Tom Sullivan of Princeton Partners

The New Jersey Technology Council is hosting an event that promises to cover a broad array of startup topics in one four-hour session. The Venture’s a Pitch: Startup Acceleration event will take place Thursday, March 28, from 3 to 7 p.m. in the Princeton Partners office at 205 Rockingham Row in Princeton Forrestal Village. Tickets are $40, $20 for NJTC members. For more information, visit business.njtc.org.

The event is designed for entrepreneurs and executives of seed to early-stage technology companies and will cover topics ranging from intellectual property to marketing and hiring employees. A fireside chat with several venture capitalists will start the session and a networking reception will close the event.

Breakout sessions will focus on The ABC’s of forming a company; closing the deal; intellectual property; defining value, and a practice pitch session.

Speakers include:

Thomas Clare, an associate at BakerHostetler. Clare, a patent and intellectual property lawyer for the Philadelphia-based law firm, spent 10 years as an electrical engineer before becoming a lawyer, including five years in corporate manager and five as a technical advisor to a law firm. He has a bachelor’s from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA from Yale, and a law degree from Temple.

Steve Socolof, managing partner at Tech Council Ventures. Socolof has been a technology investor for more than 20 years. He is founding manager of New Venture Partners, founded in 2001, where he raised $580 million across three funds. Tech Council Ventures, founded in 2000, is focused on the mid-Atlantic region and uses the NJTC network to evaluate and assist portfolio companies. Socolof has a bachelor’s from Stanford and an MBA from Dartmouth.

Wayne Tamarelli, AWT Private Investments. He is an angel financier of early-stage technology businesses in the greater New Jersey and San Francisco Bay areas. He serves on and has chaired many boards of directors and advisory boards. He is also the founding chairman of the Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network. He has a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in engineering from Carnegie Mellon and an MBA from NYU.

Alan Wink, director of capital markets for Eisner/Amper. He has been a financial consultant for 20 years and was director of the Interfunctional Management Consulting Program at the Rutgers School of Management. He started his career in accounting, spending six years on the audit staff of a Big 4 accounting firm and a Fortune 500 company. He has an MBA from Rutgers.

Deborah Zajac, director of Touchdown Ventures, a company that manages venture capital programs for corporate partners. Before joining Touchdown in 2019, she worked at GE Ventures and four of its predecessor funds at GE Corporate. She began her career as a management consultant and operator. She has an MBA from NYU.

Tom Sullivan is a principal at Princeton Partners, a marketing agency. He is also a founder of the Princeton Innovators Guild, a collaborative workspace (U.S. 1, June 28, 2017) and co-founder of Activity Works, a company that makes multimedia programs for schools designed to get children moving. He has a bachelor’s from the College of New Jersey.

Sullivan’s business expertise is available to those who do not attend the workshop. In a blog at www.princetonpartners.com, Sullivan contributes articles and podcasts to a weekly “Insight” series. In a recent post, Sullivan examined how “social accountability circles” (SAC) can influence behavioral change, using the example of Weight Watchers, which uses food point systems together with technology and social relationships to help its members get in shape. Sullivan identified four principles that promote the success of social accountability circles:

Gathering and connecting like-minded people who are committed to shared goals.

Creating systems of accountability to help the group to regularly measure change at both the individual and group level.

Fostering caring relationships with leaders and peers

Celebrating milestones of achievement and success

Let’s look at another example: CrossFit. There are more than 13,000 CrossFit fitness centers around the world that command high membership fees ranging up to $300 per month. CrossFit has been successful and continues to grow internationally as well because it follows the four SAC principles. The program attracts and retains members who value the unique program, which delivers high-intensity, core strength and conditioning training.

I have observed CrossFit group classes in action; the participants are not always your stereotypical “Spartan Race” athletes. Many look like the average 55 or 65-year-old who wants to improve their core strength and flexibility in order to protect their bodies as they age. CrossFit groups are bonded because they are doing the same workout routines and durations together — but each individual is focused on their own personal performance.

At the end of each class, member performance is tracked on a board and also in a personal file for ongoing progress tracking by member. From what I have observed, it is clear that group camaraderie is high. New personal bests are celebrated by members. I believe that the group accountability and relational dynamics of CrossFit enable members to achieve and maintain better results than they would if working out on their own.

MyFitnessPal.com and the MyFitnessPal app is another tool that utilizes the four SAC principles. MyFitnessPal offers a database and platform for people to easily track and share their meals and workouts (calories in/calories out). When you sign up for MyFitnessPal (there are both free and paid tiers), you are encouraged to be honest about your progress. Outside of logging your caloric intake, the platform also provides an opportunity for participants to learn from others, share their own tips, receive and give encouragement, and even make friends through their discussion forums. No need to feel guilty about eating that cookie when you can see a friend on the platform cheated with a slice of cake. Accountability, and success rates, go up when you both agree to log an extra workout to make up for your individual indulgences.

Our society is innovating new ways to help people make positive changes by reducing or eliminating unhealthy behaviors and increasing and sustaining healthy ones. Enlightened school administrators care about enhancing whole child health (physical, social, and emotional health) because doing so results in increased cognition and academic performance.

Financial institutions and governments want people to be financially fit so that customers and taxpayers can pay their bills, pay their taxes, and invest in their futures. But, unfortunately, our population at large is not getting healthier physically or financially. Rates of obesity and diabetes are at record levels, and almost half of American households have no emergency savings. The Federal Reserve Board in 2017 found that 44 percent of American households surveyed could not cover a $400 emergency expense.

I call on innovative marketers everywhere to learn from examples like CrossFit and MyFitnessPal, and to work harder with academia, government, and non-profit organizations to create new solutions that leverage Social Accountability Circles to address these persistent problems in the areas of physical and financial fitness. Those who do will not just create new business and brand value — they might even change the world.

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