Propeller aims to turn Hoboken's Pier A into the 'SXSW of the Northeast'
This article, written by Anthony Noto, first appeared in Upstart Business Journal on 05/09/2016. You can read the original post here.
NEW YORK—Aaron Price, the founder of NJ Tech Meetup, has been busy orchestrating an event he's billing as "the SXSW of the Northeast."
Propeller, which kicks off May 20, has an attendee list currently hovering 5,000. Tech luminaries, investors, fund managers, billion-dollar unicorns and startups will convene at Pier A Park in Hoboken, New Jersey. The lineup includes a startup competition, VC speed dating, guest speakers and a grand finale concert featuring Beatie Wolfe(with Bell Labs Human Digital Orchestra) and electronic band The Naked and Famous.
Among the speakers slated to take the stage include City of New York CTO Minerva Tantoco, angel investor and founder of Gotham Gal Ventures Joanne Wilson and Techstars managing director Jenny Fielding. The list was updated today.
Propeller is rooted in the fact that "ideas are a dime a dozen," Price told me. "What you propel forward is what matters — it's really about action and not ideas." Read on to hear more about what Propeller has to offer N.Y.C.'s startup and VC community.
How has your background led to creating Propeller?
I patented a weightlifting device in high school. When I was 19, I started a food delivery service called DeliveryU, a company similar to Seamless. That was in 1999, a time when flip phones were the main mode of communication. The world was very different. I also started NJ Tech Meetup at a time when we were the only one tech meetup in New Jersey. I've really grown to appreciate the challenging career choice of launching a startup. I also don't believe there are many overnight successes. And these kinds of events that bring together thought leaders are essential because it's not a process that one can do alone. By learning from other experienced entrepreneurs, you can save money, time and heartache. It makes the entire process a lot more meaningful and successful.
TechDay has also been recognized for its massive scale. Is Propeller planning to be different?
We just think it's time to unify the Northeast startup and innovation community in a much bigger way. I've been an entrepreneur my whole life. I know the struggle and I wanted to bring together something that's inspiring, educational, fun and, hopefully, festive. I think TechDay is great. We were one of the exhibitors there. The environment is different. It's an open expo with lots of networking. What we'd like to do is take the best of what's being offered and create a unique experience overall. New York is massively overdue for something of this scale.
What are some of the highlights that are planned?
We have about 100 plus speakers, a Techstars co-hosted startup competition, several interactive events — virtual reality, drone training — a recruiting bar and lounge from Jet.com, plus the many exhibitors throughout the day. I see elements of what we want to do at much smaller events around New York and the rest of the country, but very few bring it together in a very engaging and inspirational way. Now we're at a point in our regional ecosystem that justifies something at a much larger scale, built to unify all these other communities. We're not trying to compete with all of those organized events. We want one that unifies everyone and is really epic.
Was it challenging to get so many speakers on board?
It was easy by the time I had made the actual connection. Years of networking have paid off. The feedback has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. They've all recognized the need to do something like this in the area and say they are thrilled to be a part of it. The reaction has been strong. We've gotten some impressive names in our speaker lineup and we're expecting to add more. I'm humbled by the positive response.
How did you come to scheduling the event in Hoboken?
We looked at venues in New York City, Brooklyn and New Jersey. But we saw Pier A as the perfect place to bring together the entire region. The venue is outdoors with a beautiful skyline that lends itself nicely to be a unique event, and fits up to 15,000 people. It's also next to mass transit and easily accessible. Therefore, it made a lot of sense for something at this scale. And even though it's certainly on the New Jersey side, we're not billing it as a Jersey focused event. In many ways, this is like having the quintessential New York tech and music event.
General admission for Propeller costs between $99.99 to $329.99, though the lowest priced tickets are sold out and prices rise as event day approaches. Pricing options for exhibitors are anywhere from $1000 to $20,000.