On New York City rivaling Silicon Valley

Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement to offer land and upto $100 million in infrastructure upgrades to a top tech university to set up a campus in New York, has sparked a debate in the tech community on whether New York can rival Silicon Valley and on whether this is what New York needs.
As a student studying in New York, I thought I’d chime in with some of my thoughts on the matter.

On New York being Diverse

Silicon Valley is all about Technology. New York City on the other hand, is not. It is the financial center of the world. It is a center for media, advertising, fashion and the arts. New York is definitely not all-tech, so to speak. I don’t see this as such a bad thing. I think New York, being diverse as it is, has the ability to nurture certain startups which Silicon Valley might not, or at least nurture them better than Silicon Valley. I believe that Doubleclick, Boxee, Square, Foursquare, Gilt, Tumblr and SecondMarket are all such startups, which are better suited to NYC. (Good thing they’re all based here, then..)Movie A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

On Engineering and Tech Talent

Many people believe that there is a lack of tech talent in the NYC region. However, I dont think that there is a shortage of engineering and tech talent as such. The NYC and East Coast region in general is full of talented engineers. However, due to technology not being a major part of NYC, many of them who end up working in NYC get drawn into different fields, most notably finance. And it isn’t always about the money. Some of them simply don’t know about the startup community in New York. This, I believe is a major problem. Campus Recruiting Fairs are filled with banks, but there are very few startups. This results in those unsure of their career path going into finance, and those who are certain that they are the start-up type, going to Silicon Valley on the assumption that there are no opportunities in NYC. Startups need to get word out about their job opportunities better.

On the Student Tech Community in NYC

HackNY is doing a fabulous job of getting students into the startup scene and building a strong tech community, and kudos to them for that. The bi-yearly hackathons they organise are truly wonderful, with students from all over the east coast getting together to hack for 24 hours straight. However, I still feel that there is room for a stronger community to be built in NYC.

Some ways NYC could improve the student tech community:

  • Weekly/Monthly student meetups, similar to the NYTM, where students from all colleges in NYC gather to talk tech or maybe just attend the NYTM together and then grab food after.
  • Startups inviting students to check out their work places and meet the employees to learn what it is like to work there. Even though startups might not pay as well as banks, they are exciting and fun places to work, and it is important that students get to see this first-hand.
  • Hacker spaces holding more tours/events for students or atleast letting students know about events via an email to the tech groups in colleges.

Closing Thoughts

Silicon Valley might be the center of the tech universe, but NYC is pretty darn awesome too. I think NYC has an uphill task of challeging Silicon Valley, but if startups can manage to lure the engineering and design talent to them rather than to the finance and advertising industries, then New York has a real good chance, at least of competing. On the matter of a new engineering school in NYC, I don’t really think it is required, and that the money and land might be better spent in promoting the startup culture in another way. However, it would be pretty cool to have a Stanford in New York.

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