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From the 8th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

Audible’s New Business Attraction Initiatives Targets Startups Facing Barriers to Accessing Capital

Bronze Honor in Corporate-Community


Audible, the world’s leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling, recently launched a new series of business attraction efforts designed to remove barriers for diverse companies to join Audible in Newark, NJ. The Business Attraction Program aims to stay true to the city’s current demographic while  leveraging Newark’s unmatched data infrastructure, boosting local spending to preserve and creating jobs, addressing high retail and commercial vacancy rates, and empowering diverse founders while thoughtfully and equitably accelerating the growth of the city’s innovation ecosystem. 

The Business Attraction Program is an initiative of the Global Center for Urban Development (GCUD), launched in 2020 to spearhead efforts to advance racial justice, equity and economic empowerment. Other impact initiatives run by GCUD include Newark Working Kitchens, which supports local restaurants by paying for and distributing over 1.5 million meals to residents in need, and Audible’s recently launched immersive audio experience at Newark’s new Harriet Tubman monument. 

Audible moved to Newark in 2007, and since then, has spearheaded an array of unique programs, including the launch of Newark Venture Partner (NVP) which invests in high-growth startups with the goal of creating more innovative companies like Audible to generate jobs, revenue, and opportunities for Newark residents. Together, these scalable programs and investments have generated close to $1 billion in economic output and are leading the way in Newark’s resurgence. 

Strategy and Execution

With Audible’s headquarters in Newark NJ, it wanted to accelerate opportunities for founders of color and women founders through the Business Attraction Program, since they typically access less than 1% of venture funding nationally. The program offers funding for location assistance, capital towards office space, mentorship with Audible experts, and stipends for employees to live and shop locally. These benefits are an extension of Audible’s successful Live Local program, which offers a $500 per month after-tax rent subsidy for its employees who choose to live in Newark. The program targets startups with at least 10 employees, at the seed or Series A stage, which are looking to expand or relocate to Newark - and companies with founders of color or female founders are particularly encouraged to apply. Audible will also facilitate leasing opportunities at buildings near Newark’s Harriet Tubman Square.

The focused efforts to attract new businesses and tenants to downtown Newark include collaborating with community stakeholders to transform iconic spaces, like 33 Washington Street, into hubs for local businesses. Small businesses and retailers at 33 Washington will sublease from Audible and be eligible for its new business support offerings. Nina Cooke John, the architect and artist behind the new Harriet Tubman monument in Tubman Square, which features an interactive audio installation produced by Audible, will lead the building’s redesign into a mixed-use space.

To promote awareness of the program, Audible has collaborated with organizations such as New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Choose NJ, Invest Newark, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop a pipeline of prospective startups. Through AWS, Audible has been able to promote the program to four of their impact accelerators: Amazon Black Founders, Women Founders, Latinx Founders, and Healthcare.

In order to refine the new program offerings, Audible has already engaged dozens of prospective startups to understand pain points and what would be the most supportive benefits to their overall incentive package. For example, based on feedback from startups, Audible chose to offer non-dilutive funds rather than take equity because, in the current environment, giving up equity in return for relocation benefits is not an attractive option for growth-stage companies. 

Another challenge Audible worked to overcome is that, following the Covid-19 pandemic, having a physical presence is often less of a priority for startups. In response, Audible ensured that its incentives were generous, flexible, and effortless in order to collaborate with founders to take up office space in person. 

Since Audible’s soft launch of the new business attraction program in June 2022, they have connected with hundreds of startups and numerous VCs to identify and select companies that are the right fit for this program and for the city of Newark, with a commitment to scaling in size and becoming an active contributor to the ecosystem and community. To date, six new leases have been signed.


In 2023 alone, Audible has initially pledged over $1M for companies selected for the Business Attraction Program with intentions to scale based upon demand. Of that, Audible has already committed to seven companies that have joined the program across the innovation, hospitality, and entertainment sectors. Tech companies ABF Creative, Gymble, co:census and Fitnescity have all received startup attraction packages and office space facilitated by Audible. BLVD Bistro, the acclaimed Harlem-based soul food restaurant, will soon establish its second location in Newark, and Newark Culture Club will open a cocktail bar and live entertainment venue, owned by an investment group of majority Newark residents and people of color, featuring beverages from local and Black-owned businesses. These companies will occupy 16,000 square feet of leasing space in the city's downtown.

Beyond the direct benefits, Audible’s support provides companies with increased credibility for investors, with these first companies having already raised over $1M in additional commitments since joining the program - demonstrating its far-reaching benefits in helping companies scale, increase local hiring, and contribute meaningfully to Newark’s economy.

Companies joining the program will plug into the city’s entrepreneurial community, catalyzed by Newark Venture Partners (NVP), an early-stage venture capital fund and accelerator created by Audible founder Don Katz. Currently, NVP is New Jersey’s most active investor, having contributed over $55M to over 100 companies, nearly 60% of which are founded by women or founders of color. NVP is helping Newark’s innovation economy grow at a rate on par or above other emerging tech hubs including Brooklyn and Washington, D.C.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Audible, Audible


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