Larry Ellison on stage.
Larry Ellison on stage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The number one destination for tech startups on the planet today is San Francisco. No, it is not Silicon Valley which continues to be home to the top tech companies in the world like Google, Apple and Facebook. Why did the center of gravity shift? Because the engineers wanted the city lifestyle. Most engineers who work for companies like Google in Silicon Valley tend to live in San Francisco.

Guess which city really has the city lifestyle? New York.

Boston used to be number two after Silicon Valley. Not any more. New York City has wrested that number two spot. Although Boston continues to be strong. Austin and Seattle are also strong spots.

But the Silicon Valley ecosystem is to be envied. One generation of successful entrepreneurs invest their money and wisdom into the next generation of entrepreneurs. That cycle goes on. You have to have several generations of successful companies to end up with the ecosystem that Silicon Valley has.

London and Berlin are also coming along. Bangalore in India has a decently rich density of developers. Chile has experimented with replicating the Silicon Valley thing. Israel has a vibrant tech ecosystem.

Geography matters less and less. India’s answer to Amazon - Flipkart - just raised a billion dollars. They are not in the Valley, or even in the US.

In New York City the primary tech action is in the Flatiron District. There is also a pocket in Dumbo. But Long Island City also has potential, I think. When Cornell establishes its tech campus on Roosevelt Island (New York City’s own “Stanford”) LIC will be a major attraction. Rent is substantially cheaper just because you crossed the river.

Culture is supreme. Silicon Valley’s strongest point might be that failure is celebrated there. Risk taking is probably the top quality in an entrepreneur. Failing is an essential part of the process. If you did not fail, that means you did not try, you did not take the plunge.

The big venture capitalists in the Valley raise their big money in New York City because this is where the pension funds and the like are.

FourSquare, one of the most celebrated tech startup stories to come out of NYC, has an office in San Francisco because they can’t afford not to hire some of the talented developers there who don’t want to live anywhere else. On the other hand, by now Google has a major presence in New York City. They just so happen to own the largest building in the city. It is because Google makes its money from ads. And guess where Madison Avenue is! But it is beyond that. Google has a major engineering presence in the city, as does Facebook, as does Twitter.

Silicon Valley is an attitude, it is a culture. It is about moonshots, as Larry Page might put it.

I routinely go to numerous tech events in the city. If someone makes the mistake of showing up in a suit, he immediately gets labeled a “suit.” I think there is something to be said of casual clothing, but you can not capture the essence of Silicon Valley in jeans or in a hoodie. Larry Ellison, probably the most colorful character to emerge in the Valley, has been wearing suits forever, that is his way of giving the finger to those who wear the casual stuff like they were uniform. You wear what you are comfortable wearing. That could be jeans and a turtleneck, the Steve Jobs way, or a suit as worn by his best friend Larry Ellison.

Software is eating the world, Marc Andreessen, the father of the Netscape browser that launched the web era, famously said in a Wall Street Journal article. There is so much still left to do that I expect the feast to go on for decades and longer. That is my way of saying one Silicon Valley is not enough, if it ever was. My answer to the famous question if Silicon Valley can be replicated is, yes it can be replicated. New York City is as good a place as any to build a tech startup.

Angel investing is a major aspect of a successful tech ecosystem. You seek some basic funding from friends and family. You need a basic prototype to be able to take a stab from the professional angel investors. And then there is crowdfunding. I see that as a majorly positive trend.

I think doing well as an entrepreneur in the New York City environment is a necessary precondition to being able to contribute to Nepal’s economic revolution. Brain drain is a pre-Internet, pre-globalization term. Today the work is so much more interlinked that you can be many places and contribute many places. There are global solutions to many local problems in Nepal.


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