Meet the startups: EDA’s Founders & Funders brings together new companies, investors

(Editor’s Note: Part one of a two-part series.)

Recently, almost 30 startup founders had 10-minute meetings with some 20 investors at the latest Founders & Funders event, sponsored by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The event took place at the 1776 coworking space in the Cherry Hill Mall.

Founders & Funders is an exciting event for the New Jersey tech and life sciences community, because what begins as a quick networking meeting can sometimes end with a check.

At the very least, many of the startups that attend these events are asked to send the investors more information, or even to meet with them again in the near future. Since Founders & Funders began, more than 300 emerging companies have participated, according to the NJEDA.

Before their meetings, startup founders were treated to a talk by Tim Sullivan, CEO of the EDA, as well as an overview of the organization’s funding support for startups from Kathleen Coviello, the vice president of technology and life sciences investments at the EDA. 

Here are some of’s interviews with attending startups.

Ryan Herd, Caregiver Smart Solutions (Pompton Plains)

Ryan Herd of Caregiver Smart Solutions in Pompton Plains. ­

According to founder Ryan Herd, Caregiver Smart Solutions provides an easy, discreet and affordable way to monitor your loved ones as they age in place. 

“We use little nonintrusive sensors around your loved one’s place, whether it’s a condo, house or apartment, it really doesn’t matter, even if it is a senior living facility. We are monitoring things like movement, doors, medicine cabinets and refrigerators,” he told us.

“I had eight meetings today, and they were phenomenal. I asked every investor if they invested into health tech, which they did. I showed them my product and they were all interested. Out of the eight meetings, we have five follow-ups,” Herd said. 

Networking at the event proved to be very beneficial, as a member of the NJEDA gave him some great advice. 

“She is an early responder … (and gave) us some insight into the assisted living facilities, on deficiencies she sees when she gets called by them when a person needs help,” he said.

Catherine Mazzola and Ryan Kennedy, medEchat (Morristown)

Catherine Mazzola and Ryan Kennedy of medEchat in Morristown. ­

“We’ve created a Facebook or Instagram for health care, minus the comments on posts. MedEchat connects the patients, the pharma companies, the insurance companies and the health care providers in a social media platform,” said Chief Technical Officer Ryan Kennedy.

Catherine Mazzola, who is a pediatric neurosurgeon and medEchat’s chief medical officer, told us that the software works like this: 

From the parents’ point of view: “The app lets parents chat with practices. They can chat with everyone from the neurosurgeon to the billing department. An example is ‘Here’s a picture of my kid’s skin incision. Should I worry? Should I bring him to the ER? Should I come into the office?’ The doctor can chat back, and say, ‘No, that’s nothing to worry about,’ or send a prescription for an antibiotic cream. From a physician’s point of view, the app protects him or her because all the information goes back into the (electronic health record), showing what they chose to do. From a patient’s point of view, if a doctor tells you not to worry about it, and something happens, you have it documented. The app also lets doctors send videos to patients — for example, one on asthma — and post them to their public social media accounts,” she said.

“About 50% of the investors we met said we were still too early stage, and the other half said they wanted to follow up with us next week,” Kennedy added. “It seems like there are two types of investors here, those who emphasize product risk and those who emphasize market risk. Product risk means that they want to make sure the product works, and ours is actually working. Market risk means that they want to make sure the working product is market viable. There are products out there that no one wants. Investors gave us advice on where to look and how to look for funding.”

Chrystoff Camacho, ParaTrees (Newark)


Chrystoff Camacho of ParaTrees in Newark.

ParaTrees, which now operates out of the NJIT VentureLink incubator (formerly known as the Enterprise Development Center), was founded back in 2016 and is an environmental technology firm, said CEO Chrystoff Camacho. “We work with land managers and foresters to provide them the tools they need to sustainably manage their forests while still meeting management objectives. We have the technology to assist them with the management of forests, including drones.”

At the Founders & Funders event, “I had great meetings with investors. My main goal for today was to find mentorship. We realize we are too early for most investors, so we are aligning ourselves now with investors and trying to keep in touch with them. A number of investors told us they were interested when we are ready to reach out to them. They also advised me that I could look into other potential markets.”

Zack Rosenberg and James Altschuler, Catapult (Montclair)

Zack Rosenberg, left, and James Altschuler of Catapult in Montclair.

“We utilize premium sports videos to attract audiences to businesses such as sports bars and gambling companies. Catapult distributes a library of premium video content that any business can easily brand and distribute,” said co-founder and CEO Zack Rosenberg.

“We had five meetings so far. They went so fast,” he added. “They told us we’d have 10 minutes, but it felt like we just sat down, and it was time to leave. We think the meetings went very well. We are just starting out in terms of going after investors and getting our conversation and pitch right, but when we presented at TechLaunch BullPen, I think we got some really good feedback, which we were able to apply today. Some people had some concerns about our approach, but we were able to change their minds a bit. Some thought it was very interesting and that it wasn’t something they had seen before, and that was intriguing. They liked that it was patent protected, and that we understand content and how well content performs. We found that the feedback was helpful, and that there wasn’t much negativity here.”

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