The New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s newly built Biotechnology Development Center at the Technology Centre of New Jersey campus on Route 1 in North Brunswick doesn’t have any tenants yet, but on December 6, the 32,600-square-foot building was abuzz as a crowd of about 225 startup founders clamored for the attention of angel investors and venture capitalists. (Jeans and blazer with no tie was the de facto uniform of the startup founder.)
It was the NJEDA’s Founders and Funders All-Stars event, which gives participants the chance to network and find their next round of funding or their next long shot investment, though as is characteristic of events like these, the founders significantly outnumbered the funders. The event, held every year since 2014, included one-on-one opportunities for companies to pitch investors, as well as a competition, voted on by participants, that awarded $50,000.
The event is designed to give a boost to the state’s startup community. The turnout included many companies from the Route 1 Corridor, all in the technology and life sciences fields.
The final five competitors in the pitch competition, selected by a panel, gave brief presentations to be voted on. The finalists were:
Radius8, a State Road-based company that makes a user engagement platform for retailers. “There’s no retail equivalent for Seamless, Yelp, or AirBnB,” said co-founder Brendan Phelan, referring to popular apps that have provided a boost to food and hospitality businesses. “We think location is the greatest untapped opportunity.” Radius8 allows companies to advertise to users who are nearby their stores, and can change tactics based on local conditions. For example, a clothing retailer can start advertising boots to people in the area on a cold and rainy day.
RevChip, based in Mount Laurel, is a payment processor that texts shoppers receipts instead of giving a user printout. The texts can be embedded with coupons or surveys, turning the receipt into a marketing tool for the business. It’s also more secure than the recently rolled out chip system.
Tenna, based in Edison, makes a gadget that attaches to construction equipment, allowing company owners to keep track of where it is and how much wear and tear it is taking, in real time. The trackers can be attached to anything from hand tools to excavators.
VectraCore, based in Totowa, makes heart monitoring devices that are easier to attach than traditional methods. Totowa’s system uses five electrodes, while traditional monitors require 10. Brad S. Schreck, CEO of Vectracor, said the device has saved numerous lives since it was introduced in 2013.
The winner of the contest was LugTrack, based in Red Bank. The six-person company makes a cellphone-sized device that can be placed in a piece of luggage, allowing the user to see where it is anywhere in the world. It can also be set to alert its owner if the luggage is moved so much as one millimeter, functioning as a theft alarm. Denise Brouder, CFO for Lugtrack, said the company had $1.2 million a year in sales.
“We are grateful to have been selected to receive this award, which will help LugTrack move forward with our growth strategy and supplement our ongoing fundraising efforts,” Brouder said. “The technology community here in New Jersey truly fosters innovation and provides a supportive environment for those committed to pursuing novel ideas.”
NJEDA CEO Melissa Orsen said LugTrack gave a compelling presentation, and that the other companies at the event also showed groundbreaking ideas.
“We applaud these and all the pioneering companies that have chosen to grow in New Jersey, and encourage them to explore resources available through the EDA,” she said in a prepared statement.
The event also served as a showcase for the Biotechnology Development Center, which is part of the NJEDA’s business incubator program on the 50-acre research park campus. The building is somewhat of an intermediate step between the incubator program at the nearby Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies for startup companies, and a full, independent headquarters. Aimed at growing biotechnology companies, the building has office and wet lab space from 3,000 to 10,000 square feet.
The campus is already home to several CCIT graduates, including HuRel, Chromocell, Orthobond, and Ascendia.
Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies, 675 Route 1 South, Technology Center of NJ, North Brunswick 08902. 732-839-1881. Lenzie Harcum, manager. www.njtechcentre.com.