Investor Emil C. Herkert Channels Decades of Experience into Shaping the Next Generation of New Jersey Entrepreneurs
TRENTON, N.J. (September 6, 2018) – As the principal founder of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Highlanders Angel Network, investor Emil C. Herkert is a regular participant in the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (EDA’s) Founders & Funders events.
Held semi-annually at the EDA’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT) in North Brunswick, New Jersey Founders & Funders events pair investors with entrepreneurs in 10-minute, “speed dating” sessions to discuss strategy, business models and funding opportunities. Herkert brings nearly 40 years’ worth of fundraising experience to these sessions.
Driven by a desire to bolster New Jersey’s technology ecosystem, Herkert founded NJIT Highlanders Angel Network in 2013. The group is comprised of 10 investors, including NJIT faculty, staff and alumni.
“NJIT Highlanders Angel Network is dedicated to driving entrepreneurship by investing in businesses we feel can have an impact around the world,” Herkert said. “New Jersey companies are conducting cutting-edge research and engaging in many forms of innovation and we’re proud to help fund their ventures.”
During one New Jersey Founders & Funders event, Herkert met with Eventcombo Co-Founder Joe Kaufman, who pitched his company’s online ticketing platform. Kaufman’s pitch sparked subsequent meetings, which led to NJIT Highlanders Angel Network members investing in Eventcombo. NJIT Highlanders Angel Network often partners with other New Jersey angel investor networks in funding rounds, as it did with JumpStart NJ Angel Network on the Eventcombo investment.
Prior to establishing NJIT Highlanders Angel Network, Herkert served on NJIT’s Board of Overseers for over 30 years. NJIT’s Board of Overseers is the governing body for the Foundation at NJIT, a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization that serves as the fundraising arm of the university and assists in meeting its research and funding goals. It also provides a critical link between academia and the business community, by sharing information on corporate and state priorities. Herkert joined the Board in 1980 and became its chairman several years later. By the time he transitioned to Chairman Emeritus of the Board in 2011, the Foundation’s endowment had grown to over $100 million.
“Governor Murphy sees connecting academia and the technology industry as a critical step toward his vision for re-establishing New Jersey’s leadership in innovation,” EDA Vice President of Technology and Life Sciences Investments Kathleen Coviello said. “Investors like Emil play an integral role in strengthening those ties while creating opportunities for the Garden State’s next generation of entrepreneurs.”
Herkert also brings over 25 years of experience in the corporate world to his Founders & Funders meetings. In 1977, Herkert took over as Chief Executive Officer of Killam Group, an engineering firm based in Millburn. He led the company through three ownership changes. In 2001, Killam Group was acquired by Mott MacDonald, a global engineering firm whose United States headquarters are in Iselin. At the time of Herkert’s retirement in 2004, the company had over 600 employees in 15 offices. Today, Mott MacDonald employs 4,500 nationwide.
The next New Jersey Founders & Funders event is scheduled for November 1 and companies can apply online at https://application.njeda.com/tls/.
@NewJerseyEDA spoke to Herkert about his role in New Jersey’s technology ecosystem:
What do you consider your greatest successes during your time as Chairman of NJIT’s Board of Overseers?
Two particular successes come to mind. During my time as Chairman, we added other consulting engineering firms to the Board of Overseers, further strengthening the link between academia and the business community. We also established the Excellence in Research Prize and Medal. Awarded annually, this honor recognizes researchers who have made outstanding contributions to science in their fields.
What type of companies do NJIT Highlanders Angel Network investors primarily invest in?
We primarily invest in technology-based companies, but avoid life science companies due to the length of time it takes to bring products to market.
What advice do you offer entrepreneurs at New Jersey Founders & Funders?
I always tell entrepreneurs to take advantage of New Jersey’s rich field of early-stage investors with many funding groups. And I recommend that they use the investors’ experiences and connections as they develop their concepts.