Last week I attended an event that I found on Facebook called State of NYC Tech 2017, hosted by ICONYC Labs. Leading up to the event I was very excited for two reasons.
One- my passion for tech startups, and two- I love following Israeli startups.
ICONYC Labs is a fascinating accelerator that helps Israeli tech startups grow into global companies. By hosting State of NYC Tech, ICONYC Labs got to showcase a few of their startups, but the reason their founder Eyal Bino brought us all together was to gain insight into tech trends, the New York City tech ecosystem, and how New York stacks up to other ecosystems on a global scale.
Following check-in and some light appetizers, a panel consisting of venture capitalists from Comcast Ventures, Greycroft Ventures, and FirstMark Capital along with Michael Rubenstein, the President of AppNexus fielded questions from CNN Money’s Sara Ashley O’Brien.
Some of the topics of discussion included:
• What would it take to put New York tech in the headlines of business news around the world
• What the VC’s expect for the New York tech scene as a whole in 2017
• Which companies the panel expects to IPO this year
• The qualities New York startups need to impress VC’s versus their counterparts in Silicon Valley
In response to the last topic the panelists said that in places like New York City, where getting investment is more difficult for pre-revenue companies, startups need to be scrappy and know their industry better than anyone else to have a chance a growing to sustainability. As an entrepreneur from a much smaller startup ecosystem than New York this response surprised me. I thought to myself that’s what my co-founders and I do! It’s the common thread that all entrepreneurs deal with outside of Silicon Valley (and I’m sure a handful in the Valley deal with it too).
Another striking comment made by Greycroft Partners co-founder, was that there is no shortage of capital in the world (let alone New York City). But Ian and the other panelists agreed that east coast VC’s are more selective with the companies they’ll invest in, and there are much fewer seed stage funding rounds in east coast tech hubs like New York and Boston than there are in Silicon Valley.
With all this talk about Silicon Valley I started wondering what makes New York so special for tech entrepreneurs. This is the city of Wall Street and Mad Men on Madison Avenue. Sure there are startups like AppNexus, Blue Apron, and Buzzfeed that have turned into world class companies in the Big Apple, but where are the unicorns like Airbnb, Facebook, and Uber? Why don’t we read about hordes of entrepreneurs and programmers moving to New York City in hopes of launching the next Snapchat like we do with Silicon Valley?
From what I can understand, many tech entrepreneurs who operate outside of the Bay Area love Silicon Valley for what it is. Some say it’s like being back on a college campus. Michael Rubenstein from AppNexus noted that many times when he goes to Silicon Valley for a few days, by the end of it he can’t wait to get back to New York. To people that aren’t a part of the tech ecosystem in Silicon Valley day in and day out it appears and feels very foreign. It’s a world so far removed from the reality entrepreneurs and investors throughout the rest of the US face, even in other major markets like New York, LA, and Boston. That’s when I could piece together what makes New York a fantastic place for tech entrepreneurs.
The attitude towards working in New York is nearly identical to the attitude early stage entrepreneurs need to get their business off the ground. People working on Wall Street, in ad agencies, or consultancies do whatever it takes to make their boss happy and often work insane hours in doing so. Entrepreneurs work similar ungodly hours not because they’re the boss and that’s what makes them happy, but because they can’t afford someone else with a better idea beating them to market. They too need to have the ‘whatever it takes attitude’ that is so ingrained in the fabric of New York work culture.
So why don’t more entrepreneurs come to New York? Many call it the greatest city in the world! Those I heard from at State of NYC Tech think that movement of entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley will slow down due to the economics of starting a business. The cost of living in New York isn’t much less than that in the Bay Area, but the panelists thought that entrepreneurs will start their businesses in cities with budding tech ecosystems where founders can afford the startup lifestyle. That makes me feel that Phoenix, Detroit, and other cities that can better accommodate the early stage entrepreneur’s budget are in position to start seeing an influx of co-founders that might not be able to start out in San Francisco or Boston.
Coming from Arizona, I knew nothing about the NYC tech landscape coming into the event. The world I come from is that of a small city trying to make a name for itself. What I learned gave me perspective of where New York lies on the global tech scene, and appreciation for the ecosystem New York has developed that make it unique from other startup hubs like Boston and Silicon Valley.
One of the coolest parts about New York is there's always something going on, especially in the startup world! Each time I attend an event I'll post some of the things I learn on the InHouse blog. If you have any requests for topics you'd like to read about I will look for events that cover those topics so you can read posts that interest you!