Thursday on the waterfront, in Sinatra Park, Hoboken hosted the second Annual Propelify Innovation Festival.
The festival, started by Hoboken resident Aaron Price, offered over 80 speakers, live music, exhibits, food, drink, and hiring initiatives.
According to Price, last year’s festival debut drew over 8,000 attendees from all over the world, and this year they saw over 10,000 attendees.
The festival ran from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., kicking off with introductory remarks from Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Price, and ending with a fireworks display.
According to city spokesman Juan Melli the festival was moved a few blocks north instead of reclaiming Pier A park as they did last year due to ongoing construction on the pier.
“We didn’t want any heavy equipment on the pier like the festival’s two stages,” said Melli.
The stages hosted presentations, live music, and panel discussions. The festival spanned from Third Street to Sinatra Park.
According to Zimmer, Hoboken is a great location to host this event not only because of the tech companies that have made Hoboken home but also because of Stevens Institute of Technology. “This builds on the legacy of innovation which began with Stevens Institute of Technology,” said Zimmer. “We are proud to have Propelify back again this year.”
Zimmer said more and more companies are making the choice to move to Hoboken and “it’s a great place to live, work, and play.”
Price, a 10-year Hoboken resident, began Propelify last year and said it began after he started the NJ Tech Meetup seven years ago.
The meetup is a monthly meeting at the Stevens campus of over 150 entrepreneurs and innovators to hear from speakers and interesting startups with a goal of sharing best practices and learning from both failures and success.
“Idle ideas don’t fly.” –Aaron Price
Price, who said he has been a lifelong entrepreneur since the age of 12, never thought his “side hustle” would turn into Propelify.
“I still don’t think of myself as an event planner,” said Price.
During his introductory speech on the “stage of wisdom,” he explained he got inspiration for the title of the festival from a plane on a runway ready to take flight.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Aaron, what is the deal with the propeller stuff?’” said Price, “What we like to say is, ‘Idle ideas don’t fly.’”
Price said Hoboken was the perfect location for the innovation festival.
“Hoboken is a beautiful and convenient city,” said Price. “It is the perfect place to unite the tech, startup, and corporate innovation community. Newark airport is only a few minutes away, the train station is down the street, and New York City is right across the river.”
According to Price, “entrepreneurship is a tough go” and he explained there are high moments and “troughs of sorrow” but he hoped Propelify would be a work day for everyone in attendance.
“I want everyone here to not only be inspired but take action to move their project forward,” said Price.
One of Hoboken’s largest tech companies, Jet.com, hosted “Ferris wheel interviews” for attendees interested in working for the company – interviewing people on a Ferris wheel.
“As of this morning, we had 60 people signed up ahead of time to interview, but we have more now who just signed up,” said Head of Talent Acquisitions Travis Kessel.
Kessel said bringing the Ferris wheel to town was his idea.
“We wanted something that was as bold, innovative, and fun as we are,” said Kessel. “This is really representative of our culture and what we stand for.”
According to Kessel last year Jet.com hired three people during Propelify.
Kessel said the festival gives Jet.com the opportunity to build diversity within the company.
“By attending diverse events we are able to expand upon our diverse workforce and there is really no comparison,” said Kessel.
One of Hoboken’s newest tech companies, Flow.io, also took part in the festivities.
Garrett Robertson, a market analyst at the company, said Flow.io is working to break down ecommerce borders.
“Flow provides a turn-key platform for e-commerce companies to go global, capturing international demand for their products,” said Robertson.
According to Robertson this allows a U.S.-based merchant to sell in France by giving the French consumer what they expect, such as price conversations and local shipping methods.
Flow.io has only been in business for about a year, making this their first Propelify.
“We are just excited to come out and introduce ourselves to the Hoboken community and let them know who we are,” said Robertson. “This seems like a fun event.”
Two professors from Stevens Institute of Technology also had booths at Propelify,
Dr. Werner Kuhr from the Stevens Venture Center, and Dr. Seth Cluett from the Sensory Computation Experimental Narrative Environments (SCENE) Lab.
According to Kuhr, the Venture Center consists of students and faculty and provides assistance to about 15 Stevens projects that have the potential to become businesses.
“It provides a collaborative environment where selected entrepreneurs can develop promising concepts and technologies into businesses,” said Kuhr, who said there have already been two startups founded from the venture center, including a company which created a new web browser which combines social media and a browser, and another which works with insurance companies and providers on health records.
The Venture Center offers Stevens-affiliated entrepreneurs with technology support, networking, resources such as legal and accounting experts, and investors.
Dr. Cluett said he and team of four faculty members, two grad students and a few classes are working to create a better virtual reality experience.
“Virtual reality is next. The flat screen will become obsolete just as the book became obsolete during the information age,” said Cluett. “We are moving from the information age to the age of exposure. People want to experience things, they want to see things and hear things and touch things.”
“We have developed ways of engaging surround sound with the virtual reality experience,” added Cluett.
Hot, Hot, Hot
Lt. Brian Brereton, who has been with the Hoboken Police Department for 19 years, was in charge of the safety and security of the event. He said pre-planning began several months ago.
According to Brereton, the day began with street closings and bomb sniffing dogs.
“Thirty minutes to an hour before the festival, we had two bomb sniffing dogs walk the event, check trash cans, packages, and Porto-johns, and inspect all areas,” said Brereton. “We have one that is still walking around the area and another near the entrance. They will switch out this afternoon with two other dogs, so we will have four dogs total on loan to us from the Hudson County Sheriffs Department and the Jersey City Police Department.”
According to Brereton the HPD also had 14 officers assigned to the festival area and an additional five handling traffic control as Sinatra Drive from Second Street to River Road was closed.
“Unfortunately in today’s environment we see a trend of terrorist attacks made from crashing vehicles into large gatherings,” said Brereton.
He said other than public safety his main concern was trying to make sure his officers stayed hydrated. Temperatures reached a high of 94 degrees.
Thomas Malta, head of Hoboken’s Volunteer Ambulance Corp. said heat was his primary concern.
“We are on the look out for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke,” said Malta who said no one had needed their assistance as of noon.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.