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Luggage tracker finds new funding at NJEDA Founders and Funders event

Tim Lizura, president and chief operating officer, EDA, presents the $50,000 award to Denise Brouder and her company LugTrack LLC, winner of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority's New Jersey Founders and Funders All-Stars event on Dec. 6.-(AARON HOUSTON)

The day began with entrepreneurs from 20 tech and life sciences companies trying to charm a room of investors at the Biotechnology Development Center in North Brunswick into believing their products were deserving of a $50,000 prize.

By midday, the investors at the Dec. 6 event had voted the competitors down to five: a retail app, luggage tracker, heart attack detector, chip card software firm, and an industrial internet of things (IoT) company.

In the end, it was the luggage tracker that lugged away the money.

“We have a lot of plans; 2018 is a very big growth year for us,” said Denise Brouder, CFO of LugTrack Intelligent Tracking Technology, of what the company will do with the prize. “In tech, you’re really only good as your innovation pipeline — we have a lot of plans on paper for how we want our next generation products to look. Part of being here today was to reconnect with some of our investors to generate some funding for moving onto our Gen 2 product, so the $50,000 is an enormous benefit to us and a great way to start off the new year.”

Since 2014, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has hosted eight Founders and Funders events. Previous events were similar to speed-dating, where 20 companies and 10 investors engaged in quick one-on-one meetings to connect entrepreneurs to the funding they needed to propel their product forward. Wednesday’s All-Stars event was the first of its kind, where companies that pitched at previous Founders and Funders events got to reconnect with investors and compete for the prize.

“We had so many requests from past participants to update the investors on their progress,” said Kathleen Coviello, vice president, technology & life sciences Investments for the EDA. “We wanted to make sure that we gave as many companies as possible a first-up-at-bat. Once we felt like we hit that critical mass, serving over 200 companies, we thought, ‘OK, it’s time now. Let the investment community see the progress these companies have made and let the companies speak to how they’ve grown, how they’ve pivoted, how they’ve improved their product.’”

According to EDA President and COO Timothy Lizura, the value of this event for the competitors does not begin and end with the $50,000 prize; in fact, it goes well beyond that.

”One benefit is to let the world know how great New Jersey is in the space of technology and entrepreneurship,” he said. “We don’t tell our story nearly enough — how great our innovation is, our business climate for startups, and our access to capital. These events help shatter some of those misperceptions.

“Also the ancillary effect of making introductions between related companies, in addition to the primary effect which was to make introductions between companies and investors. That’s the benefit.”

Maureen Hassett, senior vice president, governance, communications, and strategic Initiatives at the EDA, said she was informed of a connection that had been made that day.

“LugTrack and [industrial IoT company] Tenna are meeting next week. The CFO just said that to us. They found each other here and they’re not in a competitive space, so they thought they could benefit from just understanding each other’s business model,” said Hassett.

The Founders and Funders All-Stars event was the Biotechnology Development Center’s inaugural event since opening its doors, and the smell of fresh paint was still detectable. The BDC Is part of the NJEDA’s Technology Centre of New Jersey and has over 32,000 square feet of lab and office space that is “plug-and-play” ready, providing an environment for postincubation and rapidly growing biopharma companies.

Gabrielle Saulsbery
Albany, N.Y. native Gabrielle Saulsbery is a staff writer for NJBIZ and the newest thing in New Jersey. You can contact her at gsaulsbery@njbiz.com.

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