Investing Trends in Voice Tech

by Daniel Borok, Managing Partner, Newark Venture Partners


Last week, Newark played host to the VOICE Summit, sponsored by Amazon Alexa and hosted at NJIT.  It was attended by 2500 people and explored topics ranging from conversation design to companies’ voice strategy across industries, and yes, you guessed it: investing in voice tech.  Our NVP Labs Director, Allison Williams, joined a panel on the mainstage, titled “Voice First Investors” with other investors in the space. We were excited to be part of the event as it highlights an area of investment focus for us, Voice Tech.

By now, you’ve heard a lot of talk about the role of voice as the next frontier of machine interface.  Chances are you have heard Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai and others talk about the trend in interviews, or you know from personal experience as one of the 50 percent of Americans who already use digital voice assistants.  Maybe you received a Google Home or Alexa device for your birthday this year, and ask it for the weather every morning, or perhaps you use it at work to manage your meeting schedule. Wherever you fall, you know that voice technology is here and becoming more embedded in our daily routines.

What gets us excited from an investment standpoint is the emergence of a new product/application interface combined with the sheer potential market size.  Within the next 5 years, we will see a massive increase in adoption by both consumers and businesses. U.S. retail shopping through voice tech will exceed $40 billion by 2022. ComScore forecasted that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.  And the number of voice-first devices in the U.S. is more than 33 million, based on a new study by VoiceLabs.

Why the voice trend continues: distinct catalysts

We believe there are 3 catalysts driving voice technology adoption: 1) Improvements in natural language processing, enabling better comprehension, 2) growing presence of IoT enabled devices as an installed base where voice interaction can be the primary source of engagement and 3) the search for productivity gains across the digital landscape.

As the number of digital device touchpoints explodes, voice is faster than text (taking 1/3rd of the time) and works as an even quicker fix for generations that seek instant gratification.  It cuts back on the information overload that is often delivered by search engines, and it feels more natural to ask a question out loud than it does to type it. Voice is a natural extension of our human nature.  

Fundamentally, the voice market is propelled by a basic desire to communicate more effectively and therefore its potential customer base is massive.  According to TechCrunch, by 2020, there are expected to be 6.1 billion smartphone users globally, and it’s no coincidence that voice is a mobile-enabled and mobile-first technology.  Our founding Corporate Limited Partner, Audible, is a leader in spoken audio content and has benefited greatly from the growth in mobile device usage as a significant driver of audio consumption. Audible has paved the way for the current trend of “heads up” interaction with mobile devices. As voice technology is perfected, users will ingest and respond to audio content from their mobile devices as easily as they converse with friends.

Newark Venture Partners Areas of Focus

As we explore the Voice Tech opportunity we have been looking at a number of horizontal voice applications that we can validate across our corporate investor network. Technologies targeting cross-industry integrations capture a significantly larger market opportunity, and there has been a history of recent acquisitions and funding in this category.  

We have seen potential applications across our corporate partner network, whether used for customer support at Prudential, IoT enabled device interaction at Panasonic or vertically focused use cases in the world of healthcare at RWJ Barnabas Health and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.  We’re also paying attention to what market leaders like Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are doing that may help to support or undermine ecosystems in the voice space.

We’re seeing a robust pipeline of startups building and scaling really interesting products, and are particularly interested in developments around B2B applications.    As an example we recently invested in Veritonic, an audio testing platform.  Veritonic fills a critical gap in media and technology, allowing marketers and others to test responses to audio and voice interactions.  As audio continues to grow, through a variety of voice-technology advances, and busy consumers continue to multitask, the need to effectively reach them through audio will be greater than ever before.

The VOICE Summit provided a forum to discuss these complexities, along with emerging trends, technological advancements and compelling new applications, making clear that voice is more than a market, it is the new way of life. Major leaps in technology have a way of defining a generation, from the age of fireside radio chats, to evolving audio/visual technologies, to cell phones and touchscreens. Children being born today in the U.S. will grow up in a world where speaking to devices is as natural as breathing, and investors with the foresight to invest now, will reap rewarding returns. Take our advice, put your money where your voice is, and, if you don’t believe us, just ask Alexa.


Introducing NVP Labs’ Fall 2017 Accelerator Class

It has been a busy (and exciting) couple of months here in Newark, and we are very pleased to announce the launch of our NVP Labs fall 2017 Accelerator class. One year and three classes later, we are as laser focused as ever on attracting leading entrepreneurs to Newark to build distinctive businesses that will propel the city’s technology ecosystem.

The nine companies selected represent 1% of applications, and cover sectors ranging from waste management to healthcare; and geographies ranging from New York City to Tel Aviv. We had an overwhelming number of high quality applicants, and would like to thank everyone who took the time to apply, or to introduce a talented founder to our program.

We kicked off on October 10th, and will keep you updated on this class’ journey through demo day in January.

And now, announcing the third NVP Labs Accelerator class…

Bixby is a mobile building communication & hospitality platform making it easier for owners & managers of all property types and portfolio sizes to provide top quality service to tenants and residents while making properties more connected, efficient, & sustainable.

BOTique is a next generation AI powered contact center.

Enhatch is the highest caliber mobile platform for field sales teams traversing the complex sale in the Industrial Sector.

Hyr is a fully-mobile platform that connects traditional businesses like restaurants, hotels and retailers with independent 1099 labor to fill hourly paid shift work on demand.

Industrial/Organic is a waste management start-up recovering resources from excess food to be made into new products, keeping food out of landfills.

Padinmotion provides healthcare facilities with a digital platform to educate, engage and stay connected to their patients. is a sales automation software powered by artificial intelligence that finds perfect emails, phone numbers and insights for any professional in the world.

Ursa helps teams develop conversations into actionable & shareable stories.

ZielWear is a retail-as-a-service platform for leaders of health & wellness communities to create & sell on-demand, custom performance wear.

We want to take this opportunity to thank our corporate partners Audible, Dun & Bradstreet, Prudential Financial, RWJ Barnabas Health, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Fidelco for their ongoing mentorship. We look forward to an amazing session this Fall.

All Accelerators Are Not Created Equal

Product launch ☑

Incredible team of founders ☑

Traction with customers ☑

…Congrats! You’ve launched a business, built a product and are now beginning to focus on finding product market fit, scaling and fundraising. In examining how to scale, your team might be considering participating in an accelerator program. Once dubbed a fad, accelerators are playing an increasingly important role in the global startup ecosystem and have become the standard in helping early-stage companies scale. However, not all accelerators are created equal. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing the right fit.

Program Size + Engagement:

Programs are built with different focuses and the class size and location are two important drivers of your experience. A larger class size can be valuable if you are laser focused on leveraging key elements of a program or interested in higher-level content and don’t necessarily need individual advice. Smaller classes are helpful for more 1:1 time with program directors and managers, but these smaller programs may have smaller mentor networks or less network access. Beyond program size there’s program engagement, i.e. is it a full-on in space experience, a virtual program or something in-between? Again, founder preference here is largely based on what you want out of the program — if it’s rifle-shot strategic advice or introductions then virtual or part-time works, if it’s a community of like-minded founders and a more immersive experience then an on-site program is best.

Quality of Content:

Some programs are content heavy and will run classroom style sessions and panel events covering business 101s: Product Market Fit, Data Science, Sales & Marketing, VC fundraising and more. Other programs focus solely on connecting companies with strategic go-to-market partners. When opting for a content heavy program, it is best practice to prioritize in showing up for sessions/events that fill information gaps in your operations as you simply will not be able to attend all. Reviewing curriculum, researching session leads and talking to alumni founders are all very insightful ways to get a sense of programming and rate quality of content.

Accelerator Deal Terms:

Without getting too deeply into deal terms, at a high-level you want to make sure that the program investment is meaningful enough (in cash or strategic value) to produce an ROI and bridge you to your next milestone. Core terms are investment amount, valuation, structure and other benefits like space, strategic partnerships, etc. If you are cash-strapped with limited initial support, then a cash investment is important — if you’re in an expensive market perhaps free space is attractive, and if you’re vertically focused then that strategic introduction might be priceless even if comes with $0 investment. Programs provide everything from cash to free space to strategic introductions, but there is a cost to your time and resource investment that you should weigh carefully.

Strategic Partners and Mentors

Who are the LPs, corporate partners, and mentors and how do they fit into your growth strategy? It’s important to also understand the level of commitment of various corporate partners — are they logos on a website or living, breathing mentors + partners. Best way to diligence value add is to ask to talk to past accelerator participants and point people at the corporate partners.

For instance, one of our more veritcally focused partners here at at NVP is RWJ Barnabas, the largest hospital network in NJ. RWJ’s partnership is extremely valuable to our healthcare IT companies who often leverage this relationship to run pilots.

Access to VCs & Angels

The goal is to increase your chances of getting funded post accelerator by increasing your network of VCs and Angels. In addition to introductions during and after programs to VCs and Angels, credible programs should prepare you for these meetings by hosting pitch practice sessions and working with you 1:1 to refine investor deck. It’s also up to you to vet the ability of your accelerator to make these intros, so don’t be shy about asking which firms have funded their previous companies.

In-house Support:

Although your team is amazingly talented, your resources are thin and you a lot of operational help!!! Many programs will (and should) give functional support by providing business associates, designers, developers at no additional cost to you. These associates help with a number of projects ranging from sales & marketing strategy, development, to UI/UX. #allhandsondeck.

Post-Accelerator Support/Community

Do you still get to keep your office space, get additional funding, access to partners, VC, & alumni network? Find out! These benefits will sustain your growth. It also helps to have a community of founders to reach out to for support. A good way to gauge community dynamics and post-accelerator benefits is to work out of the co-working space for a day and talk to founders in the office.

There are probably (definitely) other items to add to this list, but taking these into account while doing some homework will ensure (95% chance) that you find the right fit. Do your diligence, just like the accelerator teams are diligencing your company. At the end of the day an accelerator is an investor (in most cases), and you should consider who is making the investment, who will be spending time with you during the program and how those people have done with other companies in the past. Now go!

Thoughts, comments, and shares are welcomed 🙂

NVP Labs is a next generation program, which leverages leading corporate partners including Audible (an Amazon Company), Prudential Financial and Dun & Bradstreet and many more to help scale our companies. Startups in the program receive a $100k initial investment plus $100k in follow-on capital, mentorship from corporate partners, and access to a brand new 25,000 sq ft. co-working space located in the same building as Audible’s global headquarters in Newark.

We focus on attracting leading entrepreneurs to Newark to build distinctive businesses while catalyzing development in the technology ecosystem of the city. Interested in joining our fall cohort or have a company to recommend? Applications are currently open and will close on Sept 8th.

Introducing NVP Labs’ Spring 2017 Accelerator Class

We are very pleased to announce the launch of the second Newark Venture Partners Accelerator class here in Newark, New Jersey. The class started on April 3rd, and will end with our demo day on June 27th.

With our second accelerator class we continue our focus on attracting leading entrepreneurs to Newark to build distinctive businesses while catalyzing development in the technology ecosystem of the city.

We had an overwhelming number of high quality applicants, and want to thank everyone who applied. The eleven companies that we selected for the class represent 2% of applications, and cover a range of sectors and geographies. Our company founders have come from NY, NJ, Raleigh, Toronto and as far away as London!

The companies in this class are working on analyzing IOT data, adding metrics to the creative development process, streamlining clinical analysis for healthcare professionals, reducing security risks from open source, and providing peace of mind to university students.

We want to take this opportunity to thank our corporate partners Audible, Dun & Bradstreet, Fidelco, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Prudential Financial for their ongoing mentorship. We look forward to an amazing session this Spring.

And now, announcing the second Newark Venture Partners Labs Accelerator class…

CircleLink Health connects telephone nurses to chronic condition patients, for preventative care between doctor visits.

Claim it! offers the chance to win amazing free products in a specific city or town.

DocDelta harnesses the power of big data to help healthcare institutions find and retain top talent.

Envested is a software platform that centralizes all forms of workplace giving (time, talent, and money) to make it easier for you to engage your employees.

GitLinks monitors open source components with a platform that detects open source code in applications and tracks license compliance, security vulnerabilities, and needed updates.

POMCO is a smart, one-button personal safety device. The POM, is a keychain-sized personal safety device that instantly connects community members directly with campus safety, 911 or their friends. is a fully integrated platform that utilizes artificial intelligence and data visualization to improve your sales and marketing.

Trendalyze is the first motif discovery platform specifically built to scale for Big data and IoT sensor data in order to monetize data patterns.

Veritonic is a unique marketing intelligence platform for benchmarking and testing audio in advertising.

WearAway is a B2B online rental platform for wardrobe and prop rentals for film, TV and advertising productions.

WellSheet uses machine learning to create a one sheet view of a complex patient, improving efficiency and accuracy at the point of care.

Newark Venture Partners Inaugural Accelerator Class Presents Company Milestones at First Annual Demo Day

Hundreds of investors, community leaders and corporate supporters attend NVP Labs’ first Demo Day at the Prudential Center in Newark.

NEWARK, NJ — ​December 8th, 2016 — Newark Venture Partners, a venture capital firm focused on attracting sophisticated technologists and entrepreneurs to Newark to catalyze the local technology ecosystem, showcased its inaugural accelerator class at Demo Day at the Prudential Center yesterday morning. Nine companies, selected from a pool of 650 applicants to the NVP Labs inaugural class, took the stage in the arena to present distinctive successes and future plans developed during an immersive 12-week program in the NVP Labs accelerator.

Highlights from participating companies’ presentations to an audience of potential investors, Newark community leaders and other supporters and mentors included Barkly’s launch of its on-demand dog-walking service in the New York market, Dream Forward’s 401K customer win with Barnum Financial Group, the successful completion of Navinata’s physician engagement platform pilot, and Sales Huddle’s achievement of $1M + of 2016 contracts.

“In 2007, Audible came to Newark to embrace the city’s renaissance as a defining principle for the company,” said Don Katz, founder and CEO of Audible and founder of Newark Venture Partners. “Newark Venture Partners was founded to be a seedbed for a new generation of young growth companies in Newark and to accelerate the comeback of a great American city by tethering Newark to the elements of the economy that are growing sustainable jobs and taxable revenue. The NVP accelerator Founders benefit from a focused curriculum and a network built to help companies develop and scale led by NVP’s Limited Partners, including Audible. At Audible we encourage our employees to be mentors for the accelerator start-ups, and have seen a significant collaboration develop.”

Demo Day for the inaugural accelerator class underscores Newark Venture Partners’ commitment to attracting best-in-class start-ups to Newark to grow the local technology ecosystem on behalf of an urban comeback story. Newark Venture Partners’ anchor limited partners include Audible, Dun & Bradstreet and Prudential Financial, as well as noted individual investors. Newark Venture Partners aims to connect Newark to the burgeoning NYC-area startup and innovation hub and to the sectors of the economy generating real job growth and wealth through technology-driven innovation.

Housed rent-free in a state-of-the-art 25,000-square-foot tech space with 10 gigabit fiber-to-the-desktop, and downstairs from Audible’s global headquarters, the NVP Labs Founders benefited from a focused curriculum and a network built to help companies develop and scale. The network is spearheaded by NVP’s corporate Limited Partners who opened up their employee rosters to be mentors for the accelerator start-ups, and supported by an on-site team of ‘In-Residence Experts’ including developers, designers, business associates, and sales consultants.

“We’re excited by the quality of the nine companies in our inaugural accelerator class, and proud of the Founders who all chose to be pioneers by making the City of Newark home for their companies,” said Newark Venture Partners Managing Partner Dan Borok.

Accelerator company Founder Sam Caucci of Sales Huddle said, “Newark Venture Partners has given us access to a range of fantastic resources, including over 200 Audible employee-mentors.”

Presenting members of NVP Labs’ inaugural class at Demo Day include:

Alphachannel — connects brand marketers with curated production partners to create innovative, technology-based marketing content.

Barkly — Barkly is a service for pet owners to arrange on-demand pet care in a few taps. Using their smartphone application, pet owners can access local, highly-trained and vetted dog walkers in as little as 60 minutes notice, 365 days a year.

Bowtie — Bowtie is a plug and play chatbot solution for any business on any messaging platform. Bowtie bots allow users to order food, book appointments or purchase items from SMB’s seamlessly over SMS, Facebook Messenger and voice enabled communication channels.

Dream Forward — Dream Forward is a 401(k) platform with new A.I. technology designed to help employees work through their challenges and stay on track for retirement.

KiDCASE — is a parental control solution for the Apple iPad. — helps developers code more and debug less. Developers that use nativetap fix bugs up to 70% faster.

Navinata Health — Navinata Health is re-building the broken connection between Pharma Brands & busy Physicians.

Sales Huddle — Sales Huddle is increasing employee performance with its mobile game platform for employee training.

UpChannel — UpChannel connects smartphone manufacturers with their customers, enabling recurring relationships and data-driven insight through a native mobile app.

About Newark Venture Partners

Newark Venture Partners is a new innovation and growth catalyst — a 21st-century venture fund, providing capital, company-building services and residence to innovative tech start-ups in Newark, NJ. Backed by Audible, Prudential Financial, Dun & Bradstreet and more, Newark Venture Partners invests in determined founders working on ambitious objectives using technology. The firm not only supports early-stage start-ups, aiding both financial and strategic growth, but helps entrepreneurs get to the next level of business while catalyzing economic development and the creation of jobs in the Newark vicinity.

For more information about Newark Venture Partners, please visit

Announcing the Inaugural Newark Venture Partners Accelerator Class

This has been an eventful first year at Newark Venture Partners. We opened our 25,000 sqft co-working space (with super high-speed internet) in Q1 2016. Then, we announced the initial close of the fund in May and began making our first Seed and Series A investments. Today we are excited to have launched the NVP Labs Accelerator and are excited to be showcasing the companies in our inaugural accelerator class.

The 9 companies in our class are participating in a 3-month long program that runs from September — November 2016. We have developed a focused curriculum and built out a support network to help our companies develop and scale. Furthermore, our corporate Limited Partners Audible, Dun & Bradstreet and Prudential Financial have opened up their employee rosters to be mentors for our companies. Additionally, we have built an on-site team of ‘In-Residence Experts’ to support our accelerator companies, including developers, designers, business associates, and sales consultants.

And now, announcing the first Newark Venture Partners Labs Accelerator class…

Alphachannel — Alphachannel is an online marketplace that enables marketers to find and engage top-tier creative studios and production companies.

Barkly — Barkly is a service for pet owners to arrange on-demand pet care in a few taps. Customers are matched with local, background-checked and trained dog walkers to take out their dogs in as little as 60 minutes notice.

Bowtie — Bowtie is a plug and play chatbot solution for any business on any messaging platform. Bowtie bots allow users to order food, book appointments or purchase items from SMB’s seamlessly over SMS, Facebook Messenger and voice enabled communication channels.

Dream Forward — Dream Forward sells 401(k) plans with new technology designed to help employees get over whatever excuse they have for why they can’t save for retirement.

KiDCASE — KiDCASE is the only smart case with built in parental controls for the Apple iPad — helps developers code more and debug less. Developers that use nativetap fix bugs up to 70% faster.

Navinata Health — Navinata Health conveniently educates today’s busy physicians about innovative life saving & life extending therapies.

Sales Huddle — Sales Huddle engages employees through daily training games that companies can customize to their brand and be played in under 5 minutes a day.

UpChannel — UpChannel connects smartphone manufacturers with their customers, enabling recurring relationships and data-driven insight through a native mobile app.