing references and resources at other funds even if they themselves cannot participate. All and all, it’s a great platform.”
EventCombo is a disrupter in the online ticketing space. Current ticketing options let the user pay only for tickets on a one-and-done basis. With EventCombo, users can pay for tickets, parking, and even merchandise. “We take advantage of the ticket transaction by injecting ancillary opportunities into it,” Gull said.
The Founders & Funders event featured more than 15 participating investors, including ff Venture Capital, Milestone Ventures, NewSpring Capital, Osage Venture Partners, and NextStage Capital.
At the inaugural Founders & Funders event, held in June, approximately 190 meetings occurred between investors and New Jersey technology companies, the EDA said in a press release. The EDA will host New Jersey Founders & Funders events quarterly, with the next event scheduled for Dec. 9, 2014.