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NJEDA

NJEDA Board approves creation of New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund to cultivate entrepreneurship

The New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund will drive investment and cultivate entrepreneurship in the state. 

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) Board  approved the creation of the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund (NJIEF), a groundbreaking new tool to increase access to strategic resources and venture capital in New Jersey. The NJIEF will create partnerships between the state and the private sector to collaboratively align New Jersey’s well-resourced corporations, and national investors to support entrepreneurs and grow the innovation economy in the state.

Under the NJIEF, the State will become an equity investor in startups deploying up to $600 million into companies alongside professional venture capital groups. This strategic investment will not only support New Jersey’s entrepreneurs, but will also ensure that more companies start, grow, and stay in state. Established by the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020, the NJIEF is an innovative tool designed to incentivize investment in emerging New Jersey companies while creating mentoring, networking, and educational opportunities to help position these companies for success.

The New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund is a groundbreaking public-private partnership that will fuel our innovation economy by attracting entrepreneurs and venture capital to the state,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “The NJIEF draws on the strengths of New Jersey’s world-class corporate leaders to create a steady stream of investment and expertise that will nurture the next generation of innovators. By fostering investments in entrepreneurship and start-up companies, we are driving job creation and economic growth for New Jersey.”

The concept for the NJIEF was first announced in October 2018 as part of Governor Murphy’s economic development strategic plan The State of Innovation: Building a Stronger and Fairer Economy in New Jersey.

“New Jersey has long served as fertile ground for inventions that changed our world – from Thomas Edison and the creation of the lightbulb to Beatrice Hicks and the development of a switch that helped land the Apollo spaceship on the moon,” said New Jersey State Senator Andrew Zwicker. “Our state has a long history of investing in entrepreneurs, and the NJIEF is a key component of reclaiming New Jersey’s leadership role in innovation by creating a vibrant culture of investment that is dedicated to growing the companies of the future.”

“When entrepreneurs think of leaders in innovation, New Jersey should be at the top of their list,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “The NJIEF will not only serve as a novel approach to investing in entrepreneurs, but also a key contributor for job creation and sustainable economic growth. Today’s announcement serves as a testament to Governor Murphy’s leadership in growing NJ’s innovation economy by investing in New Jersey companies and startups.”

“The NJIEF is a game-changing program that will catalyze venture capital investments into New Jersey startups,” said Kathleen Coviello, NJEDA’s Chief Economic Transformation Officer. “The state’s role as an equity investor will encourage established corporations to commit capital and knowledge-sharing resources, creating a dynamic cycle of innovation.”

The seed capital to launch the NJIEF will be raised by auctioning up to $300 million in transferrable tax credits — with an annual cap of $60 million during each of the first five years after program launch — to corporations registered to do business in New Jersey. Corporations seeking to purchase the tax credits must commit to supporting the state’s innovation economy through activities such as mentorship, internships, sales and distribution pipeline access, and availability to serve on the NJIEF Advisory Board for one year.

Auction bids will be evaluated according to price and the specific strategic commitments the bidding company makes to support NJIEF’s portfolio companies and the state’s broader innovation ecosystem, including networking and mentorship opportunities. Once the funding is raised, the NJEDA will partner with professional venture capital firms operating anywhere in the country to co-invest the funds in eligible high growth businesses in New Jersey.

Full details on the NJIEF are available at https://www.njeda.com/economicrecoveryact/. The NJEDA expects to launch the NJIEF later this year.

About the NJEDA

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) serves as the State’s principal agency for driving economic growth. The NJEDA is committed to making New Jersey a national model for inclusive and sustainable economic development by focusing on key strategies to help build strong and dynamic communities, create good jobs for New Jersey residents, and provide pathways to a stronger and fairer economy. Through partnerships with a diverse range of stakeholders, the NJEDA creates and implements initiatives to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life in the State and strengthen New Jersey’s long-term economic competitiveness.

To learn more about state resources available to New Jersey entrepreneurs and early-stage companies, visit https://www.njeda.com and follow @NewJerseyEDA on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon discusses trends in investment capital for minority women asset managers

Currently, there’s about $70 trillion of capital to manage in the United States, yet only 1% of that capital is managed by women, or people of color despite these groups representing 75% of the US population. This is one of many barriers that prevent and limit access to capital for minority-owned small businesses.

During Latina in Business’ virtual panel, “Latina Small Business Post-Covid: Recovery Resources and Trends,” panelists discussed how the pandemic has shifted our relationship with technology. Now more than ever, businesses are relying on digital tools to connect with customers, grow, and thrive. 

We heard from Grow with Google Program Manager, Lucy Pinto, who shared resources and insights on how businesses are using digital resources to expand, grow, and connect. Later, tech entrepreneur, Rosario B. Casas discussed the rapid advancements in tech-fueled by the pandemic and identified some key tech trends for business owners and entrepreneurs to tap into. Finally, Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, Managing Partner of Avante Capital, shared trends and insights in regards to access to capital for small, minority-owned businesses. 

Trends in capital for minority small business owners and entrepreneurs

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, Managing Partner of Avante Capital. (Photo courtesy Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon)

As Managing Partner at Avante, Ivelisse is responsible for identifying, executing, and managing investment opportunities. Over the last 11 years as managing director, Ivelisse has raised $800 million and has deployed $650 million already to 40 companies. Additionally, Ivelisse is a longtime advocate and champion for women, minorities, and the underserved and underrepresented. She holds leadership roles in several local and national non-profit organizations and even launched a philanthropic organization called We Will with her two sisters, to support and empower underserved women and minorities in the areas of healthcare, education, and financial literacy. 

During the virtual panel, Ivelisse spoke with Latinas in Business Executive Board Member, Pilar Avila, and discussed some of the ways she and Avante Capital are supporting the growth of women’s businesses and what trends she is seeing. 

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon  17:19  

It’s so nice to be here. I wanted to start first by saying that while $800 million, does sound like a lot of capital, actually, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a drop in the bucket. So just as context, there’s about $70 trillion of capital to manage in the United States, $70 trillion. And only 1% of that capital is managed by women or people of color. Right. So even though women and people of color represent 75% of the US population, we only manage 1% of the capital. And the result of that is a lot of what we’re talking about today, which is that our communities don’t get access to that capital. 

No, the capital remains in the communities that manage it. And so it’s, it’s a very big issue that’s really obstructed a lot of businesses from growing, right. I’m encouraged because I feel like in the last year, a lot of our challenges in the country, a lot of our social and racial challenges have created a lot of awareness around it. And there’s a lot more intention and focus around investing in our communities. So there are a lot more options than there used to be. There are a lot more banks, a lot more creative finance companies that are evolving to serve our communities. 

That said, our businesses are still really small. You know, they’re really, really small. And while it’s one, it’s a wonderful place to start, for us to really create wealth and to create change and growth in our communities, we have to build them bigger, right, they have to get bigger…Because there’s no difference between us and companies that are larger. I mean, I look at these companies all the time and I think: We can manage these businesses. We can be the CEO, we can be the CFO. 

Pilar Avila  19:28  

We are the capital, right? We hired the talent. We know we have talent, too.

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon  19:33  

We have talent too, exactly. So I think that that’s what we’ve been really committed to at Avante, which is not only supporting women and people of color managing businesses but really trying to get women and people of color into this industry to manage capital so that we can go out and find entrepreneurs from our communities and help them grow. Because if there are not many people in my seat that look like us, our people are never gonna get capital. 

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon

Avante Capital Team in Los Angeles (Courtesy Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon)

Pilar Avila  20:16  

Have you seen particular trends in the extraordinary growth in certain industries or certain types of products or services that we should be aware of whether we have a company in that sector? Or maybe our companies can move into those services?

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon  20:41  

It’s a great question, Pilar, because, you know, when you go to look to see, where are many of the companies owned by women, people of color, they tend to be in a lot of service industries. Right. And I think that there are so many opportunities in other industries that have larger scale opportunities, healthcare, for instance, technology, Business Services, engineering,  we’re just as capable. But for some reason, we haven’t really moved into those industries and not in a larger way. And so I think, people who are doctors or nurses or engineers or computer engineers, starting businesses in those fields, you can gain a lot of scale, you could really grow quickly and be large.

Pilar Avila  21:28  

Continue to place a lot of emphasis on STEM, right, at every level of education. And once you have the education, and maybe get some experience under your belt, the large companies come out and start the businesses. 

You might be interested: Applications for the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund are now open

Taking advantage of resources and opportunities to grow 

Pilar Avila  27:21  

So what would you recommend to our small businesses, micro businesses between you know, 250,000, half a million to 5 million, to do to really apply best practices for the organization, finances, to be prepared to present themselves in the best light to obtain loans, investments, strategic partners and really grow into multimillion dollar enterprises. What do we need to do? How do we need to present ourselves and prepare?

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon  28:03  

I think that the best thing to do is to find mentors and people that have done it before, that can really help you walk through the process. Because it is complicated. There are a lot of different things that banks want to see. And we had panels earlier that also had access to resources. There’s a lot of resources out there, right, and we should utilize them. But the key is to understand that there’s a lot of capital now available. You know, where I wouldn’t have said this 10 years ago, I think that there’s a lot of capital, if you’ve got a good idea, if you got a good business, if you’re a growth brand, you can get access to capital at this point in our country’s history. And you can grow and you should do it.