Propelify returns to Maxwell Place Park in Hoboken Oct. 6, with entrepreneurs, innovators, founders, C-Suite leaders, industry experts and many others taking to two stages to share insights, celebrate what’s new and create what’s next.
“I think the culture of the event is what it made last so many years,” Aaron Price, Propelify founder and TechUnited:NJ CEO, told NJBIZ. “We want this to be a day that helps inspire, educate and celebrate those who are building the next future of an industry.”
The one-day event features an all-star lineup of speakers, more than 70 exhibitors, onsite investors taking pitches and startup competitions, along with what Price believes is the future of communications: a prototype teleportation device will be brought in allowing people to interact with a 3D version of someone who could be on the other side of the world.
“The culture of Propelify is bringing people together who propel ideas into action,” said Price. “So, at a very high level, that’s what this event is about: making things happen and making the world better.”
Notable speakers include Jeff Hoffman, co-founder, Priceline; Amanda Cassatt, co-founder and CEO, Serotonin; Dr. Dan Karlin, CMO, Mindmed; Ben Sun, founder, Primary Ventures; Vinit Bharara, co-founder and CEO, Mojo; Ralph Izzo, executive chair, PSEG; Tim Sullivan, CEO, New Jersey Economic Development Authority; Sean O’Sullivan, managing partner, SOSV; and many others.
Since launching in 2016, the event has welcomed more than 40,000 attendees, hundreds of exhibitors, and speakers such as Arianna Huffington, Gary Vaynerchuk and Gov. Phil Murphy.
“The Propelify Innovation Festival unites innovators who are building the future, continuing the legacy of innovation rooted in New Jersey,” said Murphy. “We’re thrilled that TechUnited:NJ leads the way to welcome some of the most inspired companies, entrepreneurs and innovators to New Jersey who propel ideas into action.”
The event comes at an exciting time here in the great Garden State, as efforts to grow and expand the innovation ecosystem are in motion, which have been extensively chronicled by NJBIZ.
Price says there is lots of excitement and momentum in New Jersey’s innovation space but stressed that there’s still quite a ways to go.
“There is definitely a lot of enthusiasm and I think there’s a moment in time on the regional piece of this for us to capture talent that is no longer interested in commuting to New York to stay local,” said Price. “We need a lot more companies to start here and we need a lot more early-stage funding. But there’s certainly quite a bit of momentum and enthusiasm around everything that the state’s been pushing forward.”
That moment also comes as the debate over congestion pricing heats up and, of course, the world continues to move past the pandemic, which brought economic life essentially to standstill for some time.
Price noted that this event, which went remote in 2020 before returning live and in-person in 2021, has a lot of positivity and community enthusiasm around it, with or without COVID in the picture.
“But with the pandemic, there’s even more energy and, I think, pent-up desire to gather in person,” said Price. “Our registration numbers are higher than they’ve ever been. So, we expect it to be a really high-energy day.”
Organizers are expecting more than 5,000 attendees at this year’s event.
Propelify’s Stage of Wisdom, which focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation, will tackle topics such as climate change, diversity, smart cities, communication, wellness and venture capital.
“The overall theme of this is better together,” said Price. “The mission of TechUnited is to empower entrepreneurs and innovators to build a better future for all.”
The winners of the 2022 TechUnited: BetterX Challenges will be announced, awarding entrepreneurs a total of $100,000 in cash, as well as mentorship opportunities. Those challenges include: the BetterPlanet Challenge: Accelerate ClimateTech Adoption; Better Wellness Challenge: Build the Modern Patient Experience; and BetterConnected Challenge Newark.
Those events are presented by a number of business and corporate partners, which Price says is a unique aspect of Propelify. “Where we can not only give startups a cash prize and a significant cash prize, but also connect them to larger companies and mentors who can help them help their businesses grow,” said Price, noting how partners such as RWJBarnabas Health, PSEG, Labcorp, Audible and others want to see the startup community thrive.
“So now we can help that happen right here in our own backyard,” he said.
Price pointed out that while tackling those subjects is a vital part of Propelify, he believes the most exciting part of the day is walking around meeting exhibitors and talking to folks about their businesses.
“Learning how we can help one another. And hearing from people how much they got out of it, who they met, where the connections are,” said Price. “It’s really what you do with the opportunity that matters.”
The gathering, which also features music, food, drinks and more, has been described by Forbes as the “The SXSW of the Northeast.”
Being compared to the legendary Austin festival is great company to be in, Price said, but stresses that they are not trying to copy SXSW in any way.
“I love that they call it the SXSW of the Northeast,” said Price. “That’s certainly an experience that we’re proud to be compared to. At the same time, I think Propelify is its own experience and its own culture and its own kind of event.”
Price said that an event like Propelify is vital because technology affects all of our lives and all of our industries.
“Even if it doesn’t feel like you’re in a tech business, every business is or will be a tech-enabled business,” Price explained. “Propelify is a place where people can come to learn about where the future of a variety of industries is going. Where startups can meet investors. Where talent can potentially find job opportunities. And where people can gather and network and discuss what it is we can do to make an industry better, to find new opportunities to invest in something that is meaningful.”
And in addition to everything mentioned above, the festival will close with a happy hour and fireworks show.
“I like to think of it as the most fun business event you’ll go to,” said Price. “But it is business first.”