Can Newark, NJ, become “the Black tech mecca?” A leader over at Audible seems to think so.
According to NJ.com, the audiobook and podcast service is on a mission to bring Black and POC tech startup founders to Brick City’s Harriet Tubman Square neighborhood. For two years, Audible is providing financial support for the companies relocating to buildings near its headquarters. This will include up to $250,000 in non-dilutive grants during that time period for fit-out and rent or mortgage costs as part of its Newark Squared initiative.
What’s more, the outlet notes that the company is offering a monthly $500 rent subsidy (up to 12 months) to founders and their teams to live in Newark, and it will offset some shopping and dining costs at local retail outlets and restaurants for three months.
While the company has announced that its initiative is open to all of those interested, the focus is on the groups that make up the majority of Newark, which are Black and brown people.
“It’s not saying, ‘We will not look at and consider others,’” said Aisha Glover, vice president of urban innovation for Audible’s Global Center for Urban Development, who believes Newark could attract an influx of Black techies. “It’s just leading with a level of intentionality around access and opportunity, and also respecting the demographic of the city that we’re in.”
Devon Oakley is one of the tech entrepreneurs who has taken Audible up on its offer. The founder of Gymble, an app that helps people access gyms and other fitness experiences, uprooted his company from Charlotte, NC, to head to New Jersey. Oakley was spotted by Audible thanks to his pitch in 2021 for Michael B. Jordan’s QQQ Legacy Classic. He received a $30,000 grant for his office’s first year of rent as well as a 12-month rent subsidy on his $1,700 apartment in Newark.
“It was an opportunity to move to a better market,” Oakley said. “In New Jersey, obviously, New York is right there. We started in Charlotte, but it wasn’t really the innovative kind of space that we needed to be in.”
To learn more about Audible’s initiative, click here.