In 2012, Mayor Dawn Zimmer set a goal for Hoboken to become the next major tech hub. Hoboken has seen a lot of progress in five years, and local tech gurus think we may have what it takes.
“The history of Hoboken has gone from agriculture, to industry, and now to technology,” said David Powell, cofounder of Mission Venture Partners and Program Director at Hoboken’s Mission 50 co-working space. “There is a huge potential for tech startups and tech companies here, and we want to bolster that.”
Major companies have relocated or decided to keep their headquarters in the Hoboken area, providing jobs and helping the economy to flourish.
“Audible.com was acquired by Amazon two years ago,” Powell said. “They wanted them to move headquarters out to Seattle, and Audible decided to stay because they saw this area has potential.” The company has headquarters in Jersey City and Newark. “Jet.com also made the move to stay in Hoboken because having access to the talent in the area is a big deal. Samsung is looking at bringing headquarters to Hoboken, so that would be a huge thing.”
Well on its Way
Aaron Price is another major player in the local tech community. Cofounder of Mission50, he thinks Hoboken is more than ready to become a technological asset to the East Coast.
“Hoboken offers the ability to be near a major metropolitan area like New York City and to recruit talent,” he said.
Price cites talent, community, education, press, and capital availability as key elements that Hoboken already has.
He founded NJ Tech Meetup in 2010 hoping to create an environment where local innovators and entrepreneurs could inspire each other. It has now become the largest technology gathering in the state. Boasting 7,000 members, this collective is shooting to take technology to the next level.
“We hold the meet-ups almost exclusively at Stevens, and it’s a sellout crowd every time,” Price said. “It’s mostly entrepreneurs and businesses, but students get involved too.”
The meetup has already had a positive impact. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, members collaborated on a relief project.
“When Hurricane Sandy came through five years ago, the NJ Tech Meetup was looking for what we could do,” Price said. “I reached out to people in the group, and we came up with this fundraiser. Someone said they could do hoodies and T-shirts, someone said they could build the website, another person said they could handle the graphic design, and in about 30 hours we put together a landing page called Heal Hoboken to sell these hoodies and sweatshirts. We raised $32,000 all within a week or so, and obviously it kept coming in afterward. This is a highly engaged community, made up of wonderful people.”
Price is also owner of Propelify, which puts on the Propelify InnovationFestival that draws thousands of participants to Hoboken every spring. They embrace the Profelify motto of taking their ideas and propelling them forward.
City Hall Helps
David Powell said, “The next mayor has a huge opportunity to take Hoboken to the next level. They’re looking for five more cities to test autopilot cars, and I think with so many families in Hoboken, safety is a huge issue, so this would be a great place for autopilot cars, and that call comes from the mayor. If we provided Wi-Fi for all of Hoboken, that would attract a tech person, an intelligent person; and piloting those auto-cars would attract people who drive Teslas, wealthy people who are into technology.”
“Stevens is churning out programmers left and right,” Powell added. “Just three years out of school you can be making $120,000 as a computer programmer. It’s a hot commodity right now. It’s better than any Ivy League school, in my opinion.”
Technology has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. Women, many in high places, have denounced the culture of sexism in the tech world, reporting sexual harassment and even sexual assault.
“But,” Powell said, “recent years have proven that more and more women are interested in this field. We need them badly. These women are extremely smart and successful. They have the knowledge and experience to start a tech company.”
Powell sits on the Advisory Board for the New Jersey Technology Council, which held the inaugural Women In Technology conference this fall at the Douglass Campus at Rutgers in New Brunswick.
Panelists included Ann Ferracane, general manager of Lyft for the New Jersey region, who talked about the culture of technology companies.
“It’s almost like you’re a group of college students working on a project all night,” she said. “If you’re in a supportive environment, that starts the chain, which then breeds innovation.”
Said Powell, “Hoboken is in the early stages of being a major tech hub. It has all the parts.”—07030