I spent Sunday at the first-ever NYC video hack day. It was awesome. So many startups. So much energy.
After the masses demo’d at General Assembly, an old friend approached me: “Dude, so do you miss it? Do you miss New York?”
I thought for a second, then looked him in the eye: “Not at all.”
“Really?” he asked, a bit surprised.
“Yeah man, as a city, I love New York, but there’s no place like the Valley. My only regret is that I didn’t leave sooner.”
His brow furrowed. He shot me a dubious look, then the moment passed. We clanked beers and moved on.
I’ve been thinking about this exchange all day. What is it about the Valley that’s so special? New York is awesome––the bars are better, the city is cleaner, the women are hotter––but there’s something in the air that doesn’t jibe with me. And that’s when it came to me…
New York is for insiders. San Francisco is for outsiders.
Think about it. The New York tech scene derives its competitive advantage by being close to other industries: Fashion. Media. Finance. Art. Advertising. The list goes on.
As a general rule, successful New York startups have:
-Created technologies that sustain and grow other industries
-Focused on customers first, technology second
Example #1: Art.sy. They work with super high-end art galleries to put their inventory online, make it discoverable and drive business to their established money-making schemes. Art.sy is NOT disrupting the art world. Quite the opposite.
Example #2: Tumblr. Big brands love Tumblr. Even creaky ole’ Newsweek has a Tumblr. (I have a Tumblr too!) Tumblr is servicing and partnering with the established order, not telling it to fuck off. And that’s the right move. Those guys are smart.
Example #3: DoubleClick. Ad tech for Madison Avenue. Also a multi-billion dollar company! Not too shabby.
If I’m right, the implication is that, in the long term, the winning companies in New York will be led primarily by insiders with relevant professional experience. Or, barring that, by people who are really good at networking with the old guard and schmoozing with insiders.
That was never me.
Silicon Valley, for better or worse, is the opposite: Fuck the status quo. Fuck the old guard. Disrupt! Disrupt! Technology first, customers second.
I like this paradigm. It fits me well.
Matt – you know I think you’re awesome, and I love pot-stirrers. But here your wrong. The valley is about tech, the island (manhattan) is about people. The diversity, complexity, and density makes NYC the place to conceive and test new ideas that connect people in new ways. Sure, historically big things have come out of the valley with its mix of technology oriented education, money, and engineering talent. But I’d suggest that the playing field is being leveled. and you’re going to see the next round of big companies come from NYC. Video is a great example of this – the socialization of tv, both making and sharing, is going to be born here. The good news is, you can leave and come back. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker. There’s a beer waiting for you!
To be clear, disruptive technology doesn’t always mean huge outcome! Napster was disruptive, and it bombed. YouTube would have had real trouble had it not been acquired by Google. Sustaining technologies are typically safer bets. The market for them actually exists! Social TV is a great example. Creating the perfect “second screen” experience––that’s not gonna happen in the Valley. That;s gonna be a NYC company, or maybe LA. The company that kills that space is going to be close in with the networks, I guarantee. And SF is just not the place for that.
Ok, well there are plenty of people like you — a pot stirrer like me — right here in NYC. Maybe you should just look a little closer. I am, I started homingCloud and there is not one real estate agent/broker on the entire planet who would say I’m growing their industry :). Don’t generalize, don’t typecast especially NYC – the most amazing place on the planet because we are always what you don’t expect !!!
But that’s my point. You’re helping the real estate industry grow. Real estate is an existing industry. You’re sustaining, not disrupting it. This is good!
The (admittedly idealized) Silicon Valley mindset would focus on this instead: How do we displace the real estate agent/broker model and replace it with technology?
Both approaches involve technology. Both can make money. No argument there. But they are both VERY different approaches to industry, and both require different founding team DNA.