Small Business Spotlight: New Jersey Tech Weekly Follows Latest On Innovation In The Garden State

May 01, 2018 - 7:00 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Esther Surden is a trailblazing woman in journalism and business, and used her extensive background to launch a tremendous product in New Jersey Tech Weekly.

Surden started out writing for Computer World magazine in the 1980s. Now, she covers between three and five events per week, and some weeks, two or three events in the same day.

“Coming up on Thursday, there’s one on blockchain and finance, and there are supposed to be 200 people coming to that one, so I’ll be covering what happens at that event and also get to know the entrepreneurs who are involved in blockchain and finance,” Surden told WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly.

Surden had all kinds of jobs and job offers in the past, but decided she wanted to use her expertise for her own venture. She saw the opening in 2010, and it took a couple of years to get everything together.

“I really was tired of making money for other people, and I was tired of lending my expertise to other people’s ventures, and so I decided that I wanted to do something that was small, hyperlocal, and something I could get a handle around, and there was also another piece of this, and the other piece was that the tech industry in New Jersey was woefully underreported, and I saw that, and I realized that there was an opening for me to come in there and really help shine a spotlight on these small companies that are doing tech in New Jersey,” she said.

Surden also had no trouble persuading advertisers that she had a valuable opening.

“I think there were a lot of people in the New Jersey tech ecosystem who were despairing of the fact that there wasn’t a lot of publicity for what was happening here, and I think that the people who – especially the people who wanted to be involved in the ecosystem, or who had been involved in the ecosystem… from the big telecom days,” she said. “And so a lot of those people became my sponsors; became my advertisers.”

The venture was encouraging, even though others told Surden they had tried similar ventures and hadn’t succeeded.

“But I thought that we were on an upswing, and this would only be, you know, a good thing,” she said.

Now with New Jersey Tech Weekly thriving, Surden said New Jersey Tech Weekly looks at its advertisers as partners.

“They’re our partners because I can’t guarantee them click-throughs. My audience is very, very savvy, and they don’t click. But these are the people who are willing to invest their money with me, just to have their name out there in the industry; among my readers,” she said.

As to the New Jersey tech industry right now, one of the most discussed technologies is blockchain – a shared and decentralized database system best known for recording cryptocurrency transactions. But it has other applications too.

“(In) New Jersey, we’re not so much talking about cryptocurrency as we’re talking about using blockchain for industry, and there are a lot of companies out there – small companies getting started right now – who are trying to create efficiencies in industry through blockchain,” Surden said.

Surden said artificial intelligence is also “very hot” in New Jersey.

“There’s some excellent work being done at Bell Works in Holmdel. NVIDIA has an office down there, and they’re doing some artificial intelligence for automotive industry there,” she said.

The third major source of information is virtual reality, Surden said.

She said virtual reality applications are being perfected “for business use cases, and for augmented reality as well for advertising. There’s a lot of digital advertising agencies that are working on use cases for virtual reality and augmented reality.”

And unlike some oracles in the tech industry, Surden is far from fatalistic when it comes to concerns about artificial intelligence and other major emerging technologies destroying jobs.

“In the short term, they will create more jobs than they eliminate. Perhaps in the long term, when they’re really mature technologies, you might find that they’re eliminating jobs,” she said. “I’ve covered a number of events that talk about the future workforce and how these new technologies are going to decimate it, but we’re not there yet, and I think there’s room for other technologies to come in and make jobs.”