Audible says new facility symbolizes Newark’s history, company’s innovation

The grand opening of a new facility has begun a new chapter for Audible, its employees, New Jersey business leaders and the greater Newark community.

Audible founder and CEO Don Katz, elected officials, business leaders, employees and members of the Newark community came together Friday to celebrate the grand opening of the company’s Innovation Cathedral. Once home to the Second Presbyterian Church, a congregation founded in 1811, the cathedral will now serve as an office facility for 400 Audible employees.

Audible did not immediately clarify whether the employees would be new hires, or moved from another facility and where.

The Innovation Cathedral, aligned with Audible’s goals to support students, interns and entrepreneurs and grow a tech ecosystem, seeks to revitalize the growing Newark business community.

Katz said the Innovation Cathedral was a proud landmark for Newark and a powerful symbol of Audible’s commitment to the city for over a decade.

“We have defined ourselves by the strategic pursuit of what a successful company can mean in ways that transcend what it does — and today is proof that our efforts are yielding positive outcomes for business and invention culture, for the many talented people who want to work with us and for the comeback of this great American city,” he said. “Doing the right thing is a responsibility all corporations must take seriously — and that companies anchored in cities like Newark have an obligation to lead.”

Built in 1933, the 80,000-square-foot cathedral was reimagined to maintain its historical elements while also reflecting a modern and innovative workplace. Its distinctive stained-glass windows and organ pipes remain, but new additions include game areas, an auditorium, a refurbished bowling alley, an exhibit space, work cafes and lounges.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said the cathedral embraced the future of Newark while also symbolizing its preserved history.

“Audible’s restoration of this historic landmark into a center of innovation and tech job creation — including jobs for Newarkers — is one powerful example of the over $4 billion in economic development occurring across the city today, but it is so much more,” he said. “It is emblematic of a company with a moral compass driving inclusive growth, elevating our students with educational tools and internships, and supporting the local economy by living local and buying local.”

When Audible’s headquarters made the move to Newark in 2007, it became the city’s fastest-growing private employer, with 1,650 full-time employees. The company’s mission seeks to catalyze Newark residents by offering jobs and training programs, as well as incentives including housing subsidies for employees who choose to move to the city from elsewhere.

Katz said that moving Audible to Newark was one of the best decisions the company has made.

“In addition to our growth, the economic impact and job creation catalyzed by Audible and Newark Venture Partners is a call to arms for other companies who are joining us and who should join us here to thrive as we have,” he said. “Continuing to invest in Newark is as important as anything else we do.”

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Canadian company pays $40M for Hackensack video software firm

A Canadian enterprise software company has paid $40 million for Vidyo Inc., a Hackensack-based provider of video software solutions, it announced Wednesday.

Enghouse Systems Ltd. said Vidyo has annual revenue of about $60 million and more than 1,700 customers worldwide. Vidyo offers an infrastructure software platform that supports visual communications across a variety of networks and locations, according to a news release on the deal.

“We’re excited to join Enghouse because of the great product fit and our shared vision,” Vidyo Chairman and CEO Michael Patsalos-Fox said in a prepared statement. “Enghouse gives us the opportunity to amplify our product innovation, service and support, making this a great transaction for Vidyo’s customers and partners.”

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SHI International sets Q1 revenue record

Somerset-based SHI International, an IT solutions provider, announced Thursday its first quarter earnings, rising 7.5% year-over-year.

The Somerset-based company said it earned $2.3 billion in the first quarter of 2019, surpassing a record set in the first quarter of 2018.

The firm experienced growth both domestically and internationally, it said. SHI’s Public Sector revenue was up 25% over last year, while Corporate and SMB was up 14%. Internationally, France led the way in terms of growth with a 36% jump while the U.K. rose 19% year-over-year.

“Last year SHI experienced one of our best first quarters ever. But despite that quick start and a marketplace change that will be reflected in SHI’s reporting throughout 2019, we again set a new first quarter record,” SHI CEO and President Thai Lee said. “We continue to see strong growth among our top partners and business units, and remain on schedule with the construction of two new facilities that will increase our capacity to support our customers. Our unwavering focus on addressing customers’ IT and business challenges, the ongoing strength of our partnerships, and the dedication of our employees will keep SHI on course for continued growth.”

The company also said its Integration Center, a 400,000-square-foot facility in Piscataway, is slated for completion in September. Also, the Garza Ranch, SHI Austin’s future home, is expected to open in February 2020.

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Laser focused: Pellegrini has helped make Bullseye Virtual Combat into perfect place for parties, corporate functions

Laser tag was a classic concept in need of a serious update, Vic Pellegrini said. 

One he happily provided. 

“People think they’ll be running around with plastic vests and space-themed guns inside little corridors with black lights and fog,” he said. 

But Pellegrini, the owner of Bullseye Virtual Combat in Flemington, said he makes laser tag feel more like the real-life version of “Fortnite Battle Royale.”

“We bridge the gap between the video games that kids are playing these days and real-life experiences out on the field,” he said. “And when they get here and start playing, they truly understand the concept, how to play and how best to use team work to be successful.” 

The only outdoor facility of its kind has an array of obstacles.

While nearly 80 percent of business consists of parties for kids ages 8 and up, Pellegrini said Bullseye Virtual Combat effectively elevates laser tag from being a simple kid’s game to one that even large corporations want to use for team building. 

“Adults certainly don’t feel childish playing anymore,” he said. 


Three years ago, Pellegrini was caring for his two young daughters and working part-time as a police dispatcher while his wife attended nursing school. 

Then he visited a laser tag facility in New York that used equipment designed and manufactured by iCombat. 

“I was unhappy with how they conducted the actual games, but I loved the equipment,” Pellegrini said. 

In 2016, Pellegrini raised funds from friends and family in order to lease 10 guns and create his own tactile laser tag concept.

“I thought I could provide what people wanted, which was a more hands-on approach, with captains on the field to help the players, more time to play and more realistic game modes,” he said. “And my wife and I, we thought that if I didn’t try to do this, in five years, we would be watching someone else’s success.” 

However, after consulting with expensive engineers and architects as well as various municipalities, Pellegrini said he learned it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to build an indoor field for tactical laser tag.

“Then we went pumpkin picking at Schaefer Farms and thought, hey — they have some unused space that we could both generate revenue from, especially as seasonal businesses,” he said. 

Pellegrini said he then consulted with a video game map designer to help create a real-life field using nearly a dozen 4-by-8 sheets of plywood. 

“From there, we would learn what worked and what didn’t to continue building,” he said. 

Bullseye Virtual Combat was then moved to a larger area to be able to include two 15-by-30 feet rooms — which were leveled by a nor’easter last year. 

“But, each time we were challenged, we just went bigger and better with the purchase of more equipment and the availability of more space,” Pellegrini said. 


Pellegrini’s persistence has paid off. 

Today, Bullseye Virtual Combat at Schaefer Farms is the only outdoor field licensed by iCombat in the world. 

“We also do it a little differently than most,” he said. “We combine video gaming and state-of-the-art technology to create a highly immersive outdoor laser tag experience.” 

Bullseye Virtual Combat
The game gets kids outside.

Pellegrini likens the game play to video games such as “Call of Duty” or “Halo,” for example, “where two teams are pitted against each other to achieve an objective, such as most eliminations, most capture points or successfully moving and protecting a VIP,” he said. 

Bullseye Virtual Combat currently owns nearly 50 replicas of AR-15 weapons, provided by iCombat, which actually recoil from carbon dioxide-charged magazines and need to be reloaded when a player runs out of ammo. 

It provides these alongside wireless headbands, sound effects, music and anywhere between eight and 20 missions during game play, with the option to enjoy classic or custom-made missions. 

Game statistics can then be viewed online as well as on the commander screen at the private outdoor field, complete with an 80-by-80-foot complex with hallways, hay bales, tight corners, obstacles and open spaces.

Group events range from 90 minutes and an eight-player minimum ($280) to two hours and a 12-player minimum, plus pizza, beverages and cake ($600). 

“As far as groups coming out to pay individually, it averages between $30 and $40 per person, depending on the size of the group,” Pellegrini said. 

He employs three to be at the field with him during game play from March through October, Pellegrini added, with Bullseye Virtual Combat currently hosting between four and six events each weekend and dedicating other days of the week to field and equipment maintenance, marketing, social media and scheduling. 

However, with kids out of school during the summer and parents wanting them to spend more time outside rather than in front of a screen, Pellegrini said he expects the number of weekly events to increase. 

“We can open up the field for a private session at any time,” he said. 


Pellegrini said he is extremely satisfied with both the number of repeat customers, as well as the business’ email open rate. 

“We’ll do a birthday party for one kid over the weekend, for example, and by Monday, we’re receiving phone calls from the other parents,” he said. 

Bullseye Virtual Combat also hosts adult birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and more — including corporate team building, which Pellegrini said companies such as Colgate-Palmolive and already have taken advantage of. 

“We make missions rather difficult or nearly impossible to complete unless you work as a team,” he said. “There’s no pain or mess, like in paintball. You’re simply burning energy while working together and having fun.”  

All of the profits so far have been reinvested into the expansion of the business, Pellegrini said, as he works toward the ultimate goal: an environment in which nearly 100 players can play together on a massive field simultaneously. 

“That would be very cool, because nobody else can do that,” he said. 

Controversial company 

Vic Pellegrini, owner of Bullseye Virtual Combat, is married to a medical professional and is a father to two young daughters. 

A replica AR-15 weapon, provided by iCombat, which actually recoils from carbon dioxide-charged magazines and needs to be reloaded when a player runs out of ammo. ­

Because of that — and because of his upbringing — Pellegrini said he is sympathetic toward those who see a lack of gun control, replicating video game violence and the handling of a replica AR-15 by a child as problematic. 

“I grew up in a house where we did not touch guns and I completely understand the discomfort people have with real guns,” he said. “But we are a laser tag company. 

“I have had discussions with people about guns, but as a business, we tend to push the teamwork, the missions and the objectives of the game, more so than the replica weapons we use.”

Furthermore, all of the terms Bullseye Virtual Combat uses, Pellegrini said, are associated with video games.

“For example, we don’t kill anyone — we eliminate them,” he said. “We are not looking for this to be aggressive; we just want it to be fun.”

Pellegrini said he expected this sort of pushback when opening his business three years ago — in fact, he said he expected more. 

“With the look our business has and the photos that we use to promote it, pushback was a given,” he said. “But I was surprised with just how little there was.”

The zombie farm 

Bullseye Virtual Combat at Schaefer Farms in Flemington recently announced its launch of The Zombie Farm this June. 

“Two years ago, we partnered with a company that did Zombie-themed tours on the farm,” Vic Pellegrini, owner, said. 

Because it went so well, Bullseye Virtual Combat and Schaefer Farms are now teaming up to provide their own Zombie-themed experience. 

“A vehicle transporting both the infectious disease and the cure has crashed on the property, and our players must now fend off the infected while searching for the cure,” Pellegrini said. 

The experience will include a scavenger hunt and a trail walk where the “infected” are roaming, he added. 

“When our players fire, their headbands will light up and they will collapse,” Pellegrini said. “This will be much different than simply walking through an environment to be scared — now, they’re trying to get you, and you can actually fight back.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Vic Pellegrini of Bullseye Virtual Combat at:, or 908-274-1499.

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Nuvolo expands globally, opens new HQ in London

Paramus-based Nuvolo, an Integrated Workplace Management System company, announced Wednesday it is expanding globally with two new European offices.

Nuvolo said it established a new European headquarters in London where its sales and operations teams will be based. The team will support a growing need for cloud-based facilities management software and modern IWMS, built on ServiceNow, Nuvolo said.

“Industry analysts project the size and growth rate of the IWMS market in Europe to be comparable to North America in the next few years,” Sean O’Donnell, general manager for EMEA, Nuvolo, said.  “Nuvolo is extraordinarily well-positioned to translate its tremendous success in the US to Europe to address the growing need for modern facilities management and IWMS, built natively on the ServiceNow platform.”

The company also said it has opened a Technology and Innovation Center in Sofia, Bulgaria. The center will provide services delivery, partner enablement, customer success, innovation and quality assurance.

Europe is strategic for Nuvolo and represents a substantial growth opportunity for our business.  We are confident we can exceed our US-based growth rates as modernization and digital transformation drive new IWMS transactions in the marketplace.  As a result, we are making a material investment in building out our business there with substantial expansion planned for 2019 – 2020,” Nuvolo CEO Tom Stanford said.  “We expect Nuvolo to quickly emerge as the market leader for modern IWMS in Europe, leveraging our built-on-ServiceNow platform strategy.”

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Setting the (dial) tone: LinkNWK off to strong start, company says

Link, which launched its free phone and Wi-Fi kiosks in Newark in October, is seeing strong usage already, it told ROI-NJ, with the first four locations averaging 2,400 calls per month.

Link hopes to eventually place 45 kiosks in the city under its LinkNWK partnership between parent company Intersection, the city, Newark Community Economic Development Corp. and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The first four kiosks, which provide services including telephony, Wi-Fi and device charging, are located along Broad Street at prominent downtown intersections, taking advantage of the Newark Fiber internet initiative.

“Since LinkNWK launched last October, it has been incredible to see Newark residents and visitors using the many services that Link provides,” a spokesperson told ROI-NJ. “The free Wi-Fi sees more than 3,200 sessions per month across just four Links along Broad Street, with strong usage across the other services, including charging, phone calls and more. Additionally, we’ve been able to collaborate with Newark residents and institutions to showcase great local content and promote small businesses. For example, we worked with local artist Kern Bruce on a ‘Women of Newark’ series during Women’s History Month, and, right now, LinkNWK is partnering with Equal Space to promote the coworking space and incubator dedicated to supporting diverse entrepreneurs.”

The kiosks are located at:

  • Broad and Green streets, near the Prudential Center;
  • Broad Street and Raymond Boulevard;
  • Broad Street and Prudential Drive;
  • Broad and Rector streets, near the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Link noted that the four kiosks see roughly the same usage.

The service debuted in the U.S. in New York City and also has kiosks in Philadelphia, as well as the U.K.

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Somerset’s SHI adds training to menu with deal for Iselin firm

SHI International, the Somerset-based information technology solutions giant, has acquired Corporate Training Group Inc., an Iselin-based training firm, it announced Monday.

SHI, which has partnered with CTG for 15 years, acquired the business to meet growing demand for training ranging from IT professionals to end users, it said in a news release.

“SHI has always prided itself on its ability to deliver value to customers in the form of technology and services,” SHI CEO and President Thai Lee said in a prepared statement. “Now, we’re redoubling our efforts to aid customers’ technology adoption through training to provide another avenue for customer success. Acclimating users and IT professionals to their new technology can improve their overall return on investment while boosting employee productivity and morale.”

CTG, which was founded in 1991, will maintain its headquarters, and employees will join SHI’s staff, so no disruption in service is expected, the company said.

“Like SHI, CTG is a certified woman-owned business, and we’re proud to have provided all of SHI’s internal training and served its many customers for 15 years,” Lisa Eyerkuss, CTG’s president, said in a statement. “Through this acquisition, we will be able to offer all of our clients more complete technology solutions, and SHI will now be able to offer training as part of its world-class service.”

As part of the acquisition, Eyerkuss will take on a role working closely with SHI’s human resources team to grow its internal training program. Rob Eyerkuss III, CTG’s director of sales and strategic alliances, will become SHI’s senior director of the Corporate Training Group within SHI’s Enterprise Solutions Group.

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Paper chase: Credit union leaders can’t understand why N.J. hasn’t gone high-tech with car lien docs

Cumbersome doesn’t begin to describe it.

John Dawidowski of Princeton-based Healthcare Employees Federal Credit Union said he’s seen veritable wheelbarrows full of paperwork being carried off by credit union staff en route to register a car loan lien with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

John Dawidowski

“Then you have all this paperwork on hand — and there’s a cost of maintaining and tracking these titles, too,” Dawidowski said “We have to put them in a fireproof safe. The whole thing is very, very archaic. … It’s crazy.”

When a lien is created by an auto loan, a process that secures the lender’s rights as lienholder to that vehicle until a loan is repaid, it involves stacks of physical documents … or, at least, it does in New Jersey. That’s not true everywhere. 

Almost half of states now spare more than a few trees using what’s called an electronic lien and title system. Credit union leaders like Dawidowski, fed up with the old way of doing things, have been calling for that to be adopted in the Garden State, too.

“I don’t see what the big issue is,” he said. “Next door, in Pennsylvania, they’ve been doing it for 10 years. We could run off the same platform and things would be a lot easier. It’s not rocket science.”

It’s a head-scratcher for Dawidowski, who regularly hears how the transfer of data between lienholders and state departments takes minutes in states that have introduced digital updates to this process.

In New Jersey, credit union leaders say it takes a day and a half of a staff person waiting in all-too-familiar DMV lines and acting as a courier for the title documents.

During former Gov. Chris Christie’s final days in office, the state did sign into law a piece of legislation that would establish an electronic lien and titling system in the Garden State that would modernize the current paperwork-based system.

Alexandra Pais
David Frankil, the CEO and president of the New Jersey Credit Union League, believes an electronic lien and title system is a “no-brainer” for the state.

It mandated that the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission complete a study to determine whether the department itself could create an electronic system. Many other states use a third-party software service vendor that manages these title record transfers.

More than a year later, credit unions are still waiting for the promised update.

“The commission has really been dragging their feet … and this is after it took seven or eight years to get to the point where the governor signed this,” he said. “This is something I’ve pushed for as far back as 2011. I went to (the New Jersey Credit Union League) and asked why the state is so far behind on this, because it’s very awkward to deal with.”

David Frankil, the CEO and president of the New Jersey Credit Union League, is among those hoping for progress. 

Besides the extra resources required in dealing with mountainous paperwork, Frankil said having an electronic system could make it more difficult to alter or create fake documents.

“So, not only is it an efficiency issue, there’s fairly strong fraud component, as well,” he said.

Frankil cited a case from back in 2017 in which a handful of individuals allegedly forged letters from lenders stating that loans were repaid and used those letters to get car titles from the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission. Then the group allegedly flipped at least 25 vehicles over four years for more than half a million dollars.

The closed loop created in an electronic system would eliminate the potential for this type of fraud, according to Frankil.

For all the other issues that less paperwork could avert, such as lost documents, Frankil believes this is a no-brainer.

“This isn’t self-interested, it’d help anyone financing automobile titles in New Jersey,” he said. “For every possible reason you can think of, it’d be better for us to have an electronic system. It’s better for credit unions, for banks and it’s better for the state to not continue dealing with paper in this way.”

Conversation Starter

Reach the Healthcare Employees Federal Credit Union at: or 800-624-3312.

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N.J.’s Noveck explains how Murphy administration aims to bolster economy through innovation

The crowd was a testament to the revitalization of the state’s innovation economy, said Beth Simone Noveck.

Noveck, who serves as the state’s first chief innovation officer, was speaking at the New Jersey Tech Council’s 22nd Venture Conference, held Thursday at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

“If what’s going on in these halls isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is,” she said.

Noveck highlighted the economic plan Gov. Phil Murphy released last October and the four strategic priorities of said plan.

File photo
Beth Simone Noveck, New Jersey’s chief innovation officer.

“Invest in the people, invest in the communities, harness the power of innovation to create more jobs and work to make government better to improve New Jersey’s business climate,” she said.

The people she refers to is all New Jersey residents that, she said, can help to prepare for, work for and create a more sustainable future. And she said investing in the communities allows for the creation of world-class towns, cities and infrastructure.

Noveck said it’s the investors and entrepreneurs like the ones she was speaking to at the conference that help to achieve those goals, the ones that have an important role to play.

“We recognize that capital and venture capital is essential to the success of any business,” she said.

Noveck said she and the Murphy administration are working to restructure their financing and incentive programs to achieve the outcomes they were intended to in the first place.

“Among those initiatives includes a proposal to create the first ever $500 million New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund that will connect New Jersey startups with the funding that they need to grow,” she said.

James Barrood of the New Jersey Tech Council introduces speakers on the main stage.

The fund will foster a vibrant and innovative ecosystem, she said.

Noveck also discussed the proposal, as a part of this year’s budget, to restructure the angel investor tax credit program so, she said, it will further encourage use by small, early stage investors.

She continued to highlight other initiatives, such as NJ Ignite and the HUB project in New Brunswick, but also referred to connections between the state’s higher education research institutes and the private sector.

“The state’s actively working to develop stronger connections between our research institutions and the private sector to enable more faculties and students to commercialize their ideas and inventions and to work with those companies that are trying to do so,” Noveck said.

Noveck said that, in addition to the individual school programs, the state’s creation of its first research asset database, Research with NJ, will help companies recruit the talent they need — a problem that’s been monumental for the tech and manufacturing industries.

She said companies require talent to grow, so investing in modernizing workforce development programs to reflect the demands of a skills-based, high-tech economy has become a priority.

“We’re working to ensure government is supporting your work and not standing in the way of it,” Noveck said.

NJIT President Joel Bloom also spoke at the conference and emphasized the importance of venture capital, and how New Jersey is falling behind as a state in this regard.

“We are not doing enough to create ventures and venture capital in the state of New Jersey, particularly in the STEM fields, and we’re not moving fast enough,” Bloom said. “We’ve now fallen behind Pennsylvania and Maryland and (have) under a billion dollars of venture capital in the state.”

The Tech Council’s 22nd Venture Conference aimed to showcase the region’s most promising companies and attempts to offer insights from many of the nation’s top investors.

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Opening of Per Scholas’ tech training campus is latest tech win for Newark

Newark has taken another big step toward transforming into the tech hub many city officials have promised it will become.

“Today, we contribute to the beauty of this building and we begin, through tech training and partnership, to meet the requirements of Newark and its outstanding future,” said Per Scholas Managing Director for Newark and New York Kelly Richardson.

Richardson was speaking Tuesday at the grand opening of Per Scholas’ Newark tech training campus in the former New Jersey Bell Building.

“Newark has a special air about it, there’s something that just can’t quite be described,” said Tony Gaston, Newark site director for the national tech training nonprofit. “Some might call it serendipity and some others might call it a bit of magic.”

Gov. Phil Murphy spoke about the importance of producing a diverse talent pool, particularly in tech and in the city of Newark.

“You recognize the tremendous promise of Newark,” Murphy said. “You recognize the deep and diverse level of talent that exists here. A talent pool that has been overlooked and written off for far too long.”

Until now.

“We are anticipating the intersection of the future of work and the future of Newark,” Prudential Financial Vice Chairman Robert Falzon said. “By helping to create a technology ecosystem and hub for emerging entrepreneurs and providing funding for local venture capitalists.”

Falzon said Prudential is invested in the Firebolt Wi-Fi network in Newark — which could become the world’s fastest free public Wi-Fi network.

The opening of the campus was supported by business and community partners Prudential Financial, Guardian Life Insurance, Public Service Enterprise Group and Barclays.

The first class of 19 students, most of whom are Newark residents, began in March, while the campus will look to place 200 individuals into technology careers over the next three years through tech training and professional development.

The students gain hands-on skills training in hardware, software and network technology. The expansion was first announced in October by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

The new campus features three state-of-the-art technical classrooms and will enroll about 100 students per year, tuition-free. Per Scholas attempts to provide opportunities for diverse and low-income communities to succeed in a career in tech.

Murphy, prior to the grand opening, spoke about the importance of breaking down employment barriers.

“For too long, New Jersey’s best and brightest have not been able to reach their full potential because of systematic roadblocks,” he said. “My administration is fully committed to making sure that every New Jersey student has the opportunities they need to get ahead by partnering with organizations like Per Scholas to help close the achievement gap.”

Speakers at the opening also included Jes Staley, group CEO at Barclays; Nicolio Sambrano, IAM Data Services support analyst at Barclays; and Natasha Rogers, interim deputy mayor and chief operating officer for Newark.

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