After two months of the SpeakerCave in Pittsburgh, I now officially live with my co-founders in Silicon Valley. But most of my friends and part of my heart is still in NYC’s startup ecosystem. It was with a heavy heart that I left her.

Recently, Charlie O’Donnell of First Round Capital wrote a blog post entitled Maximum Impact where he asked aloud for suggestions on his next career move: “What’s really important to me is that I fulfill whatever potential I have to help build NYC into a lasting innovation center–the best it can be.” This was my response, with some content added:

Hi Charlie,

Believe it or not, I have given this idea much thought. My co-founder––a recent Carnegie Mellon CS grad––loved NYC when he visited and commented aloud how awesome the city is. We even seriously debated moving SpeakerText back to NYC after our summer of swelter in Pittsburgh.

Here’s the thing: NYC has plentiful BD talent and legions of world class designers, but the city needs more hackers. They’re out there in (godforsaken) cities like Boston and Pittsburgh, just looking for direction––for a bandwagon to jump on, for a startup to join.

If you wanna be king of NYC, then you gotta figure out a way to pipe more hackers into the NYC startup ecosystem. And I think it’s doable if you go to schools where the banking sector has less influence and draw than it does in Manhattan.

Here’s how I think you get them: Organize a NYC “startup weekend” during those 3 weeks in the spring when NYC weather is perfect and short skirts start popping up across the city. (Hell, maybe do 2x a year, once in Spring, once in Fall.) Get NYC startups and startup-related peeps to host visiting hackers––ask people to just volunteer a couch or bed for peeps to crash on.

To get the hackers, you advertise at hardcore CS schools like Cornell, MIT and Carnegie Mellon, then literally bus the hackers in. Make it a gigantic party.  You could easily get talent-hungry entrepreneurs and startups to volunteer and organize events like walking tours of the NYC startup scene, visits to startups and throw huge parties at Shake Shack. You’d get tons of media coverage and could probably even finance the whole thing with Kickstarter.

The end goal here is to ease the chokepoint around technical talent and to sell elite hackers on the idea that: a) NYC actually has a startup scene (believe it or not, not everyone knows this), b) NYC is awesome, and c) they’d actually know some people if they re-located to the Big Apple.

If it works, you increase the chances that NY creates the next Google and, long term, you change the game in terms of the available labor supply. (Oh yeah, and you’d probably piss some people off in Boston too––suckas!)

At least that’s what I’d do.


As a sidebar, I wrote this post sitting outside on the patio of our new apartment in Mountain View, Ca, overlooking our swimming pool, and  enjoying the 62 degree and no humidity weather. New York is a great town, but here in Cali we can live like kings on a pauper’s budget. No regrets.

Addendum: Most hackers––in fact most people––choose what city they move to after college based on what job they get offered. This drives young hackers to cluster around cities with large, established technology companies, because it is only the big, established companies like Google who hire on a regularized, prospective cycle that lends itself to university interviews and job fairs and the like. My hope is that a startup weekend would prospectively foster connections between startups and students in way that would make it much easier/less risky for the students––once graduated––to move to somewhere strange.