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.
Amid the recent flood of venture money, startups have learned that schools make complicated customers.
FORTUNE -- The promise of a digital-first education system has driven venture capital dollars into the fast-growing category of education technology startups. There are countless software portals aiming to create efficiencies in school systems and even more digital tools for streamlining the classroom. There are tutoring startups and MOOCs, or massive open online courses, that have attracted MOREErin Griffith - Feb 19, 2014 4:56 PM ET
Google's social media technology is finally giving Facebook a run for the money. But where it may really differentiate itself is in its privacy policies.
by Kevin Kelleher, contributor
FORTUNE – In the web industry, imitation is much more than a sincere form of flattery. It's an admission of another's success, and an effort to catch up to the industry leader in hopes of surpassing them.
In social media, Facebook has been the MOREJul 12, 2011 11:00 AM ET
News Corp. will reportedly sell the early social media star at a fraction of what it paid in 2005. But the company's problems go back to its earliest days.Dan Mitchell, contributor - Jun 28, 2011 1:10 PM ET
Speakers at Brainstorm GREEN have been stopping by Fortune's virtual conference to take questions from online attendees:
Bill Weihl, Green Energy Czar, Google (GOOG)
What comments might [you] have about the "Bloom Box" replacing a National Grid?
Weihl: There's a role for both distributed generation and centralized power plants -- I expect we'll see both -- and the Bloom Box will play a part in distributed generation.
Last year Google bought a decommissioned papermill MOREApr 6, 2011 3:28 PM ET
The company learned they had to accurately account for saving money in order to understand how they profit from green investments. Once they did, the figures were staggering.
FORTUNE -- Making chemicals takes energy -- a lot of it -- so the mere fact that Dow Chemical (DOW) can save a lot of money by improving their energy efficiency is not what's surprising. It's just how much energy and cash they've MOREScott Woolley - Apr 5, 2011 11:25 AM ET
Green industries of the 21st century could spring from unlikely sources -- just ask software billionaire Tom Siebel.
FORTUNE -- Bright ideas about how to help the environment and in the process make a few bucks -- or perhaps even a few billion bucks -- abound. But which of them could actually work?
Might it be billionaire Tom Siebel's new venture, the mysteriously-named C3, which aims to use clever software to radically improve MOREScott Woolley - Apr 4, 2011 10:20 AM ET
The purchase will help Google with text to speech quality.
There aren't many details in Google's (GOOG) blog post on the matter but they picked up a small UK-based specch synthesis company called Phonetic Arts today:
But what about when the computer speaks to you—in other words, voice output? There are already places you can hear this in action today—for example, Google Translate "speaks" translated text in multiple languages, and you can listen to navigation instructions MORESeth Weintraub - Dec 3, 2010 3:56 PM ET
Better Place is working with GE to finance purchases of batteries for its switching stations and electric car system. But since most EVs come with the batteries built in, the financing won't be a panacea for the pricey new cars.
The electric vehicle industry's major hurdle these days is the exact same piece of hardware that's supposed to power it. Batteries for electric cars can cost up to $10,000 a piece. MOREShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Nov 9, 2010 12:45 PM ET
How a founding editor of WIRED learned to live with technology like the Amish do
My favorite part of Kevin Kelly's new book "What Technology Wants" is the story he tells about how his first computer -- an Apple II -- changed his life.
You see, although Kelly is one of America's most influential tech writers -- he was the editor of the Whole Earth Review, one of the founders of the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 8, 2010 12:49 PM ET
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