Now that Ron Conway, Paul Graham, Dave McClure and many others have opined on how New York is and isn’t important, I think it’s time some real New Yorkers shared what their thoughts are about this scene.
As an entrepreneur straddling both coasts, I get asked the same question almost every day: “So are you going to stay in Silicon Valley or go back to New York?!”
The questions intensified when I went back this past week, so I decided to reflect on it a little.
I had always been bullish about New York but after spending this past summer in California, and after having spent about 18 months in California back in 2006, I thought I’d compare, contrast and reflect here.
The New York Startup Scene is Important
Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but the New York Startup Scene is going to be incredibly important.
But after experiencing Silicon Valley all over again, I came to the realization that New York is never going to be Silicon Valley, but it’ll be important for a whole different set of reasons — that is if New Yorkers choose to let it.
Let me explain by drawing a parallel in the finance industry.
The opening bell in the New York stock exchange beacons the start of trading for the world’s complicated financial ecosystem.
However, there is one other key “center” that actually takes precedence over New York.
Not becuase of the volume of trades, or for being the source of actual innovation, but because of its location and its reach in terms of distribution.
London, because of its relative centrality to all timezones, serves to be the true center and financial mediator of our advanced financial world.
The brokers in London, through the course of their workday, have the most access and therefore the most liquidity with all relevant financial markets.
In an industry where real time connections drive profits, London’s ability to get on the phone with any important financial market through the course of their natural workdays makes it the real center of the financial world.
With that said, I believe that while Silicon Valley will be the center of pure technology innovation for the foreseeable future, New York is quickly becoming the London of the tech industry.
Let’s think about that analogy for a second.
Undoubtedly, Silicon Valley has been the chief source of grand technology innovation for the last 50 years.
And because of that, we’ve become incredibly good at rolling out new and exciting applications of that pure technology to solve real industry problems.
However, much like how New York is at a disadvantage in reaching out to world markets during their official trading hours, Silicon Valley faces a similar disadvantage due to lack of convenient access to domain knowledge in industries in need of tech innovation.
Enter New York, the London of the tech industry.
With unlimited access to countless industries, any meetup, bar, restaurant or social event you attend will be filled with domain knowledge from at least five different industries.
In this era where pure tech from Silicon Valley allows people to release beauiful, functional, and diruptive applications in just three days, it is no longer about tech innovation, it is about problem space innovation.
This makes New York very very important.
New Yorkers: quit trying to catch up to Silicon Valley
So New Yorkers, my advice to you is to quit trying to mimic, model or catch up to Silicon Valley.
If New York is going to become important in the tech sector, its time you do what every nerd does when they come of age and finally stop trying to mimic the popular kids: play to your strengths.