Newark Venture Partners shows off latest cohort — and announces plans for 2nd round of funding

Before the latest cohort of Newark Venture Partners took the stage — showing off their companies in an effort to attract more funding — NVP founder Don Katz announced the organization would be doing a bit of the same thing.

Katz, the executive chairman of Audible and the impetus for NVP, said he’s ready for NVP to take the next step in its growth. It’s time, he said, for the early-stage venture capital fund investing in business-to-business technology companies, to grow, too.

“It’s time to double down on NVP’s success,” he told the crowd at the Audible Innovation Cathedral in Newark earlier this week. “NVP is raising $100 million for NVP 2.”

Katz said Audible will invest $20 million in NVP 2 and announced RWJBarnabas Health and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation already have committed to help fund the effort.

“The mission for Audible and the other contributors to NVP 2 is to significantly ratchet up the strategic innovation value for their core businesses with NVP 2,” Katz said.

The new funding will allow NVP to continue to build upon its existing model, funding more direct investment in early-stage startups and expanding its accelerator arm, NVP Labs.

With a selectivity rate of less than 1%, the number of companies in the twice-annual cohorts remains the same, but it will enable NVP to offer more support and more capital to participating companies, creating a more competitive landscape and outcomes for founders.

“NVP 2’s leadership would create programmatic opportunities for companies to create new models to leverage minority, majority and even M&A with high-potential startups,” Katz said.

After Katz’s presentation, New Jersey Assemblywoman and Assembly Budget Chair Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Newark) said she is going to introduce legislation that would have the state appropriate $25 million to NVP 2.

The seven companies of NVP’s latest cohort then took the stage.

NVP Managing Partner Tom Wisniewski said they all have shown the ability to grow and prosper — in Newark and beyond.

“This cohort is our most advanced group of startups yet, and, as each group gets stronger and more advanced, the city of Newark feels a ripple effect with potential for new jobs, new solutions and new opportunities,” he said. “It’s a strategy for creating economic impact through innovation, and Newark is showing the world that it can also spark a city’s renewal.”

Representatives of the latest Newark Venture Partners cohort.

The companies include: Botmock, a conversation design platform for voice tech; Brahmin Solutions, an inventory management system for mid-sized businesses; Galaxy.AI, an artificial intelligence solution for claims automation for the auto insurance industry; MindRight Health, mental health coaching via text message with a focus on communities of color; omniX, a machine learning/computer vision platform that uncovers and analyzes data from existing company cameras; Speak2 Software, a voice tech platform for senior and assisted living facilities that streamlines operations while increasing transparency for families; and SpeechKit, a text-to-audio platform for the online news media industry.

The group includes founders from Kuwait, South Africa, Australia, London, India and across the U.S. More than half are founders of color.

Here’s a look at them in greater detail:

Botmock: Chat and voice are rapidly becoming required methods of interaction. Botmock is a leading platform that enables cross-functional teams to collaborate, design and test conversational experiences. For clients from Delta to Nationwide, Botmock deploys projects five times faster and with improved results. Founded in Ottawa, Ontario, by Obaid Ahmed.

Brahmin Solutions: Sales inventory management has become increasingly complex as sellers need to coordinate across various distribution channels: B2C e-commerce, Amazon/Walmart/etc. and wholesale. Brahmin Solutions is the only inventory management platform that allows for management across all channels. Current clients have reported a 35% increase in revenue and a 40% increase in operational efficiency. Brahmin’s superior product has grown 20% MoM via word of mouth alone and is now ready to scale. Founded in Stamford, Connecticut, by Brahm Meka.

Galaxy.AI: Insurance carriers spend 12% of their revenue (policy premiums) in costs to process claims as they require manual vehicle inspections, amounting to an $80 billion problem globally. Galaxy.AI eliminates this cost with AI and computer vision technology that guides end users to take the best quality images and provides instant analytics of the damage. Current pilots have proven to decrease loss adjustment expenses up to 70% and cut estimation time by half, improving customer satisfaction and saving $15 million-plus annually for its clients. Founded in Boston by Jas Maggu.

MindRight Health: Despite a roughly two times increase in youth mental health issues over the past five years, there has been zero innovation to the in-person therapist model that carries a heavy stigma, in particular with communities of color. MindRight provides culturally responsive mental health coaching over text message, the highly-preferred method of communication for young people. Customers include AmeriHealth Caritas, one of the largest Medicaid insurers in the country looking to tackle social determinants of health within their youth population. Founded in Newark by Ashley Edwards.

The audience watches company presentations.

omniX: While there are nearly a billion commercial cameras deployed worldwide, these video feeds are untapped in value. omniX uses machine learning and computer vision platform to analyze video feeds and deliver analytics and predictive insights with no integration required. With an initial focus on Logistics and Quick Service Retail, omniX has proven to improve conversion rates by up to 35% and optimize operations. Founded in New York by Anoop Kanthan and Muthla Al-Sayer.

Speak2: Senior living is a $69 billion industry and is expected to grow to $80 billion by 2023. Speak2 modernizes the standard and inefficient push-button that is currently used by residents to signal facility nurses with voice software that routes a spoken request to the right support team member. It also allows for better resident communication, logs activity and syncs health requests with the EMR. Working with facilities across the U.S., Speak2 has proven to decrease staffing costs by two times and increase pricing by resident fees by 10%. Founded in Holmdel by Matt Smith.

SpeechKit: Over the past few years, driven by new technologies and the rise of podcasts, audio has become a priority for news publishers. SpeechKit allows publishers to automatically generate, distribute, track and monetize audio editions of their news. Utilizing the latest text-to-speech, combined with a news-customized NLP pipeline and integrations that fit naturally into newsroom workflows, the service is the only complete solution to audio news publishing. Live on 100-plus news sites, serving millions of impressions per day, SpeechKit liberates news from the page for a generation on-the-go. Founded in London by James MacLeod and Patrick O’Flaherty.

NVP Managing Partner Dan Borok said the group represents the needs of the New Jersey economy going forward.

“Innovation is core to New Jersey’s economic growth — and Newark has the potential to be a driving force for the state,” he said. “Thanks to our group of engaged corporate partners, we are attracting businesses and talent from all over the globe to our space here on Washington Park — which is clear if you look at the roster of this latest cohort.”