Launching Success Stories

Campus hosts boot camp for fledgling tech start-ups

Ten teams of aspiring technology entrepreneurs are calling Montclair State home this fall as they participate in an intensive 12-week technology accelerator and business boot camp called LaunchPad 1.

TechLaunch is New Jersey’s new investor-led technology accelerator that helps transform innovative concepts into successful, commercially viable business models through its LaunchPad 1 program. TechLaunch has partnered with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), Casabona Ventures and JumpStart NJ Angel Network to help a select group of portfolio companies pursue their start-up dreams.

While the seeds of a successful start-up can stem from doodles scribbled on a cocktail napkin, the program provides the advice, encouragement and coaching that can jumpstart success. Among other things, the 2012 portfolio companies are developing a social media platform for athletes, smartphone parental controls that prevent texting while driving, an online pop culture lesson library for teachers, a community-based mobile social networking app and an event-based photo-sharing service.

Funding comes from the NJEDA and TechLaunch investors, providing each participating portfolio company with $20,000 in seed funding, expert mentoring, workspace and access to potential investors. In return, TechLaunch will receive a 10-percent stake in the fledgling companies.

In the past, New Jersey’s would-be entrepreneurs looked outside the state for funding from an accelerator program. TechLaunch has changed that. “We’ve attracted top-tier talent,” says TechLaunch founder and CEO Mario M. Casabona, a seasoned entrepreneur and venture capitalist.

LaunchPad 1 runs from August through October. Activities include one-on-one mentoring and coaching from more than 75 successful entrepreneurs and angel investors, regular guest speakers and networking opportunities, weekly dinners and social events and trips to Fortune 100 companies.

“We’re taking our teams through a training program that covers topics ranging from strategic planning to product plans, intellectual property and technologies, and from sales and marketing to investor pitches,” explains TechLaunch Executive Director Travis Kahn. The ultimate goal: to help the budding entrepreneurs develop solid business plans that will attract follow-up funding from investors.

“Montclair State is a perfect venue. It not only provides easy access for New Jersey residents as well as state-of-the-art facilities, but it is ideally situated just 14 miles west of New York City, the current tech and investment hub of the East Coast,” says Casabona.

LaunchPad 1’s inaugural class of passionate innovators enjoys access to campus workspace, conference rooms and even optional housing, and the program also provides professors and students with the opportunity to interact with the aspiring entrepreneurs.

LaunchPad 1 will culminate on November 1 with Demo Day, when, armed with viable business plans, the portfolio companies will pitch their start-ups to a select audience of qualified angel investors, venture capitalists, business executives, professors and technology experts. “Our expectation is that they will be impressed by an intriguing suite of portfolio companies poised for success,” predicts Casabona.

“TechLaunch is leveraging New Jersey’s technology-based assets and creating an environment that allows our most promising entrepreneurs to grow and ultimately deliver products to market,” Caren Franzini, New Jersey Economic Development Authority chief executive officer, says on the TechLaunch website.

“TechLaunch offers a wonderful opportunity to incipient tech companies seeking a firm grounding for a successful future,” says President Susan A. Cole. “Montclair State University is pleased to be the home for this important program.”