Franzini, Ballen Recognized Need for Angel Group in N.J. in 2002

JumpStart Launched with Energy of NJEDA, NJ Tech Council


In 2002, Caren Franzini had one of her many brilliant ideas. The NJEDA CEO realized there was something missing in the Garden State’s startup ecosystem: sufficient funding for early-stage ventures.

“2002 was an exciting time for emerging early-stage entrepreneurs. The ideas flowed, but there was a scarcity of early-stage money to support these projects,” Maxine Ballen recalled recently.

Franzini approached Ballen, then-president of the NJ Technology Council, and Wayne Tamarelli, an experienced angel investor with the idea of launching a group to funnel funds to local, young startups.

“The NJTC board of directors had the vision and foresight to enable the launch of one of the region's first angel networks,” said Ballen. “We gained momentum almost immediately and began investing in some of the region's most exciting early-stage deals.”

Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network was born. The trio considered a number of possible names, all of which had various pros and cons, before choosing Jumpstart, according to Tamarelli, founding board chair of the group and a board member for 20 years. The group is now known informally as JumpStart NJ.

JumpStart NJ has grown over two decades. In 2021, the group’s members invested more than $2.2 million, an increase of 25% from the prior year. Membership in JumpStart NJ grew by 30% last year. The angel group invests in New Jersey, the mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

“The longevity of this network speaks to the success it became,” Ballen said.

Franzini, who led the NJ Economic Development Authority for more than 18 years working with seven consecutive governors, died in 2017. She accomplished a lot for New Jersey, and is missed by her many friends and colleagues in the tech industry and startup ecosystem.