How does the East coast tech scene really measure up against the Bay Area behemoth? After a personal bromance for Steve Jobs was borne out of Walter Isaacson’s book, I dove straight down the rabbit hole of venture capitalists, angel investors, failed startups, the allure of Nor Cal and an obvious expansion of disruptive tech companies that would prove to chronicle a sizable portion of history in a relatively minuscule period of time.
If California continues to embrace socialism, hikes taxes to the stratosphere, and the Fed enables fuckery by pinning interest rates at zero to benefit the Bezos’s of the world, it begs the question; can New York dethrone Palo Alto as the technology kingpin if political and financial oversights plague future innovation? Your guess is as good as mine. *shrug emoji*
As prideful American’s, we’ve long espoused the Big Apple as our epicenter; “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” While that adage may hold merit, the tech scene is still Pacific Coast-dominate. It goes without saying, but New York is an omnipresent melting pot of culture and fashion trends, sprinkled in is ruthless Wall Street vigor, highly competitive industry’s, and historic relics dating back centuries to the same streets our founding fathers inhabited and fought for our independence in.
When it comes to the innovation scoreboard, it may look like the West Coast is running up the score on the East. However, if you peel the onion layers back and inspect the yuge variation in scope across the board, you’ll see that New York startups tend to start lean in relatively niche neighborhoods of the tech space. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”, but founders are advised from the get-go to let their delusions of grandeur evaporate and direct their attention to more ReAsOnAbLe ideas. Compare this to the audacious pitch room fervor surrounding San Francisco, and you’ll notice a dichotomy.
It’s no secret the lifestyle of a startup company is a Darwinian, no holds bar cage match; with limited resources, intense competition, life changing amounts of money on the line and personal relationship deterioration as a result of toxic workplace environments, only the most adaptable species will prevail. NBA analogy incoming: Silicon Valley is to the Golden St. Warriors/LA Lakers, as Silicon Alley mirrors the unproven ilk of the Eastern conference, teams like the Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers, or the likes of more steady teams that are always “there”. Think Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. iykyk.
New York City saw a mild rise in tech real estate pre-dot com boom, but by now it stretches out to all five boroughs and into New Jersey. At first, start up boutiques were sprouting up around Midtown Manhattan, namely in the Flatiron neighborhood near Madison Square. Hostile, sometimes highfalutin sales pitches by day and Rabelaisian partying by night, the Mapquest GPS of the actual “Alley” connects Midtown to Lower Manhattan, passing by the Flat Iron building and Union Square toward Soho.
In 2020, there isn’t much to write home about the geographical layout of Silicon Alley. Frankly, you’re just as likely to find a cutting edge startup in Queens or Harlem as you are surrounding the Flatiron and Midtown streets. Sure the moniker is catchy, but it just doesn’t hold the same weight as it did pre-millennium.
Ever heard of Razorfish, or Doubleclick? What about Plug n Go? Companies like this would be swallowed up by Google, or they bear the brunt of the bubble popping in their face thanks to the astronomical valuations and low interest rates throughout the aforementioned “dot com” era. This post-hoc coma is the reason we don’t hear the term Silicon Alley as much as we did in the 90s and early 2000s. The lack of financial bounce back once the economy started to turn around in 2003 proved to be an insurmountable blow. As a lot of startups were washed away when the rug was pulled out beneath investor’s, so to was the physical “Alley”.
I wouldn’t count Gotham out just yet, as in 2011 then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology would construct a $2 billion graduate school of applied sciences on Roosevelt Island, attempting to transform NYC into the world’s premier tech hotbed.
As of 2013, Google’s second largest office by number of employees (along with Verizon) is headquartered NYC. In 2014 the city hosted 300,000 tech sector employees, and not even a full year later reported over $7.3 billion in venture capital funding. Whale-sized tech companies and sector employment is flowing in as the city’s emerged into a global junction of creativity and entrepreneurship, social tolerance, and environmental sustainability.
New York tech companies made sizable VC gains in 2019, with the top 10 rounds amassing over $5 billion. Infor lead the list with $1.5 billion invested, as The We Company stayed close behind with their $1 billion in VC equity funding (but we all know how that ended…shoutout to Adam Neumann and all the hero’s over at Soft Bank). To cap this off, below are the top NYC 10 funding rounds from 2019.
- Infor: $1.5 billion
- WeWork: $1 billion
- CommonBond: $750 million
- UiPath: $568 million
- Knotel: $400 million
- Compass: $370 million
- Lemonade: $300 million
- Gympass: $300 million
- Celonis: $290 million
- Vroom: $254 million