New York Startup Movement

by mikekarnj on December 21, 2009

“You can tell by my attitude that I’m most definitely from New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York!”

Just in case you didn’t get the memo; the New York startup scene is taking off. Both Fred Wilson and Chris Dixon wrote on the New York Startup scene, and I thought I would add in my thoughts from what I’ve observed over the past couple of years.

“Greenwich Village 60s … Venice Beach 70s … London 80s … Silicon Valley 90s … Blogosphere 00s … NYC now…” — @RafeFurst

What sets New York apart from the rest of the world?  New York attracts the most creative, ambitious, and hard-working people into one extremely diverse city.  There’s an energy here that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.  Mix that with a great nightlife, culture, and a city that never sleeps — you can see why the New York startup movement has been picking up momentum.  I believe that NYC tech startups have a better eye for design, user experience, business models, and creating companies that solve real problems (and not launching more “me-too” companies).  And the icing on the cake?  The companies coming out of NYC right now are just… sexy.  There’s no other way to explain it.

Need proof?  Here’s a list of all the awesome things happening in the Big Apple.  (You should press play on the Jay-Z “Empire State of Mind” video for the full experience).

UPDATE (December 22, 2009): Just to clarify, I did not write this article as a “NYC versus the world” thought-piece. I wrote this piece to give a 50,000 feet view of what’s happening in New York City.  There are many other cities with a thriving startup culture such as Boston, Silicon Valley, Seattle, New Orleans, Boulder, Los Angeles, etc. Each city is unique in its own way, and each city will continue to pick up momentum and be successful. For example, Post-Katrina New Orleans is starting to become the hub for social entrepreneurs. That’s very powerful. They’ll uniquely define themselves for the history books. If we take what works in each city, this is something that can be replicated in every community around the world. Entrepreneurship is vital for innovation, and can work everywhere from New York to Africa. (Endeavor.org is a great example of a non-profit organization building entrepreneurial hubs around the world to lift communities out of poverty).

COMPANIES
I put together a short list of some of the more prominent startups and established companies in New York. There are hundreds and thousands of other companies that can make up this list, so please add missed companies to the comments section below.  Apologies if your company, organization, or initiative was left off this list.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past year is that NYC’s version of Silicon Valley will be Soho, which has been primarily associated with the fashion industry.  The combination of the falling price of leases stemming from the 2008 financial collapse, and the dropping rent (all the bankers moved out of Manhattan); there have been dozens of creative startups opening up office in Soho.  I’ve listed the ones I know in the list below.

20×200 sells art for everyone at ridiculously affordable prices.
Behance organizes the creative world to make their ideas happen.
By/Association is a private service for new introductions to remarkable people.
Bug Labs is a modular, open source system for building devices.
Boxee
Carbonmade helps you build and manage an online portfolio website
Drop.io allows simple real-time sharing, collaboration, and presentation.
Etsy is the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.
Foursquare
Harvest allows simple online time tracking, timesheet, and reporting.
Hello Health is helps doctors communicate, document, and transact with their patients in person and online
Hot Potato allows you to find events, join the crowd, and share the experience.
Hunch helps you make decisions and gets smarter the more you use it.
Meetup selps groups of people with shared interests plan meetings and form offline clubs in local communities around the world.
OMGPOP is the #1 place to play free multiplayer games with your friends.
Parachutes aims to reinvent how people teach and learn.
Quirky is a social product development company.
Squarespace is a fully hosted, completely managed environment for creating and maintaining a website, blog or portfolio.
Tumblr is the easiest way to blog.
Vimeo is a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make.
  1. 20×200 sells art for everyone at ridiculously affordable prices (Soho).
  2. Aviary makes creation accessible to artists of all genres.
  3. Behance organizes the creative world to make their ideas happen (Soho).
  4. Betaworks is an internet media company.
  5. Blip.tv is the next generation television network (Soho).
  6. By/Association is a private service for new introductions to remarkable people (Soho).
  7. Bug Labs is a modular, open source system for building devices.
  8. Boxee is the best way to enjoy entertainment from the Internet and computer on your TV.
  9. Carbonmade helps you build and manage an online portfolio website (Soho).
  10. ChallengePost is a marketplace for challenges.
  11. Clickable is an online solution that makes creating and managing online advertising simple and effective.
  12. College Humor is the best humor site on the internet.
  13. Designer Pages is a free social application for finding products in architecture and interior design.
  14. Drop.io allows simple real-time sharing, collaboration, and presentation.
  15. Etsy is the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.
  16. Foursquare gives you and your friends new ways of exploring the city (Soho).
  17. gdgt is the new consumer electronics site by the guys behind Engadget and Gizmodo.
  18. Harvest allows simple online time tracking, timesheet, and reporting (Soho).
  19. Hello Health helps doctors communicate, document, and transact with their patients in person and online.
  20. Hot Potato allows you to find events, join the crowd, and share the experience.
  21. Hunch helps you make decisions and gets smarter the more you use it.
  22. Kickstarter is a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, investors, and explorers.
  23. Knewton allows students to prep for GMAT & LSAT with online courses guaranteed to raise scores.
  24. Livestream is the most powerful live broadcast platform on the internet.
  25. Meetup helps groups of people with shared interests plan meetings and form offline clubs in local communities around the world.
  26. OMGPOP is the #1 place to play free multiplayer games with your friends.
  27. Parachutes aims to reinvent how people teach and learn.
  28. Quirky is a social product development company.
  29. SeamlessWeb is the fastest, easiest, and smartest way to order food delivery online. 
  30. SecondMarket brings together buyers and sellers in an independent marketplace and auction platform for illiquid assets.
  31. Squarespace is a fully hosted, completely managed environment for creating and maintaining a website, blog or portfolio (Soho).
  32. Stocktwits is a realtime stock tips community.
  33. Tumblr is the easiest way to blog.
  34. Vimeo is a respectful community of creative people who are passionate about sharing the videos they make.

PUBLISHING/EMAIL COMPANIES
New York City has always been the epicenter of the publishing and advertising industries.  And that hasn’t changed with this list of innovative companies changing the publishing and email businesses.

  1. Daily Candy is a handpicked selection of all that’s fun, fashionable, food related, and culturally stimulating in the city you’re fixated on.
  2. Flavorpill is a daily guide to quality cultural events in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and London.
  3. Gawker is an online media company (Soho).
  4. Gilt Groupe offers luxury designers and fashion brands at prices up to 70% off retail. 
  5. Huffington Post offers syndicated columnists, blogs and new stories with moderated comments.
  6. One King’s Lane offers exclusive sales on designer home accessories.
  7. Tasting Table is a free daily email about the best of eating and drinking culture.
  8. TBD is a free email newsletter that delivers one world-changing idea and one collective action to improve our future.
  9. Thrillist’s daily emails sift through the crap to find the newest and best the Nation is hiding (Soho).
  10. Urbandaddy brings you the single thing you need to know every day about your city.
  11. Very Short List is a collection of distinct, free, daily e-mails that each recommend one must-see gem a day.

VENTURE CAPITAL
Every city needs a strong VC and angel community to support everything from seed to established companies.  New York City has a strong list of investors supporting the entrepreneurs.

  1. First Round Capital is a venture capital firm dedicated to helping talented entrepreneurs build remarkable companies.
  2. Founder Collective is a seed-stage venture capital fund, built by a collection of successful entrepreneurs.
  3. Polaris Venture Partners invests in seed and early stage companies and in growth equity companies with substantial operating income.
  4. Spark Capital is a venture fund focused on the conflux of the media, technology, and entertainment industries.
  5. RRE Ventures focuses on expansion stage information technology ventures.
  6. Union Square Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm.

CO-WORKING SPACES
Every new startup needs a place to work out of when they first get started.  NYC has launched some new co-working spaces in the past year.

  1. Dogpatch Labs is an open source startup lab.
  2. Green Spaces is work space to launch green entrepreneurs.
  3. New Work City is a community coworking space in Manhattan.
  4. Rose Tech is an incubator and co-working space in Madison Square Park.
  5. Sunshine Studios is where startups grow up.

EVENTS
Free events are essential to networking, culture, and innovation.  Here’s a list of some of the premier events in NYC.

  1. Brooklyn Future Meetup is designed as an authentic off the record forum for discussing what the world might look like in 30+ years.
  2. Internet Week is a week-long festival of events celebrating New York’s thriving Internet industry and community.
  3. New York Entrepreneur Week (NYEW) is the largest entrepreneurial movement through New York State.
  4. New York Tech Meetup is an event  where entrepreneurs can demo something cool to New York’s tech community.
  5. NextNY is a fun way to connect both socially and professionally with up-and-comers who have a stake in the future of tech and new media in New York City.
  6. Social Media Week identifies and advances the use of social media in the corporate, public and non-profit sectors.
  7. The Feast is a series of programs addressing social innovation and new ways to make the world a better place. 

INNOVATIVE NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
What’s a community without charity?  These charities are re-inventing philanthropy.

  1. charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
  2. Echoing Green provides seed funding and support to social entrepreneurs with bold ideas.
  3. Endeavor transforms the economies of emerging markets by identifying and supporting high-impact entrepreneurs.
  4. Freelancer’s Union is a national membership organization that’s free to join.
  5. Pop!Tech is a network of remarkable people, extraordinary conferences, powerful ideas & innovative projects that are changing the world.
  6. StartingBloc educates, empowers, and connects emerging leaders to drive positive social change across sectors.
  7. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.

GOVERNMENT
Every city needs the support of the government and politicians.  The City of New York has made numerous commitments to support entrepreneurship.

  1. Mayor Bloomberg outlines 11 initiatives to support New York City’s financial services sector and encourage entrepreneurship.
  2. NYC Seed funds seed-stage technology entrepreneurs in New York City.
  3. New York City Investment Fund identifies and supports New York City’s most promising entrepreneurs in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors.

EDUCATION
New York City has access to some of the top schools in the country for technology, design, and entrepreneurship.

  1. NYU ITP is a two-year graduate program who mission is to explore the imaginative use of of communications technologies.
  2. NYU Reynolds Program for Social Entrepreneurship is designed to attract, encourage, and train a new generation of leaders in public service.
  3. Parsons is the premier design and art school.
  4. Pratt Institute offers studies in architecture, art and design, and information science. 
  5. SVA is a fine art and graphic art school in New York City specializing in art education for aspiring professional artists.

FUTURE OF THE NYC STARTUP MOVEMENT
All of these things are essential to a thriving startup movement.  Established companies, investors, education, talent, events, etc.  But, what are some other things I’d like to see in 2010 and beyond to support the NYC startup movement and take it to the next stage?

  1. Government support. The City of New York should set something up similar to the initiatives of the Greater New Orleans, Inc. GNO, Inc has setup a venture capital match program, which provides for a match investment ($1 for every $2 up to $5MM) for qualified venture capital funds.  The also have angel investment tax credits, which redeems 50% of the initial investment to investors in the form of LA income tax credits.  Both of these initiatives can spur the investment community in New York City.  
  2. Summer incubators. To support younger and inexperienced entrepreneurs, programs such as Y-Combinator and TechStars should launch in New York.  Venture Capital firms should put up the capital to support these programs. This will attract some of the world’s most talented entrepreneurs to NYC while providing them an education and experience that will be vital to their success.  And hopefully keep them here in New York.
  3. Mentorship programs. The gap between new and successful entrepreneurs needs to be closed. Informal and/or formal mentorship programs should start for the up-and-coming entrepreneurs in New York City.  Why not lend your expertise and experience to the next Steve Jobs when you’ve already sold your company for $500M?  Pay-it-forward, please.
  4. Access to capital needs to stay open.  Another way to make this happen is through pitch events such as TechCrunch50 but our version in New York City.  Even if none of the companies get funded, it allows entrepreneurs and investors to network, meet, and hopefully close some deals for investment in 2010.  It would be even sweeter if the City of New York provided a tax credit for these investors (refer to #1).
  5. More failures and successes. In 2010, New York City needs to see more failures to show the world that we’re willing to swing for the fences.  And we need to see more successes to set the bar higher for all of the startups launching and growing.  Fail harder.

I often get asked, “what’s happening in New York” and now I can finally zip over this link to answer that question.  If you live in another city, take note on what’s happening in NYC right now.  It’s a good case study to adopt and practice in your own community.  And to quote Jay-Z, “You can tell by my attitude that I’m most definitely from…. Let’s hear it for New York!”

Feel free to add suggestions, ideas, and thoughts to continue this discussion in the comments section below.

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