FORTUNE -- Unlike those tech workers over in Silicon Valley who live in a Google-bussing, Glass-wearing, Playa-sharing comfort bubble of soft landings and superhero universities, New York startups are toughing it out in the real world. Or so the trope has gone.
New York, a distant No. 2 to Silicon Valley, has "grit and grime"; it's "real and raw," according to a PandoDaily piece by Josh Miller, founder of Branch (a link-sharing service that Facebook acquired in January). Taking things a step further, Miller noted that being a startup founder in San Francisco "feels like being a banker in New York." In other words, in the Valley it's easier to work in tech -- there, you're the top dog.
Miller's not the only one with this view. New York techies love to tout the fact that New York isn't an "industry town" as a major reason for building a company here. Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare, has said he likes the fact that he's not surrounded by other techies in New York. And on Quora, a question-and-answer website, techies gush over such things as the ability to target products at people who "do not live/eat/breathe tech."
But the image of tech workers as the outcasts and underdogs of New York's hierarchy is starting to shift. Deals for companies such as Tumblr, Buddy Media, Makerbot, and Shutterstock are turning employees into millionaires, and early investors into stars. Hot commerce startups such as Warby Parker and Birchbox are enviable places to work. Well-funded media startups such as Refinery29, Vox Media, Complex Media, and BuzzFeed are snapping up all the writing talent that big media cut loose during the recession. And quintessential Brooklyn companies such as Kickstarter and Etsy have blended startup culture with indie culture in a way that no Valley company can replicate. Spotify is planning to IPO. Yahoo is even buying up all our failures.
In short, tech is no longer the underdog in New York. It's quickly becoming the top dog, and the numbers back that up. A new study released this week by Citi, Google, and the NY Tech Meetup Association for a Better New York shows the city's high-tech ecosystem is made up of 291,000 jobs that are enabled by, produce, or facilitate technology, and generate $50 billion in total annual compensation. Tech accounts for 7% of New York's workforce, placing it just behind retail, which comprises 8% of the workforce. The study also shows New York's tech sector added 45,000 jobs over the last decade, growing by 18%.
New York tech is spreading its wings. Maybe we don't even need a cheerleader mayor any more. Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration has said the city needs "a deliberate shift in policy" from Bloomberg's very active tech-sector development projects. Here's Alicia Glen, the Mayor's deputy for housing and economic development, via the Daily News:
Our focus is on really nurturing and growing our own workforce," she said. "That wasn't the focus of the prior administration. It doesn't mean they were bad people ... it just means we want to really be able to make our connection between our overall growth and prosperity and making sure regular new Yorkers have a chance to participate in that.
As New York's tech ecosystem comes into its own, many important question marks remain. For one, Tumblr's sale wasn't necessarily a big success for the ecosystem. And the jury is still out on Foursquare, New York tech's poster child. The long-promised Gilt IPO is still just that. And other big tech leaders are grappling with valuation questions. Fab, for example, hit a major stumbling block last year.
New York has a long way to go to before it matches the Valley's dominance of tech innovation. But the numbers show that, unlike prior go-arounds, the city's tech ecosystem might be strong enough to sustain a few blows. In the aftermath of the dotcom bubble, most techies retreated to the advertising, fashion, and finance industries. Now growth looks sustainable and permanent. And that whole "underdog" thing is starting to sound dated.
Popular consensus is yes, but I'm not convinced.
FORTUNE -- It's a question this 47-year-old found himself pondering even before reading Noam Scheiber's delightfully well-written cover story in The New Republic. Scheiber finds an early-middle-aged entrepreneur from Boston, Nick Stamos, who had enjoyed modest success during his technology career but was unable to get Silicon Valley venture capitalists to back him. He concluded that the Sand Hill Road VCs are age-obsessed.
I'm MOREAdam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Large - Apr 4, 2014 12:36 PM ET
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FORTUNE -- Leave it to Mike Judge to satirize the tech boom and make it (mostly) work.
What Entourage did for Hollywood, the Office Space and Beavis and Butt-Head creator wants to do for tech with the HBO series Silicon Valley. But replace Los Angeles's glitz for Palo Alto's hyperdeveloped suburbia. And swap the smooth-talking ballers for awkward nerds hoping that their startup idea -- MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 3, 2014 9:31 AM ET
How older entrepreneurs are starting businesses, too.
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FORTUNE -- Recently, there's been much conversation about how Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America, where twentysomethings rule the startup scene. While that might be true, that's not necessarily the case across the rest of America.
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The clubbiness of the tech hub is what makes it work. But what if it's at the expense of the startups?
FORTUNE -- Some call it an ecosystem; others call it incestuous. In Silicon Valley every prominent player is just an adviser, an investor, a co-founder, an acquirer, or a director away from another. It's an industry worth trillions that operates like a small town.
But to the professional meddler -- that MOREErin Griffith - Mar 20, 2014 6:43 AM ET
Sure, they may make sky-high salaries. But many employers expect these sought-after workers to do more than just silently code in the corner.
FORTUNE -- Demand for talented software engineers is as high as ever, with companies throwing huge salaries and perks at new employees gravitating toward consumer-focused businesses ranging from leviathans such as Google (GOOG) to buzzier, smaller outfits like Snapchat. But rising expectations from some employers also mean expectations are reaching MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Mar 18, 2014 5:00 AM ET
The mayor spoke to the Commonwealth Club about "income gaps" and other issues facing the city.
FORTUNE -- For San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, protests directed at Google (GOOG) shuttles during the last six months were well-intentioned but misguided.
"I understand why those protests were [directed] at Google buses, but they didn't make sense to me because all people were doing was trying to get to work," explained Lee on Thursday during MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Mar 14, 2014 11:26 AM ET
A gathering of hundreds of women in Mountain View demonstrated that being female in the technology industry should be celebrated, not excused.
FORTUNE -- It's no secret that Silicon Valley has long been a boy's club. But with more women seeking careers in STEM -- that's science, technology, engineering, and math -- fields, a support system has emerged for female entrepreneurs.
That network was on display on Saturday when the startup accelerator Y MOREChanelle Bessette - Mar 3, 2014 11:04 AM ET
When heads of state travel to the United States, they make sure to visit its technology mecca. Here's why.
By Verne Kopytoff
FORTUNE -- Foreign leaders visiting the United States can fill their itineraries from a long list of fabulous destinations to conduct international diplomacy. Scenic mountains, balmy beaches, and a certain city that never sleeps would seem like top contenders. But instead, presidents and prime ministers from around the world MOREFeb 20, 2014 5:00 AM ET
The venture capitalist disputes arguments of another Valley bubble. Also: why Bitcoin is a breakthrough technology that's likely here to stay.
FORTUNE -- Contrary to arguments that Silicon Valley is repeating the same process that led to the dotcom bust in the early 2000s, Marc Andreessen argues tech is doing something entirely different: emerging from an industrywide depression.
"I think we're recovering from a depression, and I think we felt the MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Feb 12, 2014 7:00 PM ET
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