NYC startup scene: give hope to the dream

by Giff on December 21, 2009

NYnightMatt Blumberg of Return Path and Michael Karnjanaprakorn of All Day Buffet just added their thoughts to blogosphere commentary on the revival of the NYC startup scene.  Here’s what I’ve been thinking about: it’s all about the young dreamers.

People talk about the cost of living in New York, but that is a red herring.  Artists, journalists, stage actors, and writers flock to the Big Apple and they make ends meet.  It is simple: if you want to make it big in those fields, New York is the center of the universe, at least in the US.  They come to fight for their dreams, and they put up with a lot of struggle and hardship in their quest.

I remember watching Aaron Patzer’s talk about Mint.com (based in Silicon Valley).  His first hire was a young engineer dreamer who was “sleeping on a cot” at a friend’s apartment near Stanford, making a pittance working for 3 startups. Aaron hired him for $36K a year. Is New York attracting kids like that?

It used to be that a smart engineering graduate would go to Silicon Valley to chase a dream. They only came to New York to collect a big, safe paycheck.  New York’s effort has to be on attracting the first type, not trying to convert the second (a completely different personality type from “entrepreneur”).

The trend appears to be quite positive, and it is amazing what a difference just a few years can make.

More young dreamers are attracted to the energy, density and diversity of New York, and more importantly, they are starting to believe that they have a shot at success here.  The number of good early-stage investors has risen.  There are great customers, advertisers, and media partners here. There is a growing startup support network.  There is growing media coverage of hot local companies.  Perhaps even the city itself is starting to realize that it should not sit passively while great homegrown, successful startups pick up and move out to CA.

Edit Update: on the support network front, one of the things about Silicon Valley I appreciated most in terms of startup “community” was not the social events, but rather the number of experienced entrepreneurs around who were willing to mentor younger, less-experienced folks.

New York obviously cannot wave a magic wand and create an ecosystem of big tech companies that spawn little ones, but its tech startup sex appeal is growing and it is great to see the community pitching in to help.  The city needs to lure the dreamers, make them believe, and keep them!

As for me personally, I’ve now done startups in Austin, Silicon Valley and New York, and I am really psyched to be based in the Big Apple for my latest venture.

Additional Update: great post by Charlie O’Donnell on NYC gov and startup community

Image attribution: New York City Skyline from mikeleeorg, Flickr