Two local entrepreneurs and one city council member agreed during an interview on WBGO's Newark Today radio news program that Newark could be the number one high-tech hot spot in the nation, soon surpassing rival high-tech business hubs like Boston, Brooklyn and the Silicon Valley.
Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins and Newark entrepreneur Jimi Olaghere during a taping of Newark Today at WBGO studio.
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Olaghere, the founder and head of business research and development at Geek Supply Co., an e-commerce startup in Newark, spoke enthusiasticly about last month's announcement of a new $50 million technology venture capital fund, known as Newark Venture Partners, which will provide capital as well as sophisticated company-building services and a collaborative state-of-the art 25,000-square-foot accelerator workspace with high bandwidth access to the Internet for innovative tech start-ups in Newark.
"I got excited when I heard the news. We've had entrepreneurs all over the city, but now we have the financial backing to execute these ideas," Olaghere said. "Now that we have the venture capital fund, we actually can be a bona fide tech hub, as good as Boston and better than Silicon Valley in a few years. We can use Newark's great transportation network and fiber-optic cable capacity, grow the talent from the schools within the city, including Rutgers and NJIT, and we can get jobs in here. It's the perfect storm for a tech revolution."
Medina, the creative director of the Newark-based MEDINA = CITI graphic arts and multimedia design house, noted that although he is a native of Brooklyn, he felt vindicated about his choice to build his business in Newark despite comments from doubters outside of New Jersey's largest city.
"When I grew up, Brooklyn had a very bad reputation, and I was used to being an underdog and an outsider. But I just kept beating them back with facts," said Medina via phone while in Miami promoting Newark as a new tech Mecca. "We invested in the fabric of what existed in Newark, and we showed that we were going to go outside of Newark and tell people that this city is amazing, and that what you don't know can only hurt you. The narrative about Newark can be shifted with facts and actual experiences, as opposed to perceptions."
While some people worry that the development of Newark as a high-tech hub, along with concurrent gentrification, could limit the looming tech boom to the city's downtown and not expand to Newark's other neighborhoods, Chaneyfield Jenkins had a different future outlook.
"We are all committed to inclusion," said Chaneyfield Jenkins, noting that last month Newark Venture Partners leaders simultaneously announced the introduction of Firebolt Newark Wi-Fi, Newark's new free, fast, public Wi-Fi network designed to connect the city's downtown to the rest of Newark. "Firebolt is going to be very popular because it will give Internet access to children throughout the city. If we don't do this with this generation, we will have lost more opportunities. We're not going to lose any more ground."