My bet on NYC

I made a personal and professional bet on NYC this year. After founding a company in CA and two in Boston, I was apprehensive about moving to a city in which I had never worked, and perceived as a finance town. As I left a tech event last week, I thought to myself, this has been the best decision of my life. The NYC tech ecosystem is a work in progress, but I’m happily here for the long haul.

NYC tech is welcoming and collaborative

There is a fair amount of clique-ness to venture capital. There are times when it reminds me of my high school. Most of the time, however, I have found the atmosphere in NYC to be collegial and collaborative. Within our portfolio, I’ve been amazed to see how many founders know each other and regularly connect. We hold a number of events for our portfolio and they ask for more, often following up with each other on various topics.

Historically, the tech ecosystem was an afterthought in the broader NYC economy. The funny thing about venture capital in NY is that most folks here lump it in with Wall St (imagine that in the Valley!). The tech community still feels like it has something to prove. My favorite example is the “Made in NY” logo co-opted from the film business now imprinted on virtually every NY company’s website.

The east coast corridor is a real strength

Much is made about Boston vs NYC.  However, the ease with which you can get between the cities has made for some pretty interesting cross-pollination. Some of the best VC firms originated in Boston and have expanded to NY.  Moreover, I’ve connected NY companies with really capable engineers from Boston who have joined those companies. Similarly, we often recommend NYC PR and design agencies to our Boston companies. There’s no doubt that NYC and Boston are amazingly complementary when it comes to company building.

NY is young but lacks a deep bench

I think I’ve seen only two blue blazers since I’ve started at Founder Collective NYC! The average age of entrepreneurs I meet in NY is late 20s. My observation is that NYC lacks a “deep bench.” There are some real standout entrepreneurs, but I’ve seen a fair share of CTOs with less than 5 years of commercial experience. My view is that the VP corps of a company are often the most impactful in a venture. These are the folks whom, after an exit, go on to start the next great cohort of companies. That hasn’t quite happened yet in NYC, but it does feel like its coming.

Entrepreneur-friendly, but expensive

I can take 7 meetings a day, grab a drink with a portfolio company and be home before my kids go to sleep. This is a real structural advantage of NYC. I bump into entrepreneurs and investors in SoHo, Flatiron and even on the Upper West Side. NY lends itself to a lot of f2f which is important for a business that, at its core, is very f2f.

Many lament the cost of living and working in NYC. There’s no question that this makes it difficult to have a family and work in a start-up. That said, I’ve been amazed at how scrappy NYC entrepreneurs can be; I’ve seen companies that have a dozen employees working out of the founder’s living room. Many of our companies leverage co-working space, offshore labor and contractors while keeping their core in the city.

The NYC tech scene is evolving at a start-up pace. Like any venture, it’s iterative. The venture world is changing in many ways and this bodes well for NY. I bet we will look back in a few years and marvel at how the NY tech scene is as much a part of the NYC economy as fashion or media today. Who knows, maybe a successful entrepreneur will become mayor someday!?

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