Business leaders and public officials gathered Monday to launch Newark Venture Partners, a $50 million early-stage technology venture fund supported by some of the city's top corporate leaders.
With backing from companies such as Audible.com and Prudential Financial, the fund will provide capital and company-building services with the goal of helping Newark become a national hub for the ever-growing tech sector. To help the city make that leap, the fund has established a 25,000-square-foot accelerator workspace at One Washington Park, the home of Audible and Rutgers University Business School, where startups will have access to “lightning-fast Wi-Fi” and high-bandwidth Internet access.
The venture fund is largely the brainchild of Audible CEO Donald Katz, whose audiobook company has called Newark home for some eight years and has long touted it as a home for the startup scene. He said the fund is the first of its kind in the New York metropolitan area, with a focus on fostering entrepreneurship while having a social impact on the surrounding area.
“Audible moved to Newark in late 2007 to help accelerate the comeback of a great American city,” Katz said. “As the fastest-growing private employer in Newark, we have added hundreds of employees who are thriving in a city at an historic tipping point.”
Veteran angel investor Thomas Wisniewski will lead Newark Venture Partners’ staff, with support from Rutgers Business School, Audible employees and a host of other organizations and resources.
At a ceremony attended by state and city officials, along with high-profile Newark business leaders, the fund’s founders on Monday also unveiled the so-called Firebolt Wi-Fi, a high-speed, outdoor free public Wi-Fi network funded by Newark-based companies and business groups. The systems covers a two-mile stretch of downtown Newark and will also be available at several community recreation centers and housing authority locations in the city.
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