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New York will always be a tech backwater, I don’t care what the VCs say (adgrok.com)
149 points by antongm on Aug 3, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 182 comments



The point I consider most important is only alluded to.

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...


Don't forget non-compete agreements - valid in NY, invalid in CA. So not only can you NOT leave your day job for a startup, you typically have to wait 2 (or more) years before being able to freely work on any projects. (If your start up is in a completely different area than your day-job, you may be able to get away with it sooner. But don't think that corporations are lax about enforcing the non-compete you signed.)


"So not only can you NOT leave your day job for a startup, you typically have to wait 2 (or more) years before being able to freely work on any projects."

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?


These clauses are only enforced when it's an easy win for the litigator - for example, key employees going to a direct rival or a startup with no legal budget.


That makes sense.


Perhaps they move out of NYC to a state that doesn't enforce non-competes for years, and then possibly move back.


I call bollocks. I don't doubt that companies make these silly agreements, I don't doubt that companies actually try to enforce them, and I don't doubt that employees cave in thinking they have no options.

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.


If you have a job in NYC, by default everything you create belongs to your employer.

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 you said is federal law. But what my lawyer told me when I lived in NY is that "in the course of your employment" has non-intuitive consequences.

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.


I view it similar to apartments that don't explicitly state 'no pets'. If you're not hoarding pets or using company related IP, odds are good you're in the clear.


You could be right if NY has a law more strict than federal law. Do you have information on this?


Email sent with what little information I have.



That link has no bearing on NY state law.


As an intern who works in a Web Company in nyc, I can attest to the claim of above comment. My agreement with my employer even for an internship had this clear clause.


Do you have any references for this? (speaking as a NYC-based employee with various side projects)


Sorry, I don't have the appropriate statute in front of me. Merely memory from discussions some 8 years ago. If you wish to know more, I strongly recommend talking with a competent lawyer.

Also note that there are a lot of caveats where details of your specific situation could make you fine. (Or not.)



If I'm not mistaken, Massachusetts is more like California in that respect. That might be one reason Boston is better than NYC for tech.


Well, MIT & Harvard don't hurt...


They gather the brains, yes. But a feudal business culture would make that irrelevant. Feudal social contracts in general kill all forms of innovation.


>Even if it was done at home on your equipment.

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".


This is garbage. California does this as much as NYC.


http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=lab... offers significant protection to employees in California. There is nothing in NY law that offers similar protection.


That is actually a great point. When was this law made?

Also, this only protects people who are aware of it and willing to fight for it


I do not know when the law was made. But the text of section 2872 at the bottom of that page suggests it was somewhere around 1980.


Interestingly, I met many people in SF who had signed contracts that disagree with this law.


I was alarmed to discover the same a few times -- the contract had wide claims on IP, and then there was a separate part which said "of course, these are the enforceable limits according to this particular California law."

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).


That's OK, the law takes priority anyways.


Both Bay Area companies I've worked for include California 2870-2872 with their new employment packs, right behind the NDA.


That is required by 2872.


One anecdote for another. I'll take it.


"Three years in New York, and I went north of 14th St maybe three times. Trips to the Met excepted, of course"

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.


The article is not loading for me (server overload?), but if that's a quote from the article I'm glad I didn't read it.

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.


YES!

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....


I have read the article and I gotta say, I really enjoyed it, even though I disagree with about 99.99% of it (as probably all New Yorkers do)

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!


Thanks for reading.

At its heart, it's actually a love letter to New York. In a sort of toughlove sort of way.


To be totally honest, given the crappy Wall Street life, I spent 80% of my time south of Maiden Lane, in fact.

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.


As someone who works in finance, even a lower grunt than the quants, I basically do programming to build/maintain a high frequency trading platform, I was more interested in your other post on why you didn't like the Wall Street culture and decided to quit.

http://adgrok.com/why-founding-a-three-person-startup-with-z...

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.


Ha!

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.


You must have either been worked to death or extremely incurious. I've lived all over the world and currently spend my time between Sydney and NYC. I moved here on a shoestring, ran a startup for the first year and half I was here, sold my share and went on to contracting (at startups, go figure!) and am about to launch yet another one.

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.


Do you split your time evenly, or spend a little time in Sydney, and a lot in NYC? (My sister lives in Melbourne. Someday I'd like to spend winters there, instead of here...)


Mostly NYC at the moment since I'm buckling down on the new project. Wintering in Oz is a fantastic lifestyle though, I must say :)

For the next few years I'm living three months in Oz and nine months in NY, though spread out over the year.


Maybe you're right. I grew up in NYC (the Bronx, and I currently live in Brooklyn) so my experience is far from typical.


As a Brooklynite, I am obviously biased here but a lot of these points are downright silly and the author seems astonishingly uninformed.

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


Where in Brooklyn do you live where you're paying $700 (even with roommates) for a great place? I'm intensely curious as I'm planning on moving to BK soon!


I live near Grand St and Bushwick Ave. The place is also for a 4 bedroom and we only have 3 dudes which lets us have office space. If you look hard enough, great deals emerge.


Just curious: what's Bushwick like these days? It sounds like it's a lot safer now.

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!


I also live over there and pay $1500 for a big place (by NYC standards) two people could easily split.


Rock, I'm about 10 blocks south of you at Moore St.

(If we were talking california, it'd be "45 minutes away on the freeway")


Any advice on finding housing in Brooklyn beyond Craigslist?


http://jumppost.com/ && http://www.padmapper.com/

-- 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.


New York Times Real Estate Section. Both for sale and to let.


Yeah, ACE hardware isn't a proper hardware store, dude.

$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.


You complain that New York is too expensive, but you were living in a doorman building in the Financial District? Is this some kind of joke?

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.


I have to disagree with your Craigslist in NYC comment. Not only did I find my apartment on Craigslist but I frequently buy and sell bike parts on Craigslist and pick up items from Craigslist's free section. I've been a New Yorker using Craigslist since high school. Being savvy ≠ "some inside connection."

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.)


Everyone in NYC besides bankers have been getting their apartments from craigslist since 1998. And, you can get a 500sq foot 1bdrm in battery park city for $1800.


Or Jersey City (the non-yuppie parts) for $1000.


LOL at "Craigslist never caught on in New York".


Compared to SF? You have no idea, guy.


Craigslist never caught on in New York? FALSE.


This is a very entertaining and well-written rant. But if you're considering starting a company or joining a startup in NYC, don't take this too seriously.

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.


It makes NYC sound like a scene from Gossip Girl meets American Psycho.

Wow, that comment really nailed it.


Can you provide more detail on where the NYC-startup scene is ? (Where could one meet people working in these startups ?)


Hey, glad to hear the scene has changed. I'm sure my info is quite dated in a fast-moving city like NYC.

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.


Speaking as a New Yorker contemplating a move to California, I'd say the article is somewhat accurate about the prestige of working in finance, but staggeringly wrong on a few other points.

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.


Hm. I should note, my information was as of 2008. If there are more cafes now, than I'm pleased.

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...


NYC cafes where I've personally witnessed coders at work include: Housing Works & McNally's at SoHo, Amrita in Harlem, Gorilla Cafe in Park Slope, Esperanto on McDougal..

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 ;)


Hm. New York has a population of 8,000,000 people, and you cite five cafes.

(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).


Go here, center anywhere on Manhattan and type in "cafe": http://maps.google.com

Surprise!! Cafes!! Everywhere!!

Surely more than 5 of those have coders at work.


He cited five that he had personal experience with. You can't use that as a metric.


This is like complaining that LA is a bad city to film a movie because I've never seen a camera crew in Rancho Cucamonga. Manhattan != New York City.


It's worse than that. The four square blocks the author spent his time in != New York City.


I've seen several programmers working in cafes in Brooklyn. I don't really hang out in cafes in Manhattan that much (occasionally Subtletea back when I worked in the area) so I can't comment on the state of Manhattan cafes.


Really, you think cafes have come to the city only since 2008?

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.


I was entertained. If we measure success by getting a round, I guess the case is closed. But just because NYC startups don't solicit as much capital doesn't mean that they don't exist; they just develop viable business models a generate revenue. I know that unfashionable, but it's the way it goes...

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.


I am new to the whole NYC startup scene. Which, according to you, are some of the cool startups in NYC ? Also, are there any NYC-startup specific news sources ?



You're kidding me, right? If your goal is to perceive a tech hub as trying to beat Silicon Valley you have absolutely no clue what you're talking about. No other city will beat Silicon Valley. We know this. The point is this: to build a good ecosystem of education, talent, and investment that lets a city flourish on its own without having to flock to somewhere better. Take the foundations of what makes Silicon Valley what it is and have it provide a sustainable community.

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.


Thank you for saying this. I wanted to post the exact same thing but you said it all. Let's be honest, the Valley has been important in one aspect (tech) for about the last 30 years. New York has been a global focal point in all aspects for 200 years. Let's all just get along and use our collective diversity to make something better, not trash each other's cities to get readers.


That's exactly the appeal of NYC to me. I've been working in tech in the S.F. area for over ten years now and it's starting to feel very one-dimensional. Living somewhere where art and literature and culture matter as much as technology sounds extremely refreshing at this point.


I felt the same way and I moved (back) to NYC after 10 years in SF. The city has changed a bit. There are a lot of things to do outside the tech sector. However, I'm not sure I would say "art and literature and culture matter" as much as they seemed to in the past. Manhattan is nearly 100% yuppified now. this is good and bad. It's good in that the whole left coast of Manhattan is now a giant urban park. There are bike lanes everywhere. There are parks everywhere. There's a farmer's market in Union Square every (other?) day. There are free things like movies on the pier, concerts in the park, etc. I saw Dinosaur Jr. for free in central park last summer (?!). It's probably easier to eat healthy food in NYC than anywhere else in the world.

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.


Interesting, if disappointing. My conception of NYC is probably stuck in a 1970's vision of the place. I'm sure art cultures seem more concentrated and vital in hindsight when the winners have been canonized but I've heard a lot of people complain that downtown NYC has been Disneyfied.

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.


Another thing that came to mind that this article alludes to: on the East Coast (and most other places) salesmen and MBA types always outrank geeks. It's deeply ingrained in the culture. Those who can do. Those who can't lead. Being a doer makes your social rank lower.

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.


"Every yuppie I knew in New York worked as either a Wall Street guy, a lawyer, or an agent of some sort. Basically, there were all subtly screwing someone else for a living."

This is exactly how I feel about London. It feels like the city takes much more from the world than it produces.


I have a little bit of experience with London, and I can second this. London actually gives me the willies after meeting the business culture there. If you ever want to make an argument for the actual existence of shape shifting reptiles (ala nutjob David Icke) then just hang around London's business scene for a while.

America is superficially conservative and deeply liberal. Europe is superficially liberal and deeply conservative.


"America is superficially conservative and deeply liberal. Europe is superficially liberal and deeply conservative."

This explains much of my confusion trying to understand Europe.


A predatory business culture is "conservative"? I don't follow.


I guess it depends on how you define conservative. I define it partly as "hierarchical, aristocratic, exploitative" while liberal is "self-made, innovative, meritocratic."

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:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7585330.stm

Heh.


I don't think you're working with applicable terms, really. I'd just say there are markets and business cultures where trust and the sense of fair play is prevalent, and those where that is not the case, and leave it at that.

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.


Point taken... and you have to take anything like what I wrote (or what anyone else in any of this thread writes) with some degree of salt. All human experiences are small samples, and cities are big places.

But my personal experience in London was... well... in the right light sometimes they shift back to their natural form... hisssssss!


It's easy to characterize lawyers as "subtly screwing someone", but it's an unfair generalization.

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.


Yes. It's only when you get principal-agent problems --- like the legal department of a company advising litigation when settling or ignoring would be best, for reasons of their job-security.


But that's just exploitative unprofessionalism. You can get from any profession; from the mechanic who says you really need the new transmission right now to the programmer who writes code that looks like it has been put through an obfuscator.


The thing is, at least in the US, 'yuppie' has been a derogatory term for those kind of guys for at least twenty years. That this guy self-identifies as a yuppie, and complains that the other yuppies are scumbags, is one of the many reasons it's hard to take the article seriously.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuppie


I don't think the article was meant to be taken that seriously.


I come to Hacker News looking for intelligent discourse. There wasn't a _shred_ of nuance in this article. Nuanced thought is why this is a great place to be. Please don't post articles where the author is openly admitting that they are sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "lalala I can't hear you."

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."


I come to Hacker News looking for intelligent discourse. There wasn't a _shred_ of nuance in this article.

That, I presume, is why it is hosted elsewhere. The comments here are illuminating, as always.


Eh, my thought about the article was, "obvious troll is obvious."


I'm confused. If your city doesn't "equal Silicon Valley" then it is a "tech backwater"?

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 is probably the closest runner up to the Valley, and it's not even close.

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...


But then again, even here in SF, angels and VCs won't take a meeting w/ you unless you get an intro. In that sense, it is who you know. (Though I've found people more than willing to help each other here in Bay Area).

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 VC culture is probably closer to banker culture, so you're right about that. I've never gotten to meet with a VC without an intro. But I was talking more about the culture at large. You've kind of got it with your last sentence.

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":

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2005/0213/cover.h...

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.


Ironically in Boston, you only need a car if you work in the tech industry as most of the startup's are located on 128 which is in the outskirts of the Boston suburban sprawl. But if you work in finance or allied health, everything is conveniently located downtown.

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.


In my wildest dreams I've never thought I'd hear Boston compared to Bridgeport (I assume you mean CT?). Never been to Boston, but B'port must have changed an awful lot since I lived there :-)


Nah. Bridgeport hasn't change one bit since you left (I assume the Bridgeport you know is one whose mayor is caught with a cocaine habit and restaurants in downtown are robbed in daylight). It's just your over-estimating perception of Boston; imagine a bigger New Haven with a couple of more Yale campuses and equal number of run-down neighborhoods next to them.


Could you name some of the run-down neighborhoods next to campuses? I don't see it, unless there are some Yale campuses in Fields Corner that I don't know about.


All of Boston's Universities are located downtown or in Cambridge; no slums at Kenmore/Brookline/Downtown, but go out to the outskirts of the city, like Mission Hills, Roxbury or Dorchester (away from Huntington Ave. Medical Campus). Or the part of Brighton and lower Allston that's further away from Harvard and BU. Or the true Slumerville of Somerville away from Tufts. Even East Cambridge away from MIT and Kendall Sq., although that part of town is fast gentrifying a la Davis Sq.

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.


There are a lot of startups in Cambridge and downtown and a few in Newton and other train-serviced places. But you're right about 128... but that's part of why 128 is a terrible place to locate a startup. I would pick Quincy over 128. Lots of good office space at affordable prices, good restaurants, and train serviced... but not very hip. :) I would even look at "Reveah" before 128. If it's off the train it's off the map.


> It reminds me of a more classist version of the famed "Seattle chill":

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.


Even though there's a lot of NYC bashing on this thread, you might like New York. You might try Chicago, Toronto (if you wanna go Canuck), or DC too. You can live car-free in all those places and they're less introverted.

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!"


On the plus side, it's easy to get an intro to those investors because ingeneral other entrepreneurs and hackers will gladly open their rolodex for you if you are building something they think is interesting.


He's right about a lot of things. The cafe scene in NYC isn't as good as the west coast. Apartments are very expensive. Debutantes from Bryn Mawr want to date successful traders. And the startup scene in SF/SV is slowly but surely turning into a bunch of ex-banker foodie cocks from NYC.


Debutantes from Bryn Mawr want to date successful traders.

So what?

Do the desires of a certain tiny demographic skew how you feel about a city of 10 million people?


Oh, I'm not a foodie. I don't know how to fry an egg either.

;)


I spoke recently to a friend of mine who had moved back from NYC to SF, and he told me that when you tell people in a bar you're a software engineer, they get this condescending look and say, "oh, IT..." (as in, the people who fix the computers). This article basically confirms what he was telling me.


It depends on the bar and the crowd; hanging out around NYU or Columbia is much different than hanging out around Wall Street or the Upper East Side.

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.


Yeah, how 'bout them apples? And that sort of attitude doesn't change on less-than-geological time scales.


your comment is confusing. Where's the bar? I thought at first, SF, but the last sentence implies it's in NYC.


Uh.. that's not just New York. Basically, anyone who's not in the industry views everyone who does "computer stuff" as one homogeneous group.


There's more to New York than old money on the Upper West Side. I just moved to Brooklyn from the Mission (in SF) and I must say they are very similar. The art isn't as burning man oriented but the hipsters still carry iPhones and I get dragged into just as many conversations about making 'apps'.


I've never lived in NYC, but I go there once or twice a year since the mid-90s and I have to say, the city he's describing, and the city I visit are apparently in different, alternate realities. I don't go there for the startup scene, so I can't comment on that but I can comment on lots of the other absurd nonsense:

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.


You gave me a point-by-point rebuttal, so I'll give a similar counter-rebuttal.

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....


I'm in Bushwick, right now, 20 minutes from downtown on the JMZ. Pretty cheap. So cheap in fact that most of the hipsters here don't even have jobs!

If you can affordably live in NYC with "having good taste in music" as your primary occupation, you can probably do a startup here.


1) Brooklyn or Jersey City is completely doable. I can be at the WTC in 10 minutes from JC. It's where I've met a bunch of Wall Street traders and programmers. I'm paying slightly more than you were and I have a 2500 sq. ft. loft (no broker). 2) Yes, that's Manhattan. Although I lived in a 5 floor walk up in Morningside Heights for $1000/month, 2 person share. About a 15 minute ride to Wall Street on the express train. 6) Ever been around NYU? Tons of places. 8) 23rd between Broadway and 6th is a Home Depot. But then again, you don't go above 14th.


How are you people measuring this time to travel? It seems a lot of people here only count the time on the train, disregarding the time it takes to get to the train station, wait for a train, and get from the station to the destination.

It seems people talking up this method always minimize the journey.


From my front door to the WTC station takes 10-15 minutes, assuming I hit the train when it arrives at the Grove street station. When I was working in an office on Chambers, that meant 15-20 minutes -- door to door -- to get to the office. Subways generally run on a predictable schedule.

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.


As I've said elsewhere, I'm not disputing your central claim that NYC tech scene is a pale shadow of the Bay Area scene. But your arguments for why that is are bizarre and nonsensical.

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.


Choose a random cafe in SF, and I bet it will not be filled with hacker-types. Choose a random person in SF to talk to, and I bet they will not care about startups either. It's all about who your friends are and where you hang out.

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?


'flyover states'? What is this elitist shit supposed to mean to 90% of the population of the US, anyway?


> Queens is way too far away from lower Manhattan.

Too far for what?


For a daily commute when you're expected to arrive at 7am. I could barely make it on time from Delancey and Essex.


I've never had a job here (or heard of anybody in a professional job) that required them to be there by 7am. 10am is pretty much the standard.


Then you've never worked in Lower Manhattan.


I thought we were talking about startups, here, not investment bank jobs.


I worked 2 blocks from Wall St. for 4 years and came in from Hells Kitchen in midtown (20 minute total walk + train ride). Here is an apartment which is a few blocks from Times Square, Central Park, and Broadway's theater district for $1,295 per month. Hell's kitchen is packed with great bars, and restaurants, pizza, cafe's with free internet and cheap awesome Thai and Chinese food for delivery. It's 15 minutes from NYU and 30 minutes from Columbia University: http://www.trulia.com/rental/3011545407--W-48th-New-York-NY-...


Well, every development job I've had has been a ten am start. Most people I know out here(finance, advertising, marketing) start a ten too. Then again all of my buddies that work in finance work in boutique agencies so maybe it's different at the big shops.


I agree that hanging out with the Wall Street types, going to Wall Street bars, and living in Wall Street apartments probably skewed his perception of NYC's tech scene greatly.

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.


I actually don't disagree with his central thesis that the NYC startup scene doesn't rival the Bay Area scene. What I disagree with is his bizarre characterization of NYC. It's like if I were to write a blog about D.C. and all I could talk about where the endless mile upon mile of endless monuments and golf courses with a KFC at every green.


I lived in New York for ten years (most of it in Washington Heights), and I can't agree with you enough.

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.


Tokyo has even smaller space. Parties are almost impossible to throw at home for most people, but there are great restaurants instead.


Actually it's not really that bad. I had dinner parties when I lived in Tokyo. Rents really aren't that bad either.


Thanks for the props. It really is strange how every social even in NYC happens on third-party ground like a bar.


I don't see why this is so odd. I live in Seattle and most everyone I know, who lives in the city, throw parties in bars and restaurants. Who wants to deal with dirty dishes, potential strangers stealing stuff, wine on the carpet, broken glass, lack of seating, lack of glasses and plates, parking, etc? Even if you have the room and dinnerware to accommodate that many people, it's just easier to go to a bar.


Just a comment about where to live...

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.


I worked on wall street for a bit, and lived in Brooklyn Heights -- my commute was about 10-15 minutes (including walking). It was more than $1k cheaper than what the author was paying. I was always surprised that the guys at work never even considered Brooklyn as an option.


I don't disagree that that would be a haul. But complaining about high rent in a high rent neighborhood is like complaining that your Ferrari is too fast. It's not like there aren't other places to live in the city not really that far from the financial district.


The guy used to work at GS. Although not everyone can be forced into a stereotype based on their function and where they work, you still have to keep that in mind; since it does tend to affect who you hang out with, where you live, and what you do after hours.


Sounds like the author never explored the outer boroughs.

Come to Brooklyn, it's nicer here.


You have to be more specific of your definition of Brooklyn. It sounds like you're implying Williamsburg, and Carroll Gardens, which frankly isn't representative of Brooklyn. Williamsburg in particular is essentially an extension of Manhattan, due to the transportation options and cost of living.


They are plenty representative of the Brooklyn of the last 10 years - that of steady gentrification and rise of cost of living, but still cheaper than Manahattan. Though not much. Much more housing stock, though.

Can we just assume that anyone commenting about Brooklyn on this post is implying South Brooklyn[1] or Williamsburg? If you aren't, please note. Something like "Come to East New York, Brooklyn" would work, so asnyder doesn't get confused.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Brooklyn


The greater "tech scene" (if you can call it that) in Brooklyn is in and around Dumbo and Downtown.


You're right. Mentally I (incorrectly) lump them in with South Brooklyn. Or, more to the point, "yipster" Brooklyn.

Honest question: How many people actually live near their work in DUMBO or Downtown?


No idea. Personally, I hate DUMBO and find it very inconvenient (from elsewhere in Brooklyn), but I know maybe a dozen hacker types who live over there.


*raises hand for etsy. There's definitely an interesting art scene in and around the dumbo area, and I get the impression that it's on its way to becoming a viable place for tech as well.


I live in Park Slope, on Union Street. When I say Brooklyn I really do mean Brooklyn, all the neighborhoods have something interesting going on.


Yup! Just moved from San Francisco to Willamsburg. Must say, it's almost the exact feel I got living in the Mission ( was there for 3 years). The other unsung secret here: Many bars have wifi, bad coffee, tables at which to work...and beer.


You are completely correct. One criticism I'd level at myself is that I use the terms 'New York' and 'Manhattan' synonymously, when they're really not. I should note, Manhattanites commit that same sin all the time.

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....


Brooklyn reminds me a lot of Boston, tech-scene wise. There's a plenty of computer programmers around and a fair number of of young entrepreneurs, not to mention a startups located there. I know a few bars frequented by coders and there are coffeeshops galore. Not having spent time in SF I'd still say it's probably a more arts/entertainment oriented than tech oriented crowd, but the recently gentrified areas of Brooklyn are lightyears away from old-money Manhattan.


Don't you think leaving out all the other boroughs (BK in particular), as well as all the parts of Manhattan that don't fit the banker narrative you've described, makes the comparison a bit unfair?


When I lived in NYC, I built recording studios and did noise abatement in a number of bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan. There are plenty of places to pick up supplies

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.


Relatively cheap living in the Bay Area? Only compared to New York (unless you live in East Palo Alto)


Seriously. What a laugh. The author parks himself in a doorman building in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city and then declares that you can't get by without paying $2500 a month in rent.


Sounds like someone who got dumped hard by a girlfriend, got mugged in the street, or came down with a terrible disease in New York and has formed a bad association with the city.


I LOLed at that as well. Remember too that to use the bathroom in California you have to get in your car and drive four exits down the expressway. So add another $400/month to your cost of living on top of rent/mortgage. Not having to own a car in places like NYC, Boston, DC, etc. means you can subtract about $400/month/person from your cost of living.


Thinking about this a bit more, I realize that in the decade I've been in NYC, the majority of the time I've been working with or for startups. On the tech side there are companies like Morningside Analytics, who do incredible data visualizations of the blogosphere. MA was bootstrapped by three guys from Columbia University. Perceptive Pixel was founded by Jeff Han, based on his work at NYU (you might have seen his TED talk). Fog Creek was founded here. Peter Shankman founded AirTroductions and HARO. UrbanDaddy is a block away from where I'm sitting. Foursquare is here and so is Boxee.

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.


For those readers that are actually familiar with NYC and/or Manhattan, this one quote pretty accurately sums up the weight of the author's arguments and experiences:

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.


As someone who is currently doing a startup in the Bay Area, lived in NYC for 6 years (and loved it) and went to Columbia, I don't even know where to start ripping apart this article. I'm hoping someone else already did it.

And for the record, Columbia is in Morningside Heights, not Harlem.


>‘Ramen’ money in New York is enough to support three families, and then some, elsewhere.

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 disagree about the cost of living tidbits, since it's not too hard to be able to live and eat cheaply; you just may not be living in the greatest or safest areas. However the way he describes the social scene is pretty accurate.


This article makes the common mistake of confusing Manhattan for New York. It's true: the Upper East Side is a bad place to start a startup. Fort Greene isn't.


This is a very narrow perspective about NYC, but he's certainly right the tech scene is smaller and always will be.


Hey, that's my apt building on the pic! These guys are actually my neighbors.

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.


So do we!


Ouch, that hurts for those of us who're in NYC and have real reasons why we can't/won't leave.


We're back!

Sorry for the interruption in service. We got hosed when TechMeme carried the piece.


Any NYMPHS or Port0 people here?


Expected to be offended and confrontational, but ended up really enjoying it. Spot on.


PART I

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.


PART II

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++.


PART III

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!


PART IV

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.




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