That need was the genesis of New Jersey Founders & Funders.
Held semi-annually at the EDA’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies in North Brunswick, the event enables early-stage businesses to meet with potential investors in 10-minute, one-on-one “speed dating” sessions to discuss strategy, business models and funding opportunities.
Through six events held to date, more than 175 entrepreneurs and emerging technology and life sciences companies have participated in New Jersey Founders & Funders.
“One of the many attributes that keeps New Jersey at the forefront of innovation is the collaborative environment our state fosters,” EDA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Melissa Orsen said. “New Jersey Founders & Funders is a shining example of the benefits of investors taking the time to connect one-on-one with early-stage companies.”
@NJEDATech today takes a look at four October 26, 2016, New Jersey Founders & Funders participants, whose founders shared their key takeaways from their experience that day:
Funtoid (formerly known as Coffee Break) was founded in 2015 to enable social media users to send creative birthday messages. Company founder David Barr created a Facebook platform through which users can send memorable birthday messages with personalized fun facts.
New Jersey Founders & Funders enabled Barr, a first-time entrepreneur, to practice his pitch, get valuable feedback, and build relationships.
Invessence in Chatham is a software as a service provider of digital wealth management technology (including robo-advisory services) that enables asset managers, broker-dealers, and advisors to deliver their investment solutions through an online platform.
Invessence is currently integrated with several broker-dealers and custodians including Interactive Brokers, Gemini Fund Services and TD Ameritrade. At New Jersey Founders & Funders, Invessence Co-Founder and CEO Jigar Vyas touted the fact that his company partnered with another Chatham-based financial services firm, Tradition Capital Management.
Together, the companies launched a robo-advisor called BuildingBenjamins.com that combines low-cost passive exchange-traded funds with truly diversifying alternative investments. A robo-advisor is an online, automated portfolio management service. “The most important thing we heard at New Jersey Founders & Funders is that raising capital is a full-time job,” said Vyas. “It was something we had known, but it was reinforced when we heard it directly from an investor.”
With a mission of breaking down cost barriers associated with pursuing college, Newark-based PeduL is an online crowdfunding platform where students can run fundraising campaigns to help finance their higher-education expenses.
This platform assures donor generosity is protected by transferring funds from students' campaigns to their universities in the form of third-party scholarships. PeduL was founded by Rutgers University students in January 2016, and is on track to launch the platform later this month.
Pedul currently partners with schools and youth organizations to help students raise money for higher education. The company received early-stage funding from IDT Ventures in 2016 and joined the IDT Corporation’s accelerator in Newark last summer.
PeduL co-founders Chisa Egbelu and Kayla Jackson mentioned these accomplishments during New Jersey Founders & Funders. Jackson shared that New Jersey Founders & Funders helped her to realize that there is an abundance of startup capital and resources available to help the flourishing and ever-growing community of New Jersey small business owners and startup founders.
Jersey City-based technology company Welnys aims to bring preventative wellness and mindfulness programs to the workplace. Welnys offers a digital platform that connects employers to reliable and pre-screened yoga classes, chair massages, boot camp packages and wellness workshops for employees.
Companies also have access to Welnys' software platform through which employees can discover and book services and employers can see analytical data to measure the return on investment of their on-site wellness program.
Welnys Founder and CEO Heather Waibel explained to investors at New Jersey Founders & Funders that, while "Welnys' competitors, such as eMindful, focus on video content, Welnys is focused on in-person programing optimized by technology." The seed-stage company launched in May 2016.
Feedback from investors at Founders & Funders helped Waibel to realize that she needed to narrow her definition of a “competitor,” and instead focus on companies targeting the same dollars Welnys is pursuing.