A few months ago, Steve Schlafman of RRE Ventures put together an exhaustive
overview of the NYC tech landscape. It’s great, but at over 100 slides, it’s a lot to wade through, especially if most of the names are new to you.
So here’s a hopefully more digestible version, loosely modeled after Rob Go’s excellent ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Boston Tech Community‘.
New York has always been a center of innovation. But when it comes to the kind of internet-enabled, venture capital-fueled innovation we call ‘tech’, the Big Apple was long considered a bit of a backwater, the kind of place a good programmer would only move if his/her significant other was trying to be an actor. Less than ten years ago, people were more likely to consider Boston or Chicago America’s second tech city.
How things have changed. New York is now the world’s fastest-growing tech hub. We can’t compete with Silicon Valley for sheer scale yet. But Foursquare, AppNexus, Tumblr, Meetup, Makerbot, Shutterstock and Buzzfeed have shown the world that NY tech is more than just fashion and finance (though Gilt, Warby Parker, and Kickstarter are also great). If you don’t believe me, read Venrock partner Nick Beim’s fantastic, data-packed analysis of ‘The Rise and Future of NY Tech’.
If you’re new to town or new to tech, here are some places to kickstart your journey into the NYC innovation community.
Mailing lists/events listings
– NYC Startup Digest
– Gary’s Guide: probably the most comprehensive, but it can be hard to figure out what’s really worth going to. On the upside, often has free goodies/discount codes
– This week in NYC Innovation: well curated by VC Charlie O’Donnell
– Bonnie Halper’s ‘SOSList’
– Kate Kendall’s ‘The Fetch’
Coworking spaces (many also have good mailing lists)
– WeWork (multiple locations): slick, professionally run, and affordable
– AlleyNYC (37th and 7th): high traffic, good roster of events
– Fueled Collective (SoHo): founders of the successful app development shop rented out a floor of Foursquare’s space and tricked it out like the set of a GQ shoot. Magnet for clever people who all seem too cool to really be in tech
– Projective Space (SoHo): minimalist decor, solid events, mostly dudes
– Wix Lounge (Chelsea): free! So often crowded. But free
– New Work City (Chinatown)
– Secret Clubhouse (Williamsburg): the hipster coworking space
– a more comprehensive list courtesy of Mark Birch here
– and the Complete Guide to Coworking from AlleyWatch
– NY Tech Meetup: with close to a thousand attendees, it’s a madhouse and you’re not likely to run into a Big Dog (successful/famous founder or investor) in the audience like you used to in the old days. However, the presentations are usually high quality and it’s worth checking out at least once
– Ultralight Startups, Entrepreneurs’ Roundtable: monthly event with 4 or 5 startups pitching a panel of VCs and getting feedback. Instructive.
– PandoMonthly, Startup Grind: fireside chat-style talks with notable startup founders
– House of Genius: amazing invite-only event (you can apply) where anonymous panelists give feedback to two growing companies
– Amusemi: ‘dining club for entrepreneurs, designers, and friends’
– generally, just comb through the mailing lists and search Meetup.com for things related to your specific domain (edtech, health, maps, design)
– as a general rule, things being hosted by General Assembly and at AppNexus tend to be quite good
If you’re starting a company
– Startup Weekend ($125), Lean Startup Machine: 54 hours to build a business. Pitch your idea, if it’s selected form a team, and present how far you’ve gotten two days later. Mentors—investors, experienced founders, etc — coach teams on best practices and award a winner
– Test Tube ($5): usability testing speed dating-style: spend five minutes with someone trying out your app and then do the same with theirs. Repeat ~6 times. Great way to get a real sense of your products’ appeal. You can go with just an idea and it’s a great way to get feedback from strangers, which is much more valuable than feedback from friends
– Strategy Hack ($650): one day workshop to hone your marketing strategy
– NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC): lots of government resources dedicated to helping small businesses grow, notably Take the HELM ($250k grants)
– accelerators: TechStars, AngelPad, DreamIt, and Entrepreneurs’ Roundtable: in exchange for 6-10% of your company, receive $20-40k investment, work out of a shared office space, and gain access to a community of mentors who help you accelerate your startup’s development. Competitive admission. More comprehensive overview from AlleyWatch.
– or try and pitch at Ultralight or Entrepreneurs’ Roundtable (free, see above)
If you might like to work at a startup
– General Assembly‘s job boards (on the wall at 902 Broadway, 4th Floor… how retro)
– The Muse
– Christina Cacioppo’s job board
– Made in NY job map
– Jobs at Union Square Ventures-backed startups: http://www.usv.com/jobs
Educational resources – the last few years have seen an explosion in Tech Education. Some might argue that successful entrepreneurs learn by doing, not paying $12k for a coding course. But the paid schools below have built up impressive alumni networks and also help with job placement, which may justify the price depending on your own networking prowess.
– General Assembly: everything from $20 evening classes to twelve week $11.5k web development immersives
– Flatiron School: twelve weeks, $12k, and arguably the best coding education you can get outside of a good university. Competitive admission.
– Startup Institute: $5250 for an 8 week course with a ‘core curriculum’ and optional specialization in different startup-centric tracks (web development, UX design, etc)
– Codeacademy: it’s free. Online. Started by NYers. Bloomberg apparently uses it, bless his heart
– Dash: a sexier but less developed competitor to Codeacademy, also free online. Made by the General Assembly folks
– TechCrunch Disrupt (early May): the tech blog’s second conference gets an appearance from most of the current Hot People in Tech. Can be useful to try and rub shoulders, but don’t pay full price for a ticket
– Maker Faire (late September): take Medieval Times and replace the jousting with robot jousting. Really!
– NY Tech Day (late April): quite obviously not the World’s Largest Tech Event, as they bill themselves. Still a decent overview of who’s making what
– Capital On Stage (November): one day conference where venture capitalists ‘pitch’ to entrepreneurs
– Google search ‘NYC Hackathon’ (what is a hackathon?) as these are constantly changing
*these events are often pricey, but there are always hacks to get in for free or a reduced rate – participate in the Disrupt hackathon, for example, and you get two free tickets to the $1995-a-ticket conference
Scenesters – not the ‘best’ entrepreneurs and investors, but the people that go most out of their way to be accessible and welcoming to new startup-minded people + the ones that consistently generate good social media content. Sorted by descending sum of Twitter followers, more or less.
– Arianna Huffington: no explanation needed
– Gary Vaynerchuk: prolific angel investor, just launched a seed fund
– Mayor Emeritus Mike Bloomberg: presided over NY’s transition to tech powerhouse, continues to be a champion of the community
– Jenna Wortham: NY Times tech reporter
– Anil Dash: NY tech old guard. Serial founder, prolific tweeter. blog
– Fred Wilson: Godfather of Union Square Ventures. blog
– Baratunde Thurston: seems to be a staple at tech events though it’s unclear why exactly
– Chris Dixon: VC@ Andreesen Horowitz. blog
– Joel Spolsky: founder of Stack Overflow, but best known for Joel on Software, his coder culture-defining blog since 2000. Blogging for 14 years!!
– Alexis Ohanian: Reddit founder, Y Combinator’s east coast ambassador, angel investor, book writer
– Kate Kendall: Melbourne transplant, media maven, founder of The Fetch
– Esther Dyson: prolific angel investor
– Rachel Sklar: founder of the Li.st, an email list for females in tech, ‘Change the Ratio‘ champion
– Jonah Peretti: founder & CEO Buzzfeed
– Jason Saltzman: founder & CEO, AlleyNYC
– Bre Pettis: CEO Makerbot. blog
– David Tisch: scion of the family with their name on half the buildings in NY. Formerly found of TechStars NY, now investor at Box Group
– Charlie O’Donnell: formerly of First Round Capital and Union Square Ventures, now leading his own $10m fund, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, which has had early successes in Tinybop and Canary. Often arranges lunches & dinners for the NY entrepreneurial community
– Cindy Gallop: advertising exec turned founder of friendly porn site mlnp.tv. Force of nature
– Trevor Owens: runs Lean Startup Machin
– Andy Weissman: Union Square Ventures. blog
– Howard Morgan: First Round Capital. Most active 60+ year old tweeter in tech?
– Ben Lerer: Lerer Ventures, Thrillist founder
– Christina Cacioppo: formerly USV, now building something?
– Phin Barnes: First Round Capital. blog
– Courtney Boyd Meyers: The Next Web, Wired, Daily Beast writer
– Kathryn Minshew: founder of the Muse, WSJ contributor, poster woman for Women in Tech
– Alyson Shontell: Business Insider
– Erin Griffith: formerly PandoDaily, now Fortune
– Joanne Wilson: ‘The Gotham Gal’ angel investor, blog
– Kelly Hoey: founder Women Innovate Mobile accelerator
– Steve Schlafman: formerly Lerer Ventures, now RRE
– Shai Goldman: Managing Director at SVB, formerly heading up the NY branch of 500 Startups, Dave McClure’s global empire
– Matt Brimer: one of the founders of General Assembly, prolific party-hoster
– Rameet Chawla: co-founder of Fueled, insanely well dressed
– Ryan Matzner: co-founder of Fueled, insanely well dressed. Yes, both of them.
– Frank Denbow: curator of NY Startup Digest and founder of NY Startup Weekend, staple at hackathons. Knows everyone
– Murat Aktihanoglu: founder Entrepreneurs’ Roundtable Accelerator
– Chris Velazco: formerly @TechCrunch, now associate editor at Endgadget
– Mark Birch: serial founder, blogger, man about town. blog
– Niamh Hughes: former community director @General Assembly, now at Shutterstock; Sandbox network ambassador for NY
– Tom Limongello: columnist @PandoDaily, abortive creator of fail whale pillows
– David Teten – ff Venture Capital, HBS Alumni Angels, frequent judge at startup competitions
– Christina Wallace – director of NY Startup Institute, super connector
– SVB’s Shai Goldman has helpfully compiled a spreadsheet of funds raised in the last two years, which are by definition the most likely to be actively making investments today
– 15 NY-based Angel Groups for Your Startup to Consider from AlleyWatch
Big NY Startups
– Stack Exchange
– Return Path
– Warby Parker
– Vice Media
– General Assembly runs a great free 1-hour ‘orientation’ class every few weeks that gives a good overview of things and people to know
– Is this comprehensive? Hell no. That’s the point. Still, please let me know of any glaring omissions or falsities in the comments, mail g at hitlistapp.com or via the social network of your choice.
Sources: Steve Schalfman’s ‘Guide to NYC tech’; SVB, CB Insights, and Orrick’s ‘Venture Capital Almanac’; Brittany Laughlin @USV; anecdotes; hard won personal experience