December 21, 2009
Innovating in New York City
Last week I wrote about speaking at the NYC Lean Startup Meetup. One of my other key takeaways from this, which I’ve known for a while and have been meaning to blog about, is just how vibrant the tech startup community is here in New York. I know others have been blogging about this like mad – Fred has some thoughts here, here, and here, and Charlie has some here and here. Chris Dixon’s seminal post on this is here. (I even blogged a bit about why NYC is a good place to start a business back in 2006 here.)
I’ve had a little more time for networking and speaking in the past year than the prior year, and I’ve been blown away by how many startups there are here. Like most things, New York City is such a massive and diverse place that it’s easy to “get lost in the crowd,” and there’s a lot going on. So startups don’t tend to get the same level of social buzz that they do in Silicon Valley. But Fred’s stat in one of those links above that over 150 startups were founded in NYC this year compared to over 300 in the Valley is interesting when you consider the geographic density here. There are many more per square mile in New York.
Despite the geographic density to the startups, the New York startup scene is a long way from being a community. There are some encouraging signs of late. Charlie’s establishing a physical presence for First Round Capital is one. NextNY, with over 2500 members, is another, along with various Meetups. I am learning more and more every day about local incubator-type organizations as well (take that term with a grain of salt). I thought John Borthwick’s Betaworks was the only one until Charlie told me about Sunshine Suites, TechSpace, and the NYU/Poly program. But something is still missing. Some glue to hold it all together.
In the Valley, the startup community is a cultural thing — plus, startups are part and parcel of a larger tech community. Most of the big acquirers of internet companies are out there, so the ecosystem keeps cycling through companies and talent and investors. In smaller cities like Denver/Boulder and Boston (and soon to be Seattle), TechStars fills a good void by providing a high profile “lure the talent here” combined with “meet the money” program. Seedcamp does that nicely in London, which, while it’s a big city, has a much smaller and more dispersed startup community than New York.
Since we’re unlikely to suddenly sprout a bunch of Fortune 500 tech companies in NYC, where’s our version of one of those programs in NYC? Or is there some other “glue” lurking out there to tie it all together?