Can Hoboken be the heart of innovation in the northeast? Silicon Valley certainly has the other side of the continent covered in California. Aaron Price, who launched “NJ Tech Meetup” (the monthly technology gathering at Stevens Institute of Technology) six years ago, thinks the Mile Square City can claim the moniker — and he’s putting it to the test.
“We have the potential, the talent pool, the geography and the infrastructure,” he said in an interview this past week.
The NJ Tech Meetup, which Stevens hosts besides its recent Innovation Expo, is relatively small-scale. Price thinks it’s time to go big.
The City of Hoboken will host the inaugural Propeller Innovation Festival at Pier A Park on Friday, May 20 with the New York City skyline in the backdrop. The festival is expected to attract over 5,000 attendees to see 50 or more exhibitors and 40 plus speakers across two stages.
“This [event] is one leg on a five-legged stool that could make us break out as a massive tech hub for the region,” said Price, who has lived in Hoboken for the past eight years.
Tickets, which are available at www.propellerfest.frontgatetickets.com, start at $150. Limited quantities each of $20, $30, and $40 tickets are available by visiting www.bit.ly/propellerhoboken.
Attendees at the all-day (9 a.m. to 11 p.m.) tech fest can expect to hear talks from tech innovators, mingle with venture capitalists, speak with recruiters from Jet.com and Audible, and see drone competitions, pilot training, and virtual reality demos. Food trucks will also be on hand, as well as a grand finale concert by The Naked and Famous.
“Hoboken has a long history of innovation, and we are proud to host the Propeller Festival to bring together people from across the region as we once again establish our city as a hub for technology and entrepreneurship,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “I encourage our residents to take advantage of a special discount and participate in this day of innovation and great music.”
Talks from top innovators
The stages, one labeled “wisdom” and the other “inspiration,” will feature a variety of luminaries: #4 Most Influential person on LinkedIn and investor James Altucher, Gary Vaynerchuck (CEO of VaynerMedia), Hoboken’s own Jet.com CEO Marc Lore, CNBC anchor Wilfred Frost, Elite Daily cofounder Gerard Adams, Gotham Gal Ventures Founder Joanne Wilson, and Startup Weekend Cofounder Franck Nouyrigat.
Price assures that someone with the right idea will be able to stroll into the festival and leave with financial backing to make it a reality.
“We’re really trying to create a celebration for people who are curious of how the world has changed and how they can have an impact,” he said.
Price, who spoke at the White House last year about how an entrepreneur can impact a community, said the Propeller Festival has been months in the making.
Why focus on technology innovation?
“I think it represents the current and future of our economy and how the world has changed,” he explained. “The speed at which you can launch any kind of change using tech is dramatically faster than ever and I think it touches all of us.
Among the festival’s more innovative draws is a “human digital orchestra,” which Price describes as sensors on a stage that monitor the crowd’s movements and match it with audio and visuals in real time.
That, like many other things at the Propeller Festival, Price says, is something people are gonna want to see for themselves.
Steven Rodas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.