tech-innovation

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.”

DSC_0895

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.

DSC_0927

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.

Click me

 

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. 

Download the Work Inspired Template for Growth.

 

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.

Click me

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.
f
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.