Opinion: Why TechUnited Matters to the NJ Tech Community

Esther Surden

Opinion: Why TechUnited Matters to the NJ Tech Community

Today, Aaron Price and his team turned a page in the history of the NJ Tech Council. They introduced the organization’s new name and brand, “TechUnited:NJ.”

New Jersey is one of the few states that has a strong organization uniting and advocating for its tech community. The NJ Tech Council has been that advocate for 24 years.

However, as a 20-plus-year-old organization, it needed a refresh, and TechUnited:NJ sets the expectations just right.

In a recent interview, Price described the organization’s vision as follows: “For those who are defining the path ahead in New Jersey and beyond, TechUnited:NJ is an empowering force for all innovators, instigators and entrepreneurs, achieving this by uniting our community to embolden the ‘what ifs,’ so that we accelerate opportunity, propel ideas into action, in order to build a better future for all.”

The word “all” is an important part of that statement, Price said, and it’s deliberately used twice “because we want to make sure the organization addresses all kinds of people from all different backgrounds, and we think about equity as an important driving characteristic of how we move forward.”

Bringing Value to Stakeholders

The organization is putting a lot of emphasis on the experiences and value it offers its members and others who may not be members. Price thinks a lot about what TechUnited:NJ’s differentiator is and what he brings to the table. Based on his experience running the NJ Tech Meetup, Propelify and the NJ Tech Council, he noted that “they all offer surprising and impactful opportunities that arise when the tech community unites.”

So, this time, “We were thinking about a name that represented the power of community, the power of bringing people together.”

There’s a ton of energy around the state and around the region about what can we do together, he added. “I think TechUnited:NJ is really well positioned to help catalyze a lot of that opportunity. It’s a really exciting time to be involved with all of this.”

The new logo was developed in New Jersey, said Price. He pointed out that, on the logo, the point where the “h” connects with the “u” represents when tech unites, and they are the only letters that are physically connected. A multicolored gradient shoots out from the space behind “united” to represent the impact and the opportunities that emerge when technology unites and people and companies come together. He noted that “h” and “u” are the first two letters in the word “human,” and that human powers activate this explosion, and humans are the catalyst driving energy and momentum.

“The graphic behind the ‘united’ is a gradient meant to represent a diversity of individuals and the ideas in the community,” he said. “It’s deliberately changing colors over time as a reflection of the diversity of people and ideas that come together. It goes from cooler tones to warmer tones in a nod towards building a better future for all.”

The word “Tech” is prominent in the logo. According to the website,”Tech isn’t just about coding languages and transistors. To us, being a ‘tech’ person is a lens through which one sees the world. Where some see headaches – we see opportunity. Where some find frustration, we look for efficiency. Where some think small – we leverage technology to make a dent in the globe.”

Data Driven

Price announced the new name and brand during an NJTC Town Hall webinar, making it clear that TechUnited:NJ would be holding itself to a very high standard, and would be collecting and monitoring data on user satisfaction with the organization and its programs. He noted that the overall goal will be to bring value to New Jersey’s tech community. “Whether you’re an early-stage entrepreneur with an idea just looking to get started, or you’re a Fortune 100 company,” TechUnited:NJ can accelerate your opportunities, he said.

There are three particular data points that are important to TechUnited, Price said. The first one is overall engagement. “Our goal is to have at least four meaningful engagements with every stakeholders’ organization each year. I hope we have significantly more, but it is a minimum of four. We’ve now committed to technology to start to track those things.” Secondly, TechUnited is looking to increase its value by having a higher net promoter score, which is the ratio that shows that people are heavily advocating for our organization.

 “We were looking to meet or beat a 35 Net Promoter Score. … We looked at the services industries, and 30 was the was the good-to-excellent score, so we set a slightly higher bar: 35. Most recently, and it’s early in the process, but we’re at 58 and above with most of the experiences.” The third goal is to look at growth as measured by an increase in members, an increase in overall revenue and “a decrease in our membership churn rate.”

Emphasis on New Jersey

During the launch webinar, Price was asked specifically if the goal of the rebrand was to start in New Jersey and to expand to other regions. He added that it is possible. “The goal wasn’t to come up with a brand necessarily that could expand to other regions, but it certainly was a major positive as we thought about branding, that it might open doors” to other areas.

“There are logical steps to how we could have other TechUnited brands around the country, around the globe. And our thinking was [that] we may or may not ever get to that place, but if we did, and the headquarters and the mother ship is in New Jersey, we can bring people together here and show that this can be the beacon from which it all grows. We think that’s a net positive for everybody.”

Price emphasized that, for the foreseeable future, TechUnited’s emphasis will be on this state and this region.

Why it Matters

So why does all this matter? It matters because the tech and innovation community is New Jersey’s future.  If we all pull in the same direction, if we can unite the state and the region, if we can get large companies, mid-sized companies, small companies and startups talking together and finding common ground, we can finally put New Jersey on the tech map.

Am I worried about Price’s possible long-term goal of replicating this in other places? To me, it only means that the organization will be working extra hard to get this right for New Jersey.

Innovation comes out of every corner of New Jersey, and TechUnited:NJ can help us all pull together to move forward. We wish TechUnited:NJ the best of luck in the next 20-plus years of this organization.

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About The Author

Esther Surden

Esther Surden

Esther is the Founder and Editor in Chief of NJ Tech Weekly. This article is republished here with her permission.




Governor Phil Murphy with Aaron Price at Propelify 2018 (file photo) | Esther Surden

 August 13, 2019  Esther Surden

On August 5, the NJ Tech Council announced that it had acquired Propelify, the innovation festival that has brought thousands of tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to the Hoboken waterfront. It also announced that Aaron Price, who had founded Propelify, would be the organization’s new CEO.

Price is a well-known figure in the tech ecosystem in New Jersey. A serial entrepreneur, he founded the NJ Tech Meetup in Hoboken as a platform for meeting other entrepreneurs and learning from the successful ones. At last count, the meetup had more than 7,300 members.

In 2016, Price launched Propelify, a multifaceted outdoor event that has been called the “SXSW of the Northeast.” And with it, he energized the regional tech community. Price’s Propelify has inspirational speakers, startups from all over the world, educational panel discussions, speed-dating with investors, tech innovation demonstrations, games, networking opportunities, entertainment and, one year, job interviews on a Ferris wheel.

In a brief interview with NJTechWeekly.com this week, Price noted that there are some guiding principals that are important to him and to the NJ Tech Council board of directors. “Everything we will do will be driven by collaboration, differentiation and a high bar of excellence.” In addition, the NJ Tech Council will have its own unique voice, he said.

Price noted that he was in the process of figuring out what that means when it comes to the details, but said that it basically “means that we will serve the community effectively, provide real value, and add a significant amount of energy and new ideas around everything going forward.”

“Everything we will do will be driven by collaboration, differentiation and a high bar of excellence.”

Aaron Price, CEO of NJ Tech Council

He added that the board recognizes that the NJ Tech Council needs to serve the entire tech ecosystem, and that the Propelify community represents a significant portion of the early-stage and growth-stage tech companies in the state. “That’s one of the reasons that we were all excited about the opportunity,” he stated.

By no means will the Tech Council ignore the companies it historically represents, he added. “I think that we can modify the programming so that the complementary stakeholders can actually have a significant benefit for one another.”  He explained that early-stage companies that are looking for access to bigger corporations can have that happen through the Tech Council.

Also, Price noted that New Jersey needs a variety of new funding mechanisms for startups, and that can happen through the Tech Council as well.  “A lot of the larger corporates are very hungry for all of that to happen.”

“We tapped into the desire of members of the tech community to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves.”

Aaron Price, CEO of NJ Tech Council

Referring to the outpouring of congratulations and offers of help and partnership he has received since Monday, Price said, “There is a lot going on in the state. I think we tapped into the desire of members of the tech community to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. I feel an enormous outpouring of positive energy about what the community can do together to raise the bar.”

So how did this all come about? “Over the last six or seven months I was looking for some investment opportunities that turned into acquisition opportunities, and I never imagined that the Tech Council would be part of this conversation,” he said. “By chance and coincidence, it came up, and by the end I thought it made the most sense for Propelify and for my own personal mission around what I can do for New Jersey and the tech community here.”

Speaking about Propelify, which is taking place in Hoboken Oct. 3, Price said that people come to the festival from all over the United States and the world because it has a lot of value. “I think there is an opportunity for us to do more to speak to all parts of the state, to empower people around the state who are in many cases championing their own area, so we can have a united voice,” in New Jersey.

For a limited time, the NJ Tech Council is offering free general admission tickets to Propelify. Visit this link:  https://propelify.com/gaticket19/?ccode=njtcpropels and use code NJTCpropels.

About The Author

Esther Surden

Esther is the Founder and Editor in Chief of NJ Tech Weekly. Esther is a contributor to PhillyEnterpriseTech, and this post is reprinted here with her permission.