tech-innovation

Check Out a 360° Tour of Bell Works

Kevin Liptak, owner and CCO of Refresh Advertising, is used to thinking and going big. And he is growing his company at Bell Works for that reason: it’s the perfect space to think big and show other brands how they can go big, too. Refresh is a full-service digital agency that utilizes the latest tech, high-definition video, 360° photos, videos, tours, and virtual reality in particular, to create engaging and memorable experiences for brands.

“Any time a photo doesn’t do a space or project justice, we use tech to really immerse someone in it,” Kevin said.

The company takes its name from its use of forward-thinking technologies, the latest techniques and a little creativity to reinvigorate and revitalize brands. They take pride in bringing virtual reality to companies big and small, as long as the size or scope of a project would benefit from the technology. And when Kevin first saw Bell Works a little over a year ago, the size and scope of this historic building instantly spoke to him.

“It was just such a cool space,” said Kevin about his first time here. “You just felt an energy being here.”

And that energy was part of why, not long after, Refresh relocated from a coworking space in Fort Monmouth to CoLab the coworking space here.

Roof Deck 360See the roof deck in 360°.

The coworking community includes graphic designers, app developers, real estate professionals, marketers, photographers and business coaches. And the industries they work in are diverse: farming, human resources, non-profit, education, legal and more. Click here for membership rates.

Since its move, Refresh has found ways to spotlight their new home in some recent projects, like leveraging the iconic exterior of the world’s largest mirror for a car commercial filmed together with fellow CoLab company Silver Style Pictures.

“We appreciate the CoLab environment, where you can network with people outside your door,” said Kevin. “It makes you want to push yourself a little harder, innovate a little more.”

It was in that spirit of innovation and wanting to capture the impressive scale that makes walking into the space such a “wow” moment that Kevin and the Refresh team created Bell Works in 360°. To virtually put viewers in the metroburb, Refresh combined the building’s logo, colors, imagery, and iconography along with the team’s photography to create an immersive brand experience. The end result is a web and virtual reality version that blends Bell Works’ branding with high-resolution 360° shots of several building "hotspots."

CoLab at Bell WorksGet a 360° look inside one of the coworking spaces.

“Our goal is always, and especially with this Bell Works project, to make sure we had a way to capture the size and scale of a place in a way that a photo alone can’t,” said Kevin. “I’m really proud of this one.”

Bell Works in 360° was first featured as a demo at The New Jersey Advertising Club’s annual “Innovation Summit “ in November 2018 at Bell Works.

360 home

You can view Bell Works in 360° here.

When it comes to their virtual reality capabilities, Refresh Advertising has simplified the production process, making this technology, which was once only a novelty available to billion dollar businesses, an accessible and affordable business tool available to your average company.

“Virtual reality can be used for every use under the sun," said Kevin. “Headsets are getting cheaper, quality is getting better. Like everything else, it’s all about how quickly the tech moves.”

Brands that partner with Refresh can bring their work to life with branded 360° environments, photography, and video. They can then showcase their space with their own portable, wireless headsets, like the Oculus Go, which can also be custom wrapped and carried in a logoed carrying case.

Atrium 360See the atrium in 360°.

“We’re focused on solving business problems with virtual reality and 360° photography,” said Kevin. “Our real thing is combining a company’s brand with the experience. It’s not the experience for the experience’s sake.”

See our coworking rates, building amenities and space options. Download the Bell Works Template for Growth.

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5 Stroller Friendly Things to do At Bell Works this Winter

Rain. Snow. Cold. The dreary atmosphere of winter means few options for parents of stir-crazy kids, and especially fewer options when you can’t stomach one more trip to Chucky Cheese or one more afternoon of Pinterest crafts laden with glitter and the weight of your crafty inadequacies.

But there is hope. And it looks like the quarter mile long glass enclosed Bell Works atrium - the perfect boredom buster, for parents and kids alike.

The Street at Bell Works is a great place to get your steps in for the day without battling the chill with every step: it’s a stroller-friendly pathway that connects all of the places -- restaurants, open spaces, stores and even a library -- with the people -- parents, kids and workers -- who make up the unique metroburb community. You could say, it’s always sunny at Bell Works.

Bell Works

Baby Brearley comes to Bell once a week to have lunch with her mom Rhea who works at iCIMS.

And though The Street is filled with great places to shop and eat, hanging out with some goldfish and a juice box is welcome too.

So, get out of the house, snag an easy to find parking spot (follow signs for Red, Blue, Yellow or Purple lots - they all lead to an atrium entrance) and discover a new place to cure your cabin fever and make some memories, without breaking the bank.

Let the kids go free range

Capped by a full-length skylight, the atrium features two large turf covered areas, perfect for letting your little ones burn off some of that pent-up energy they seem to endlessly have. Grab a seat on a bean bag chair or plop down on the ground yourself and happily let them run circles around you on either of the turf fields. Given the size of Bell Works, these astroturf fields are great spots for gentle ball games or just running free. Go ahead, rearrange all the plastic furniture, make it into a soccer goal or an obstacle course. Whatever’s you. This space is all about play.

Bell Works

Photo by Instagram user @megankhichiphoto.

Just add a juice box

These fields are also a perfect place to create some mom magic and throw an indoor picnic. Just bring a blanket and some food and you’re ready to go. And if packing a picnic lunch is too much work (no judgement here), there are plenty of food options at Bell Works, including chicken fingers and French fries from Mezza Luna, a cheese quesadilla from Estrella Azul, plus other options at Bell Market, Booskerdoo Coffee & Baking Co., and The Hummus & Pita Co.

Bell Works

Photo by Instagram user @curlyhairconspiracy.

Visit the library

With more than 60 shelves worth of books in over 18,000 square feet of space, this state-of-the-art space isn’t just a library. It’s a beautifully designed, modern multi-use learning and community center. Plus, picking up some of the latest kids books and a bestseller or two for yourself gives you a perfect reason to come back to Bell Works and explore some more. (Maybe even without the kids!) Click here for upcoming kid activities like salt dough making and polymer play.

Photo by Instagram user @aimeewong.

Get yourself a mani

If you’re a busy supermom and omniscient multi tasker, don’t forget to put some me time in your schedule. Meet a mom friend at Bell Works on Wednesdays or Fridays and schedule a manicure at Salon Concrete, the latest addition to their services menu. Tag team and get pampered while the other watches your collected kids. The salon is located right on the turf in the west atrium. For easy access, choose Purple or Yellow parking lots.

Bell Works

Middletown moms Nicole and Dana with their little ones Zeke and Reagan enjoying a morning on the turf.

Make Wednesdays market day

Rise above the monotony of the week’s grocery store run and mark your calendar for Bell Works Fresh, the weekly farmer’s market here. Besides just the usual fruit and veg, Fresh brings vendors of artisan breads, local art and photography, and luxuries like vintage clothing, jewelry, candles and local sauces and honeys. They even have one that offers ready made dinners and soups. The vendor mix changes weekly so check for updates on their site.

Bell Works

Bell Fresh vendor Annie & Em’s littlest fan!

So, if your cabin fever is at a fever pitch, turn yet another blah winter day into a memorable one by stopping in and checking out Bell Works.

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Give Love, From The Street at Bell Works in The Heart of Holmdel

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with diamonds and roses, but sometimes something unexpected is just as appreciated for Valentine’s Day. After all, your valentine is one-of-a-kind, shouldn’t they receive a gift as unique as they are? Bell Labs was the home of innovation, so it only makes sense that The Street at Bell Works offers a mix of surprising gift ideas, making it the perfect spot for you to find a special something for that special someone.

Holmdel Florist: Non-traditional flowers

Flowers have been a part of Valentine’s Day for as long as there has been a Valentine’s Day. But just because your sweetie isn’t a red roses type doesn’t mean you have to totally skip a bouquet. Stop by Holmdel Florist or order online to find the right arrangement for the object of your affection. From succulents and sunflowers to lilies and birds of paradise, there are so many different blooms and colors to choose from - you’ll find one that will match your beloved’s unique style and personality. Whether you’re going for elegant or eye-catching, Holmdel Florist can design, create and deliver a beautiful arrangement that’s sure to make their coworkers jealous. (And if you want to go the safe route, Holmdel Florist has sweet rose deal too.)

Holmdel Florist at Bell Works

 

Chantelle’s Bell Market Wine + Spirits Club: Monthly membership

Get ready to toast to a spectacular Valentine’s Day with a gift that any wine connoisseur will love - a subscription to Chantelle’s Wine + Spirits Club at Bell Market. Perfect for beginners and wannabe sommeliers alike, the club features new selections hand picked by Chantelle Corbo each month. Chantelle is a longtime sommelier who has previously worked for the Ritz-Carlton and the Stephen Starr Restaurant Group before becoming the Bell Market beverage director (and one of the founders). Wine club memberships are available monthly or as a six-month package. This month’s tasting is on Tuesday, February 19, 4-7 p.m. Explore new varietals and regions, or just sit back, sip and enjoy.

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Salon Concrete: Gift card or monthly membership

Give the gift of glam with a salon gift card to Salon Concrete. Gift cards can be in any amount, and are good for any service, including the latest addition to their menu - manicures. Or if your beloved is longing for their own “glam squad,” maybe one of the salon’s monthly memberships is what they are dreaming of. There are four options to choose from:

  • The Blow Dry Club will give her a month of unlimited blow dry services including shampoo and conditioning, plus complimentary hot tools.
  • In love with a hair color chameleon? Gift membership to the Color Club where he or she can indulge their whims with unlimited single process color, glazes and color blow dry services.
  • If your significant other always wants to try the latest and greatest, sign her or him up for the Product Club and they’ll receive two full size retail products every month.
  • And looking flawless isn’t just for women: there’s the Men’s Barbering Club, with unlimited haircuts, clean ups and beard trims.
Salon Concrete at Bell Works

 

City Barn | Country Penthouse: Handmade rustic gifts and decor

Your significant other will thank you for skipping the candy carbs for a lasting and memorable gift like a rustic block or signs from City Barn | Country Penthouse. These affordable gifts are handmade in Massachusetts from reclaimed wood, each piece with its own character (just like your lover). Choose from one of their pre-made sayings or order a custom one with your own inside joke, special saying or even a photo. There's an almost endless variety of gifts here for him or her, from ties and dishes to wall hangings and locally inspired throw pillows. 

city barn country penthouse bell works

 

The Bar Method: Fitness membership

The Bar Method is all about customization: the signature method of this boutique fitness studio is perfect for students of all levels - meaning their first class will be as customized as the 50th. This transformative workout is designed to reshape and strengthen from head to toe - making it the right fit for every experience level, every body, and every age. And gifting options are just as versatile - from a two-week trial membership to a month of unlimited classes to a 20-pack of classes - you’re sure to find the right fit. So, no matter your loves’ fitness level, help her stick to her New Year’s workout resolution this Valentine’s Day.

 

Lauren Farrell Pop-Up Shop: Handbags

Handbag designer and entrepreneur Lauren Farrell has built her brand by making unique handbags for fashionable sports fans. For the month of February, you have the unique opportunity to shop her made-in-the-USA Lauren Farrell NY handbags at Bell Works. Her handbags are perfect for your favorite fanatic, with team colors, super-soft leather and stadium-friendly sizes. Stop in and if you can’t decide which bag is the perfect present, pick up a gift card instead. Read more about the origin of her latest collection.

 

Show your loved ones that you put some thought into the Valentine’s Day gift and pick up something special at one of the shops at Bell Works today.

 

From Retrofit to Community Center, Bell Works Gets Better With Age

Ten year transformation challenges are a risky endeavor for people. Regrettable decade old fashion choices and the volatility of the scale make these the territory of the brave (or the incredibly fit). In architecture too, 10 years of wear can mean faded signs and faded relevance. But not at Bell Works.

When Ralph Zucker of Somerset Development made the brave leap to purchase and redevelop the defunct Bell Labs building in Holmdel, NJ, there were more naysayers than cheerleaders. Now a decade after it sat vacant and overgrown, the iconic structure is an adaptive reuse - part office building, part retail center, part pedestrian gathering place. Zucker’s brainchild is now a little city in the suburbs called the metroburb.

See how Bell Works has changed in 10 years

The most obvious physical changes are in the atriums. See below, the once cluttered and closed off atriums and the solid walls that separated the offices from the expansive, light filled atrium. For the adaptive reuse, they were replaced with full glass walls - as architect Eero Saarinen had always intended.

Bell Labs

 

Bell Labs

The neglected and overgrown atrium after Bell Labs (and then Lucent) closed its doors. 

The three atriums here are now wide open gathering spaces. The center atrium features a custom furniture project called  The Tubes, the brainchild of a talented team of creatives: world-renowned furniture designer Ron Arad, the team behind the Italian artisan furniture company Moroso, and the creative team of Bell Works - Master Architect Alexander Gorlin, Creative Director and founder of NPZ Style + Décor Paola Zamudio, and Ralph Zucker, President of Somerset Development and the visionary behind the building’s adaptive reuse.

Bell Works, the metroburb in Holmdel, NJ

 The custom-designed atrium furniture are intended to be as much sculpture as they are a space to sit and enjoy the surroundings.

Now home to 2,000 workers from more than 75 tenant companies (and counting), Bell Works is also a community center for Monmouth County where every week it welcomes hundreds from the local community who use the Holmdel Library, visit the Wednesday farmers market and now, come for breakfast and lunch at Bell Market, The Hummus & Pita Co., and coffee shop Booskerdoo. Along The Street, the indoor pedestrian walkway, shoppers enjoy home decor store City Barn | Country Penthouse, a convenience store, Salon Concrete and fitness concept The Bar Method.

 

Six more retailers are under construction with openings planned for 2019 including Jersey Freeze ice cream shop; Alchemist Jewelers; Holmdel Florist; restaurants Mezza Luna and Estrella Azul. About 10 more retail leases are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Click here for more on retail news at Bell Works.

Step into Bell Works on any weekday morning and you might expect to find the trappings of an office park - workers drinking coffee and queuing up to the elevator to disappear until noon.

Bell Works, the metroburb in Holmdel, NJ

Bell Works is for everyone, even the littlest ones. And it may be cold outside but it's always warm and sunny in the atrium. Moms and dads, escape the cold and come by for a coffee, visit the library and stay for lunch. (You can even squeeze in a hair cut and a little home shopping.) Photo by Lauren Foti. 

Instead, children are skipping across a turf field, a UX team is huddled together in front of a World Cup viewing station and a local vinter is uncrating her chardonnay for that afternoon’s farmers market. There are those workers drinking coffee and taking the elevator, but you almost don’t notice them among the flurry of activity on what appears to be an indoor pedestrian street. Actually four distinct buildings, Bell Works is centered around three open atriums, two with green spaces, along the quarter mile indoor street.

Bell Labs

 

Bell Labs

 

Bell Works, the metroburb in Holmdel, NJ

The evolution of the public cafe area, from Bell Labs to Big Bang at Bell Works. Design by NPZ Style & Decor.

When world renowned architect Eero Saarinen set out to design the building in 1961 (when it was a home to over 6,000 Bell Labs employees), he knew he wanted to create an open-atrium scheme with this one-of-a-kind pedestrian street.

Bell Works, the metroburb in Holmdel, NJ

Local residents stop here for lunch and shopping after a workout. The building is open to the public Monday-Saturday.

The Street at Bell Works is a component of the metroburb concept. Coined by the New Urbanist movement, and popularized by Zucker, the metroburb is an urban hub, a core, a little metropolis in a suburban location. Zucker describes it to visitors like this, “A large-scale mixed use building, with great access, office, retail, entertainment, hospitality, residential, health, wellness, fitness, everything you would find in a metropolis but in a great suburban location. Think Red Bank, Morristown and New Brunswick.”

Bell Works, the metroburb in Holmdel, NJ

The luxury conference center serves tenants and guests with flexible meeting spaces and sleek design.

Bell Works now includes a full service luxury conference and event center for small and large scale corporate and hospitality events. Inquire about hosting an event. The transformation continues inside the world’s largest mirror as Bell Works builds a new coworking space, experience based entertainment concepts, and a rooftop boutique hotel slated to open in 2020.

On The Street where a week has a time lapse effect for visitors, office tenants can see changes daily. Many take walking meetings, host informal meetings in the atrium or find a quiet seat on the turf to think through a project. Working here means being a part of the state’s largest, most dynamic adaptive reuse project, and that has its perks.

“Work used to have to happen at a desk, and play was everything outside of being at that desk. Today, live/work/play means something totally different,” Zucker said. “Everything is coming together and there really is not a demarcation between live, work or play.” 

See how The Street at Bell Works will grow. Download the retail map.

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Irish Tech Company Finds a Move In Ready Home For Its US Branch at Bell Works

Call it fate. Or destiny. Or just great luck. Because when Ding — the Dublin-based tech company — landed at Bell Works this spring, the mobile top up giant not only found a great location for its second U.S. office, which was up and running in no time, but a kindred spirit in global connectivity.

“We wanted to hit the ground running, but also find something that represented the company’s forward thinking," James Hall, Ding’s head of Americas B2B said. “Bell Labs was the first to make a transatlantic connection and Ding is the premier global connector of families with loved ones overseas.”

Unlike the U.S., where most mobile phone users are tied to a monthly calling plan, 75 percent of the world’s 5 billion phones are prepaid, meaning there’s no contract and credit is purchased in advance of service. Ding links families overseas — many of them migrant workers— with families back home by letting them send mobile phone credit, or “top up” their phones.

Since its inception in 2006, Ding’s users have successfully sent over 300 million top-ups globally — via the app, online at Ding.com, and in-store at over 600,000+ retail outlets worldwide — making it the number one international mobile top-up platform in the world.

With an eye on expanding its market further into the Americas, Ding saw New Jersey — with its proximity to New York and Philadelphia, not to mention easy flights to Dublin and Canada — as a prime location for its second U.S. office (the first is in Miami). Hall and his team scouted spaces as far north as Jersey City and throughout Monmouth County, until finally landing in Holmdel to tour Bell Works.

 Ding at Bell Works

"There was just such a 'wow factor' when we first walked into the building," James Hall, Ding’s head of Americas B2B, said.

“It was actually one of the last spaces we looked at,” said Hall, who moved with his family from Dublin to run the Holmdel office. “There was just such a ‘wow factor’ when we first walked into the building.”

While a lot of the other locations the Ding team toured seemed like just run-of-the-mill office space, Hall said the college-campus feel and collaborative energy of the Bell Works reimagined metroburb design echoed Ding’s innovative mindset. “This felt more like a home for us,” he said, entering the center atrium that buzzed with lunchtime activity.

But it’s the history of Eero Saarinen’s futuristic building, which served for decades as a giant incubator for communications giant Bell Labs and pioneered global connectivity, that really speaks to the core of Ding’s forward thinking values, said Hall. As a pioneer connecting Europe and the U.S. back in the 1950s and proponent of the early development of the cell phone, the Bell Labs legacy perfectly reflected the Ding culture.

“It’s really about connecting people,” said Hall over cappuccinos at a table outside the recently-opened Booskerdoo coffee shop, which sits beneath Bell Works’ soaring glass atrium.

Colette Campbell, Ding’s head of corporate communications, agreed, “Our business is all about connecting our users and where better than in the place which completed the first transatlantic telephone cable. It was fate!”

Ding at Bell Works

Ding's business is all about connecting their users and where better to do that than in the place which completed the first transatlantic telephone cable?

“Global connectivity, something which Bell Labs researchers literally laid the cables for, is high on the list of priorities for James and the team there, as they set about connecting more and more users in the U.S. to family and friends back home,” she added.

Prior to Ding’s April move, the space was occupied by, Nvidia and was double its current size. The makers of graphics cards and driverless car technology moved upstairs to a larger space on the third floor, to accommodate their growing team.

Ding’s office was one of the original pre-built spaces designed by Bell Works’ Creative Director Paola Zamudio, before there were even any tenants in the building. Like the pret-a-porter designs of the fashion world, these “ready-to-wear” spaces were designed for design savvy companies looking to get up and running fast.

“I designed these offices thinking of the future tenant as an entrepreneur,” Zamudio said. For these entrepreneurs, the spaces needed to flexible with a lot of light and be very open. I wanted them to feel like a space to create.”

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Ding’s office is one of the original pre-built spaces designed by Bell Works’ Creative Director Paola Zamudio

Working with Ding’s brand team in the Dublin office, the team fashioned the Bell Works office after the Irish space, with furniture that mimics the company’s headquarters and the Ding logo displayed prominently along the front of the office. The space is comfortable for the five employees working there now, but Hall says he expects to double that number over the next year and thinks the space will easily accommodate 10-12 workers.

“The Bell works space is incredible what’s not to love?” said Campbell. “While the Ding office in NJ is similar in look and feel to Dublin, we sadly don’t have a campus feel that’s established in Bell Works.”

In a nod to the history of the building, Ding installed its own version of a phone booth — or as the Irish call it, a “calling booth” — at the back of its new office space. Unlike those more old-fashioned boxes that come to mind, Ding’s phone booth is sound proofed and air conditioned and the perfect spot, said Hall, to jump on a call in a private setting.

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In a nod to the history of the building, Ding installed its own version of a phone booth — or as the Irish call it, a “calling booth”to jump on a call in a private setting.

Ding also mounted flat screens along the wall that can be used for meetings and video conferences or show all global top up transactions in real time. Fireworks burst from the center of the United States where a top up originates and arcs south to Guatemala and then one to Cuba and another to Mexico and continue beginning and ending in locations around the globe, all captured on-screen.

In April, the Bell Works Ding team hosted the company’s quarterly meeting, which brought management from Europe, the Mideast and Americas for the four-day gathering. Hall said the Bell Works space made an immediate impression on his visitors as they approached the building. “They were taken aback by the sprawling building in that perfectly landscaped green space.”

“It’s certainly an eye-opener,” he added.

Learn more about how you can grow your company at Bell Works with the Template for Growth.

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A Growing Software Company Ditches the Commute for a Collaborative Space in Holmdel

“We were dying to get away from Bedminster,” said Parkhill Mays, president of STOPit.

The leader of this pioneering software company had been commuting 60+ minutes a day from Freehold to a Bedminster office park and it was starting to take its toll, on him and his team.

When he reflects on this time, Mays isn’t just talking about the long drive in rush hour traffic, he’s talking about the life squeeze the commute put on him as the father of two girls, whom he coaches in travel softball.

“That was tough,” he said.

Moving the team to Bell Works shaved hours of all but two team members’ commutes. “I think everyone has dropped in age 5-10 years since we got here,” Mays said.

 

Founded four years ago by Todd Schoebel, STOPit created an app that empowers users to anonymously report bullying, harassment and violence in schools, workplaces and towns. The solution also includes an incident management component and both snapshot and detailed reporting options. In 2017, STOPit extended its solution to offer an incident monitoring service, providing 24/7 incident monitoring and management.

STOPit at Bell Works

STOPit is an app that empowers users to anonymously report bullying, harassment and violence in schools, workplaces and towns. 

In their Bedminster headquarters each employee had a private office. Besides the drive, he said, “It was a poor utilization of space.”

“We needed an open floor plan, a collaborative space,” Mays said. “That model fosters good fellowship. Yes, it gets a little chatty, but when your team is behind closed doors you miss hearing their customer conversations. When I hear someone say, “‘We‘re moving ahead and I’m sending a contract,’ that’s invigorating.”

Flex space within the coworking community

In less than a year the software company has made a series of three easy moves through different Bell Works offices, flex coworking space, small private pre-built space, and large pre-built space, each sized for their needs at the time.

The journey started about a month before STOPit’s Bell Works lease began when Mays said he’d just had it with the trip to Bedminster. “We couldn’t wait. We have to go, now,” he remembers saying, and he called Sean Donohue, community manager of CoLab, the coworking space here. “I showed up with my team of 12 at the time and Sean accommodated us for about 5 weeks in his flex space.”

This coworking flex space offers a mix of private offices and shared and private desks. Mays said his team was able to walk in on day one and begin working without any set up. When STOPit’s private office was ready, the team only needed to walk down the hall.

Looking to start with a small office? Learn how here. 

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Attracting talent with environment

There were plenty of relocation options for STOPit in Monmouth County, with office parks in Eatontown, Red Bank and Wall. Mays said that it was the larger experience available to his employees, including the ample public spaces, retail shops and services, that attracted him to Bell Works.

“You get much more for your money here than you would an office park in Eatontown that’s a few dollars cheaper per square foot. It’s much cheaper from an overall utilization stand point. Plus it’s a tech center and a recruiting magnet,” Mays said.

Mays discovered the location’s power for recruiting almost immediately.

When STOPit interviewed their now SaaS Account Executive, Chris Salomon, he told Mays, “Part of the attraction to your company was the surroundings you put yourself in.”

STOPit at Bell Works

“Part of the attraction to your company was the surroundings you put yourself in.”

Mays, who doesn’t have a private office, (no one is his company does now) is fond of taking calls in the soaring, glass ceilinged atrium. He likes to meet partners at Booskerdoo for coffee and conversation. And the gym on the concourse level is an added bonus.

Bell Works is quickly adding retail like Salon Concrete, Hummus & Pita, The Alchemist Jeweler, At Your Convenience, and now a dry cleaning service. The Holmdel Library and a Montessori School are both part of the metroburb now as well. All retail is open to the public.

“There’s a vibe that we can always go somewhere at Bell Works,” he said. “The place feels right to our team. And, you don’t have to get in your car for lunch.”

Three easy moves, plenty more room to grow

After just eight months in its original ready-to-wear space, STOPit is growing again, in funding, sales, staff and workspace.

The team just took up a 3,000 square-foot space on the first floor that includes three conference rooms and a generous open floor plan for individual and collaborative work. (That space was recently vacated by Nvidia makers of graphics cards and driverless car technology, which moved upstairs to a larger space on the third floor, to accommodate their growing team.)

STOPit at Bell Works

 The STOPit office includes three conference rooms and a generous open floor plan for individual and collaborative work

Other startups like music industry software company Vydia have used Bell Works as a launch pad and then moved to new space within the building as the company grew. Since upgrading from its first starter office in 2015, Vydia has doubled in size and hired 30 people. The company which created a platform for artists to protect, publish, monetize and distribute their videos across multiple channels now occupies a custom built 6,712 square foot office on the second floor of building 4.

In STOPit’s new space the team is settling in and enjoying their larger conference rooms and a little more elbow room around the office. But that extra room might not last too long. It recently hired a customer success manager and salesperson for a new market. And there are talks of purchasing other products that could fill out their offerings.

“The building has turned us into the company we always should have been: young, vibrant, always on the lookout of what’s next,” Mays said. “I hope we haven’t moved to our last piece of real estate here. I don’t think we have.”

From shared space to private office, learn more about how you can grow your company at Bell Works with the Template for Growth.

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Somewhere To Go, Somewhere To Stay: Bell Works Attracts Top Tech Talent

The tech industry is booming and New Jersey is emerging as a hub of tech innovation. Why? Well, let’s say the Garden State is growing more than just tomatoes.
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New Jersey is experiencing a surge in tech startups, pioneers that are quickly gaining recognition for the impact of their work across industries. Add to the mix the rapid expansion of established, tech-driven corporate giants such as Amazon, and there’s little doubt that New Jersey is a desirable place for leading edge, tech-based companies to set up shop and expand.

One of those places is Bell Works, the former site of the patent producing machine, Bell Labs. At the reinvented site in Holmdel, both New Jersey based and national companies are filling up the 2 million square foot building in what appears to be a trend away from both city headquarters and isolated office parks.

When the project to transform the former Bell Labs building kicked off in 2013, Somerset Development hired The Garibaldi Group, a commercial real estate firm headquartered in New Jersey as the exclusive marketing and brokerage team for the project. Garibaldi’s on-site team is led by President Jeff Garibaldi and Vice Presidents Tara Keating Freeman and Kyle Mahoney. Together they’ve already executed leases for more than 60 percent of the available office space to a mix of small tech companies like VYDIA, corporate heavyweights like JCP&L and NVIDIA Corporation and fast growing tech companies like iCIMS and WorkWave. Garibaldi has also signed a host of potential and promising tech disruptors of the future, some of whom have already begun to transform industries and business practices worldwide.

When the firm set out to market Bell Works Jeff Garibaldi, Jr., Marketing Director for the company, said he knew they had a valuable, attractive property to show, he just didn’t expect the prospects would be so close to home. “We thought we’d be spending a lot of time in planes,” he laughed.

Monmouth County cultivates rich soil for tech innovation

“We thought we were going to end up going in and identifying companies in New York City or Philadelphia where a large number of their employees commuted from New Jersey and pitch them on the benefit of having a New Jersey presence,” Garibaldi said. “We also had a pretty well developed outline of how to approach prospects in Silicon Valley. We know many of them are looking for a bi-coastal presence and want a location that offers a mix of urban and suburban assets that will attract talent or make it more likely their best talent will move.”

“But what we found was completely different. We found an extremely well educated, experienced, talented, and motivated tech labor pool right here in Monmouth County, really within easy commuting distance. And we found many more tech startups and firms that are experiencing exponential growth like iCIMS and WorkWave right in our own backyard.”

The Garibaldi team was initially surprised to find so many potential tenants within the immediate proximity of Bell Works, but talking with local talent and businesses revealed some of the reasons for this ‘happy surprise’. Says Jeff Garibaldi Jr., “We think that this critical mass of innovators, industry pioneers, tech startups and entrepreneurs, may be the natural result of the fact that a company like Bell Labs called this home for half a century, and in Monmouth County, alums settled in the area and never left.”

 

Garibaldi continues, “When Bell Labs changed, and ultimately, when the Holmdel building closed in 2007, a lot of their workforce simply reinvented themselves and started their own companies. Add to that the incredibly rich workforce with a phenomenal background in tech and R&D that came from the now-defunct military base, Fort Monmouth, and their subcontractors -- all that laid the foundation for a booming tech community. When Fort Monmouth closed, not everyone took a package or went to Aberdeen, Maryland. Many of them had become established here and they stayed and did the same thing the Bell Labs alums did, they started their own companies or continued their careers in the tech field.”

 

A shift in where workers want to spend their days

The Bell Works project seems to prove what many experts in the commercial real estate industry have been noting for several years, “So for 20 years, there was a significant movement of younger workers and families into or near urban centers for the convenience of living in walkable communities with easy access to mass transit, entertainment and cultural activities,” said Garibaldi. “Now the trend is turning again, and millennials who are looking to start raising families are looking for a more suburban experience -- they want easy access to affordable and spacious living. They want opportunities to spend time in quiet, open spaces while still staying closely connected to the evolving tech world. That’s the genius of Bell Works. That IS Bell Works.”

The metroburb, a mini metropolis in the suburbs, is growing out of this trend where workers demand both urban amenities and green spaces close to where they live and work.

“For these millennials who are balking at exorbitant rents in popular urban centers, with Bell Works and the metroburb we are giving this highly motivated workforce somewhere to go, or more correctly, somewhere to stay,” Garibaldi said. “And for those highly skilled, highly motivated and innovative thinkers who are looking for a place to make their mark in the tech space, Bell Works is distinguishing itself in this highly desirable market.”

 

But still, it’s Jersey

Monmouth County has a lot to offer workers, trees, beaches, breathable air and ample parking, but it’s no Manhattan right? It’s not even Brooklyn. Can companies thrive here?

In the January 2016, Inc. story Why Today's New York Tech Scene Looks Nothing Like You'd Expect, entrepreneur Charlie O'Donnell, who founded and runs Brooklyn Bridge Ventures points out that New Jersey is attracting some notable startups like Jet.com in Hoboken and Audible in Newark - despite the fact that it is, well, New Jersey.

"Funding goes a little further in New Jersey," O'Donnell says. "Sure, there's a little Jersey stigma--it's where we go to watch our football games--but the truth is, if you have a good business, the talent will come to you."

The Garden State is also attracting thought leaders in the tech industry.

On Feb. 23 at Bell Works, the New Jersey Tech Council presents its “Tech Innovation Forecast 2017, an annual event that draws hundreds of key influencers from the tech, R&D and finance industries, statewide. Speakers at the NJ Innovation Forecast event include keynote speaker Marcus Weldon, President of Nokia Bell Labs, panel moderator David Sorin, Managing Partner of McCarter & English, leadership from companies like BASF, Siemens and Vonage, as well as the principals of venture capitalist firms like Genacast Ventures and Jay Bhatti of BrandProject. It’s a serious line-up with some first-time live pitches for revolutionary tech ideas as well as a revealing discussion about new innovation and acceleration funding models for the tech sector. Guests will meet some of the most influential minds working in the region as they delve into explaining how the tech industry is developing. Bell Works and The Garibaldi Group are major sponsors of the event.

James Barrood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Tech Council says, “The choice to hold this year's Tech Innovation Forecast at Bell Works was easy. Since tenants started signing leases and moving in, it was clear that the former Bell Labs-Holmdel site -- a legend for tech innovation -- is quickly reclaiming that well-deserved status. When you have a concentration of established leaders and notable startups in the tech industry as you have at Bell Works, you don't need a trend analysis to predict that a new, exciting tech hub has arrived. The tech industry in New Jersey is only going to grow more robust  throughout the state. Bell Works is certainly going to be a big part of that story."

In addition to large, statewide events like the Tech Innovation Forecast that attract hundreds of corporate leaders in the tech field, The NJ Tech Weekly calendar of tech events lists dozens of tech-centric business and networking events each month throughout the state. From topical meetups like the NJ Data Science Meetup, to informal working groups for high level coders like the Arduino Study Group hosted by FUBAR Labs, to more niche events such as the NJ Drone Users Group "at the 18th hole" (a location disclosed only to group members) and Scarlet Startups, a group that meets at the Rutgers Business School, it's clear that tech is dominating conversations throughout the state. 

The Garibaldi team says that the Bell Labs alums living in the area still feel extreme loyalty and warmth for their experience in Holmdel. Most of them were hired and staffed there as young professionals and they treated it as a college experience, forming clubs, falling in love and inventing the future of technology every day. Garibaldi says that for the dozens of Bell alums he has spoken with, they value the fact that the Bell senior management encouraged self-directed creativity and an almost ‘anything goes’ culture – as long as the result was amazing and transformed something about the industry.

The Garibaldi Group’s observations are backed by the fact that, once the opportunity arose in the form of Bell Works, the right labor force and tech businesses self-identified, and the community itself helped drive the momentum. It is an energetic, well-educated, entrepreneurial group that is excited to be back in the Bell Labs building, doing innovative work in the company of other brilliant tech minds.

A century of perspective on the New Jersey economy

This year marks 98 years in commercial real estate for The Garibaldi Group. In that time Jeff Garibaldi and his team have seen markets expand and collapse and industries grow and change. Tech may be experiencing a rebirth in New Jersey, but in terms of its real estate, it’s already a solid market. The tech market is the third largest sector occupying corporate office space (financial services and biotech hold the first two spots). Tech companies are often working on projects that require some risk and much courage on the part of their leadership. Garibaldi says that for these businesses, the right real estate portfolio makes a huge difference in how they are positioned to stay both viable and profitable as they grow and carry projects forward through research and development to implementation.

“Every business should expect their commercial real estate partner to work with them to streamline their real estate and corporate office processes so that every opportunity is realized and risks are minimized. Holdings and management issues absolutely affect the bottom line,” says Garibaldi. “The fact is, no one can perfectly predict the impact of changes to the corporate tech landscape, as giants like Amazon transform e-commerce with more and more fulfillment centers while also opening physical brick-and-mortar stores. Fulfillment centers and data centers, the pivotal needs of tech companies -- both the established giants and impactful startups -- all of this is  what commercial real estate partners should be keeping their eyes on to best serve their clients now and in the future.”

Are You Vulnerable? Learn How to Make Cyber Security Attainable for Your Business

It’s not new news, but it is big news. Thanks to a wave of recent reporting on major cyber security breaches -- including accusations of Russian hacking and its alleged influence on the US 2016 Presidential election -- cyber vulnerability is top of mind for United States business owners and citizens.

Stories about big, corporate cyber security breaches make the news. Stories of individual identity theft, skimming and phishing scams are less likely to earn air-time, but the effects of all types of cyber hacking are devastating financially, and to those individuals affected, emotionally.

Fred Stringer, a cyber security expert with international experience building IT systems and troubleshooting security hacks, puts the issue in simple terms, “We have treaties that govern behavior in space and on the high seas; licenses that require tests and inspections to drive a car or operate a restaurant. But anyone can get on the internet with no training whatsoever, and very little knowledge of the dangers of connecting to the world wide web or how to protect themselves. Anyone can set up a server or an IP address and there’s very little regulation about what people can and cannot do.”

The fallout of this unregulated web, Stringer said, is cause for concern for anyone, but particularly small businesses.

On Jan. 19 Stringer and his colleague (and former Bell Labs employee) Larry Murphy will present a workshop at Bell Works, How to Assess Your Cyber Risk: A Crash Course For Small and Medium Sized Businesses.

A threat to more than just data

The consequences of security breaches for both businesses and individuals are serious, and can impact an entity’s financial health for years. Cyber hacking and fraud is estimated to cost the U.S. nearly $300 billion each year and nearly $500 billion worldwide. In the U.S. alone, 26 percent of entities claimed losses of $50,000 or more in 2013. Experts project that by 2018, a total of $101 billion will be spent across the world for information security measures and still, this effort will not come close to eliminating cyber threats.

Yet for businesses of every size and in every industry, the loss of dollars isn’t the biggest threat to profitability or even viability. Cybersecurity experts know that minimizing financial loss doesn’t even make the top three most important goals of IT security. The ‘priority of protection’ is actually:

  1. Brand
  2. Customers
  3. Network

In every instance when a business is targeted and a website is ‘brought down’ or customer information is stolen or confidential work product is compromised, it’s the company brand that is the most vulnerable to lasting, sometimes permanent damage. Customers who don’t trust a company’s brand don’t do business with that company...neither do potential partners.

Cloud based threats loom for small business

For entrepreneurs, start-up and pioneer business owners, the threat of cyber attack can be doubled. Not only may such entities be targeted due to the nature and profile of their business, but these businesses also use technology much like individuals, accessing programs, creating proprietary content and sharing that content with partners and employees over the cloud through programs like Google Docs and Basecamp. Many small business owners can share stories of working from a local coffee shop -- using free wifi to download and send confidential files containing proprietary information, personnel documents and banking tasks. Stringer says ‘free’ wifi access and apps advertised to ‘improve efficiency and save money’ are examples of ‘perfect invitations’ to be hacked.

The impact of criminal hacking is so costly that an entirely new line of business has been created -- ethical hacking. Ethical hacking as used by corporate and government entities, is a contracted service where teams of cyber experts are paid to hack into an organization’s IT infrastructure and probe for vulnerabilities. These consultants have also developed programs to test for potential vulnerability via employees. Carefully designed social engineering experiments use phishing scams to uncover individuals who are susceptible to breaking cyber security protocol. Once detected, vulnerabilities in both tech and personnel are addressed through improved technology and employee training and awareness campaigns.

That kind of large scale hacking program may be out of reach for most small and medium sized companies, but Stringer says, there are ways to minimize risk and protect against the most common cyber threats (even without hiring a company of ethical hackers to take down your website).

Login in to a secure best practice

“It’s all about adopting new behavior,” Stringer said. “We look both ways before crossing the street. We wear helmets when we ride a bike and seat belts in the car.... We take practical precautions against risk all the time, yet millions of us think nothing of jumping on a free wifi hotspot when we’re in a coffee shop or the mall. And right there is one of the greatest risks for identity theft or hackers downloading banking and other protected site passwords and login information. In less than a minute, someone can lose money and reputation just because they didn’t take the extra few seconds to log on using a VPN (virtual private network).”

Stringer and Murphy, also an expert in cyber infrastructure, say they are both increasingly alarmed by the growing vulnerability of individuals and businesses coupled with a seemingly decreased vigilance among internet users and/or willingness to take ordinary precautions against victimization.

“Most people don’t think they’re ‘big’ enough to be a target, but today, all hackers have to do is cast their nets wide enough and they’ll pull in anyone who’s made themselves vulnerable at that moment,” says Murphy. “Whenever you buy and install a device that connects to the internet -- if you’re not taking steps to protect the security of your information -- you are an instant gateway to hackers. You’re a target and eventually, you will be a victim.”

According to Stringer and Murphy, the time between turning on a new device and the first attempt to probe the new device or connection for vulnerability to hacking is twelve seconds.

And for those of us whose business depends on employing social media -- and everyone else in the world who has a smartphone or a computer -- social media is perhaps the fastest growing arena for hacking attacks that hijack personal identity and private information. Facebook stopped reporting statistics for cyber-attacks in 2011 -- after revealing that the social media giant was the target of more than 600,000 attacks every day.

“The time and energy it takes to protect yourself is minimal, compared to the risk and impact of being the victim of a hacker,” Stringer said. “So many simple things like changing a factory set password, using a VPN (virtual private network) connection when you’re away from your home or business, taking the time to use two-step authentication -- these are things that anyone can do to protect themselves or their business that most people don’t do or don’t know they should be doing.”

You can learn more about how to protect yourself, your family and your business at this free meet up at Bell Works on Thurs., Jan. 19 from 8-10 a.m. The workshop includes a continental breakfast.

Click here to register: How to Assess Your Cyber Risk: A Crash Course For Small and Medium Sized Businesses.

Come with your own questions. Attendees will have an opportunity to engage in conversation with international cyber security experts about the current risk environment businesses face and what’s to come, and will receive:

  • A checklist to help you assess your digital security risk
  • A step by step guide to help you take immediate action to address risks
  • Insights to plan for successful growth and asset investment.

 

Building Steam Festival: Making Something Out of Nothing With Makers of All Ages

A group of enthralled kids watched for an hour as a toy rocket was slowly built by a 3D printer. Another group of students got an up close and personal lesson on how to create a circuit, while others tested their science and math skills with a Jeopardy! challenge. All in the name of making something out of nothing with STEM learning.

The Building Steam Maker Festival, held May 14-16 at Bell Works, brought the maker community together, inviting professionals, amateurs, enthusiasts, hobbyists, innovators, entrepreneurs, tinkerers and craftsmen to showcase their passion for technology and making. The festival was a chance for kids and adults alike to experience, hands on, the most innovative and creative technology around. The name ‘steam’ comes from the recent addition of ‘art’ to traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum, making it STEAM-based learning.

Joel Auerbach, the organizer of the festival, aimed to make the event a learning experience for everyone, but focused specifically on students, inviting New Jersey-area schools to attend a special educational day on May 14, filling the giant, open atrium at Bell Works with curious kids.

“As a former educator, I’m passionate about getting kids interested in technology and STEM learning from an early age,” said Auerbach. “Immersive learning is the best kind of learning.”

Students from Middletown high schools, North and South, and Henry Hudson Regional School participated in challenges like an egg drop (an egg is dropped slowly from an upper level of the massive 2 million square-foot Bell Works building), and a downhill derby where participants made and raced their own derby cars. There were a dozen other activities that challenged students, and even some adults, to think like STEAM makers.

“Showing kids how to make something from scratch and then allowing them to get hands-on experience with that object is a great way to encourage engaged learning,” said Auerbach.

Students also got to stretch their mental muscles by going head to head in a Jeopardy! challenge, answering questions like “Who invented the lightbulb,” and our personal favorite, “How many Nobel Peace Prizes were won by Bell Labs scientists?” (Thomas Edison, and eight prizes.)

Building Steam attendees also got a chance to see drones fly and race up close, and even an opportunity to buy their very own drone from Drone Systems Services, an exhibitor at the event. 3D Monstr, a 3D printer designer and manufacturer, demonstrated several different 3D printing projects during the three-day festival, and David Peins, a former educator, taught students computational literacy using robotics, wearable displays and embedded controllers.

“Making something out of nothing allows kids to make mistakes and helps them to understand that there are often many right answers to a given problem,” said David Peins, president of Robodyssey Systems, a teaching organization where children learn the fundamentals of electronics by engaging in problem solving activities. “Because we are so concerned that our children are not going to have the skills or necessary knowledge to succeed in this increasingly complex world, we take away the one thing that may help them — the ability to fail. We constantly check their progress, when what they really need is the confidence to try new approaches to solving problems.”

The Building Steam Festival is only one of the events at Bell Works signaling the rebirth of the spirit of innovation, invention and creativity that was so prevalent in Bell Labs’ heyday. Signs of life are everywhere in renovations happening that include coworking, flexible office and maker spaces and the tenants moving into the historic building like Spirent, Symbolic and Work Wave. The site’s history of education and learning is experiencing a revival too with events like the networking career fair hosted by the mayor of Holmdel for recent graduates and current students on May 25 and the New Jersey Strategic Design and Tech Meetups happening multiple times a month.

For a list of upcoming events, visit https://bellwork.wpengine.com/ and http://www.meetup.com/NJ-Strategic-Design-Tech/

What Will It Take to Spur Tech Innovation in The Garden State?

We don’t have to wait for a tech ecosystem to develop in New Jersey, we have one now. - Ari Rabban

As different as David Sorin and Ari Rabban’s careers have been, it’s a shared passion for technology that drives them to a singular goal: A culture that encourages startups and entrepreneurs to call New Jersey home.

Rabban is the CEO of Phone.com, Inc. Previously, Rabban served as vice president of corporate development and marketing for VocalTec Communications, the VoIP market pioneer and developer of the first Internet phone.

Sorin is the managing partner of McCarter English’s East Brunswick office and the head of the Venture Capital and Emerging Growth Companies practice.

Rabban and Sorin are both passionate about creating the ideal technology startup environment in New Jersey. We sat down with the two tech startup enthusiasts to discuss the future of startups in the Garden State.

We talked about New Jersey’s unique opportunity to take a lead role in today’s tech startup world. Plus, grassroots entrepreneurism, a startup’s true number one priority and the biggest asset of a new tech company.

Here are Ari Rabban and David Sorin:

What is your advice for new startups?

Rabban: For a founder: You have to find the right partner. Don’t give up, but don’t try to break a brick wall. And it’s ok to change course. Listen to your gut, but be 100 percent committed.

Sorin: In order to have a business, your idea and your solution have to solve a real problem in the marketplace — either it drives revenue, reduces costs, improves productivity, increases the bottom line for your customers or your clients. And if you can do it cost efficiently, then you have a business.

Rabban: For a young business: Don’t spend all your money, and get money when you can, not just when you need it. If you can generate revenue, do it.  

Sorin: Then you have to think about whether or not seeking outside financing is realistic, your choice of entity (corporation or LLC), how to protect your intellectual property, and what kind of financing strategy makes sense for your business.

How Would You Advise a Startup in the Growth and Development Phase?

Rabban: As you grow from just the core team to new employees, and certainly as you grow above 10-20 people, your strategy should become about the management. The management of people. That is your biggest asset in tech startups. Not a store and not the product you sell. More than your customers. Everything depends on development; if you have motivated, happy, talented employees you will be able to work together and produce good products, fix problems, innovate and grow. Customers will feel it and frankly happy employees will ensure customers are happy – not necessarily true in the reverse. Customers are number two; your people are number one. Only then comes your investors, if you have any.

Sorin: Know and understand your customers, and listen to your target market to best understand what their needs are so that you are meeting them. Because the best way to build a business is by ensuring that what you are developing meets the needs of your clients, customers and prospects. That’s absolutely critical. All along the way you have to be mindful about what your strategies are to protect and preserve your intellectual property. You have to be mindful of your financing strategy. This is really critical from the earliest days through the times when you’re trying to go from an early stage into commercialization.

How Would You Describe the Current State of Tech Startups in New Jersey?

Rabban: We’re not yet top tier, but we’re working our way up. We don’t have to wait for a tech ecosystem to develop in New Jersey, we have one now. The grassroots effort has really changed things for the tech community in New Jersey, and you can’t help but be enthusiastic when you see things happening.

Sorin: There are a lot of people who believe that entrepreneurial activity and innovation is somehow new to New Jersey. But the reality is we have this incredibly rich history and culture of innovation that has always been here. New Jersey was the home of Edison. We’ve had a technological economy and an innovation economy for generations. Whether it’s software information technology, healthcare IT, or telecom, New Jersey is one of the leaders in the country in innovation. It has been, and I believe is currently, and will be for hopefully more than the foreseeable future.

Rabban: Entrepreneurs are doing things differently than they were five years ago. One example is the NJ Tech Meetup happening in Hoboken. This is part of that grassroots effort that is taking place in New Jersey. Grassroots activity or bottom up approach is, I believe, very important to get more of an entrepreneurial spirit going. When individuals interact, network and listen to successful entrepreneurs, share stories etc., it gets infectious and leads to more opportunities and new entrepreneurs

Sorin: 2015 was a very important year in the creation of new, simpler security. We saw a dramatic change in the regulatory scheme, with the advent of crowdfunding in a meaningful way, so those are important elements in making sure we have an environment that is hospitable to growing our tech sector. And all of these Meetups play such an important role, such as industry organizations like NJ Tech Council.

How Can We Foster a Successful Startup Culture in New Jersey?

Rabban: We have to work from the bottom up and really focus on grassroots efforts. We need more entrepreneurs to just start businesses. It’s easier to start a business than ever before. For a tech business, you just need a laptop and a great idea.

Sorin: Never has there been a better time to be an innovator or entrepreneur than right now. There has been a lot of capital available to companies. There are resources available today so companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and as a result, less capital is necessary to get new products and solutions to market.

Sorin: It’s the government’s responsibility to make sure we continue to have a highly educated workforce, and a workforce that has the tools and education to meet the challenges of this new economy, and this truly tech-driven economy. A government can provide the incentives through the tax code and through other government programs to encourage and motivate entrepreneurial activity.

Rabban: Universities can help, and the state can continue to create more tax incentives, but ultimately we need more entrepreneurs. We need entrepreneurs who can build cool startups that will draw the attention of venture capitalists who will then open offices near those innovators.

Sorin: Our education system is a critical part of this. So much technology emanates from university labs and business, law, and medical schools. As larger companies become more productive and need fewer employees, there’s this sort of trickle down of very talented people who might have otherwise worked for organizations like that, find themselves displaced, they are using their own entrepreneurial inclinations to come up with other creative ideas. We have to remain a state that constantly finds ways to make it more receptive and welcoming of entrepreneurial activity.

On what makes NJ a great potential for startups

Rabban: Location, infrastructure, academia, big business, proximity to New York City and to Europe, and a little bit of history. Our proximity to New York City is a plus simply because it is New York City. Media, marketing, investors, bankers, academia, talent, events, networking, it’s all close by. It’s a large tech community and we don’t need to compete with New York City. We can embrace it, be an extension of it. As for Europe, it’s much easier to do business with Europe from the East Coast than from Silicon Valley. Many European startups want to come to the United States, and they should come to New Jersey. Our infrastructure supports innovation: the airports and other transportation, our universities and our knowledge base, the commercial broadband and data centers.

 

Sorin: New Jersey is uniquely situated. We have a quality of life that people like. We have an excellent educational system. We have cultural opportunities, athletic opportunities. We have the Shore and we have mountains. New Jersey is sort of the geographical center of the largest concentration of population and wealth and technology probably anywhere in the country. If you look at Boston to Northern Virginia, we’re the center of that. All of that benefits us.

Where does Bell Works fit into this?

Rabban: The ecosystem. Perhaps an abused phrase, but when you have a place like Bell that is so self-contained with startups, incubators, shared offices, larger companies, events on top of events, lawyers and accountants and other supporting staff, creative marketing and design firms, with restaurants, bars and cafes, something awesome is bound to happen! These coworking spaces are perfect for startups.

Sorin: Companies need far less space than they ever did before. They need more flexibility in their space to grow and shrink depending upon what kind of manpower they need during a particular time in development. So you see the advent of WeWork or collaborative or shared working space, like at Bell Works. Bell Works represents this opportunity to create a very vibrant center of commerce for technology and entrepreneurial activity. With everything going on in the region and the number of people who are supportive of Bell Works, when it achieves its promise, it’s going to be a game-changer, not only in New Jersey, but super regionally.  When all of these tech companies and entrepreneurs are housed in one gigantic building, and we actually can create a center that technologist and entrepreneurs want to be a part of, we will once again have that playground to spur innovation.

 

During his tenure at VocalTec, Ari Rabban served as president of two subsidiaries that were ultimately spun out: Surf & Call Solutions, one of the initial voice-enhanced e-commerce solutions companies, and Truly Global Inc., a web-based communications service. Rabban joined VocalTec from Lucent Technologies, working at the Bell Labs building in Holmdel. Frequently cited as a VoIP market expert, Rabban has been involved with the Internet telephony industry from its very early days.

 

David Sorin started SorinRand in 2009, focusing on tech and tech-enabled startups. After growing rapidly, the firm merged with McCarter English to become one of the largest firms in New Jersey and one of the top 150 law firms in the country, with a footprint from Boston to Northern Virginia. He focuses his practice on privately and publicly-owned startup, early stage, emerging growth, and middle market technology, tech-enabled and life science enterprises, as well as the investors, executives, and boards of directors who support and lead them.