The Epicenter Of Technological Creativity And Invention




Most Americans know New Jersey as The Garden State. But starting in the late 19th century, it was also hailed as The Innovation State. From Thomas Edison and his brilliant team of “Muckers” at the aptly named “Invention Factory” to the groundbreaking work of Alexander Graham Bell, which led to the birth of the modern communications industry pioneered at the “Idea Factory”(later known as Bell Labs), New Jersey was the epicenter of technological creativity and invention. In the next century, advances within the pharmaceutical and medical devices industry kept New Jersey squarely on the map as a giant of innovation.

Skip ahead to the heady years following the Millennium, only to be eclipsed by the devastating recession beginning in 2008, and despite New Jersey’s renowned brain trust, the climate for technology driven entrepreneurship was encountering a dry spell, exacerbated by the fertile opportunities cropping up in the form of technology accelerators in Silicon Alley (NYC), Philadelphia, and Boston, not to mention the glamorous allure of California’s Silicon Valley. The brain trust was devolving into a brain drain and something needed to be done.

Enter Angel Investor & Serial Entrepreneur Mario Casabona who (in partnership with the NJ EDA for a 3-year period, along with other NJ Angel Investors) created the state’s first-ever technology accelerator, TechLaunch, whose core mission was to stimulate New Jersey’s tech ecosystem by mentoring startups and providing them with access to investment. Housed on the campus of Montclair State University, TechLaunch was run like a 16 week boot-camp operation that, with the help of close to 150 volunteer Mentors, held classes and lectures while providing personal, hands-on advice. The goal was to help its aspiring entrepreneurs literally launch their fledgling businesses into the marketplace, with each year’s cohorts competing for angel investment during one final Demo Day of presentations.

Three years later, in 2016, a now independent TechLaunch conducted an internal reboot of its own, in response to the growing startup ecosystem in New Jersey. How? By adjusting its core objective toward generating Quality Deal Flow for early-stage investors and preparing entrepreneurs for the Due Diligence Process. It accomplished this by offering a new virtual business accelerator to remove the pressure from investors and entrepreneurs alike, in a program considerably more fluid and fun. The central program at the heart of the new TechLaunch is called BullPen, a quarterly series of pitch events—similar to the popular Shark Tank format—where four early stage tech companies present to a mixed audience and a panel of investors/judges, at rolling university locations throughout New Jersey.

Today, TechLaunch commercializes emerging technology by finding and nurturing early-stage tech ventures to accelerate growth via mentoring, coaching, networking, and access to resources and capital. The TechLaunch name is synonymous with New Jersey Entrepreneurship, and to date has proudly served over 75 tech-focused companies and mentored over 150 aspiring entrepreneurs.

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