James Barrood, the new president and CEO of the New Jersey Technology Council, is taking leadership of the group at a time of rapid evolution for the state’s tech industry. Even the idea of a “tech company” is changing, as Barrood believes every company needs to be high tech to survive.
“If a business is not using tech effectively, from a one-man shop to a 100,000-person enterprise, then they will be disrupted by technology. Not only will they not be competitive, but they will decline if they are not on some level a tech company.”
Barrood was selected from a pool of 66 applicants to succeed the retiring Maxine Ballen, who founded the NJTC 18 years ago. He took office in August.
One of Barrood’s beliefs about New Jersey’s tech industry is the importance of its ties to New York. On Thursday, September 18, the NJTC will hold a technology tour and networking trip to the NYC2 Data Center operated by Telx at 111 Eighth Avenue in New York. The tour will show the telecommunications center, which is one of the busiest switching stations in the world for hundreds of domestic and international telecom carriers and Internet backbones. The event is free to members, $20 to nonmembers. For more information, visit www.njtc.org.
“There needs to be more of a spirit of working together in the New Jersey tech industry,” he says. “We need to leverage the great New York City magnetism and their great success to really build out the ecosystem of Jersey City, Hoboken, and Newark, to be successful. In addition, we can build out of the terrific hubs of New Brunswick and Princeton, and even Rowan in South Jersey.”
Barrood has worked with the NJTC for 17 years. During that time, he was also the head of Fairleigh Dickinson’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurship. The institute was involved with connecting and promoting tech companies in the region, so it often worked in parallel with the NJTC.
Barrood says he admired what Ballen accomplished in building the NJTC. “It extends a lot of the things I was doing at the entrepreneurship center: the success of entrepreneurs, growth companies, and large tech companies in the state and region not only helps the economy, but the community, and it makes New Jersey just a greater place to live,” he says.
Barrood grew up in Somerset and studied at Rutgers. Out of college, he worked for the business his father ran, Barrood Real Estate. “Coming from an entrepreneurial family business really drills into you the principles of hard work and taking care of customers,” he says. He later got his MBA at Texas A&M. During that time, he worked for Mercedes and GM in Europe, and returned to take a corporate marketing job. Shortly thereafter, he saw the job opening at Fairleigh Dickinson to direct the entrepreneurship center and took it, expecting to stay there for two years.
“I ended up staying there for 17 because it was such a great and fulfilling job,” he says.
Barrood is familiar with the challenges facing the tech industry in New Jersey. “The challenge is that it’s very fragmented,” he says. “There is no one area where an ecosystem could develop. There are several hubs of activity. When you’re working in a small geographic area, it’s easier to collaborate. We have the challenge of geographic fragmentation. There are a plethora of great companies and entrepreneurs, and we need to collaborate more effectively and help each other. One of my goals is to really be a unifier for the community.”
Despite the challenges, New Jersey is home to a thriving tech community, Barrood says. Med-tech companies are taking off. Endeavors in the areas of drones, Internet-connected devices (“The Internet of Things”), wearable tech, and 3D printing are showing promise, he says.
Though Barrood’s education is in business rather than tech, he has been engaged in digital marketing, e-business, and online courses for the better part of two decades. And in the world of entrepreneurship, he says, there is no difference between a startup and a tech startup.
“Most new businesses have been related to technology anyway,” he says. “Going forward, we have to think of all new businesses as tech businesses.”