May 4, 2017

If you have your ear to the “e-streets” in Newark, NJ then you might have heard terms like “fiber optics” and “dark broadband” being floated as early as January 2015.  Not even a year into Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s administration, it was clear that plans were underway to take advantage of Newark’s fiber optic infrastructure and position the city as “Silicon Valley East.” As stated in an article on NJBiz.com, Audible’s CEO Don Katz was quoted as saying “Newark is where the Internet comes up for air” to an audience at his company’s headquarters.  Soon after that statement, Newark, NJ became home to the downtown business district’s Newark Venture Partners, launched in July 2015 by founder Don Katz who serves as chair.  The venture capital fund is willing to bet on Newark and is currently seeding 9 startups that run the gamut from Bowtie (a chatbot) and Dream Forward (a 401k plan e-commerce site) to a service matching dog owners to pre-qualified dog walkers called Barkly.

Alternately, the community focused and locally-based Fownders, nestled on Norfolk Street in the University Heights district of Newark’s Central Ward, takes entrepreneurs through a 12-week proprietary program called “Seed to Scale”, where they help entrepreneurs take a proven idea towards profitability and scalability.  They tout “social impact” as a key distinction between what they offer versus other startup incubators.  Founder Gerard Adams in partnership with Ironbound native and real estate maverick Pedro Gomes, have a diversified business strategy which also includes building tech centric communities such as the 17-market rate apartments above their Norfolk Street headquarters.  The 20,000 square foot Founders HQ also houses Munchies a local eatery serving Venezuelan street food bites, perfect for on the go entrepreneurs.  Leading “Silicon Valley East” into the city’s other neighborhoods are the National Action Network Newark Tech World center, located at the site of the old South Ward Boys & Girls club at 400 Hawthorne Avenue.  The center will focus on leveling the playing field between those with aptitude for, but no access to, digital communications education.  Funded by Panasonic, the center seeks to educate youth on web design, graphic design, digital literacy, coding, networking, switching and more.

And yet another piece of the digital network can be found at Rutgers University Newark within the Community Media Center at Express Newark (CMC), an interdisciplinary learning space where artists and community residents can collaborate, experiment, and innovate in partnership with RU-N’s faculty, staff, and students to engage in creative practice, foster democratic dialogue, and promote positive transformation.  The CMC includes hi-tech equipment (e.g., studio monitor speakers and iMac personal computers with Retina 5K display) and systems, and advanced software applications (e.g., Adobe Creative Cloud: Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, Photoshop, and others) needed to produce high-quality videos. The CMC also offers mailroom, reception, conference, meeting, editing, and production spaces, as well as a sound room. Access to the sound room is subject to availability and will be scheduled in collaboration with the CMC video production program staff. The conference room is equipped with a large-screen monitor, audio system, and iMac personal computer with Retina 5K display for playback.  During a series of open houses, anyone from the Newark community can come tour the facilities, and just recently they’ve begun offering free classes in video production.

During the 3rd annual Leadership Newark Public Policy Summit, our “Newark Decoded” track will afford the community additional opportunities to gain access into the city’s digital space. “Newark Decoded” will be an interactive, working discussion on digital future of the City of Newark and how Newarkers can get plugged in where they live, work, get educated and play in tech forward learning environments.  Leading experts cover the future in fiber optics, broadband, and Wi-Fi at home and on the go. Be sure to join us for the “Newark Decoded” track of the 3rd Leadership Newark Public Policy Summit.

To be part of the conversation, and hear our luncheon keynote United States Senator Cory Booker, reserve your seat to #LNSummit2017 by visiting http://bit.ly/LeadNewarkSummit for more information and to register as an attendee by May 17th. Don’t forget to connect with Leadership Newark on Facebook and follow @LeadershipNwk on Twitter & Instagram.