The 2019 Propelify Innovation Festival – the first since the organization joined forces with the New Jersey Tech Council – drew out over 5,000 attendees at its event in Hoboken on Oct. 3.
Granted, that was half of the attendees who signed up. But Aaron Price, who took the helm of the NJ Tech Council in August, said he saw nothing but excitement and attendees “fired up” to see what the state’s startup and innovation sectors have to offer.
“People are excited and fired up that this is here, that the governor’s here and that the state’s behind it,” Price told NJBIZ. “I think that people of New Jersey are excited to have something that’s our own.”
The event was held at the Hoboken Pier 2 Park, which juts out into the Hudson River – gray with choppy waters on the cloudy and drizzly Thursday – with dramatic views of Midtown Manhattan and the World Trade Center complex.
The day-long event included representatives from tech giants such as Nuts.com, Google and Verizon.
“I think there’s an underdog mentality,” Price said. “We’re often in the shadow of New York City and so this becomes something that’s our own… showing that we’re in the game, there’s some great companies and we all rally and get together, even in the elements.”
Gov. Phil Murphy, at a morning fireside chat with Price, touted some of the incentives from the past year the state has rolled out or expanded to boost start-ups.
For one, Murphy said, the state recently expanded the Angel Investor tax credit, which provides a refundable tax break of up to 20 percent of a businesses’ investment into a start-up technology businesses. The tax break can be sold, so the investor is incentivized because they are guaranteed a baseline 20 percent return.
Murphy on Thursday also touted NJ Ignite, a program he unveiled in July 2018 which provides rent subsidies to startups moving into certain incubators and collaborative workspaces, so that they can “focus on [research & development] and product development rather than overhead.”
All of this, Murphy said, is an effort by New Jersey to “put wind in the sails of entrepreneurs and business in general.”
“Government isn’t going to be the answer for all of our hopes and dreams, but we could clearly put jet fuel into our aspirations,” Murphy added. “I think we are doing it uniquely in New Jersey.”
Tim Sullivan, head of the Economic Development Authority, which oversees most of the state’s incentive programs, used the festival to drum up support among businesses and investors of the more controversial Innovation Evergreen Fund.
Under this tax incentive proposal – the program would be capped at $60 million a year – the state would split investments 50/50 with venture capitalists to fund life sciences, financial technology, digital media and cybersecurity startups looking to open up shop in the state. The proposed fund is part of Murphy’s five economic incentive programs which would replace the now-expired and controversial corporate tax breaks — though none of the proposals and accompanying legislation have been taken up by any lawmakers.r