The Founders & Funders event on June 1, sponsored by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), brought together New Jersey startup founders with angel investors and venture capitalists in 10-minute meetings. The founders got to know the investors and in many cases took home good advice and sometimes the promise of a follow-up meeting.
NJTechWeekly.com have been following these Founders & Funders events since their inception, and we believe this event is one of the best ways for founders to make multiple fundraising connections. In Part 2, we feature interviews with three of the female tech founders who participated in Founders & Funders.
Loralyn Mears, Founder and CEO of STEERus
Loralyn Mears is a highly visible startup founder from New Jersey who has written about and encouraged women and others in New Jersey’s startup ecosystem. His startup is STEERus (Township of River Vale).
We asked Mears for her elevator pitch, and here’s what she told us: “STEERus is all about communication. We help companies and individuals improve their communication skills to be more successful because people find it difficult to communicate with each other. We have intergenerational communication challenges; we have cross-cultural communication challenges. The more we work with offshore talent and the more we work remotely, the less we communicate and the less effectively we communicate. So we created a combination of a self-help academy — we call it a “success academy” — where people can find personal and professional development of all kinds. We have created an assessment where we can tell you what you need, what skills to improve. And then we have the technology platform where we can dynamically offer you a personalized learning playlist based on our modular content.
Mears had some comments to offer NJEDA on the event. She identified two gaps in the availability of investors and investments: “First, there are so few pre-seed and pre-revenue funding opportunities, and those investors are increasingly hard to find. Even angels are more like venture capitalists. They want to see monthly income. So this pre-seed investor is becoming like a breed of dinosaur, you can’t find them anymore, they’re gone. And then the second thing is that New Jersey has a very vibrant tech ecosystem and investor ecosystem, but a lot of it is in fintech, medical tech, and a lot of deep tech. There is very little space in [human resources] technological space”, where STEERus is based.
She said the investors she met were very courteous and acknowledged the problem. They recommended other backers she could meet who sometimes wrote checks for pre-seed startups.
Mears would like to see NJEDA offer unconditional grants to founders in the range of $5,000 or $10,000, just so they can move the needle on their startups. “That would be extremely helpful,” she said. Additionally, she thinks the Founders & Funders event should be expanded to all niches. “It’s wonderful to be included. And I’m really glad I was. But if you don’t have anyone here investing in HR tech or edtech, I’m instantly no match, am I? And I don’t want to waste investors’ time.
Kirthika Parmeswaran, Founder and CEO of Vital Start Health
According to Kirthika Parmeswaran, Vital Start Health (Philadelphia and Princeton) has developed the first maternal mental health platform using virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence for affordable, personalized and clinically guided care across the full spectrum of motherhood, from pre-pregnancy care to pregnancies high-risk and intensive neonatal care unit experience and follow-up in the postpartum period. Parmeswaran founded the company with John Chuo, neonatal quality manager at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
We asked her for the elevator pitch, and she gave it. “We have all heard of the four vital signs: pulse, respiratory rate, body temperature and body pressure. Today, I reveal the fifth, the vital sign of well-being, a digital signature signed Vital Start. Our initial focus is maternal mental health, an area that is very close to my heart. I have personally experienced postpartum depression and struggled with disparities in the healthcare system. I am a Wharton alumnus, with deep expertise in technology and business. And I’m passionate about solving that problem through innovation. We are looking for an $18 billion opportunity.
We asked why the startup integrated virtual reality into its solution. “The American Psychological Association recommends virtual reality for mental health issues, including PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]TOC [obsessive-compulsive disorder], stress, anxiety, depression. There is a body of evidence showing the effectiveness of virtual reality, and it stems from the visceral and immersive nature of virtual reality. So it helps a patient to relive that experience. And therefore, with an aware practitioner, they can benefit from that useful thought that they need. »
When we asked Parmeswaran about her dating, she had met four investors. One of them she already knew and was happy to fill him in on the company’s progress. “Most of them wanted to talk more, so I was able to get contact information.” The company was too early-stage for some of the investors, but they said they would connect it with other investors who were considering very early-stage startups in this space.
“And then I also got some feedback on my ‘home page’, that maybe I could include a profit and loss statement and more about our market strategy. So that was a good learning curve. used more as a flyer with an overview of the company. »
Kathleen Colatrella, founder and president of LINEA System
Explaining her startup, Kathleen Colatrella said that LINEA system (Parsippany) is “a clinical science technology company focused on accelerating clinical trials.
“We do this through our software, AcceleTrial. We have hundreds of thousands of clinical investigators at our sites. These are doctors who support clinical trials. And we are able to reduce clinical trial start-up costs by 50% with our platform,” she said.
“Why is this important? Because the clinical trial process is difficult, it’s a mess, and it takes a lot of rigorous process to get a full trial. [The platform] is significant for people in the pharmaceutical industry or for stakeholders, because there are a lot of costs and time that occur when trials are delayed. When clinical trials are delayed, it not only costs the pharmacy to conduct the trial, but also adds costs to consumers for new drugs that come to market. So if we can have an impact and reduce that time-to-market product testing, that would be important to all of us. And we believe we can have a significant impact by requiring all pharmaceutical companies to conduct their clinical trials through our system. »
She explains how it works: “If you’re a pharmaceutical company and you’re going to start an Alzheimer’s trial, and you tell us, ‘I need to find 15 neurologists who have the expertise, the clinical experience and the patients who support our trial”, we will be able to immediately access our database and give you all the neurologists who have already been screened, who have the clinical experience you are looking for and who also have patient access.
Asked about her meetings, Colatrella said she had met five investors and that her company was too young for them to invest in; but that didn’t matter, because she wasn’t ready for the investments yet. She used the meetings to find out where each investor operates in the market and how much traction they need to see before writing a check. Some of the investors wanted to know more about the company, to keep an eye on it for future investments.
“I think it’s important for them to learn who we are and what space we play in, and for us to be able to see what a successful engagement looks like. We also learn at what stage investors invest and the size of a check that they write. We learned all of this by talking to the various investors. ” So far, Colatrella has started his business.
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