As I prepare for a talk about the Entrepreneurship Opportunities at Fordham this weekend, and with the Compass Fellowship at Fordham well underway, I thought I would reflect on the state of Tech & Entrepreneurship in New York City, the city I am fortunate enough to call home.
As a disclaimer, it is worth noting that my views are limited to my personal experience, but I can’t help but be amazed at the transformation I have witnessed in just a few short years since I left school. From an elitist private boys school in the North of England, I have been thrust into the fast-paced melting pot of New York City a city where anyone can do just about anything they want. The Manchester Grammar School is fantastically successful at guiding their students down the well-worn path of an Oxbridge education followed by a successful career in the legal, banking, accounting or medical industries, but never in my life have I experienced the adrenaline offered by the entrepreneurial activities that I can access in New York.
It seems to me that a combination of political, social, cultural, technical and economic situations have converged to unleash this seemingly relentless wave of entrepreneurs descending onto New York City.
Firstly, for the US economy as a whole, I feel the widely reported success of companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Square, Dropbox and even non-technical companies such as TOMS Shoes has caused a cultural shift: today, being an entrepreneur is just about the coolest thing one can be. 5 years ago if you’d asked High Schoolers what jobs they wanted when they grew up, I’m certain many would talk about Investment Banking or Real Estate. Today, with the demonization of banks and the mainstream success of entrepreneurial stories such as The Social Network and the Steve Jobs biography, Millenials are aiming to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, rather than the next Gordan Gekko.
Then why is it that New York is exploding? I have to give a lot of credit to Mayor Bloomberg, an entrepreneur who understands the value to be gained by establishing New York as the first true challenger to Silicon Valley’s undisputed title as the home of Tech. From starring in hugely promotional videos like this one, to establishing partnerships between the Mayor’s Office and institutions such as NYU to create Tech hubs in various neighborhoods, Bloomberg is converting New York from a city of white-collared Wall St and Madison Av professionals to a city of Warby Parker spectacled, coffee shop dwelling entrepreneurs. His coup d’etat may prove to be the $2 billion tech campus which Cornell is to build on Roosevelt Island; with companies like Google and Facebook already pledging their support, the campus has the potential to promote New York to an equal footing with Silicon Valley. New Yorkers are also taking advantage of a number of networking and skill teaching resources that are headquartered in New York. In particular, Meetup, General Assembly and Skillshare have all been taken to heart by New York entrepreneurs, and are acting as a catalyst for exponential increases in the productivity, creativity and overall activity of Entrepreneurs.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and following the most devastating blow to the global economy since the Great Depression, it seems that New York may be emerging with an invigorated entrepreneurial spirit. With College degrees and MBA’s no longer offering the job security that they may have in years gone by, the risk of relying on securing a stable job is much higher. Entrepreneurship has always carried high risks, and for every success story there may be five failures; however, the risk of success in entrepreneurship relative to a traditional white-collared job is lower than at anytime in recent memory. I was recently informed that Entrepreneurship is the fastest growing class taken by students at colleges around the country. Even if students don’t end up as entrepreneurs, they are valuing lessons in networking, building an online presence, and exploiting opportunities. This is creating a culture of doers, and people helping doers do amazing things.
As the infrastructure for entrepreneurs and start-ups develops in New York, the future looks bright for the city.
So how am I taking advantage of this growth? I’m interning with a start-up called Articula in a co-working space in the Lower East Side, a cool place above a fabric shop in the heart of China town, with an almost invisible entrance. I’m also leveraging my position as a Compass Mentor to reach out to a whole host of social entrepreneurs around the city, bringing them to Fordham and adding them to my network. Just last night I met Marcos Salazar, a successful man who is highly connected in the New York entrepreneurial scene, who hosts meetups regularly attended by 100+ entrepreneurs. I may not know exactly what area I want to get involved in yet, but once I do, like New York, I’m ready to explode.
What would it take for London, Manchester or another city in my beloved homeland to raise their game as New York has? You tell me!