New York Is A Tech Backwater

Foursquare recently moved from Austin to New York City for some reason or another. I don’t know if, or think, that they saw this article before moving there.

I wonder, if they had seen this article, would they still have moved?

I’d also like to see how Austin compares to both New York and Silicon Valley in terms of startup funding etc. I know it dried out for a bit right after the bubble burst, but I’ve heard that VC investing is starting to pick up again.

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Last Tuesday, legendary tech investor Ron Conway addressed the glop-eating masses at Y Combinator during our usual Tuesday illustrious-speaker dinner. The question was asked about the New York tech scene, and it’s relative strength vis-à-vis Silicon Valley. Paul Graham took up the question with Techcrunch TV recently, as a follow-on to Conway’s remarks. Chris Dixon, a respected New York-based VC, has also chimed in on the tech renaissance going on there.

They’re all wrong.

New York will never be more than a tech sideshow1.

Thinking the New York tech scene will ever equal Silicon Valley is as foolish as thinking San Francisco’s puny theater district will one day take on Broadway. Both Silicon Valley and Broadway are unique products of the cities that spawned them, and every attempt to create a Silicon Alley/Silicon Sentier/Skolkovo/whatever in various parts of the world have failed. So far, no one’s managed to do it, and New York sure as hell won’t either.

The hero with, well, a couple of faces

As Matt Mireles incisively points out in his related blog post, the mythology in New York is all wrong for startups.

Let’s face it, young ambitious men have two goals in life: getting laid, and impressing other young ambitious men. You do neither in New York by saying you’re starting a startup. That slinky young thing you’re chatting up at Schiller’s turns around to the investment banker next to her when you drop that bomb.

In the Bay Area, you drive through Atherton or Woodside and see the mansions that Netscape, Apple, and Oracle built. On the Upper East Side you see houses built thanks to the depredations of previous generations, and owned by the predators of today (probably their children).

In the Bay Area, new money is better than old. In New York, it’s precisely the opposite. The mythology is all wrong.

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