April 21, 2013

New York vs. Silicon Valley: A Battle of Two Mindsets

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I’m often asked what’s different between the New York City tech scene versus the tech scenes in Silicon Valley, Boston or other major tech hubs.  To be honest, I might be a bit naive as nearly all of the work I’ve done has been in NYC. But from just the brief time I’ve spent in the Valley, in Boston and in other areas of the country I think there are a few distinguishing factors.

For one, the NYC scene is still growing, and figuring itself out.  I’ve recently been lucky enough to join First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, which is a community-building tool aimed at giving bright students the opportunity to receive capital that gets them off the ground, and grants them access to certain resources they may have otherwise had to wait years to receive.

The Dorm Room Fund, in itself, is an experiment and a chance to mold how even the students roaming the campuses of Cornell, NYU, Columbia and other top notch schools in the metropolitan area approach their first companies. Firms such as FF Capital and Founder Collective are using small amounts of capital to make huge dents in the universe, and the top firms pivoted from social-first to SaaS-vertical-first in one fell swoop.

Of course, the Cornell tech campus is also reinventing how we learn about entrepreneurship, management and applicable engineering. We are a city of continuous change and molding, but for now there are a few things that get me super psyched about what we have to offer:

New York puts revenue above user growth more so than Silicon Valley and still values the fundamentals of building a true business.  Maybe it’s because there’s a bit less money in New York, or maybe it’s still because the greatest success the tech scene has had to date is still Bloomberg … which we often forget was a tech startup at one point. Many of the venture capitalists in New York were once in the financial world and still bring that mindset with them in early stage investing.

It will be interesting to see how the tech campus taps into all of this.  Will it try to force Silicon Valley philosophy in a city of Wall Street, Madison Ave and hipster-ville? Or will it take advantage of what the city does have and leverage these unique strengths in a way universities like Stanford simply couldn’t?

It’s important that we do the latter, because if we try to mimic Silicon Valley and copy Stanford we’ll fail.  But if we build our own ecosystem with our own distinguishing flavors and take advantage of what we can build then Cornell might be able to do something more powerful than anyone’s ever seen, on an island that just so happens to be the center of the Universe.

Original Author: Ali Hamed