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Newark Venture Partners closes $23M and launches new accelerator

A certain new fund and its new accelerator are making quite a scene in Newark, New Jersey.

Newark Venture Partners, was launched last July to Mayor Cory Booker’s delight, and has just announced that it has closed its first round of $23 million and is on track to close its target of $50 million.

The fund was founded by Audible founder and CEO, Don Katz, and is headed up by its managing partners Tom Wisniewski and Dan Borok, formerly of RosePaul Investments and Millennium Technology Value Partners, respectively.

The firm’s anchor limited partners include Audible, Dun & Bradstreet and Prudential Financial, and private individual investors, and seed and Series A-stage companies will be the fund’s investments of choice.

“Newark Venture Partners [is] specifically designed to connect Newark to the east coast technology ecosystem and is key to recasting Newark as a pioneering innovation zone and ultra-bandwidth tech center,” Katz said in a statement.

The team at is also announcing launch of its new accelerator program, Newark Venture Partners Labs, which is backed by the firm’s fund.

The whole idea behind the fund and accelerator is to recast Newark as a hub for innovation — a place that is closer to Brooklyn than Manhattan rather than a place that is close to crime, Wisniewski said in a phone interview.

Wisniewski’s career as a serious investor started in 2007 when he joined New York Angels then later on when he started RosePaul Investments with his wife.

With a career in investment banking and consulting behind him he knew he that he wanted to continue fostering relationships with startups and entrepreneurs and investing was the best way to do that.

He currently teaches an angel investing course at General Catalyst and says being involved with Newark Venture Partners and its accelerator has been a rich, life-fulfilling experience.

“We very much see ourselves as competing for the best startups,” he said.

In trying to compete, the fund has moved to a 25,000 square foot co-working space located in the same building as Audible’s global headquarters in Newark.

The office’s main draw is its ultra-high bandwidth WiFi access and 10 gigabit-plus fiber-to-the-desktop, which Wisniewski said is 200 times faster than a standard business class connection.

Resident portfolio companies will also have access to Audible system engineers and architects, data scientists, technologists and business experts located in the same building as Newark Venture Partners Labs, as well as graduate-level engineering and business associates from the greater Newark vicinity, which includes Rutger Business School.

“Access to technologists, media experts, [and] marketing and sales [experts are] an elevator ride away,” he said.

The new accelerator is now accepting applications from startups to join its inaugural accelerator class, which will begin business in September 2016.

If chosen to participate in the program, startups can expect an $80,000 investment and Wisniewski said the fund will continue to invest in all graduating companies that complete a qualified financing with up to $1 million in follow-on investments.

The accelerator is now accepting applications from all types of startups ( fashion tech startups included) as long as they are innovative and capital efficient. Newark Venture Partners is also announcing its first investment in StrongArm, Inc., an industry-grade wearable that helps people lift heavy items without strain to the body.

By Ashley Paintsil

 

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