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How New York Became a Center For Tech Entrepreneurs

How Mayor Michael Bloomberg Presided Over a Municipal "Pivot"


Years ago, the idea of New York City being a "tech center" for startups and entrepreneurs seemed crazy. All the big startups, from Facebook to Twitter to Google, had issued forth from California's Silicon Valley.

But in recent years all that's changed. New York City has become second only to Silicon Valley as a source of light and heat in the tech world. Millions of dollars are flowing through the tech economy here to boost growing entrepreneurial ventures such as these 50 promising startups. And one reason for New York's stunning tech transformation may be Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

WNYC's New Tech City program has another idea: one Google employee didn't want to live in California, and he was too valuable for the company to let leave. So Google opened a New York office in 2006. Now, that office employs over three thousand people and has become a vital proving ground for early entrepreneurs.

Ironically, the financial crash in 2008 may have played a role in the massive growth of the tech economy. When major companies going bust, laid off developers and business people took jobs at startups or went the entrepreneurial route. Read more on taking a layoff and turning it into a new opportunity here.

Further, the first generation of the iPhone was released in the summer of 2007. That release sparked a ton of interest in developing games and apps for the wildly popular phone. Some startups were only a person or two. Read more about app development here and startups you can create with only a shoestring budget here.

Sensing a need for more developer talent, the Bloomberg administration pushed for a tech campus to rival Silicon Valley's relationship with Stanford. Cornell University ultimately won the bid to build a campus on Roosevelt Island, which is scheduled to open in 2017. Plus, all the burgeoning interest in tech in New York has cause many city school's to beef up their tech offerings. General Assembly, which offers coworking space as well as a full roster of classes and a full-time developer training program, is a perfect example of this recent growth in tech education centered in NYC.

So even if Bloomberg wasn't the reason for the tech resurgence in NYC, he presided over a kind of municipal "pivot." While once the city economy thrived on that financial sector, when that sector faltered, a new engine of economic recovery was born in its place.

What other "tech economies" can learn from New York:

  • Developer talent likes urban amenities like hip neighborhoods, good food and affordable transportation options. While cities like Austin, Portland and Boston excel in all of these areas, some progressive urban areas like Kansas City, Raleigh and and St. Louis are creating civic initiatives to attract creative and tech savvy younger workers.
  • Support "entrepreneurial ecosystems." Those thrive via not just new businesses, but also places where potential collaborators can mix and mingle: Meetups, coworking spaces and incubators are all essential in fostering the overall ecosystem that allows hot tech sectors to grow.
  • Champion education: Not only does NYC have tech-friendly campuses and programs at schools that range from Columbia to NYU to the CUNY system to vocational schools, it's also fostered a number of educational startups like Skillshare, General Assembly and Code Academy that help impart tech skills to regular folk.
  • Create "hackathons." In 2011, NYC Digital organized the city's first-ever hackathon under the banner of "Reinventnyc.gov." It was aimed at bringing together a diverse group of technologists to address pressing infrastructural challenges. Hosted at humming tech hub General Assembly, over 100 developers, designers, technology partners and city officials participated in the event to collaboratively image and build the future of NYC.gov.

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