At the Newark Venture Partners Demo Day event, business is a sport, and the founders are the star players. Newark Venture Partners, the venture capital firm with a focus on tech startups, hosted its bi-annual event demonstrating their latest class of promising businesses. The event, Demo Day, took place at the Prudential Center in Newark, a venue normally associated with hockey rivalries and rock stars but attracted all kinds of business people on Demo Day.
Valveek for example, is still years away from completing college, but wants to get an early start on his career.
"This is such a great way to get an edge up over other kids and being able to learn from other people is just so valuable for the future."
On the other side of the spectrum, David is just the kind of person you might expect to see. He's invested in venture capital firms before, and he currently runs a startup.
"I'm the chapter director of Startup Grind Princeton and do work promoting venture space in New Jersey."
And John is somewhere in between. He hasn't gotten the chance to invest yet, but he has made a habit of attending events like this and he's well read on the business landscape around him.
"Forming a startup is hard and it's good to see that there's some traction going in New Jersey to help foster the startup experience here."
The event offered an opportunity for attendees to gain knowledge, invest in young companies, and make valuable new connections. The optimism was palpable.
"If we move in all this tech, we move in all of this innovation, we move in all these different types of people, I think Newark will be what America as a whole is supposed to be. I think Newark is on its way to being that example now."
That was Anthony Frasier, the Entrepeneur in Residence at Newark Venture Partners. I got to talk to him after the event and I asked him what it felt like to see these companies reach the benchmark that is Demo Day.
"I think it's fulfilling to see people go through this rigorous process as an accelerator and to be able to graduate. But the truth is that the real work begins right after demo day. Cause now it's all about raising money, now its all about scaling and bringing in new business, bringing in new people, hiring. The real hustle is just beginning."
But he has total faith in this crop of entrepreneurs. He says that in addition to their hulking talent and razor-sharp skills, they also went through what he considers to be the most dynamic venture capital firm there is.
"We're in Newark New Jersey! the location alone makes it different. You show me a venture capital firm that has as much support form corporations and as much support from its local politicians, from its community as Newark Venture Partners has. I'm really hard pressed to find that"
A serial entrepreneur and proud Newark native, Frasier believes that this is the best place for businesses to come right now, and that Newark even has a good chance of convincing Amazon to establish its second headquarters here.
"I think the likelihood is high, and I'm all for it as long as Amazon is connected to the community and the community has a say. I'm a champion for it, I think they should be here. I think it would change the landscape dramatically. Yeah, gentrification is a word that people like to use. But for me, I don't really see what's happening in Newark as gentrification only because they're not moving anyone out. They're moving into empty spaces. For a long time I used to walk downtown Newark and see boarded up storefronts on the main streets of the city. I'm sick of that. I'm ready for people to reinvest in this city. And so, I'm not against it. But what I am against is, moving people out. While it is important that we invest in downtown, I do recognize that we need to put that same effort towards the black and brown communities in this city."
Attendees at Demo Day also took note of the changes. Isabella runs an angel network through St. Andrews University.
"I actually had no idea that Newark was undergoing such a revolution, which was awesome to hear. It was kind of a trek out here but it was worth it"
And Wyatt, who has recently invested in one of NVP's portfolio companies, is happy to support the next chapter.
"I think what NVP labs is doing for Newark to progress the startup scene here and make some investments around the Newark area is phenomenal so I fully support it and I'm happy to be a part of it."
Click above to hear Stephanie's feature.