By Briana Vannozzi
With pitches perfected, the CEOs of Newark’s cutting-edge tech startups showcase their business savvy with the hope of attracting new investors. This is the inaugural accelerator class of Newark Venture Partners. The for-profit venture capital firm launched in July 2015. It brings technology companies, job growth and economic change to downtown Newark.
“The nine companies here for the accelerator class are here for three months for an intensive program. We provide some capital to them and also a lot of help. So, mentors from Audible, Prudential, from Dun & Bradstreet are here to help them. We support them. We help them connect with their first customers, with their first partners and help them raise additional funds,” said Newark Venture Partners Managing Partner Tom Wisniewski.
Six hundred fifty companies applied to NVP. There are about 14 businesses and 45 founders of early-stage companies working in a large office space provided by Audible.com. The Amazon company’s founder Don Katz, brought Audible to Newark nearly a decade ago. Its success led to Newark Venture Partners’ creation.
“This is going to create job growth, taxable revenue growth that the city can and dearly needs and again it connects the dots in a city that has such vast educational advantages and many other things,” Katz said.
“We actually relocated the company and all of the founders now live in Newark, N.J. So the entire company — Jim moved from San Francisco, Dave and I moved from Washington D.C. to Newark — we’ve been living here since the program started. So I think on top of access to capital and the office space, everything they’ve provided us, giving us a foot hole in the biggest market for our services — New York City and the region here has been kind of invaluable for us,” said Barkly Co-founder Christopher Gonzalez.
The founders of Barkly, a pet care app that allows owners to arrange on-demand care in 60 minutes or less, is one of the nine companies highlighted at today’s expo.
“So as part of the program, we had a sales person in residence, an entrepreneur in residence, investor in residence and having those people to be able to jump to and talk about any issue we’re experiencing was really, really helpful,” said Ron Fisher, Bowtie CEO.
The companies are as diverse as they are creative. Bowtie is a chatbot system allowing users to order food, book appointments or make purchases from small- to medium-sized businesses using text messages.
And with all the obstacles of an inner-city, attracting urban entrepreneurs hasn’t been one.
“We’re also a workforce training platform, so we fell in love with the mission and vision of NVP and what they’re doing here in Newark to revitalize the city,” said Sales Huddle CEO and founder Sam Caucci.
“I think this is the next up and coming place which is great and going to be even greater in the future,” said nativetap.io CEO Nina Wieczorek.
The very idea of Newark Venture Partners was to bring life back to the city and spark an urban renaissance in the place where much of the state’s innovation was born. Some might argue that growth is already here.