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The app called “Team,” created by The Tuesday Company (New York and Washington, D.C.), is changing how campaign professionals and volunteers participate in politics in New Jersey.
With voting day right around the corner, on November 6, the group that developed Team is helping campaigns in New Jersey use existing technology and relationships to reach more people more efficiently and effectively.
Team is currently working with the campaigns of three New Jersey Democratic candidates for Congress Andy Kim (NJ-03), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07 and Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) with a combined 350-plus volunteers using the Team technology.
Cofounder and CEO Michael Luciani said, “The sacred, traditional methods of voter registration have been very effective. Cold calling and knocking on doors builds trust and relationships face to face.” The Team app supplements those methods with technology.
The app works through Facebook messenger and text messages, which can access like-minded citizens more efficiently. Campaign volunteers contact people they talk to every day, such as friends, family members and neighbors, to share campaign information, graphics and videos to encourage them to register to vote. In New Jersey, the deadline to register to vote either by mail or in person is Oct. 16.
Luciani said that this “friend-to-friend” communication method can be twice as effective as traditional outreach methods. He gave the example of a volunteer calling 50 people over the phone. That volunteer may end up having five conversations that may or may not result in even one person registering to vote. However, during a 10-minute break, the same volunteer can quickly text or send a direct message to 10 contacts, or even share it on his or her Facebook wall, and immediately reach far more people.
The 2016 election inspired Luciani and his colleagues to take action to support Democratic campaigns and their constituents. “We’re pretty ideologically motivated to help certain demographics get access to voting in our next election.”
Since The Tuesday Company began, in 2016, the startup has grown from four to 14 people, who are divided between dual headquarters in New York and Washington, D.C. Their diverse team of political strategists, technologists, storytellers and social entrepreneurs is motivated to help specific demographic groups vote in the upcoming elections.
Team enables campaigns to reach millennial volunteers and voters where they are: online. And it assists younger voters, voters of color and other populations that could benefit from up-to-date methods of outreach. Luciani said, “Team is a better way to reach hard-to-reach people,” including those who may have moved recently or simply don’t know how to update their voter registration.
Interested volunteers can contact the Kim, Malinowski and Sherrill campaigns via the app, or they can register themselves at go.jointeam.com.
When NJTechWeekly.com first met Rachel Lyubovitzky several years ago, she was pitching her startup EverythingBenefits (New Providence) at various meetups in the state. Lyubovitzky had an idea for a benefits marketplace aimed at human resources (HR) departments at companies. She and her cofounders had all been in the business of building tech companies in the benefits world, so they had a great deal of domain experience.
Fast forward to 2018, and EverythingBenefits has grown to almost 100 employees, with 43 of them based in New Jersey. It serves 2,300 corporate organizations with a combined total of a half million employees, and about a million people through channel partners and a direct to market strategy. The startup partners with major players, like Kronos (Lowell, Mass.) and Infinisource (Coldwater, Mich.), and with many smaller players in the market.
EverythingBenefits began its investment journey with an angel round, mostly funded by customers who understood the company’s vision and wanted to get behind it. EverythingBenefits then sought venture capital funding. Last summer, it received $4 million from Arthur Ventures,(Minneapolis).
Lyubovitzky notes that, “compared with just about any other experience, such as online banking or online shopping, the ability to buy or choose benefits is so much worse.” EverythingBenefits is out to change all that.
Q: What exactly does EverythingBenefits do?
RL: For corporations, we help our customers make their benefit offerings both more robust and easier to consume for all kinds of corporate users. Some of them might have HR departments, but the benefits piece is missing. Or they might have the benefits piece, but they are missing COBRA administration. Our customers generally pick and choose products to complement what they already have to offer. We then integrate with them to facilitate data movement between their systems and ours.
Some of our channel partners white label or license our solutions so they can be the first line of support to their customers. For others, we are the primary source of support for their customers. Our ultimate goal and mission is to transform the benefits experience, something that affects everyone, to make it simple, fulfilling and less error-prone.
Q: Why do companies need your services?
RL: One of the main challenges in the benefits industry is that communications between players are mostly broken. You have close to 1,000 insurance carriers and providers offering medical, business, life insurance, etc. Each one of them may use different formats. It’s as though they were each speaking a different language. There is a semblance of one “language” nation-wide in medical related to the Affordable Care Act reforms, but there is no such thing for ancillary services such as vision or dental. On the other side, you have the world of HR, which wants and needs to provide benefits, but doesn’t want to learn a thousand languages in order to communicate with all the providers. We take care of that. We have direct connectivity with over 600 carriers. When an employee has a baby, gets married or leaves the workforce, we are able to communicate that information to its final destination without the client worrying about the logistics of doing it themselves. Once communications are fixed, you can do a multitude of wonderful things.
Q: What is driving your growth as a startup?
RL: As a nation, we have the lowest unemployment in a century. So, employers are looking for more and more creative ways to attract and retain employees. That is what’s fueling the growth of benefits from our standpoint. We are seeing the growth of tuition reimbursements and signing bonuses. Employers are getting very creative to become attractive places for their employees to work. Benefits are the biggest lever, but it is hard to operate without the right automation. That is what’s driving our growth.
Q: Did you develop your core technology in New Jersey?
RL: We have the same technology leaders that built the prior company [SaaShr.com LLC] with us, including Dmitry Korsunsky, cofounder and chief information and security officer, and Daniil Fishteyn, cofounder and chief technology officer.
Q: What solutions do you offer?
RL: Our solutions fall into three key categories: Benefits Made Simple, Cost Containment and Analytics and Connected Living. For example, Benefits Enrollment/Management, a solution under Benefits Made Simple, allows employees to self-serve enroll in new benefits or update their benefits during life-changing events, such as having a baby. Our COBRA Administration solution helps companies transition those who have lost their jobs due to termination or other related events so that they can continue their healthcare. We have Automated New Hire Reporting services so that we can automatically report when new people are hired to state agencies.
Our Benefits Reconciliation service lets us reconcile the carriers’ invoices with enrollment information to quickly highlight any enrollment and billing irregularities. This is very important because we can tell employers, “You have terminated employees still showing up on the list. You have to tell the insurance provider about it.” Equally important is identifying those employees who may not be enrolled in the right plan or who do not have their dependents covered.
We have a billing and payments service that enables self-billed employers to create and pay their own insurance bills. We have a commission tracker for brokers. Finally, as a part of our Connected Living category, we can communicate with over a thousand providers and any of the 401k, 401B and third-party administrators (TPAs) out there.
Q: What do you think has been the biggest driver for your success?
RL: The biggest voices inspiring us and directing our vision are our customers and channel partners. They are the ultimate consumers of our solutions and bring tons of ideas and insights that drive innovation in our group. They may say, “I spend a week out of a month reconciling the paper invoices we get from our insurance carriers with our benefits enrollments. There has got to be a better way to do it.” That is one of the examples of what inspired our Benefits Reconciliation solution, and there are many more.
Q: What’s next for EverythingBenefits?
RL: We’ve got a great team, and a great solution and many wonderful clients and channel partners that are standing behind it. And the market conditions could not be better for our continued growth. Our team continues to expand, and we’re working on an awesome new product that will be coming out next year. It is a wonderful and rewarding journey, and we are excited about what the future will bring for EverythingBenefits and our ecosystem.
When NJTechWeekly.com recently spoke with Michael Frank, COO of Chatham-based startup Invessence, he was bullish on the company’s progress.
The company sells white-label versions of its custom robo investment adviser to banks, brokers, asset managers and financial institutions worldwide, and the technology is gaining traction.
“We are one of the only digital wealth management technology providers with clients in the U.S. and Asia,” Frank told us.
The company had just finished helping UOB Kay Hian (Singapore) introduce its new robo site, UTRADE Robo, based on Invessence technologies, to over 1,600 sales reps. UOB Kay Hian is a subsidiary of the Singapore-based United Overseas Bank (UOB), a global investment bank with a market cap of $37 billion and net income of over $2 billion.
According to Frank, the site is now open for sales reps to start client trials, and already has close to 1,000 registered accounts. UTRADE Robo lets clients create a global portfolio using the Invessence optimizer. A client can build a goal-based portfolio strategy in accordance with their risk profile, open an account electronically, have it funded, and have automated re-balancing. All the back-office functions are also automated. UTRADE Robo also lets clients invest in multiple currencies.
“They are in 18 different countries in Asia,” and the company plans to roll it out throughout Asia, he said.
More locally, he added, Invessence built a platform for 200Deep, a white-label site of Bell Rock Capital, which is a registered investment adviser (RIA) firm based in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. 200Deep is a hybrid digital advisory solution that provides both online and traditional in-person investment services to partner banks looking to expand their product offering into wealth management.
Leveraging the investment expertise of Bell Rock Capital and Invessence’s core technology, the service provides a white-labeled solution that enables banks to offer online investment management and comprehensive in-person advisory services to clients of all asset sizes. The platform will automate account opening, funding and re-balancing and back-office processes, utilizing multiple model portfolios with a tiered pricing structure.
Bell Rock’s targeting of banks makes sense because people are tired of earning less than 1 percent on their deposits, and are transferring their assets out of banks and into the market. So, “for banks, it’s a no brainer,” Frank said. “All of a sudden, you are in the asset allocation business. You have your own digital adviser platform.”
Discussing the future of Invessence, Frank noted that “there are a lot of insurance companies, ETF [exchange-traded fund] providers, banks and other financial service providers who are or will be looking to get into this business,” and there are also plenty of strategic investors who might be in the market to buy, pair up with or partner with a white-label digital platform startup like Invessence.
Frank says that Invessence’s secret sauce is how easily the platform can be customized to fit the needs of its customers. The company has taken business away from robo advisor competitors who can’t meet their customers’ specific needs, he noted.
$500 Million Innovation Evergreen Fund Will Target Growing Startups
Governor Phil Murphy gave an economics speech on October 1, pointing New Jersey in a new direction that will directly impact the tech and life-science sectors here in New Jersey.
The governor promised to build “the nation’s most diverse and inclusive innovation-driven economy ? with tens of thousands of new jobs in the innovation economy for women and minorities.”
He also said that he would “double venture capital investment into our state – an influx of more than $600 million annually – by aggressively promoting our values-driven economic ecosystem.”
The governor stated that New Jersey will put its “focus on the high-wage and high-growth innovation sectors that have the potential to bring the greatest investment and most jobs into our state – clean energy, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage, advanced transportation and logistics, information and high-tech, film and digital media, and finance and insurance,” and promised the state would be “a national model for building an inclusive innovation ecosystem.”
“But, we will also work to bring the best from around the country and the world to New Jersey – and I am anxious to get started on that in just two weeks, when I make my first economic mission to Germany and Israel,” he said.
One of the pillars of Murphy’s support for the tech and life sciences industry is his plan for a $500 million Innovation Evergreen Fund “to supercharge the return of venture capital into our state, pairing the proceeds from competitive auctions of new state tax credits with private venture capital funds to make joint investments in a diverse array of New Jersey-based startups.”
Murphy noted that the New York metropolitan area has realized $33 billion in venture capital investments across more than 4,000 deals over the past five years, “but fewer and fewer of those dollars came into New Jersey.” He said that the Innovation Evergreen Fund will help bring them back.
“Here’s how it’ll work: Corporations will bid on new [New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA)] tax credits. The winning bidders will be the ones who offer both the best price and best commitment to help entrepreneurs through mentorship, networking, and other resources.
“The Innovation Evergreen Fund will then invest the auction proceeds, alongside funds from venture capital firms, into promising start-ups with the potential to scale up and create jobs.” The Fund will also make investments in partnership with private sector VCs.
In an email, Brian Sabina, senior vice president of economic transformation at the EDA, said, “The fund is designed to create a splash in the start-up investing world (we haven’t seen any other state with a program like this), and be a ‘shot in the arm’ for our innovation ecosystem.”
In a New York Times article, Chris Sugden, the managing partner of Edison Partners, a Princeton-based venture capital firm, commented that “having the New Jersey program come in to put 50 percent of the bucks to match it, that’s pretty attractive.”
But, Sugden added, “the wheels of government and the speed of venture capital do not always move in sync,” according to the New York Times story. VCs have to move fast to get the best deals. “I understand the desire to make sure the money is invested in New Jersey, but you also don’t want guys in my business to be missing deals,” he said in the article.
In Livingston, one company has introduced a new form of coworking space: a combination coworking facility and driving club.
Opened in July by former tech-startup founder Marco Colasacco, Drivers Club provides desks and tables at 7 Industrial Parkway for new companies and individuals looking to build their businesses, but it also offers them drive time in classic cars: a Porsche 911, BMW M3, an Alfa Romeo 4C, Dodge Viper GTS ACR or a Shelby GT350.
Enrollment is extremely limited, said Colasacco, and you must be a true car enthusiast to be allowed to work in the space. You can’t just be someone who wants to rent a car to show off and be splashy.
Colasacco explained that he sees this as a proof of concept, and sees the option of opening themed workspaces based on other enthusiasms down the road. “Suppose you could work with like-minded individuals who are crazy for music or who love golf?” The shared devotion to a pastime or hobby can help make forming connections to folks easier and facilitate networking, he said. Having people get together over an enthusiasm makes the opportunity to build relationships and conduct business a lot more valuable, he said.
Right now, most of Colasacco’s clientele are local business owners who need an out-of-the-home office. “We use the cars almost like furniture. The space itself is 2,700 square feet and we have concrete floors, like a garage. The cars are in here among the workspaces, and among the kitchen, the couch and the lounge. We have a couple of diner-type tables, so you can make a call and have lunch with somebody. You are just among the cars. I’ve seen some people jump into a car to make a call for added privacy.”
“People who are into this, people who have the addiction I have, appreciate being able to do a business deal sitting around a bunch of cars that they love.”
The space also features a custom wrought-iron table that seats 10, Wi-Fi and a printer. “We are fully stocked, and you can work here like it’s your office. Everything you need is right here,” he said.
NJTechWeekly.com asked Colasacco how he got the idea for the space. He said that he was in the real estate investment business and had been a professional musician. Also, he tried to launch two tech companies. “I’ve been around the tech scene, and I wanted to find a creative solution where I could do all the things I wanted to do. I wanted to have these cars, but I wanted to share them with people.” The solution was to share the cars through a coworking space for a membership fee. If you want to drive the cars, there is a reservation fee above and beyond the fee for the coworking space.
“We’re going to cap membership at 40 to 50 people to keep this small and intimate. We plan to host networking events, and we’ll do other things like take our members out to the racetrack. What we are doing is building a community, and I think that’s important.”
Billtrust: Billtrust, a business to business company that provides accounts receivable automation, celebrated the official opening of its new corporate headquarters in Lawrenceville on September 24. The company had previously been located in Hamilton.
The search for a new HQ location was necessitated by the company’s rapid growth. Billtrust chose to remain in New Jersey partly thanks to a Grow NJ grant it received from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
The new 87,000-square-foot headquarters provides the Billtrust team with state-of-the-art technology, over 50 meeting and collaboration spaces, indoor and outdoor fitness facilities, three coffee bars, ergonomic desks and white noise canceling technology.
“We’re excited to have a new home in Lawrenceville for our corporate headquarters and continue our commitment [to] job creation in New Jersey,” said Billtrust founder and CEO, Flint A. Lane. “The Billtrust culture is unique and this space reflects that with more collaborative spaces and state of the art technology which will allow our teammates to thrive.”
The new corporate headquarters houses all of the Billtrust New Jersey corporate offices under one roof for the first time since March 2015. The company operates five additional facilities, and is actively growing its teams in Denver and Chicago.
Synchronoss: Synchronoss (Bridgewater), which has had its share of financial problems recently, announced some good news. The company participated in a successful Proof of Concept (PoC) for a new cross-carrier mobile payment service based on the Rich Communications Services (RCS) global messaging standard and on TBCASoft’s cross-carrier blockchain platform. Synchronoss’ partners in this payments solution were SoftBank Corp., a Tokyo-based telecom carrier, and TBCASoft (Sunnyvale, Calif.), an “innovator” in cross-carrier blockchain platform technology.
Synchronoss President and CEO Glenn Lurie said: “Our PoC demonstrates how SoftBank is at the forefront in bringing to market new cutting edge technology through the use of blockchain as well as new RCS-based mobile services, which will disrupt the current messaging and payments market, creating new opportunities for customers, brands, and businesses.” He noted that this will drive incremental revenue for operators from messaging.
“RCS messaging will become the foundation for a new, feature-rich marketplace for brands and merchants, both large and small, to interact with subscribers,” he added. “With our expertise and global reach across multiple messaging platforms – not only RCS, but also email, IM, MMS and SMS, Synchronoss is ideally positioned to take advantage of this important new trend in mobile.”
Princeton Identity:Princeton Identity (Hamilton), a company that provides a biometric security system featuring iris identification, has received three new patents:
Patent 10042994 for Validation of the Right to Access an Object.
Patent 10025982 for Collecting and Targeting Marketing Data and Information Based upon Iris Identification.
Patent 10038691 for Authorization of a Financial Transaction.
The new patents represent applications of Princeton Identity’s unique approach to iris authentication in three very important areas: access, marketing and financial transactions. Using the techniques described in these patents, Princeton Identity advances the application of iris identification and personnel authentication beyond the domain of physical security; it anticipates the adoption of these technologies in the broader marketplace.
The company also announced that its iris-scanning technology was being used in the Samsung Galaxy Note9. Building on the successful integration of the technology into both the Galaxy S8 and S9 devices, Galaxy Note9 enables users to easily unlock their phones with a quick glance at the device, maximizing both security and convenience. The Samsung Galaxy Note9 was officially launched on August 9 at an event held in Brooklyn, N.Y.
State urged to move away from traditional transmission and distribution lines, concentrate instead on ‘non-wire’ new technologies
The state yesterday began soliciting input on how to modernize an aging electric and gas grid, a step some view as perhaps the most important barrier to achieving a clean-energy future.
New Jersey may have a long way to go, especially when it comes to integrating renewable energy and other more localized energy resources into the grid, according to those who spoke at a hearing on a new energy master plan.
With the Murphy administration setting a target of 100 percent clean energy by 2050, the state must accelerate development of a range of new technologies to make that happen, several speakers argued.
The task is complicated by rising pressure to make the grid more resilient to more frequent and more potent storms, an issue driving utilities to seek approval for big investments in strengthening the electric and gas systems.
But some argued that should not necessarily result in building traditional transmission and distribution lines to bolster reliability.
Avoid more expensive versions of existing system
“A modernized grid should not be focused on more expensive versions of what we’ve been working with for more than a hundred years,’’ said Nicole Sitaraman, a senior manager at SunRun, a prominent residential solar developer. “Decentralization is a critical component.’’
Sitaraman and others suggested priority should be given to non-wire alternatives to enhancing the grid and the transition to cleaner energy. A recent report by a solar trade association found such an approach could hold down rising costs faced by utility customers, she noted.
For New Jersey to achieve its renewable-energy goals, the state should promote new technologies to modernize the grid, including energy storage systems and advanced metering infrastructure, advocates said.
Due to a forecast of rain for the evening of September 12, the organizers of the Newark Venture Partners (NVP) class of fall 2018 moved their New York City launch party from a hotel rooftop to the ground floor at the same location.
The startup founders participating in the NVP program mingled with reporters and investors, and told them their stories. It was clear that the forecast ahead for many of these startups was a lot brighter than the weather outside.
The seven startups in the new class (listed below) were selected from more than 1,800 applicants – approximately triple the number that had applied for past classes.
The startups are led by six female founders or cofounders, including four that serve as CEOs. They represent diverse industries such as HR tech, voice, healthcare consumerization, health tech, robotics and fintech and are based as far away as Florida, Louisiana and California.
“The competition to be selected for this cohort was fierce, and we are confident that this group of startups are game changers,” said Tom Wisniewski, managing partner at NVP. “The momentum at NVP is palpable, and we are excited to help these companies put down roots and grow here in Newark.”
For those unfamiliar with NVP, it is a $45 million East Coast early-stage venture fund backed by seven leading corporations based in the Garden State, and by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The seven New Jersey-based companies partnering with NVP are: Audible (an Amazon Company), Dun & Bradstreet, Horizon BlueCross BlueShield, Panasonic USA, Prudential Financial, RWJBarnabas and TD Bank.
The startups in this fall’s NVP class will receive a beautiful work space in Newark, as well as assistance and collaboration from the various corporate partners, something that was a game-changer for several of the founders we spoke with during the launch party. The event was held in the SoHo section of New York, at the stylish Mr. Jones cocktail bar and lounge.
NVP was originally founded in 2014 by Don Katz, Audible founder and CEO, with a mission to grow Newark as an East Coast technology hub and recast the city as a pioneering innovation zone and ultra-bandwidth tech center.
With billions of dollars earmarked for construction projects, affordable housing, new retail development, and 21st-century work spaces, Newark’s community of entrepreneurs and young talent is growing, as they look to access New York City’s resources without the big city’s legendary cost of living and doing business.
An initial $120,000 is being invested in each of the startups, with an additional $100,000 injection coming at the close of the program. There may also be further investment from NVP’s direct investment arm of up to $1 million in subsequent seed and Series A funding rounds. These are just some of the benefits that come with participation in the program.
Below are the eight startups in the NVP class of fall 2018. Only one of these companies, Upsider, was founded in New Jersey.
Ejenta (San Francisco, Calif.): Founded by Rachna Dhamija (also the CEO) and Maarten Sierhuis
Ejenta gathers data from wearable and internet-of-things devices and from electronic medical records to create analytics driven by artificial intelligence (AI) that help health providers detect and predict which patients need care, resulting in reduced readmissions and increased patient satisfaction. Ejenta’s technology is exclusively licensed by NASA, where the founder developed AI to monitor astronauts in space.
Exempt Me Now (New Orleans, La.): Founded by Sevetri M. Wilson (also the CEO)
ExemptMeNow seeks to drastically reduce the hassle of becoming tax-exempt and to connect the dots between grantees and grantors. ExemptMeNow does this by providing a Software-as-a-Service solution that simplifies the creation, maintenance and compliance processes for startups and established nonprofit organizations.
Floss Bar (New York): Founded by Eva Sadej (also the CEO)
As the first preventive brand for oral health care, Floss Bar offers high-quality routine dental care at reasonable prices and at a location of your choosing. With a model flexible enough to work with clients of any size, they provide dental services on site for individuals and companies.
RankMiner (St. Petersburg, Fla.): Founded by Preston Faykus
RankMiner seeks to automatically predict agent and customer behavior in the call center industry by analyzing 383 signals to identify the emotions and behaviors during the phone conversations that lead to particular business outcomes.
StackSource (New York): Founded by Tim Milazzo and Nathan Wall
StackSource’s digital marketplace seeks to provide superior solutions for the $3 trillion commercial loan market: immediate lender matching, data system integration for instant diligence, and a platform to manage the underwriting process end-to-end.Talentegy (Dover, Del.): Founded by Dwaine Maltais, Stephanie S. Ralston and Shawna Berthold Over 50 percent of candidates sever their applications for jobs at companies due to a poor candidate experience, and over half abandon the application process because of a technical issue. Talentegy solves this problem by applying AI-enhanced talent analytics and engagement technology that continuously monitors the candidate journey to provide data-driven insights that will lead to improvements.
Team Mobot (New York): Founded by Eden Full Goh
Team Mobot deploys teams of robots powered by computer vision to test software across different devices, use cases and integrations. As a solution for enterprises, Team Mobot aims to cut quality-assurance costs in half and deliver test results on demand.
Upsider (Ho-Ho-Kus): Founded by Josh McBride and Xuan Smith
Upsider allows recruiters to leverage AI technology to identify a comprehensive set of job candidates that align with their requirements, resulting in a more accurate identification of the best possible candidate for a position. Upsider also offers a set of communication tools for engaging with job applicants.
AT&T, a company with a rich history of innovation in New Jersey, has dusted off significant historical materials that have been archived for years, and created a space to display them in its new AT&T Science & Technology Innovation Center, located on its AT&T Labs campus, in Middletown.
Surrounded by a number of dignitaries, Andre Feutsch, president of AT&T Labs and AT&T chief technology officer, cut the ceremonial ribbon on the door to the interactive museum on August 28.
ATT ribbon cutting - YouTube
New Jersey Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, who also heads the Office of Communications and Public Outreach at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, congratulated AT&T for its past innovative accomplishments, and urged the company to keep working towards a future that will restore New Jersey’s place in the innovation economy.
Sheldon Hochheiser, AT&T’s corporate historian, took NJTechWeekly.com for a tour of the archives. He pointed out that he manages the AT&T archives in New Jersey, which are housed in seven climate-controlled storerooms that are filled with all kinds of things from the company’s past.
“I am entirely responsible for the intellectual content here,” Hochheiser told us. Irwin Gerszberg, assistant vice president, advanced radio technologies at AT&T Labs, and an innovator in his own right, visited the archives, which is a working research facility that is not open to the public. He asked Hochheiser, “Why is all this stuff here where no one can see it?” The answer was that there hadn’t been enough money to create a museum. Irwin then found the money for the museum which made the Innovation Center a reality.
“What we wanted to do, as AT&T Labs, is tell the story of our amazing history of innovation, going back to Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone,” said Hochheiser “And we are still innovating today.”
Hochheiser and Gerszberg figured out how they wanted to tell the story. With help from AT&T archivists, they looked through the archives to pick out photographs, documents and artifacts that would tell “how AT&T had been innovating for 142 years. We wanted to tell the story of how we’ve used that innovation to improve telecommunications in the United States,” Said Hochheiser.
Gerszberg told us that he had been with AT&T for 40 years, and that he was the vision behind the innovation center. “I felt we needed something in the state of New Jersey to motivate people, to motivate the employees,” he said. “Many people have come to me over the years and said they had ideas, but how can they as one person, affect the company, and affect the world. I would tell them that anyone can affect billions of people. You don’t believe me? Let’s start with Alexander Graham Bell.”
Gerszberg explained that Bell’s idea for a “talking telegraph wire” had been ridiculed by many people. But he persisted, and that “talking telegraph wire” turned into the telephone, which later turned into the whole telecommunications industry. And that did change the world.
“Many, many others came after him: the inventor of the transistor, the discoverers of the big bang theory, discoverers of information theory. … People don’t know that AT&T started the motion picture industry as well,” he added. The museum is one place where visitors and employees can come and see the greatness of AT&T’s past, and all the inventions that happened over time. And they may get inspiration, he said.
Gerszberg grew up on a family farm just 20 miles from AT&T's Bell Laboratories. He went to work for AT&T, but his career has also been one as an inventor. In fact, one of the rooms in the Innovation Center is devoted to a project called “AirGig,” a "broadband-over-powerlines" technology that AT&T says was Gerszberg’s idea.”
According to the AT&T website, this project answered the question, “What if we could deliver internet service along power lines? No cable, no satellite, no fiber. If you can see power lines, you can have broadband.” Fifteen years in the making, “Project AirGig is set to revolutionize how and where high-speed internet is delivered,” the website continues. It also says that AirGig is being developed at AT&T Labs.
Apart from being packed with artifacts from AT&T’s past, the Technology Innovation Center is quite interactive, with quizzes and movies to teach and entertain. One engaging photograph shows how telephone operators worked, and how helpers on roller skates kept track of the billing for calls. The museum is divided into four different sections, including instruments, innovation, switching and transmission. One of the first Telstar communications satellites occupies a corner.
Although the museum is physically located behind the company's security desk, AT&T plans to allow school groups to visit in the
In July, the EDA launched an Innovation Challenge which offered individual communities or teams of municipalities and their partners an opportunity to compete for planning awards of up to $100,000. The awards were designed catalyze the growth of local ecosystems throughout New Jersey.
“We designed the Innovation Challenge to help communities take the next step forward in building an inclusive, sustainable culture of entrepreneurship and innovation – whether they already had an established ecosystem or were just beginning,” said EDA CEO Tim Sullivan. “The uniqueness and quality of the proposals we received illustrates New Jersey’s spirit of innovation, from the south to the north. We look forward to working with these communities as they turn their plans into reality.”
Sullivan added that there were more awards to come. Most of the Innovation Challenge awards given so far involve technology of one kind or another. The awards include:
City of Bridgeton
"Bridgeton: A Center for Smart Food Manufacturing" is a project that seeks to establish a technology hub for the food industry cluster in Bridgeton. The plan calls for creating a 15,000 to 20,000 square foot facility dedicated to development, testing, and training on the latest cutting-edge technology to make food production, processing, and packaging safer and more efficient.
City of New Brunswick
The City of New Brunswick, together with its partners, is addressing two issues which it sees as essential components to growing the local innovation economy. First, the Center for Advanced Infrastructure & Technology (CAIT) at Rutgers University will direct a project focused on improving mobility through universal connectivity. Second, the partnership will work with an architect and lab planner to design a prototype “Lab of the Future” for start-up companies that require the availability of flexible lab spaces.
The County of Passaic, City of Paterson, and City of Passaic will develop a needs assessment to evaluate options to install a high-speed 5G fiber network in the commercial and industrial areas of Paterson and Passaic so they can better attract and support entrepreneurs and emerging sector employers.
City of Trenton
The City of Trenton will look at the feasibility of implementing a Trenton Production and Knowledge Innovation Campus (TPKIC) in the city's creative, education, and transit districts, anchored by a build out of Mercer County Community College's James Kerney Campus. The campus would act as a multi-university collaborative hub and including a new research and commercialization nexus near Trenton Transit Center. They envision a research-driven incubator and maker's campus for existing and start-up businesses, local creators, students and faculty at partner colleges and universities, as well as Trenton Public Schools students and recent graduates.
The Atlantic County government, with its partners, proposes funding a Strategic Plan and Action Agenda for the location, design, and development of the Atlantic County Aviation and Technical Academy near the Atlantic City International Airport, to provide an adequately trained workforce to serve these facilities and address the current and emerging needs of the aviation industry.
City of Atlantic City
Atlantic City and Stockton University propose a Center for Marine & Environmental Science to be located in Atlantic City, potentially on the waterfront at Bader Field. The Center will be a multi-story, multi-tenant building serving as the home for its Center for Marine and Coastal Sciences, office and lab space for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, and a coastal resilience/Blue Economy Coastal Research Incubator.
Camden County and its partners will seek to demonstrate and evaluate a holistic, integrated approach to improve downtown Camden's surface transportation performance and integrate this approach with other best practices involving public safety. Camden County intends to address how emerging transportation data, technologies, and applications can be integrated with existing systems to address Camden's transportation challenges.
Township of Union
Union Township has a plan to expand the current incubator housed at the Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship (ILSE) at Kean University. ILSE operates an 8,000 square foot business incubator for startups and for companies relocating or expanding into New Jersey, provides business accelerator services, hosts industry events, and conducts R&D through its research unit.
Monmouth County is seeking to facilitate the growth of an emerging technology cluster at Fort Monmouth, which already includes three tech company headquarters with over 1,000 employees currently located on the former Fort.
Proposals were scored against pre-established evaluation criteria, the EDA said, including “the plan’s ability to achieve one or more goals of the Innovation Challenge, strength of the established partnership, commitment of additional funding from partners, presence and strength of a defined collaborative stakeholder engagement process, evidence of the plan’s ability to grow the number of small businesses/attract employers, planning for solutions based on the use of new and emerging technologies, and an ability to execute the project or viability of the planning project.”
Those who applied also received points based on their Municipal Revitalization Index (MRI) ranking. MRI is the State’s official measure of municipal distress. The MRI ranks New Jersey’s municipalities according to eight separate indicators that measure diverse aspects of social, economic, physical, and fiscal conditions in each locality.