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Camden Catalyst – $25,000 Pitch Competition Recap

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Camden Catalyst was a $25,000 pitch competition hosted in Camden NJ with the goal of attracting Tech Startups to the city of Camden. The first annual Camden Catalyst was hosted on October 20th 2017 featuring a judging panel consisting of leads, innovators, and people that are shaping Camden.

Camden has been an active community within the last several years due to nearly $2.5 Billion (that’s with a capital B) in tax credits given to Fortune 500 companies to move to Camden. The incentive drew many companies to the city including Holtec, Subaru, 76ers Innovation Lab, and American Water to name a few. The last several years Camden has been busy with many of its major construction along the Camden Waterfront done by Liberty Property Trust and also development of Knights Crossing overseen by Brandywine Realty Trust. The process has garnered attention from businesses and startups from the surrounding region.

Waterfront Ventures

In 2016, Waterfront Ventures, an economic development organization, joined Camden with a mission – to bring 100 startups to the city of Camden to kickstart the startup community and provide jobs/opportunities for Camden students and residents. If Waterfront Ventures is successful, they promise Camden will be a vibrant community with an abundance of jobs/opportunities with a similar ecosystem like Philadelphia. They’ve since hosted several conferences in the city including Startup Conference on May 25th of 2016, UP Conference on January 14th of 2017, and also hosted a plethora of events and programs such as Breakfast with Titans, Camden Tech Meetup, and Lighthouse Mentorship.

Birth of Camden Catalyst 3/24/17

Given their growth and development in the city, a pitch competition was inevitable. On March 24th, Bob Moul CEO of Cloudamize, Dan Rhoton CEO of Hopeworks N’ Camden, and the Waterfront Ventures team got together and created a pitch competition with a prize pool of $25,000. The plan was to have a high enough prize pool to generate buzz for Camden and also provide incentives for a startup to consider building their HQ in the city. The winning startup would have to build their HQ in the city of Camden, hire their first employee in the city, and 50% of their workforce must be Camden students or residents. With the plan in place, the team set out and created Camden Catalyst and announced it to the world.

The Practice Pitch 8/17/17

Hundreds of startups signed up within weeks of Camden Catalyst going live.  The Waterfront Ventures team’s first challenge is to call and vet each and every single startup to ensure that they meet the requirement and qualify. 102 startups qualified through the screening process. On August 17th the team created a practice pitch to help first time entrepreneurs prepare for the big day.

Camden Catalyst Pitch Competition – 10/14/17


The big day took place on October 14th 2017 at the Waterfront Technology Center. Of the 102 startups that passed screening, 40 made it to the big day to pitch. The pitch competition’s format required 2 groups of judges in order to accommodate 40 startups. The judges from these 2 groups were community leaders in Camden, non-profit organization leaders in Camden, business owners, investors, and innovators both in Camden and Philadelphia. The first round was a 90-second elevator pitch. The startup had to sell to the panel of judges in 90 seconds to move onto the round of 16. This was challenging since most of the startups have planned for a 10-minute pitch, but few were ready for a 90-second elevator pitch.

From the 40 startups that came, 16 moved onto Round 1 of Camden Catalyst.

Round 1 of Camden Catalyst

The Waterfront Ventures team opened up Camden Catalyst by sharing the mission and vision of the organization and what their hopes were for all the startups in attendance. 16 Startups will enter Round 1, and 8 Startups will move onto Round 2 of Camden Catalyst. The startups and judges divided into 2 separate rooms and Camden Catalyst officially commenced.

Round 1 Judges

Brett Buterick, Associate at Hill Wallack LLP

Shahid Rana, V.P. of Business Development at Cooper’s Ferry

Rashaan Hornsby, President at Education Over Everything Foundation, Inc.

Sean M Brown, Chief Operations Officer at DuBois Douglass Strategies

Sean O’Donnell, Partner at BALLAST IP LAW, LLP

Ryan Wertman, Co-Founder and Business Lawyer at Growth Counsel

Damon Pennington, President & CEO at ATS Group, LLC

 

Startups that pitched in Round 1

  1. Linked Noodle (Katrina Naidas)
  2. Jauntify (Dennis Pitcock)
  3. Rezzio (Jessica Sarkisian)
  4. Eoko (Jeremiah De Leon)
  5. Denial Flow (Robert Rupp)
  6. Rising Leaders (Jamia Santiago)
  7. Frostheave Fantasy Esports (Kyle Hampton)
  8. Networked (Roger Chinchilla)
  9. Invincible City Farms (Fredric Byarm)
  10. Unishare (Stephanie Huang)
  11. Engageathon (Veniece Newton)
  12. First Responders Live (James Corbett)
  13. Tribes (Liwen Ma)
  14. Nuj Health (Deboleena Dutta)
  15. Higher Hospitality (Yaz Barqawi)

 

Round 2 of Camden Catalyst

The success of Round 1 brought 8 semi-finalists to round 2 where they competed again for a seat to pitch at the Camden Catalyst Awards Ceremony & Final Round on October 20th 2017.

Judges for Round 2

Chris Kohl, Vice President & CIO at Vertex Inc.

Chuck Sacco, Assistant Dean of Strategic Initiatives & Director of the Baiada Institute at Drexel U. Close School of Entrepreneurship

Johnathan Grzybowski, Co-founder of Penji

 

Startups that pitched in Round 2

  1. Linked Noodle (Katrina Naidas)
  2. Denial Flow (Robert Rupp)
  3. Invincible City Farms (Fredric Byarm)
  4. Higher Hospitality (Yaz Barqawi)
  5. Tribes (Liwen Ma)
  6. Unishare (Stephanie Huang)
  7. Nuj Health (Deboleena Dutta)
  8. Engageathon (Veniece Newton)

The 8 startups pitched their ideas to the panel of experienced judges in round 2 and the finalists were determined at the conclusion of the 6 hour Camden Catalyst Pitch Competition. The 4 finalists will now have time to recuperate and plan their strategies for the final round on October 20th.

 

Camden Catalyst Award Ceremony & Final Round 10/20/17


This is the biggest startup event ever held in the city of Camden. Over 470 attendees came to the award ceremony to witness the very first winner of Camden Catalyst and to celebrate the birth of an emerging tech community in Camden. Attendees ranged from CEOs and executives from the major fortune 500 companies in Camden, city officials from City Hall, freeholders of Camden, Rutgers/Rowan/Camden County College representatives, to startup founders, community leaders, investors, from both sides of the bridge.

The event was a huge success and brought everyone who shares a common dream together under one roof. Camden Catalyst was the historic day where all the business owners, executives, founders, and investors who believe in Camden came together to support a new startup coming into the city. It was a day of celebration, joy, excitement, and love.

Opening Ceremony

The event opened up with Congressman Donald Norcross sharing his hope for the city and excitement for a new age of technology. Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli followed up with a talk about his efforts to bring safety and security to Camden and elaborating on the police department’s great work in the city to lower crime rates and increase public safety.

Let the final round begin!

Katrina Naidas, CEO of Linked Noodle kicked off Camden Catalyst with her 10 minute pitch about her tech startup. Her startup Linked Noodle connect students and local instructors. Instructors aren’t limited to teaching boring education-based classes. Linked Noodle is a platform for creatives to teach what they know and love best. And allow others to join in on the fun. Prospective teachers and students meet online and end with a tangible offline connection.

Robert Rupp, CEO of Denial Flow pitched second and presented his idea on solving a $250 Billion dollar health insurance issue. The mission of Denial Flow is to bring a lean and agile software to enterprise revenue cycle management while providing clean, practical solutions at a reasonable price.

Veniece Newton, CEO of Engageathon pitched third and presented her idea of providing an incentive empowerment software for students and community. Engageathon is a software platform that provides tools for school districts, nonprofits, and corporations to improve community engagement. They will use Engageathon to promote, track, and reward student engagement, outreach, and social impact.

And finally Fredric Byarm, CEO of Invincible City Farms presented his idea of building a sustainable farm in Camden to solve the food desert problem and also provide jobs for residents in Camden.

The Winner is announced!

With much excitement and anticipation in the room, the winner of the first annual Camden Catalyst Pitch Competition is announced…Invincible City Farms! The room exploded with applause while the startups all congratulate one another and come together for a group celebration.

Camden Catalyst was an exciting event to witness and brings a different kind of energy and enthusiasm to the city. It’s a much needed energy, the kind that sparks innovation, ideas, and the kind that drives people. Now the rest of Camden will have to wait and see if Invincible City Farms can live up to the hopes and expectation that was set out for the startup.

Waterfront Ventures also announced they are currently working to put together the second Camden Catalyst for 2018.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. MJ Jones

    January 5, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    In round one there was another company called LawDecoder that pitched as well. there were 16 companies in round 1 .

  2. LawDecoder

    June 13, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    LawDecoder was in the first round and just was left out above. We would like to be recognized for the achievement.

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Camden

Why Millennials Are Leaving Big Cities

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Don’t confuse the millennial presence in cities with a desire to be in a city. The population of millennials in large cities may be dense, but since 2010, there has been growth in suburban and smaller urban areas. Not only that, but millennials are moving out of big cities like New York in droves and moving into neighboring areas. Up and coming cities like Camden is showing promise as an alternative to their neighboring city, Philadelphia. With more options and prices for housing dropping, leaving a city may not seem like a bad possibly. The reasons for millennials leaving a city may not be too surprising.

 

Struggle for financial stability

It’s not surprising to find that the millennial generation is struggling financially. With the recession and lack of jobs, the expense of living in a city just doesn’t seem worth it. Though unemployment has lowered, wages are still stagnant. At first glance, it may seem as if millennials prefer public transportation, but it may also translate to the difficulty of affording cars. Millennials are marrying later or not at all because of the lack of financial stability.

 

Living in a city was temporary

A large city meant job opportunities in the eyes of a millennial. However, it is expensive and chaotic. The allure of bars and skyscrapers have less of an appeal in the long run. Meanwhile, smaller cities with a growing economic sector like Camden seem more attractive, especially for job opportunities. Many new startups try to keep their offices in a more affordable area, which many times is not within a large city.

 

Lower priced housing

Not so long ago, purchasing a house seemed almost impossible because of the inflated prices. Though millennials are known for renting rather than purchasing, the housing market is slowly improving, and houses seem more attainable. Moving into the suburbs or a smaller metro area is better financially in many cases.

 

Preferences change

Today’s 30 – 44 year olds are moving out of cities and into the suburbs or faux urban suburbs. Contrary to what was once believed, millennials still have that dream of living the American dream of having a big single house with the fence and lawn. Now that the older millennials are more established in their career, they don’t feel a need to stay within the confines of a big city. Though the move out of a city and into the suburbs may seem slow compared to other generations, it seems that people are just planning to migrate at a later time.

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Business

How Millennials Are Changing The Workplace

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Millennial

Millennials are reshaping the traditional corporate structure. With new CEOs entering the workforce, more companies have been adapting new tactics for managing, motivating, and improving. Millennial entrepreneurs have set the new standards to doing business, focusing on collaboration and efficiency. Soon by 2025, millennials will accommodate 75% of the workforce. This will replace the baby boomers, who have been recorded as the largest generation in the workforce. This instant switch leaves other generations questioning their management. These are 4 ways millennials are changing the workplace:

Emphasizing Technology

Millennials are the generation born after year 1982 and before 2004. This was essentially the era of technology beginnings. To be raised in the ever changing state of development, this generation foresees big things for the digital future. This need for rapid growth has created various platforms for creators, entrepreneurs, and more. Millennials have a profound belief that technology is the future, and so we should precisely use it to our advantage. Networking has been perfected with Linkedin, while Youtube is colonized by content creators, and Slack has better connected employees.

Open To Change

Millennials were born to alternate between innovation and tradition. To be raised in the era of constant development, generation Y has cultivated the skill to be open to change. Arguably, change is intended for growth, so that is how Millennials greet it. The digital age has disrupted traditional systems for the better, a concept that was impossible in the past. Due to the inconsistency they’ve experienced growing up, millennials have subdue their harsh conditions by advocating innovation. Although innovation is a new idea, generation Y strictly believes this is an optimal lifestyle.

This generation does not believe in a constant, that everything has potential. Camden embodies that figure of high potential. Organizations are racing into the city of Camden, for it is the next startup hub for Millennial entrepreneurs. With the economy’s rapid growth and welcoming nature, businesses are rushing in to secure their space. Just outside of Philadelphia, the city of Camden possess hope, just what entrepreneurs need.

Work With Purpose

Millennials differ from baby boomers in one drastic motive. The new generation seek a sense of control and innovation that past generations seem to lack. Millennials deeply value purpose, to even go the extra mile in changing jobs for content. Perhaps it’s due to their entitlement, but Millennials are stubborn to the belief of following your inclination. 60% of employees confess that it is critical to allow them the capacity to do what they do best. Many Millennials will settle in the lower paying job, as long as it allows them the ability to express their talents.

As observed in the city of Camden, non-profit organizations scatter throughout in order to rebuild the city of hope. Devoted organizations and passionate millennial entrepreneurs in the city are growing and giving back to the community.

Work Flexibility

The typical 9-5 business hour job is declining as Millennials continue to enter the workforce. The Census Bureau estimated that 13.4 million Americans work from home. The data will only increase when more Millennials start to work. This new career outlook stems from the disfavored opinion against office confinement. In the strong devotion for both work and freedom, Millennials compromised with the issue by creating careers from the comfort of their own home. Freelance work has been the popular option for Millennials, since it allows independency.  

 

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Business

How To Attract Millennials To Your City

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Location matters in the means of professional success. Millennials are reported to be getting married and starting families later than their parents. This means that their main focus is strictly on their professional career, so these matters are taken seriously, as they involve these factors into determining where to live. Millennials select cities that will help them thrive. This goes vice versa, cities need to attract people in order to be sustainable. The city of Camden has been successful with this process. With the increase of millennial entrepreneurs entering the city, the better the economy gets, as it is shown around the waterfront.

To create more jobs and attraction, cities must attract the job-seeking millennials. There are 3 determinants for millennials to move into your city:

Affordability

Someone who is financially responsible will always consider the cost of living foremost. Cities that contain a high population of millennials often have low employment rates and affordability. If the city is popular but does not meet within millennial’s budget, then it wouldn’t be worth the cost. Money is the only physical asset that holds us restricted. The city of Camden holds that title of affordability. Tax cuts are what attracts entrepreneurs mainly, however the overall value of the stay is well worth it. Camden is located outside of Philadelphia, just close enough to go into their city to network without paying Philadelphia’s cost of living.

Entrepreneurship

Millennials are an ambitious generation. A reporting claimed that 54% have either wanted to start a business or have started one already. This characterized millennials as hard-working and motivated individuals. A location that showcases trails of entrepreneurship deliver a desirable reality to people. Silicon Valley embodies this example, as it is the most known startup hub for technology companies in America. Famous companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google are in that area, so the status of Silicon Valley is held at a high standard.

Another location that is maintaining that status is Camden. Due to Camden’s location outside of Philadelphia and surrounding fortune 500 companies, millennial entrepreneurs are inspired to bring their startup here. There are multiple different types of organizations located here with 76ers as one.

Accessibility

Millennials are attracted to cities that cater to their needs. About 66% of Millennials identified  decent quality transportation as a main influence to choosing a location to live. People typically pick the option that meets their social needs. To obtain that, a low cost transit is ideally looked for in a city. Cities with an ineffective quality transit fail to attract Millennials. 

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