LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Pallone tours Fort Monmouth co-working space

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

With the software programmed, Chris Dudick, owner and founder of tech startup Small Factory Productions, steps inside the virtual reality world he’s created, and hoping to sell.

“I’m a school teacher, but I’m also an entrepreneur. I started a business 10 years ago teaching technology to students,” Dudick said.

Dudick founded SiLAS Solutions, an avatar-based social skills software platform to help kids on the autism spectrum. He’s one of several entrepreneurs at the new Fort Monmouth offices of Vi Hubs, a co-working space for budding startups. His company is one of the startups showing off its digs during Startup Day Across America.

“It’s very difficult to just take a lease on for a year or two and find something that’s not too expensive, especially around this area,” he said.

That’s why more and more are turning to collaborative work spaces like this one. With flexible office memberships that act as an incubator, Rep. Frank Pallone is one of dozens of federal representatives who visited startups Tuesday to connect with business leaders and learn about their challenges.

“Both the federal and state governments need to do more to promote small business and new tech and innovation, which we really haven’t done effectively. So they talked about using the EDA at the state level or the small business administration to encourage places like this and the new starts like this,” Pallone said.

“I think we have a lot of programs for established companies starting to grow and scale, but for early stage companies I think there’s a lot of room and opportunity to really help them grow and get them to the next level,” according to Sean Donohue, the co-founder and community outreach manager at Vi Hubs.

Start-Up Day across America began three years ago as a bipartisan effort to raise awareness about the new companies as the driving force behind American job creation. Rep. Pallone has been fighting efforts to roll back net neutrality and over regulation.

Drew Koloski is the co-founder of Upsider, a startup that helps recruiters hire qualified salespeople.

Koloski explains that New Jersey is a particularly difficult state to do business in because of red tape and bureaucracy, “in other cities like Austin,” he explains. “There are tax programs and incentives for business owners and I think that’s important and I think New Jersey should be doing a much better job.”

Vi Hubs has only been open for six weeks, but it’s already got about a dozen tenants, with an international company slated to move in his week. It’s just another example of valuable suburban infrastructure being reinvented for this new economy.

“One of the reasons why a lot of startups are occurring in a lot of smaller towns and suburban areas is because in urban areas the costs are increasingly expensive for space or there’s not enough space,” Pallone said.

Startup owners want more chances to work with others in the trenches and they want help from the government to write America’s next chapter in great innovation.