How HAX is making Newark into global destination for hard tech startups

Largest VC-backed program for hard tech will use new 35K sq. ft. HQ on Cedar Street to help companies turn impossible into inevitable

Silana, a company trying to find a way to automate the sewing process — an advancement that would enable clothing to not just be able to be manufactured quickly and more cost-effectively, but also more sustainably — is just the type of company HAX in Newark wants to attract:

  • It is based in hard tech;
  • It has an environmentally friendly impact;
  • It was founded far away (in this case, Austria); and …
  • It has huge potential but no guarantee of success.

That’s the profile, said Duncan Turner, a former founder turned global managing director of HAX (and a general partner of its parent company, SOSV).

Duncan Turner speaks at the event.

Speaking Monday at the official grand opening of the 35,000-square-foot lab space on Cedar Street in Newark, Turner said the goal of HAX, the largest venture capital-backed program for hard tech in the world, is to provide opportunity to create discoveries that could change the world — something HAX has been doing around the globe for a dozen years.

HAX’s vision from the start has been to help founders make the impossible, inevitable,” he told a who’s who crowd of leaders in technology, entrepreneurship, higher education and government. “Its strength is finding ecosystems, where we have the leverage to help make that happen.”

SOSV already is doing that in HAX offices in San Francisco, Tokyo and Shenzhen, China.

“These are all areas where there are unique capabilities to really accelerate hardware and the next technologies that will define the future,” Turner said.

Newark is quickly getting up to speed.

HAX has been working with potential entrepreneurs for more than a year while it was building out its permanent space that includes mechanical labs, electronics labs and chemistry labs.

“Everything we need to fuel the development of startups,” Turner said.

That includes money.

The headquarters, which was created through funding by SOSV and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, already has two dozen teams working to change the world, Turner said.

“Everything from actual access to health care to redefining manufacturing,” he said. “Those teams have already raised $50 million on top of the $50 million that we’ve invested. And we’re just starting, there’s plenty more to come.”

And it’s all happening in Newark.


Gov. Phil Murphy has preached restoring the state’s innovative economy since he was candidate Murphy. And, he’s made many moves — and helped create many programs — that are starting to make New Jersey more attractive to startups.

HAX is another level success story.

A game-changer. A big win for Newark and the state. A recognition that Newark has a culture of innovation and manufacturing, Murphy said repeatedly.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka at the event.

“This is a really big deal,” he said.

Many of the companies that are being created are involved in so many of the sectors the governor has emphasized: clean energy, sustainability, manufacturing, technology — and all come with a commitment to onshoring in an effort to shore up the fragility of the supply chain when the U.S. is dependent on overseas manufacturing.

And a commitment to address climate change.

It’s why the state, through the EDA, put up $25 million of its own money to help fund the building of the headquarters — and fund the support founders coming here from across the country and around the world need.

EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said the companies at HAX often bring another attribute. Many represent a focus of the Murphy administration — access and opportunity for diverse founders from communities that have been overlooked for so long.

“We want to be the most diverse and inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem in America,” Sullivan said. “That’s a lot easier said than done.

“How do you do it? You invest in programs, like the Black and Latino Seed Fund that the governor funded two budgets in a row. You do it with things such as the Innovation Fellows Program, which is sponsoring and funding 30 founders, primarily women and people of color.

“And you do it by making a big bet in HAX in Newark, one of America’s great cities that is home to people from all over the world and represents diversity in all its many forms.”

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka certainly agreed.

He noted the city’s long history as a manufacturing hub — and how its connection to the port grows in importance every day due to supply chain issues. HAX can help that, he said.

“We can actually have manufacturing here in New Jersey, but, more importantly, in Newark,” he said.

The benefits go beyond the bottom line.

“I think the things that we offer are a lot more material and tangible — more so than even the money,” he said. “I think that HAX choosing this area creates all kinds of opportunities for us up and down this corridor in hard tech and soft tech.”


All of this brings us back to Silana, the Austrian company that Murphy noted may have been the first to make the move from Vienna to Newark.

Turner wasn’t surprised.

As a former founder, he told the audience he knows all of the challenges that startups can face — challenges that HAX can help with. He knows HAX will play well globally.

Some of the equipment inside the HAX facility.

It all starts with desire, Turner said.

“We just want the best talent,” he said. “That can come from anywhere in the world.”

Turner admits there often is a short conversation about the difference between Newark and New York City — but, in the end, he said, founders are looking for a place they can succeed.

Newark is that place, Turner tells them.

“We’re investing in new technologies that are going to completely rewire both physically and figuratively the U.S. industrial landscape — from electrification to reshoring the factory,” he said. “In general, we see that those type of companies are looking for a place that has an industrial future and an industrial past.”

HAX understands that as well as anyone.

Newark’s rich history is a reason why HAX choose Newark when it was making a global search for its new headquarters in the summer of 2022, Turner said.

“It was about finding an ecosystem birthplace for the reindustrialization of the U.S.,” he said. “A place (where) we could find world-class talent close to some of the largest industries in the world. And land to expand with an industrial heritage and an infrastructure that can support a lot of the companies that are investing in — to help them get to their next phase.

“Newark really has all of this. It’s got an industrial heritage, truly exceptional universities, which are literally a stone’s throw away from us, (with) academic departments that develop not just (intellectual property), but also talent that will shape the world for generations to come.”

The proximity to New York City and Boston, two leading areas for venture capital investment into hard-tech companies, adds to the appeal, Turner said.

“This really is a truly unique place to build something like this,” he said.