Why an NYC VC with Silicon Valley Ties is Heading to NJ

Bell Works

“The difference between success and failure is so little sometimes,” said Bhatti. “Our mission is to help them with strategic steps to build a solid foundation to succeed.”

Venture capitalist Jay Bhatti believes New Jersey could become the ideal environment for startups. That’s why he’s bringing a new venture to the Garden State to the newly-revived Bell Works building, a multi-use community designed for commercial use in Holmdel.

The move is a return to his home coast. Bhatti’s parents immigrated to New Jersey from India when he was five years old. Bhatti is convinced that if the state continues to invest in big, bold ideas, it will be a center for innovation like Silicon Valley and the ideal place for startups.

Bhatti will make his new venture capitalist (VC) startup’s home at Bell Works, built for creative problem solvers, business owners and innovative technologists. The former home of Bell Labs, the Eero Saarinen-designed space is under redevelopment as a work play space. Flooded with light and charged with the innovation work it’s housed over the decade, its tagline is #workinspired.

Bhatti, a graduate of Rutgers University, spent time in the tech sector before taking a risk with his own startup Spock in Silicon Valley. After a successful run as a people search engine, the company was bought out and Bhatti began his own venture capitalist journey.

“I remember sitting in the library in high school reading tech books and dreaming of working at Microsoft,” said Bhatti. “After being there four years, I decided to do something on my own, and not get too comfortable in the position I was in.”

From entrepreneur to funder

After Silicon Valley, Bhatti made the jump to New York City where he co-founded BrandProject, a consumer investment company. The idea behind the firm is to give financial and operational resources to startups engaging in disruptive innovation.

“We love companies that are ditching the stodgy way of doing things and coming up with impressive ideas and products,” Bhatti said. “Knock the old dinosaur out, replace it with a great new idea.”

You can see the disruptive innovation in the firm’s client Owlet, a baby monitor in the form of a sock that monitors an infant’s vital signs — a product that has already been credited with saving babies’ lives. Freshly, another client, adds a health and weight loss angle to the fresh food delivery market. Both companies solve real problems, something Bhatti and his team look for.

“The difference between success and failure is so little sometimes,” said Bhatti. “Our mission is to help them with strategic steps to build a solid foundation to succeed.”

The future of innovation in New Jersey

Bhatti’s return to New Jersey to start a new firm is rooted in his belief that the state can establish itself as a center for innovation and nurture startups.

To do this, two things need to happen, he said.

First, the state needs to incentivize entrepreneurs to set up shop in New Jersey.

“If New Jersey becomes more aggressive and shows interest in investing in bold ideas, more venture capitalists may be enticed to come here,” said Bhatti.

Secondly, New Jersey must use existing companies doing interesting and innovative things to help create a startup environment.

“This state has so many executives and companies doing great things,” said Bhatti. “Take those executives and have them invest in the venture capitalist community and make New Jersey a climate that startups can thrive in.”

With the state’s proximity to great schools and Ivy League talent, he thinks New Jersey would do well to keep those talents right here at home.  At Bell, he sees a pedigree of innovation to build on with that young talent without the expense of New York City and Silicon Valley.

“This place has so much invention history,” said Bhatti. “People don’t want to be in a cubicle in the startup environment. At Bell Works and Vi Collaboration Hub, you can get beautiful office space with zero distraction, so people can focus on their job.”

Advice for startups

On January 6, Bhatti shared some of his lessons for entrepreneurs seeking investors at Success Stories of a Venture Capitalist, a MeetUp presentation held at Bell Works.

To those seeking funding for their companies and products, he said, “Find out what you do well and focus on doing that even better.”

Here’s a sample of Bhatti’s advice to entrepreneurs looking to launch their own company:

  • Think big
  • Be committed
  • Focus
  • Move fast
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Don’t forget about profits
  • Protect your reputation
  • Pick a great team
  • Have a good attitude

Bhatti’s top five things venture capitalists care about in a concept:

  • Product
  • Market
  • Team
  • Business Model
  • Fit with Venture Capitalist Firm

Bhatti’s five things venture capitalists look for in a founder

  • Honesty
  • Drive (work ethic, discipline, gets things done)
  • Intelligence (quick learner, industry knowledge)
  • Scalable Adoptability (improve themselves as company grows)
  • Leadership (motivate others and leverage assets)

Filed Under: Bell Works

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