“The difference between success and failure is so little sometimes.” – Jay Bhatti, Venture Capitalist
The Garden State used to be a powerhouse in the technology and innovation world. The historic Bell Labs produced eight Nobel Prize winners and boasted discoveries like cosmic microwave background radiation, radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, and Information Theory from 1937 to 1965.
In Menlo Park, Thomas Edison completed the carbon filament bulb in 1879. We’ve been the first for many products: the first toothpaste, shaving cream tube, air conditioner, bubble wrap, bar code, TV dinner, catcher’s mask, and drive-in movie. New Jersey has been called the world’s medicine chest, with 10 pharmaceutical giants once headquartered in the state.
While those glory days of tech have dwindled, they’re not gone. In fact, New Jersey is poised for a big comeback.
Jay Bhatti, venture capitalist and personal early-stage seed investor in New Jersey-affiliated startups, sees big things for the Garden State.
Jay is a partner at BrandProject, a group of experienced entrepreneurs who provide financial and operational resources to help early stage companies rapidly scale their growth. He has over 20 years of experience building and managing Internet businesses and brings broad consumer and tech expertise to BrandProject.
After college, Jay landed his dream job working at Microsoft in Seattle. Four years later, Jay was in Silicon Valley as the co-founder of Spock.com, a leading people search engine. His startup grew rapidly, and by the time it was sold, it generated over 50 million searches monthly. Since then, Jay has built and invested in startups in all the major tech hubs of the United States, including Seattle, San Francisco, and New York City.
Jay is an engineer by trade and has spent his career building things from scratch.
“From a search engine startup to a Y2K system in 2000 for a major bank, I have built things that were different and that had never been tried before,” Jay said. “That’s the exciting thing about being an engineer in hi-tech.”
So to say Jay knows what it takes to create a culture of innovation that fosters startups in a community would be an understatement.
In his TEDxNavesink Makers talk, “A Recipe for Geo-based Innovation,” he will discuss the potential of New Jersey to become a startup tech capital.
But what does he mean by geo-based innovation?
“The idea is, how can you leverage your assets in your geographical location to create a culture of innovation?” Jay said. “Many places get it right, like Silicon Valley and New York City. Other places struggle to get it right, like Toronto. And other places start to lose innovation, like New Jersey.”
But the Garden State doesn’t have to lose its momentum in the tech world.
First, Jay says the state needs to incentivize entrepreneurs to set up shop in New Jersey.
“If New Jersey becomes more aggressive and shows interest in investing in bold ideas, more venture capitalists may be enticed to come here,” Jay said.
Secondly, New Jersey must use existing companies doing interesting and innovative things to help create a startup environment.
“This state has so many executives and companies doing great things,” Jay said. “Take those executives and have them invest in the venture capitalist community and make New Jersey a climate that startups can thrive in.”
To continue to spread the good word about how New Jersey can to grow its tech culture, Jay writes for major publications, holds conferences, and sits on panels to get his ideas across.
“The more I can do something to directly connect with people, the stronger I feel the idea can spread,” he said.
Jay wants to be clear about geo-based innovation and how harnessing that power can help foster innovation in an area.
“What makes Silicon Valley unique is not what will make your region unique,” Jay said. “Every area has to play to its natural home-field advantages.”
And what are those advantages for New Jersey?
The state’s proximity to great schools and Ivy League talent. And Jay thinks New Jersey would do well to keep those talents right here at home.
Jay will soon bring his own company to the Garden State, working out of the newly revived Bell Works building, a multi-use community designed for creative problem solvers, business owners, and innovative technologists.
To find out more about geo-based innovation and how the Garden State can reclaim its stake in the tech world, check out TEDxNavesink Makers on April 9. Get your tickets before it’s too late!