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NJ Tech Council

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Summer 2017 Edition

We had an amazing spring with a fantastic Venture Conference featuring Boxed CEO Chieh Huang and investor Nihal Mehta. Then we had an enlightening IoT Conference with some great demos. And just a few weeks ago we kicked off our inaugural Jersey Innovation Week with a lunch roundtable among our Jumpstart Angel Investors and the following day presented an illuminating HealthTech Conference.

Last week, we held our annual CFO Awards Breakfast where we honored the accomplishments of financial executives from across our region and heard insights from Karen McLoughlin, the CFO of Cognizant. We also renamed the Hall of Fame Award in memory of the late Caren Franzini, the former head of the NJEDA who was a tremendous supporter of the Tech Council from its inception 21 years ago.

We hope to see you at our Annual Meeting on July 12 where we’ll have the New Jersey gubernatorial candidates and a CEO Panel to discuss the region’s ecosystem. Then we’ll cap off the evening with a comedy show and open mic opportunities.

You can always keep up to date with what’s happening at the Tech Council by visiting njtechcouncil.org or stop by and co-work for free at our downtown New Brunswick office. Have a great summer and I look forward to seeing you soon!

– James C. Barrood, President and CEO, NJ Tech Council

Nevakar USA


Dr. Puri’s first venture, InnoPharma, was founded in 2005 with a focus on developing complex generic pharmaceuticals of sterile injectable dosage forms This was sold to Pfizer in 2014. Puri went on to found Nevakar, which is a specialty pharmaceutical company, focused on developing innovative products in injectable and ophthalmic space.

We sat down with Dr. Puri to discuss the pharmaceutical industry:

You have worked in pharmaceuticals your whole life, what led you down this path?

When I enrolled in undergrad pharmacy school, honestly I did not know much about pharmaceuticals. I only knew overall healthcare, and physicians take primary role in managing healthcare. In the back of my mind, I was exploring this area, and if I did not like it much, I would have moved on to medical school. However, once I became a student of pharmaceutical sciences, I found myself getting very excited and motivated by the field of “researching and making medicines” vs the field of “practicing medicines”. This led to my graduate education in pharmaceutical sciences, followed by my training and practical experience in the industry, including large and small. At this stage of my career, I find this profession to be very rewarding, motivating and purpose driven!

Nevakar’s mission talks about repositioning drugs for a better outcome. Can you briefly explain that?

There are lots of drugs currently in the market that are suboptimal in their efficacy or safety, which is primarily attributed to their suboptimal formulation or drug delivery systems. Nevakar’s mission is to first understand where meaningful unmet needs exist due to suboptimal products, which are experienced by patients and healthcare system. Once we understand and verify the unmet needs, we endeavor to improve the drug product through changes in drug product formulation, drug delivery system, and way of administering the drug or even clinically studying new therapeutic indications of existing drugs. These efforts can be consolidated under the terminology of “drug repositioning”. Better outcomes relate to improving patients’ quality of life and healthcare outcomes.

What do you see the biggest challenge to be in the pharmaceutical industry today?

Pharmaceutical industry is very heavily regulated, and due to right reasons. Industry and FDA’s first and foremost responsibility is to protect patients. This requires that each and every aspect of drug product development has appropriate oversight, whether it is from science, technology, operational, regulatory or quality compliance perspective. This sometimes results in financial challenge. Pharmaceutical industry spends tremendous amount of resources, including personnel and financial resources to research, develop and manufacture drugs. Lack of availability of such resources, especially for the research driven and entrepreneurial organizations can limit growth. Another challenge experienced by the industry in recent times is pricing pressure. This received limelight due to irresponsible actions taken by handful of companies that has led to a political and social backlash. As a result the entire industry has had to take a hard look at its pricing policies. I believe that this has been a good opportunity for industry introspection. On one hand, high cost of researching and developing drug product requires a certain standard of pricing (based on value), but on the other hand, irresponsible pricing policies have emerged over last many years. Pharmaceutical industry has an obligation to continue to provide innovative and enhanced products that are accessible to the healthcare system and patients

Where in the industry do you see the most interesting innovations happening?

Prefacing separation of invention from innovation – pharmaceutical industry is and will be experiencing innovation in several areas, including personalized medicine, precision medicine, therapeutic area specific research (including CNS, oncology, pain management etc), biotechnology, and drug repositioning. Nevakar focuses on “drug repositioning” aspect of innovation, where our mission is to assure that existing molecules are maximized in terms of their potential and benefit to patients and healthcare system, through offering of enhanced and innovative products.

Where do you see the industry headed in the next 20 years?

This question ties in to the previous question, of course. Tremendous efforts in innovation and invention in the pharmaceutical industry will lead to a time when –

  • Physicians will be able to cater to individual and informed patients needs in a personalized, subjective and proactive manner.
  • Several debilitating diseases will have cure, including several types of cancers, neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other diseases that currently patients and physicians just have to manage and treat rather than cure.
  • Quality of life for patients will be significantly enhanced as lifespan increases for humans.
  • Healthcare system will be value based and streamlined to address patients’ needs in a comprehensive manner.
To address these and numerous other healthcare outcomes, pharmaceutical industry is playing and will play a major role.

Dr. Puri’s first venture, InnoPharma, was founded in 2005 with a focus on developing complex generic pharmaceuticals of sterile injectable dosage forms This was sold to Pfizer in 2014. Puri went on to found Nevakar, which is a specialty pharmaceutical company, focused on developing innovative.

BDO’s Technology Outlook for 2017 looks at trends around M&A, Emerging Tech


Domestic and political uncertainty could put downward pressure on upbeat growth forecasts, and our survey suggests it is a possibility weighing on the minds of CFOs.

Forty-one percent of CFOs expect political uncertainty, at home and abroad, to have the greatest impact on the U.S. IPO market, a factor we measured for the first time this year. This reflects uneasiness around potential policy decisions and the president’s public censure of companies that offshore jobs. The new administration has voiced opposition to the H-1B visa program and free trade deals like the egotiated 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). (President Trump withdrew the U.S. from TPP negotiations on Jan. 23, after we conducted our survey.) The former allows U.S. technology companies greater access to highly specialized—and highly sought-after— workers who are sometimes in short supply (32 percent of CFOs say recruiting or retaining workforce talent is their greatest challenge this year); the latter would have boosted U.S. technology companies’ access to large Asian markets and strengthened intellectual property protections there.

While just 10 percent of survey respondents cite trade and immigration policies as their biggest challenge in the year ahead, the technology industry relies heavily on outsourcing overseas. In fact, 40 percent of tech CFOs report outsourcing services or manufacturing to subsidiaries or companies based outside the U.S. Whether the new administration’s vocal criticism will have an impact on companies’ outsourcing plans remains to be seen. Only 4 percent of survey respondents expect to increase their outsourcing activities in the year ahead, down from 14 percent two years ago. However, just 14 percent plan to bring any of the work they currently offshore or outsource back to the U.S. this year.

2017: Unicorn 2.0?

While tech IPOs struggled to get off the ground in 2016, our survey signals that activity will rebound this year—with CFOs the most bullish about an increase in IPO activity in our survey’s history. Seventeen percent expect it to increase significantly, compared to 7 percent last year. Forty-five percent expect it to increase slightly, 32 percent expect it to hold flat and just 6 percent expect it to decrease slightly.

Of course, 2016 set a low bar, marking the slowest year for tech IPOs since the recession. But the post-election market rally, in combination with pent-up demand, may see 2017 tech IPO activity return to, or even eclipse, the highs of 2014.

As the tech IPO market rebounds, concerns around overvaluing 2016’s class of unicorns are easing. Two-thirds (66 percent) of tech CFOs expect company valuations to increase this year, compared to just 48 percent last year and 62 percent in 2015. This reflects more upbeat forecasts from investors and analysts alike over the potential for several highly-valued companies like Snap, Spotify and Uber to go public. Tech CFOs are also predicting an acceleration in revenue growth in the year ahead. More than three-quarters (80 percent) expect higher total revenues in 2017, projecting an average increase of 10 percent over last year—more than 2016 and 2015 growth projections (8.8 and 9 percent, respectively). Just 3 percent expect revenues to decline.

“Valuations in the technology sector have remained relatively buoyant, despite a selloff in the first quarter of 2016 and the dismal IPO market. And while the tech unicorn has gotten a bad rap after several disappointing public debuts, the extended market rally is helping justify higher price tags. That said, startup backers are exhibiting more caution, and while some companies will undoubtedly surpass that elusive $1 billion threshold, it won’t be at the same rate as 2014 and 2015.”

Anthony Alfonso, BDO Consulting’s Valuation & Business Analytics national leader

Tech M&A Holds Steady

In 2016, technology led all sectors in global M&A activity for the second time, totaling $612.9 billion, according to Dealogic. Our survey suggests 2017 will be another strong year for deal-making.

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of tech CFOs expect deal volume to increase in 2017, including 29 percent who expect activity to increase significantly. Just 4 percent expect it to decline slightly.

In terms of their own organization’s growth strategies, about a third of CFOs (31 percent) expect to pursue M&A activities this year, dropping from 40 percent last year.

When it comes to the biggest deal drivers, 31 percent say the primary motivation behind M&A will be technology assets and intellectual property, up from 25 percent in 2015, followed by revenue and profitability (28 percent), market share (24 percent), and engineering and research capabilities (16 percent).

“Last year, merger mania was all about smart services, as traditional hardware and software players jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon in a bid to offset their legacy businesses. In 2017, we expect to see continued appetite for deals in the software-as-a-service space as well as a spate of acquisitions to augment AI and machine learning capabilities. But while a more lenient regulatory environment and corporate tax reform may ease the path to acquisition, antitrust enforcement— particularly in Europe—will continue to pose challenges.”

-Shailen Amin, partner in BDO’s Transaction Advisory Services practice

Emerging Tech When asked what technology will have the most measurable impact on their business in 2017, most tech CFOs (74 percent) say cloud computing, while 58 percent say the Internet of Things. Sixteen percent say artificial intelligence will have an impact, meanwhile, followed by 3D printing and virtual reality (14 percent each), and blockchain (8 percent).

See BDO’s 2017 Tech Predictions infographic for ore on the biggest innovations reshaping tech.

Cybersecurity Continues to Boost Growth

As cyber risk rises to the top of the corporate agenda, cybersecurity concerns remain a double-edged sword for the technology industry. Global spending on cybersecurity defense products and services is projected to exceed $1 trillion cumulatively over the next five years,

according to Cybersecurity Ventures’ Cybersecurity Market Report. In line with this estimate, this year tech CFOs say cybersecurity will be the secondlargest driver of growth in the technology industry, with 18 percent viewing it as the most important factor for industry growth, compared to 25 percent in 2016.

The trend is in line with cyber pressure felt by board directors in general, as our 2016 BDO Board Survey revealed. Twenty Two percent of board directors last year reported their company had experienced a cyber breach during the past two years— doubling since 2013 (11 percent).

Most board directors (74 percent) also said their board was more involved with cybersecurity than 12 months ago, and 88 percent were briefed on cybersecurity at least once per year.

Cybersecurity concerns are also pushing tech companies to boost their own defenses. The European Union (EU)’s approval of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will require stricter data privacy controls from all U.S. organizations that handle or process the personal data of EU citizens effective May 2018, has driven compliance concerns around data privacy laws.

Forty-four percent of tech CFOs say data privacy laws are their most serious compliance concern in the year ahead, overtaking last year’s top compliance concern, financial reporting (27 percent). Other concerns are export controls (15 percent), general fraud and corruption (14 percent) and bribery in foreign markets(1 percent).

In addition to tightening data privacy regulations, the climbing costs of a data breach are also cause for concern. Global annual cybercrime costs are expected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021, according to a Cybersecurity Ventures report. This includes costs of the destruction of data and lost productivity to further business interruptions down the line. There are more intangible costs as well, including reputational harm and the loss of public trust.

In the last 12 months, 83 percent of tech CFOs say they have used new software security tools (compared to 93 percent in 2016), 69 percent have performed a cybersecurity risk assessment (81 percent in 2016), 63 percent have created a response plan for security breaches (75 percent in 2016), 53 percent have updated their company’s third-party risk management policies (65 percent in 2016), 26 percent have hired an external security consultant (42 percent in 2016) and 16 percent have hired a chief security officer (13 percent in 2016).

“Advanced technologies and innovations like the Internet of Things, cloud computing and virtual reality present enormous opportunity for not only the technology sector, but also others like healthcare, retail and manufacturing. As we have seen in recent large-scale attacks using connected devices, though, these innovations also present new attack vectors and vulnerabilities. The tech industry has shown good progress in identifying cyber risks and mitigating them through implementation of enhanced policies and procedures. However, tech companies must remain steadfast in their prioritization of cybersecurity, continuously embedding and updating controls into their product and service offerings.”

-Shahryar Shaghaghi, Technology Advisory Services national leader and head of International BDO Cybersecurity

Students learn about stock market simulations in a competitive live event using real-time data

Education Highlight

Most of the 22 teams of high school students who attended Trading Day 2017 at Stevens Institute of Technology had experience with stock market simulations. But none of them had ever competed in a live event using real-time data before.

That sort of differentiator is what makes business and finance programs at Stevens so unique. And the drive to ensure the relevance of these offerings in an increasingly digital economy is what led to the opening of its second high-tech finance lab in late 2016.

“Data coming through the financial markets today is immeasurably faster and more detailed than just 10 years ago — humans are unable to analyze this information alone in time to think strategically or react to major events,” said Dr.George Calhoun, director of the Hanlon Financial Systems Center and of the undergraduate Quantitative Finance program at the School of Business. “People must be able to use analytic engines to visualize the data, or they will be unable to respond to fast-developing market opportunities.”

The new lab — the Hanlon Laboratory for Financial Analytics and Data Visualization — joined the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab at Stevens, which opened in 2012. Both labs enjoy access to incredibly sophisticated hardware and software tools that allow students and faculty to analyze real-time and historical data sets for education and research activities that directly speak to the needs of industry.

The new facility, called Hanlon 2 for short, also includes capabilities that are unique in higher education. In addition to data visualization technologies and the hardware required to allow for the analysis of enormous data sets, Hanlon 2 includes collaborative Oblong technology that encourages students to introduce their own work and findings into the class discussion through screens that they can access via smartphone or laptop. The technology also allows guest speakers to contribute to a lesson from anywhere in the world.

While Trading Day doesn’t require students to use complex analytics or visualization, the immersion in the technology of the Hanlon Labs — for instance, the Bloomberg terminals that Stevens students master as freshmen — is clearly an eye-opener for both the competitors and their advisors.

“The business school at Stevens is very realworld oriented, and this lab is a real-world setting,” said Arthur Cohen, advisor for the team from Staples High School in Westport, Conn. “This is actually how finance operates, and seeing that in a hands-on way is very valuable for our students.”

Students participating in the competition are quick to grasp the real-world connection, especially when they enjoy a view of Manhattan from the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab.

“The second we sat in those seats, we felt such an adrenaline rush,” said Kishan Patel, a Jonathan Dayton High School student. “This is just what it’s like in the real world, with all the tools we’ll be using when we’re working.”

That’s the effect Sean Hanlon ’80, a Stevens trustee and chairman and CEO of Hanlon Investment Management, hoped for when his family’s generosity allowed the university and its School of Business to build these facilities.

“This new lab will improve how students learn, enhancing both their technology and business skills and better positioning them to manage evolving technologies when they enter the workplace,” Hanlon said.

Those are the very skills in greatest demand in industry, as companies cope with a lack of management-caliber employees able to make faster, smarter decisions through data analysis.

“In an increasingly digital and data-driven marketplace, the ability to visualize and analyze multidimensional data is becoming a crucial component for corporate success and decision making,” said Dakota Wixom, a Quantitative Finance student who will graduate in the spring of 2017.

Wixom, who has completed internships related to quantitative investment banking and risk for Charles Schwab and Mizuho, said Hanlon 2 puts Stevens at the forefront of educating new pioneers in data analytics.

“This lab is changing how students learn, and better positioning them to manage evolving technologies when they enter the workplace,” said Dr. Gregory Prastacos, dean of the School of Business at Stevens. “And these high-level interactions — with data, with faculty, with guest speakers and with the rest of the class — help students take their presentation and communication skills to an even higher level, representing incredible value to employers.”

And the tools available in the lab have applications outside quantitative finance. The new business major in Accounting & Analytics, as well graduate management programs, which emphasize analytics-driven decision making.