Earlier this summer, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority held its Founders & Funders event for the first time since the COVID pandemic began. The NJEDA organizes these events so startup founders can meet as many investors who fund New Jersey companies as possible. This year, some 35 attendees met with 27 investors, who volunteered their time for the five-hour event, which took place at the Campus Center at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
NJTechWeekly.com interviewed many of the founders who attended. Below are brief accounts of a few of the startups and how their investor meetings went. This is the first part of a series.
Ted Mann is a serial entrepreneur who has led several tech companies based on computer image-recognition technologies. His newest venture is CollX, based in Haddonfield, which was actually inspired by his children.
“The whole idea for the app came about because my kids were having the hardest time trying to figure out what the Pokémon cards and sports cards they collected were worth,” Mann said. “And that was a problem when I was a kid, too. My son, Charlie, came to me and said, ‘Can you help me figure out a way to do this?’ And, after beating our heads against the wall for a while, I finally said, ‘Well, I think this technology that I’ve worked on for most of my career, image recognition, might be a way to make this a little easier.’
“CollX is an app that enables any card collector to instantly scan, identify and get the market price for their cards. We launched in sports cards, so, football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, wrestling. We have about 17 million unique cards in our database. You can take a picture of any of them, it will identify the card and tell you what it’s worth.”
We asked how the company updates all of this information, and he answered: “It’s a giant project. There’s a lot to keep track of! We are constantly pulling in images of cards, getting new checklists of cards and looking at other marketplaces like eBay to get sales data. And then we map it all back to the cards.”
The company launched in January 2022 and has already grown to 225,000 users, who are scanning an average of 100 cards each.
We asked Mann how his meetings with investors had gone. When we spoke to him, he had only had a couple of meetings, but he said they went “great.” He reintroduced himself to investors he had met in past ventures.
“It was exciting to hear the latest from them and fill them in on the latest from CollX,” he said. “It was also cool to be able to meet investors who are active in New Jersey, in particular, because it sometimes takes a great effort to find interested investors in this area.”
CatapultX, based in Montclair, is a New Jersey tech startup that has been around since 2019. During our interview at the Founders & Funders event, Zack Rosenberg, co-founder and CEO, gave us his short elevator pitch.
“We have developed an advertising product called ‘On-Stream,’ which creates smart overlays for CTV (connected TV) and web video. It uses (artificial intelligence) to understand what’s happening within the content and pair an advertiser accordingly.”
We asked about his meetings.
“It is so nice to be back in front of people again, having conversations and actually getting context around what people are saying! I would say that the meetings are both more informative than they tend to be over Zoom or over email, and in much greater depth,” he said.
“We are not yet looking for our next round, but we’re thinking about it. And I think some of the things that I heard here today are really going to shape that decision.”
We asked for an example, and Rosenberg obliged.
“I’ve been asking all the investors I speak to, ‘What’s the most important metric for you? Is it gross revenues? Or net revenue and number of customers? Or something else?’ And each one of them has given me a metric that I wouldn’t have thought of, or perhaps doesn’t make the most sense for me. So, as I’m thinking about the next round, we have to decide, do we want to take a little bit of money now or do we want to go for the full thing? There might be some work to do before we raise, and that’s what I’m learning.”
We’ve been following Eventdex, based in Morganville, an event-management company, for a while now, observing how it was able to pivot during the pandemic. We asked John Biscette, vice president of partnerships, to give us his elevator pitch.
“We are here today to help us in our continued growth of our event-management platform. We believe we have a very competitive advantage over a lot of people in our business, in that business matchmaking is a key component of our business that is really unmatched by any competitors in our space.”
He admitted that the event management arena has a lot of competition.
“But, fortunately, they have not been able to be as efficient in that sector as we have. We believe there’s a huge advantage for companies to continue to use us, and those who have not to start to use us,” he said. “Part of being here is to help us in finding a way so we can continue that growth. And that means raising some additional capital to help us achieve our goals for three times revenue each year.”
Biscette had had four meetings by the time we talked to him. Two of the investors said that his company wasn’t big enough to interest them, but the two others asked for follow-up conversations. The investors gave him some good advice, which was to stay focused on the business. They thought that Eventdex was a good business, and that the founders should continue to move it along.
“I just want to say we’re happy to be here. And we think it’s a great forum for us to continue to pitch our business, and also for people to get to know us,” Biscette concluded.
Reach CollX at: collx.app.
Reach CatapultX at: catapultx.com.
Reach Eventdex at: eventdex.comor call 732-333-1901.
ROI-NJ has teamed up with Esther Surden, creator of njtechweekly.com, to bring you insight into the tech world.