In NY people try to maintain monopolies of information. One place that applies to is a very restrictive work for hire doctrine. If you have a job in NYC, by default everything you create belongs to your employer. Even if it was done at home on your equipment. In California that particular right is one that remains yours and cannot be lost (unless what you do relates to your employer's business).
The result is that in California it is common for people to have a day job and work on the side on a startup. You almost never see the side startup in NY. Furthermore if you do see it, those startups can be squashed in an instant when the employer finds out about it. I've seen it happen. Not pretty. (The same thing can happen, and does from time to time, with open source projects. However it happens less often because there are fewer cases where someone wants to leave their day job for their open source project than cases where they want to leave their day job for their startup.)
That nasty little dynamic is a constant hidden drag on NY. Nobody knows how many good ideas got squashed and never saw the light of day...
If this is true then how does moving job generally work in NYC? Presumably people there aren't expected to work for one employer all their life or take years off in between jobs?
What I doubt is that if a company tried to enforce one of these ridiculous agreements that it would hold up in court. Are you trying to tell me that if I work in networking for a new york company I can't get another job for 2 years? That's just not possible.
Only work you've done in the course of your employment is owned by your employer, by default. This can be modified by contract, however.
CA does not enforce some contracts while NY does, but the default is that you own all your after-hours work.
What I was told is that there are 3 classes of employee. If you punch in and out on a clock and get paid by the hour, you are hourly. If your work is governed by piecework contracts, you are a contractor. In those cases the scope of your employment is clear. Otherwise you're a professional employee. (Most programmers are professional employees.) For professional employees there are no working hours, and no non-working hours either. Have a good idea in the shower? Your employer has a potential claim on it.
Whether they can claim any given project is more complex, though. The farther away your activity is from your day job, the harder it is for them to enforce a claim. So, for instance, a programmer who writes programs on the side is likely in trouble. But a novel on the side is fine.
In any case the default doesn't matter that much in practice because standard boilerplate contracts reinforce this by making broad claims that anything you do in your own time belongs to your employer. And NY courts are fairly generous to employers in resolving any disputes that arise.
Also note that there are a lot of caveats where details of your specific situation could make you fine. (Or not.)
Have any examples of this actually being enforced (in court. I'm sure they've scared people with lawyer-ese before)? It's hard to image that the law basically says that the company owns you even if you're not "on the clock".
Also, this only protects people who are aware of it and willing to fight for it
It seemed like they were pulling a fast one, but basically they were compartmentalizing so they could claim the maximum rights should the law be struck down or repealed (or the business moved outside California, I guess).
I'm supposed to believe this guy knows anything about New York when his definition of New York is "Manhattan south of 14th st."? Believe it or not there are people who manage to live in NYC without hemorrhaging money, who know where and how to eat and don't hang out in the financial industry social scene.
I don't doubt that NY's tech scene is no where near Silicon Valley but he has a pretty skewed view of this city.
New York is not the financial district, it's not Wall Street, it's not Williamsburg, it's not Astoria, it's not Coney Island - it's a combination of all those things and much more. Each neighborhood has its own unique personality, and the "scene" is completely different in each.
I live in the East Village and the wall street types/lawyer types are nowhere to be found. I work in an startup incubator office building, with dozens of other startups.
New York is a big place, but it's really is what you make of it.
The piece got picked up by TechMeme, and our server imploded.
We're working hard on getting it back up right now. Apologies for the delay.
Feel free to flame away at being cocky Bay Area types who can't manage a damn server properly....
This is a brilliant move from PR point of view. It invoked feelings of Andy Kaufman from me, because at the core, it's a troll - yet it's not an "obvious" troll, so people still fall for it. I can only imagine the traffic/attention you're gonna get now that it's viral. Bravo!
At its heart, it's actually a love letter to New York. In a sort of toughlove sort of way.
I don't think my experience is terribly different than many New Yorkers though. The trendy neighborhoods of the moment....Soho, the Villages, LES, Tribeca, are all down south. I felt almost like a tourist on the UWS.
Is it the perceived lower status accorded to the geeks as opposed to the traders/sales-guys? Also likewise for compensation? Or is it the monotonous and/or political nature of the work?
What do you hope to gain by moving to the startup scene? To hopefully make it big and make more money than your former position at GS? Or is it simply to move to an environment where geeks are respected by peers and women?
Plenty of guys in bulge-bracket firms decide to quit their hectic lifestyle but choose the "middle-way." That is, take a job at a 2nd-tier prop shop for less (relative) pay but more reasonable hours and stress. Or some software-dev's go work for a startup for awhile and then transition back and forth to consulting/finance when things don't work out. What made you decide on a "all-or-nothing" kind of move?
These questions aren't meant to be personal interrogations, but rather reflects my feelings about working in finance; and I'm just curious to hear your takes on these issues as well.
I was hoping to unveil that post in a separate thread, but since you've discovered it, I'll reply.
Yeah, we got paid less than they did. A lot less. At least at the high levels. At the low levels, we made more than they did, but that's only because the trader analysts were errand boys.
As for the switch to startup-ness, I'll just say it's a certain messianic desire to create something totally new (as well as at least claim that I own it...however small it might be).
You're totally right about the 2nd tier firm thing. I know lots of guys who did that, and they're happy with it.
I have mates that live in Bushwick (20 minutes from Manhattan on the L) that get by just fine on ~$400/week. I live in SoHo (in a bloody duplex, no less) and pay less than you did for your 500sq foot apartment.
For the next few years I'm living three months in Oz and nine months in NY, though spread out over the year.
The first thing that struck me was how much this guy was paying in rent. I do agree that certain things about NYC get expensive but paying ~$2500 for a one bedroom is downright dumb if you're concerned about money. I have two roommates and pay $700 for a great place. Part of being a New Yorker is being savvy. Many people leave because they are not. They can't make rent, they can't save money, etc. Maybe they all move to California?
The sweeping generalizations here also make it very difficult to take this article seriously:
"New York has no comparable sources of intellectual firepower" - ITP, Courant, Columbia
"...most New Yorkers couldn’t fry an egg if their lives depended on it..." - http://brooklyngrangefarm.com/
"Manhattan didn’t get a Home Depot, or any sort of proper hardware store, until 2004" - ACE hardware
I haven't lived in Brooklyn since 1988 and back then when I visited my friend's in Bushwick and stayed late she'd drive me home cause she felt I'd probably get mugged on the way to the subway station.
Given that her dad's bodega was robbed on a regular basis, I think she had a reason to be concerned!
(If we were talking california, it'd be "45 minutes away on the freeway")
-- or --
What really works, although its very low tech, is just going to the neighborhood you want to live in and walking around. Go to delis, pizza places, hardware stores and you'll find signs for apartments.
$2500 was about par for the course for a doorman building in the Financial District in 2005. Was the lowest price among the ones I looked at. The whole point is that you have to savvy (i.e. have some inside connection) to the local real estate scene to not get fleeced. A tool like Craigslist democratizes the market, and makes inside information less valuable (which is why I suspect it's never caught on in New York....cause New Yorkers like feeling like they got the 'deal').
As for the foodie scene: I'm aware there is a thriving one in New York. The point is that it's totally orthogonal from the sort of ambitious creative class that would create a startup. The guys I knew from Wall Street most certainly did not know how to fry an egg...they knew how to order stuff on SeamlessWeb, and that's about it.
In the Bay Area, those worlds intersect, if not directly overlap. Paul Graham of Y Combinator used to cook for his startups at the weekly dinners. I can't even begin to imagine a Goldman partner cooking for his desk.
It sounds like you had a bad experience at a shitty job, hung around with total assholes, and then blamed the city for all of it. Then you relocated to a new place, did a different job, hung out with new people, and conclude that the entirety of New York (none of which, judging by your post, you've ever seen) is doomed because every one of its 8 million residents is a back-slapping MBA. Give me a break.
RE the foodie scene: Consider Brooklyn Grange a foodie startup. We also have great initiatives like Windowfarms (http://www.windowfarms.org/) which is sponsored by Eyebeam (http://eyebeam.org/). This illustrates food, tech, and art intersecting.
(ACE has worked just fine for me. If I need wood, I go somewhere that provides lumber.)
I came from a similar background -- did finance in NYC, hung out with an ivy league crowd etc.. then I started a company in Silicon Valley, and am now continuing it here in NYC. I don't have time to respond to every point, but I think my background means something when I say this post is ridiculously far off base. It makes NYC sound like a scene from Gossip Girl meets American Psycho.
In 2010, working at a startup in NYC is awesome. There is an amazing community here and I've found that people are always very excited to find out that you are doing a startup. In 2010, NYC knows that startups are the future. The culture here has changed significantly in the last couple of years. And that is the most exciting thing about NYC.
Don't let the OP's bad experiences from 2008 convince you otherwise.
Wow, that comment really nailed it.
I've often joked that SF would be the perfect city if all the hippies left and you repopulated it with New Yorkers instead.
Maybe the solution is to repopulated NYC with people with a more SF attitude. I'm there, if that's where NYC is at right now.
First of all, cafes are plentiful. All he could come up with is the Tea Lounge in Park Slope? There are dozens of small, non-corporate coffee shops in the Village, dozens more in Williamsburg. And that's just the two neighborhoods where I usually spend time.
Second, New Yorkers don't cook? I think the author spent too much time with the wrong crowd. Plenty of people shop at green markets, including the huge one at Union Square precisely because they like local produce and like to use it.
Have you seen a California cafe'? I can't really recall seeing anything comparable in Manhattan. Sure, there are cafes....but one where a guy is writing a Rails app on his laptop right there by the barista? Have trouble believing it...be glad to be proven wrong though.
I'm actually not so down on NYC. Just the tech part of it. Part of me is scheming about how to get back there...
I definitely agree the NYC startup scene is overhyped - this is the city of hype and startups are now cool by New York Magazine standards. But man, your view of NYC in general seems much shaped by a very specific social circle and long hours at GS ;)
(Btw, Esperanto is cited in the footnotes of the post. It's since closed, at least according to Yelp.)
Berkeley (pop. 169,000) has you beat for sheer number of cafes (Berkeley Espresso, Brewed Awakenings, Yali's, Au Coquelet, Caffe Roma, etc.).
A complete list for SF would go on for quite a while....
I stand by my point (excusing a bit of blog-y hyperbole, of course).
Surprise!! Cafes!! Everywhere!!
Surely more than 5 of those have coders at work.
I lived there from 2000-2004 and this point wrung completely hollow for me. If you don't think NYC has "cafes" then you are not in NYC.
There are a ton of tech startups, and, not surprisingly, a lot of them are in the finance space. You know what's hot, too? Mobile. And it's going to continue to be, because New York is the walking city.
The other thing about it is that New York startups tend to keep things a bit closer to the chest. You don't tend to see a writeup in TechCrunch about an embryonic startup in NYC. Better or worse, most NYC startups start making money before the press hits and the rounds start coming in. It's a very different philosophy.
New York's not for everyone. You're among the wealthiest and most powerful, so yes, you might get a little squeamish if you're sensitive. You won't be mollycoddled.
And what's the food got to do with startup culture? I don't think the food scene is the right platform to attack New York. SF is only a food town if you want a burrito. I like Argentinian beef, other people like some hippie's broccoli. I'll give up the wine: California has some good stuff, if you're in to alcohol levels. 15%? Damn, Napa.
As others have pointed out, there are welcoming cafes literally river-to-river through the villages, and on the LES you can set up shop practically anywhere.
Now is a terrific time to be involved in NYC startups. It might not be quite as prestigious as being in the the valley, but it comes with a salary, and options aren't coastal.
News source: http://www.nycresistor.com/
Some posts are legitimate link bait with a well baked argument, this is just downright rotten.
Disclosure: I've lived in Silicon Valley, so I'm not taking sides of NYC or city x here.
The bad things (IMHO) is that there aren't as many interestingly weird music or arts things as there were even 10, 15 years ago. There are no nightclubs. There are no weird music venues in Manhattan. The most avante-garde you are going to get is a band like Grizzly Bear... which is kind of avante-garde but is also a huge national act at the same time. Artists have to live way out in Bushwick, or even further away. I don't really know where interesting art shows go up. I honestly think the number of actual practicing artists and musicians is probably the smallest it has ever been. The indie gallery scene isn't a lot better than SF. There are probably more bookstores in either Seattle or Portland than there are in all of the NYC area, which says something... I'm not sure what.
So I won't lie... I was disappointed in the state of artsy-fartsy music and culture when I returned to NYC. But I do like all this other urban parkland paradise stuff. So it's a tradeoff. I don't really know where people are doing interesting art and music stuff... maybe berlin or beijing? I know a lot of artists who moved to LA simply because it's easier to get a lot of space. Even Jeff Dietch moved there.
If you're looking for something like Andy Warhol's factory scene, I don't think it's happening here. If you're looking for a girlfriend who is a graphic designer for Kate Spade's website - it's your best bet.
I personally know several electronic musicians that left S.F. for Berlin so maybe that's a better destination. It doesn't seem nearly as energetic in tech though.
Ok, I'm way exaggerating. It's not that bad. But that mentality is present, and the best way for me to explain it was to describe it in its purest form. You rarely actually encounter it that bad, but I have at least once.
This is exactly how I feel about London. It feels like the city takes much more from the world than it produces.
America is superficially conservative and deeply liberal. Europe is superficially liberal and deeply conservative.
This explains much of my confusion trying to understand Europe.
Those are not the pop definitions though, especially in America. They're closer to the classical definitions.
Predatory is the right word. It feels like everyone in London is an "independent consultant" trying to schmooze their way into things to play some mysterious sleazy angle.
The independent consultant thing is a bit of a joke in London. Even London's ex-mayors become independent global consultants:
Touchy subject, but I'd point at the "personal background" of the participants before I started using political terms. Some cultures/ethnicities, have, um, different ideas of fair play.
But my personal experience in London was... well... in the right light sometimes they shift back to their natural form... hisssssss!
A lawyer's job is to advise and speak for their client. Basically, they would say what their client would say, if they had the appropriate legal knowledge.
I know that if I were wrongfully accused of a crime, I wouldn't consider my defense attorney to be subtly screwing me.
Is New York's tech scene as big as San Francisco's? No. However, this is akin to writing an article titled that "Africa will always be an industrial backwater, I don't care what the economists say."
That, I presume, is why it is hosted elsewhere. The comments here are illuminating, as always.
As far as I know, nobody has claimed that NYC will eclipse the Bay Area - they're just saying that the tech scene in NYC is growing and maybe that NYC is poaching the "#2" spot from Boston.
Or am I missing something?
Boston has the brains, but not the culture. It's like a Ferrari motor in a stuffy Mercedes driven by an old blue haired lawyer.
Really the whole East Coast has this problem. If the East Coast had a motto, it would be "it's not what you know, it's who you know." It's anti-meritocratic and very different from the cowboy innovator mentality in the valley.
Make Burning Man attendance compulsory for everyone at Harvard and MIT and maybe you'd get somewhere.
Edit: Boston does have some plusses though. You do not have to own a car for one...
Is there a different sense of "who you know" that you're talking about in Boston? The only thing I can imagine is something like when people use to talk about your breeding.
The larger culture in Boston is a lot more "who you know" / "where did you go to school" than in California. Basically if you didn't go to an Ivy League school then you're kind of in a lower social caste. You get looked down on (in a very subtile and "polite" way) if you are not Ivy League or if you are from the "flyover country."
The other (related) problem with Boston is that it's not extroverted. Boston is bookish and introverted and quiet. It's sort of impolite in Boston to have a fun personality, and it's very hard to make friends. Bostonians don't have friends, they have colleagues. (A bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.) Laughing, making jokes, and having any kind of personality sort of marks you as lower class.
It reminds me of a more classist version of the famed "Seattle chill":
Basically Boston is very classist, bookish, and introverted. Boston has tons and tons of brains, but they're <sniff sniff> intellectuals, not revolutionaries or innovators.
Boston may actually have more raw IQ-power than the valley though. Put LSD in the drinking water here and you might rival the valley in a few years.
But like I said there's a bright side too. The Bostonian politeness thing is a double edged sword. On one hand it's stuffy, but on the other hand it can be quite noble. Bostonians will help you out. They will quietly come to your aid. They will close ranks to defend you if you're wronged (provided you're "in" with them), and they will quietly and gradually mentor you. You can drop your wallet in downtown Boston (population almost 1 million) and someone will drive to your house to bring you your wallet with everything still in it. (This has happened to me, and to two people I know.)
So the upside is that Boston is very civilized in a positive way, but the downside is that it's very "civilized" in a negative way. Oh, and you don't have to own a car. Having to sit in a dinosaur burner huffing fumes for three hours every day is one of my least favorite things about California.
Also, I don't agree that Boston is a civilized city. IMO, Boston is a lot like Providence or Bridgeport, plus a few more ivory tower enclaves and lots more inebriated college kids.
The misconception is that Boston is this global city of about 4.5 million people living in academic utopia when it's a really smaller city of 600,000 people, where even a smaller percentage are actually living in ivory towers. The rest of the 4.5 million people live in typical post-industrial New England towns surrounding Boston such as Lynn, Revere and Quincy.
Yikes, when I was reading your description of Boston my mind was going "this man is describing Seattle".
Don't let the locals fool you - the only people I have ever met who've denied the existence of the Seattle Freeze are the Seattle natives.
If you want a fun, energetic atmosphere full of interesting people, stay the hell out of this city. I personally am planning my daring escape... but I also hate cars.
If you moved to Boston you could have the chill but lose the car. :)
Funny... Boston is exactly the same in that the natives don't get the chill thing and deny its existence. It's normal to them. But then again, native midwesterners don't get the cultural isolation of the midwest either. People come to the MW and are like "holy crap you guys are a cultural backwater!" "No we aren't! We have 3G and FIOS!"
Do the desires of a certain tiny demographic skew how you feel about a city of 10 million people?
NYC doesn't have the same kind of start up culture that the Valley has, but there are plenty of start ups here. I've consulted with two start ups that are pretty successful in their respective niches.
I've never lived in Silicon Valley, but I lived in SoCal and I've been to SF a number of times. There is certainly a different vibe on the West Coast. NYC will never be the next Silicon Valley. We have our own culture here and the diversity it provides is a good thing.
1) $2495 for a 500 sq. ft. one bedroom apartment.
He's obviously in the wrong part of town and can't figure out how to use the real estate section of the NYT. Extend your commute on the subway by 15-20 minutes a day, or live in Queens or something and you'll shave 70% off of that for a place twice as large. In 10 minutes I found a dozen 2 bedroom apartments for $1600 in Queens. You want to live in an expensive area, then that's what you get. When you model a place like NYC, it's better to think of it as a much larger area. A few blocks is like a few miles of price differentiation elsewhere. Don't like what's right here? Go walk 10 minutes in any direction and you'll be someplace completely different.
2) ‘Ramen’ money in New York is enough to support three families, and then some, elsewhere.
I have no idea what he's spending money on. Even if he was pulling down only $60k a year (unlikely as a quant), your apartment is only 1/2 of your gross income. Even after taxes you have like a thousand a month to live on at that rate and no car expenses. Being a quant @ GS, I'd figure you're pulling down another 30-40k/yr gross anyways so you can still have a nice night out once a month. NYC is really not an expensive place to eat. I don't think I've ever paid more than $7 for a stuff me to the gills breakfast. And a decent date-meal for two ran <$120 with drinks. Apparently the author never figured out how to operate a Deli or a Diner.
3) can't fit in socially with the wrong social group that I'm just dying to be part of blah blah
Cry me a river, go to different bars and stop hanging around with people who won't let you into their clique/you already have a girlfriend (at the time) what are you doing picking up chicks? Color me confused.
4) In San Francisco, people don’t pay two months’ rent to a real estate pimp: they create Craigslist and make the pimp obsolete.
I wasn't aware that San Francisco had managed to abolish Real Estate agents. It's funny because craigslist serves other parts of the country and we still have Real Estate agents....
5) The intellectual candle-power isn’t there
And the elsewhere goes on to pine that everybody he wants to hang with is ivy-league. The only thing that he said that makes any kind of sense is that the educational makeup of the in-city schools is all wrong for tech startups. I mean there's NYU-Poly I guess, but that's small fry, Princeton is not really that far away (an hour more than Stanford is from downtown SF by car). But there's a ton of schools with great engineering programs within a day's drive from the city (MIT for example). Am I supposed to understand that the entire educational system of the North East and mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. can't out-compete Stanford? Again, color me confused?
6) One of the biggest shocks upon moving to New York was realizing it had no cafés
What? At this point I'm not even sure the author has even been to NYC. Which is besides the point, the point he's making is, "you can’t have startups or revolutionary political movements without cozy cafés to dawdle, work, and plot in." Because as I noticed before, the author failed to figure out how to operate a Deli or a Diner. He also failed to figure out how to operate a public park, a bookstore, a coffee shop, a donut shop, a bench, a stoop and numerous other public places other than an office where you can sit and meet for long hours in the city. Protip, there's this fantastic huge public place you can use in NYC called "Central Park" absolutely free. If that's not "cozy" enough, there's a bunch of smaller parks like Madison Square all dotted throughout the city. If you want to eat while you forment revolution, there's like a Starbuck's on every single block in the city. http://kottke.org/05/01/maximum-starbucks-density Even in 2005.
7) The reality is, the food culture in New York mostly sucks.
I know food can be subjective, but seriously? I'm definitely sure that tales of living in the city are grossly exaggerated and/or he was confused with living in Tampa, FL or something. No wait, I'm sure I've seen a cafe there.
7b) blah blah blah, people in SF really all want to be farmers
Wonderful, if you live in a place with some dirt you can till without getting a fine, you can farm it. NYC is not such a place. Deal with it.
7c) Even the skeeziest convenience store in Daly City or Oakland has a drinkable collection of California wines on offer.
Like I said, I don't live in NYC, but last I remember was being able to pick up some Sonoma Valley vino at every 7-11 along the East Coast for <$10.
7d) In three years of living in New York, I never ate someone else’s home-cooked food even once.
See #3. You.hang.out.with.the.wrong.people. I'm not sure I can put it more plainly than that. No wonder you couldn't afford anything.
One thing NYC is famous for is locally grown produced trucked in in the wee hours of the morning to sell in small stalls. The NYC butcher was the model of meat procurement until the grocery store and strip malls ended that across the country. For goodness sakes, the whole city is basically a farmer's market. You know what's doing gangbusters business? Whole Foods. I barely know people in the city, and I've never lived there, and I've had more home-cooked meals than this poor sap.
8) blah blah home depot in NYC only sells nail clippers and 10 cent nails.
This is really just a jab and the relative masculinity of New Yorkers compared to San Franciscoers. Whatever, the author got eaten up and spit out by the city and simply couldn't handle it, now he wants to spend the rest of his days cultivating asparagus in a plot behind his house. It's really amazing how so many of the tallest buildings in the U.S. can be in one city with no hardware stores in site.
He's then absolutely enamored by a real Home Depot, no doubt anchoring a strip mall someplace, and a big box electronics store as proof that SF is a hacker's paradise. yawn, I live in the suburbs and have half a dozen of each within 20 minutes of my house. By this standard, Anytown, US is twice the hacker's paradise than SF since most places have a Home Depot, a Lowes, a local lumber yard, a garden nursery, a stone quarry, a Fry's, a Best Buy and two Radio Shacks.
9) Three years in New York, and I went north of 14th St maybe three times. Trips to the Met excepted, of course
Facepalm. No wonder nobody would talk to you in a bar, it's not because you were a quant.
1) Queens is way too far away from lower Manhattan. Believe me, I tried looking elsewhere. It wasn't much cheaper. The solution I ended up with was moving into a tenement in LES with the girlfriend, who had a lease dating back five years. That was the 'cheap' way to go.
2) I'll quote the managing director on my desk: you need about 500K a year to live normally in Manhattan with a family. That's like 10 families in the flyover states.
4) At least in 2005, if you tried using CL to find an apartment in NY, you'd find it completely taken over by broker spam. As Craig Newmark himself mentioned in a recent interview, de-spamifying the New York CL rentals listings was one of his biggest challenges. I can't imagine it's much different now, although I'd love to see otherwise.
6) Dude, Starbucks isn't a cafe'. The fact you're even counting them proves my point about New Yorkers.
7c) Actually, New York delis can't sell wine by law, probably as a kickback to the liquor store owners. So good luck finding that bottle of Sonoma at 2am on Friday. I never did.
8) Yeah, and try getting to those big box stores from Manhattan. It starts with a subway ride to midtown to rent a car from one of the agencies next to the Queen's Midtown tunnel....
9) Eh, actually they did talk to me, once I dropped the G-bomb, which is kind of the point of the post. I wasn't a startup geek when I was in NYC.
That might be enough for one reply....
If you can affordably live in NYC with "having good taste in music" as your primary occupation, you can probably do a startup here.
It seems people talking up this method always minimize the journey.
I've been in the NYC metro area for 10 years now. 5 of those years were spent freelancing/contracting/starting businesses. Nothing beats the 15 foot commute from my bed to my home office, but I'll take the public transportation system in NYC over the commuting traffic nightmares of the rest of the country any day. Compared to my commute in SoCal, 1-1.5 hours every weekday on the 405 for a drive that takes 25 minutes on the weekend, I absolutely love the NYC public transportation system.
1) I was just picking someplace random. It's not a two hour commute from anyplace in the city to any other place (unless you count coming in from as far out as Jamaica or Mt. Vernon during rush hour I guess). But there's plenty of places 10-20 minutes outside of the Financial District that are way less. BTW CL is not the only place that lists apartments. There's a 2 BR in the NYT real estate section for $2k/mo in Ft. Greene right now. That's <25 minutes, bring a book and there's a ton of >500 sq ft. places on the Island for <$2500/mo.
2) I guess that's true if you want to live in a building with a doorman in a 3 bedroom apartment and an au pair. I wouldn't call that living "normally" in Manhattan though. I'm also mystified with the requirement to live directly on the island. There's other boroughs that are much cheaper. At that type of income, you're looking at around $10-$13k/mo in housing costs. There's not a lot of places you can't live in the city for that.
4) I don't disagree, that's why there's a half dozen other cheap/free ways to find apartments in cities.
6) I will agree that the cafe culture in NYC is not nearly as prevalent as places that are ~70deg year round. Heck, there's more cafes in the D.C. area. But they are there. I've actually had some very nice evenings sitting outside sipping a latte and chatting about the weather. But restricting yourself to cafes and only cafes is like going to Paris and talking about how the Tex-Mex food culture sucks. You know the old saying "When in Rome..." In NYC you do delis, coffeeshops and diners, not cafes. The last time I was in the city a month ago I spent half a day in a deli responding to email next to a guy hacking out some code. It's not like they kick you out so long as you buy something.
7c) All I can say is, I've never had a problem finding cheap CA wine in the city. I usually go out and pick some up and bring it back to my hotel instead of paying $30-60/btl at a restaurant. Much more satisfying and not terribly hard to find - did nobody in your social group in 3 years ever figure out where to buy a bottle of wine?
8) I think my point was that it's not necessary, nor does it make sense to equate big box hardware stores with a hacker's paradise. I mean, I guess if "hacking" has changed meaning to mean "I need some lumber and an industrial dehumidifier" then you make sense. Calling SF such a place because you can get all your gardening and plumbing needs taken care of at one store just simply is nonsensical.
9) Hang around superficial people and they'll expect superficial things.
Did the OP actually try going to any NYC hacker meetups? Did he go to any NYC hacker spaces? When he was at parties, did he even mention his interest in startups, or did he himself perpetuate the myths he describes?
Too far for what?
But, hackers like myself who hang out with hacker types, go to hacker bars, and live in hacker nabes probably are probably equally skewed, albeit in the opposite direction. It's people like me who are shouting from the hilltops that NYC is the new SF, when in reality it's probably somewhere in between these two extremes.
Except for the home-cooked meal thing. My ex-girlfriend and I delivered an entire Thanksgiving feast to a friend's apartment when we discovered our stove had stopped working (and probably hadn't been working for months), but cooking food was a relative rarity. New York is the only place I have been where people throw birthday parties for each other in a local bar.
If you work until midnight every night and you've got the dough, it's probably worth paying extra to live near work. Commuting from Queens to Wall Street would totally suck, especially if you're putting in long hours.
Come to Brooklyn, it's nicer here.
Can we just assume that anyone commenting about Brooklyn on this post is implying South Brooklyn or Williamsburg? If you aren't, please note. Something like "Come to East New York, Brooklyn" would work, so asnyder doesn't get confused.
Honest question: How many people actually live near their work in DUMBO or Downtown?
I like Brooklyn. If I were a Brooklynite though, I'd resent all the Manhattanites who've been invading it recently. Oh, sweet joys of tribalism....
Also, there are TONS of specialty shops. Canal Rubber is my favorite, as I used a lot of mass-loaded vinyl. In fact, in most places in the US, you would have to order in specialty construction materials.
As for general purpose, I got a good discount at Dyke's Lumber. They have locations all over the city.
Metropolitan Lumber is nice also. They've got lots of cheap "used tools", if you know what I mean. I used them when I was working in Hell's Kitchen.
You can haggle prices down quite a bit at all these places. Normally you just say "well, Dyke's gives me %10 off orders of this size" or whatever.
However, when the Home Depot opened up in Bed-Stuy, their prices were so low that pretty much every handyman in Brooklyn shopped there.
Oh, and all of these places deliver. I rarely went in to the location. You just call them up, say you need 20 2x4x8' studs, 10 1/2" pieces of sheetrock, and they'll roll up with a big truck with your stuff. Don't forget to tip!
For the random little things there are hardware stores all over the city. I can't think of a time I had to walk more than 5 minutes to pick up a box of screws or buy some new work gloves.
On the creative/advertising side of things, where do I start? The company I'm currently at was bootstrapped by three guys back in 2006. Now we have 25 employees in our NYC office and satellite offices in Amsterdam, Stockholm and Sao Paolo. There are a ton of creative start ups in NYC. WDDG (MochiMedia, while based out of San Fran, was founded by Jameson Hsu and Bob Ippolito, both former DDGers (hi Jameson and Bob)), Big Spaceship, Barbarian Group, Enjoy User Experience (whose founder was co-founder of Kioken)...
This stuff is off of the top of my head; I don't even hang out in the NYC startup scene. There's plenty of stuff going once you get away from Wall Street.
Columbia is not a top-notch engineering school, and anyhow, it’s way the hell up and gone in Harlem, and no one who isn’t a student or faculty ever goes up there.
And for the record, Columbia is in Morningside Heights, not Harlem.
Low cost of living fallacy. "Ramen money" in new york might be a higher number then "Ramen money" somewhere else, but the pay will (obviously) be higher as well which is what you want.
If you double your pay and double your expenses you're still better off unless you were spending every penny. There are a lot of things you want/need to have that aren't going to be cheaper when you live in a low cost of living area (e.g. computer, luxury car, smart phone), so living in a higher pay/cost area makes these items relatively cheaper (e.g. $1k seems like a lot when you make that in a month, but not when you make $20k a month).
I saw them few months ago, move in on an empty apt and coding their way the last two-three months. I hope they make it.
Sorry for the interruption in service. We got hosed when TechMeme carried the piece.
The responses in this thread are off on 'style', 'scene', 'culture', parties, hook ups, buying wine at 2 AM, housing, commuting, employment contracts, etc. and, thus, avoiding the main issue of the actual post and much more:
Look, guys, the main issue is information technology (IT) startups in NYC. Just what is it about that focus that is difficult to keep in mind?
Keeping this focus in mind, I continue:
A big deal in the article was the difficulty of hiring programmers. Total BS. If you are doing an IT startup, an early prerequisite is that you BE a programmer. What you don't already know about programming, LEARN. Got some problem with learning how to program? Go back to CA and pick lettuce.
I taught myself to program and taught computer science in college and graduate school. Teach YOURSELF to program. If you don't, IT entrepreneurship is not one of your more promising career directions.
Uh, the current programming tools are so powerful they are quite complicated and fairly new, and a consequence is that you will spend more time learning the tools than using them the first time. Indeed, the big pattern is that the tools change so fast over the decades you may spend more time learning tools than using them.
In particular, as a programmer, most of your work is JUST learning tools. Right: In the research universities, the professors don't know these tools. So, as has been the case for decades in the US computer industry, to program, you have to teach yourself, over and over, continually. Uh, PL/I is actually a terrific language, and for some years OS/2 was actually by a wide margin the best PC operating system; so, I've got a nice OS/2 PL/I compiler if you want!
The idea of hiring a Wall Street programmer? They have to learn the new stuff, too. Likely they concentrated on one of user interface and graphics, relational data base, computational algorithms, or Web site development. Well, in that case, for an IT startup, they still have more to learn and spend more time learning than doing.
Okay, if you are the CEO of an IT startup, then it is your solemn obligation to understand ALL the software. For this you MUST have learned the software tools. Then, once you have learned those tools, for you, by yourself, to use these tools to write the software you need for your startup should be doable, e.g., less work than just the learning and, generally, less work than just communicating with a 'programmer'. So, then you won't need a programmer. So, the supply of 'programmers' in NYC or Silicon Valley is irrelevant. Sorry 'bout that. Or the solution to the 'shortage' is just one more programmer, YOU, so start learning.
So, venture partners with minimal current software knowledge (is there any other kind?), this is the day of the IT startup with just one person, the founding CEO who wrote all the software. We know you couldn't do it, but they did, and there are some big advantages. Get used to it.
Uh, just because you cook your own breakfast does not make you a Denny's short order cook; just because you drive your own car does not make you a chauffeur; just because you wrote your own software does not make you 'just a programmer'.
Uh, now, Visual Basic .NET is an excellent programming language and no longer very 'basic'; .NET already has essentially every subroutine or function of any general usefulness you can think of; ASP.NET is cute and more fun than throwing peanuts in the zoo.
Uh, my padawan learner, you need a little more, and I will outline some 'principles' that actually have some lasting value:
Some major events in programming language design were in the 1950s -- Fortran (arrays, IF statements, and loops), Cobol (hierarchical data structures, IF statements, and loops), Algol (nice source code nesting, name scoping, and call by reference, value, and name, that last one a bit amazing), APL (clever things with arrays and a very sparse syntax -- interpretive), and LISP (a programming language that can examine and change its source code as it runs, with too many parentheses, interpretive).
Then, for icing on that cake, the 1960s were the 'golden age' of programming language design. So, there was PL/I (borrowed from Fortran, Cobol, Algol, and a little from assembler; had some exceptional condition handling NICELY connected with storage management and task management) and Algol 68 (oops, I never learned it!). Somewhere in or near there was C, Pascal, Ada, and Simula.
'Object-oriented' programming (OOP)? Given a language with aggregates, e.g., Fortran arrays and/or Cobol data structures, memory pointers, and dynamic memory allocation, the basics of OOP were immediately obvious and commonly reinvented by any programmer who ever hit a keyboard. IBM had it in microcode in the early 1970s.
Fortran? It didn't have pointers, but after a few lines of assembler it did! Another way was just to have a COMMON block (that is, an 'external' name, that is, 'resolved' by the linkage editor) with one array and use array addresses as memory pointers. If need a little more for manipulating addresses, then write a few, very short assembler routines.
Dynamic memory allocation? Not a lot new there. Actually, for each power of 2, have a root of a chain of pointers for free space of size that power of 2. So, an array of 64 pointers each 64 bits long should be sufficient for a while!
Then, roughly, if want some memory of size m where 2^(n - 1) < m <= 2^n, then go to the root for size 2^n and allocate the first block on the chain and correct the chain. If there is no free block of memory on that chain, then for some k > n allocate a block of size 2^k, use that memory to put its blocks of size 2^n on the chain, and allocate one of those. Can also slightly modify this scheme to free the block of size 2^k when it is empty of blocks of size 2^n. The scheme is fast and easy to implement and especially effective on a virtual memory computer where can get a lot of page alignment and where the 'wasted' free space is mostly just disk space.
Garbage collection (that is, compress out holes)? Not a lot new: Keep references and then move the memory and update the references. Can have some advantages for long running, complicated, production software but has a well deserved reputation for being slow. So far Microsoft's implementation seems to be at least reasonably fast.
'Collections'? Use AVL trees as in the first edition of Knuth's 'The Art of Computer Programming'.
Hashing? Don't miss extensible hashing!
C? A toy language written at Bell Labs for word whacking and so small the compiler could run in 8 KB or 5 KB or some such of main memory. It was so lacking in features that the usual fix-ups people did for OOP were eventually provided in a pre-processor called C++.
C++? It totally sucks: Syntax is awful; semantics are clear only for the simplest things and otherwise are bizarre and byzantine.
Exceptional condition handling can't do the right things where PL/I did do the right things with what it called 'dynamic descendancy'. Uh, to handle an exceptional condition, commonly have to kill some threads, free some memory, close some communications sessions, release some locks, close some files, otherwise 'free resources', pop the stack of the relevant thread by several layers, and do a non-local GOTO, and a pre-processed language on C has a tough time doing all these, and that's just for the simple cases where don't have to 'roll back' work to resolve concurrency deadlocks. Begin to see the suckage? These are now ANCIENT points, guys.]
The C++ memory management is so primitive and obscure that each programmer has to write their own (suckage), accept what someone else wrote (more suckage), or put up with high risk of difficult to debug 'memory leaks' (total suckage). Net, shouldn't try to use C++ for anything important or now for anything. And that tends to leave the Unix world a bit short on compiled languages.
Google asked me what my favorite programming language was. I guessed that the recruiter-drone had a sheet with the correct answer "C++", but I gave a good answer, "PL/I". Ada would have been good also. No way would I want to say something totally incompetent such as C++ -- I have some pride and don't want to work with total idiots. Oops, I gave the wrong answer! Poor Google!
Visual Basic .NET? It's just 'syntactic sugar' to provide access to the Microsoft 'common language runtime' (CLR) and .NET.
Want a slightly different flavor of syntactic sugar, say, to remind you of the masochism you enjoyed with C++? Sure, then use C#.
Don't like those two? Sure, write your own flavor of syntactic sugar for access to the CLR and .NET. Lexical scan and parsing? Solved problems. E.g., consider DeRemer's LALR tools. Then just walk the parse tree, handle the symbols and semantics, write out the Microsoft 'intermediate language', and let Microsoft software handle the rest. "Look, Ma, my own language!". Go for it!
But the CLR and .NET are serious pieces of computing, and what Microsoft does with these in the future for many cores, etc. also stands to be serious.
Software development environment? Can spend a lot of time learning and doing mud wrestling with that nonsense. Instead, the coveted source code of essentially all software development is just text. So, I just use my favorite (programmable) text editor, the same one I use whenever possible, i.e., for nearly everything. I also use a nice command line scripting language. All REAL programmers hate graphical user interfaces and LOVE command lines!
Assuming you can learn to program, we move right along here: Somewhere in your IT startup you will have to have your Web site go live and then get users and ad revenue. The example you want to follow early on is just Plenty of Fish (look it up -- you know how to do that, right?).
For 'venture funding' of such startups, apparently the LPs (uh, 'limited partners', the guys at pension funds, university endowments, life insurance companies, and wealthy families who provide the money the venture people invest) got together and wrote a memo:
"Thou shall fund no 'consumer facing' IT startup before the Web site is up and running with at least 100,000 unique users a month and this quantity growing rapidly."
Yup, at $0.50 per thousand add impressions, that 100,000 might amount to a grand total of, let's see, may I have the calculator, please, right, $50 a month. So, 100,000 'uniques' is not a lot to take to the bank.
But whether you take equity funding or not, that 100 K uniques is an early milestone.
So, how to reach this milestone? Study and think a lot, have a few thousand ideas, evaluate them, pick one, learn to program, write software, bring up your Web site, get some publicity, and hopefully see your uniques scream above 1 million a month quickly.
Uh, some venture partner idiot, some guy, once said something totally stupid, as idiots are wont to do, "Ideas are easy; execution is hard.". Yup, mark of a total idiot. No wonder he thinks execution is hard -- it is if start with only easy ideas! In fact, GOOD ideas are hard and then, if only by definition, execution is routine. Sorry guy.
You need a GOOD idea, and for that you need, first, a wild, off the wall, unconstrained, violate all the common wisdom, high frequency, free running idea generator that has run out a few million ideas. It helps to have the ideas exploiting some powerful fundamentals (I can't go into those here). Then need to evaluate the ideas, ruthlessly, up, down, sideways, inside, outside, etc., today, tomorrow, and next week, and be ferociously critical. Also need to know some good ways to evaluate ideas (I can't go into that here). Only THEN do you have much chance of a GOOD idea. Those few weeks will be time VERY well spent. "Measure twice; saw once." "Look before you leap."
At 6 million ad impressions a month at $0.50 per thousand, that's $3000 a month. Maybe with that you are 'profitable'.
If you are just running your own Web servers and not paying a 'hosting' service, then actually the $3000 is enough for you to buy another Web server to handle the increased load! If you plug it together yourself from parts, $3000 will buy one very powerful computer. Software? Versions of Unix, MySQL, etc, are free or nearly so. Microsoft has their BizSpark program where they will provide their software for free for a while to startups.
More generally, think 'exponentially': If your usage keeps growing, then ballpark you will have enough revenue in month n to double your server farm capacity in month n + 1. Right, Virginia, that's exponential growth, that is, the good kind, actually, very rapid exponential growth.
Maybe in a few months of exponential growth you will be like Plenty of Fish: One guy, two old Dell computers, ads just via Google, and $10 million a year in revenue.
So, at that point, do you want raise equity funding, say, spend some months getting insulted by venture partners, finally get one or a few 'term sheets', get some 'founder vesting' (where suddenly you go from owning 100% of your company to owning 0% and have some chance of getting back to maybe 50% in four years), an 'option pool', 'liquidity preferences' (where the company can be sold for a lot of money but where you get $0.00), and a Board that understands the term sheet much better than you do and otherwise hasn't written much code in the last 10 years, doesn't understand your business, may never have started a business, is arrogant and nasty, and can fire you and put in one of their buddies who will do a 'pay to play down round' that leaves you with nearly 0% of your company and the venture partners and their buddy with all the rest.
However, maybe you do want some venture funding. Actually, the uniques at 100,000 and growing quickly will get you some serious attention at a major fraction of 'early stage IT' firms anywhere in the country. Right: As in a Bogie movie, "We didn't pay attention to your story. We paid attention to your $100." So the venture firms will pay attention to your uniques. Remember 'The Little Red Hen' in Mother Goose? You should. We're talking, what, no more than second grade here, right?
So, in NYC there are only Union Square, RRE, and a few more? Okay, but there's no law that says that the venture firms on Winter Street, elsewhere in MA, in Philadelphia, Maryland, or Virginia can't invest. And some Silicon Valley firms can also invest, even if you are in NYC.
Net, the NYC 'startup scene', "backwater" or not, is nearly irrelevant. Instead, for an entrepreneur, what matters is YOUR business. Can you write your best code in NYC? Of COURSE you can: You can write good code nearly anywhere with a good Internet connection and room for coffee, pizza, and a good table, chair, and desktop.
What matters for YOU is the work YOU do. A necessary and sufficient condition to correct the 'backwater' is for you and other entrepreneurs just to GET YOUR DARNED WORK DONE.
There are lots of excuses not to do work, e.g., the dog ate my homework, my landlord wouldn't fix the faucet, I couldn't buy wine at 2 AM, I can't find a fantasy Samuel Johnson style 'coffee shop', NYC is a "backwater", and due to Wall Street I can't hire a programmer.
Uh, we are learning one of the larger lessons in business: One reason there are so few rich people is that there are so many ways for people to get off the track.
Another excuse is explaining kindergarten level stuff to idiots on Hacker News, an excuse I will now discard and get back to writing the rest of my software.