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Ask HN: Founding a startup in New York City?
54 points by sipefree on Sept 24, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments
Myself and my cofounders are currently based in Dublin, Ireland, and we're in early stages at the moment.

Our potential early investors and supporters are mostly based in New York City, and we're being asked if we would relocate there in order to continue on.

Now, this sounds utterly amazing to me, and myself and the team would love to head out there and give it a go, but I've got a few questions for my fellow hackers.

What's it like running a startup in NY? I've seen a few scattered posts that it's more cut-throat than SF, and that there isn't as much help and camaraderie available between startups. Is this true?

What kind of prices would we be looking at to get a small but decent office to start off in? The same goes for apartments. What websites are the best to find good rented property? In Ireland we have daft.ie, but there are a bunch of other shitty ones here and it's not obvious which is the best, so I assume the same is probably true in every other city.

Has anyone had any experience founding a startup as an immigrant? We'll be offered support in getting visas and such, but I'd like to hear any anecdotes about the process.

The interbutt is a big place, and there are lots of articles. It would be amazing if anyone who's seen any good posts about this could send a link along.

Cheers folks.

There are many resources for you, especially as the community continues to grow. I haven't experienced much of the cut-throat attitude at all. In fact I have gotten a tremendous amount fo support and advice from many in the community here over the past year.

I'd suggest starting off in a co-working space since you can share resources and get help, instead of siloing yourself in a separate office.

Some resources to check out include:

Working Spaces

General Assembly - http://generalassemb.ly

New Work City - http://nwc.co

We Work Labs - http://weworklabs.com

DogPatch Labs - http://dogpatchlabs.com

LooseCubes (search for a place) - http://loosecubes.com

Email Events Lists

Startup Digest - http://startupdigest.com

This Week In NYC Innovation - http://bit.ly/nycinnovation


Ohours - http://ohours.org

Meetup - http://meetup.com

NyHacker - http://nyhacker.org

Startup Weekend - http://startupweekend.org

Lean Startup Machine - http://theleanstartupmachine.com

I founded BankSimple in NY. I'm an Australian immigrant, and my co-founder is Indian. We pay less than $2k/mo for rent for an awesome office in Brooklyn, we had 10 people in the office over summer. Most of my team lives in Brooklyn, where things are much more affordable, but you are still likely to be paying over $1600/mo for a small apartment.

I've never lived in SF, but as I understand it, it is not much cheaper.

There is a great community of tech startups, but they tend to be around the Union Square area in Manhattan. I spend a bunch of time meeting up with folks around Union Square, but its only a 15min train ride in from Dumbo in Brooklyn. Meetup is based here and there are a ton of tech and startup meetups. You wont find yourself lacking for social support as you build up your business.

I love NY. There is a fantastic culture of getting shit done. The city is cut throat, but that is inspiring. Everyone is on a mission. And its not all about technology. You meet inspired folks from all walks of life. Talented designers, musicians, financiers, advertisers, chefs and architects.

I'm going to miss NY. My company is heading to Portland, but I hope to bring the best of NY to Portland.

On the contrary to what you ve heard, there is a huge startup network in NYC. You ll have the support you seek when you need it. Everything else is just expensive.

Most of the questions you asked have been answered already. So I ll give you some pointers about the housing question.

1. Craigslist. - http://newyork.craigslist.org/ 2. Padmapper - http://www.padmapper.com - maps all the apartments on craigslist. 3. http://www.nybits.com - for apartment listings from building managers.

The average "decent" studio apartment in Manhattan will cost you anything from $1000 - $3000. It might be a little lesser if you get a bigger place and share. Living costs are very high, but the fact that you could go shopping for groceries across the street at 3am makes up for it.

Here's a starting point : <$2000 downtown Manhattan. You'll get much more if you're willing to extend to Brooklyn/Queens, or spend a little more (or go for a share).


There's lots of good advice in this thread already but I would add a pitch to take a look at Brooklyn. While not cheap, it's generally way less expensive than manhattan and there's an awesome mixed community of people from all kinds of different backgrounds.

As far as office space, there are are couple of co-working spaces mentioned already, but there's also a great place called GreenDesk [1]. GreenDesk lets you rent anything from a single desk to an office for 6-7 people, it's relatively inexpensive, it's month to month so you're not locked into a lease, and it's in a pretty nice neighborhood with good subway connections.

Finally as far as culture, I'd say the NY tech scene is a more fractured than SF (there's a lot of finance folks here who usually don't interact much with the startup world) but within the startup space it's very active and friendly. One of the best things you can do to get involved and to get to know people is go to various meetup groups [2]. There are groups for virtually every neighborhood, specialization, and technology.

Good luck with the move and hopefully see you around NYC soon!

[1] http://greendesk.com/index.html [2] http://www.meetup.com/find/?userFreeform=10001&radius=5&...

I'm not sure of the prices in Dublin, but this I found that the cost of living in NYC is a bit over exagerated compared to other places in the NYC metro area.

I live about 2.5 hours from NYC and I pay $1400 a month for rent. I also pay $120 for car insurance, $20-50 a month on average for car maitenance, and around $300 a month on gas. Excluding car payments (I have a relatively old car that I have paid off). So my total cost of renting + a car is around $1850. I absolutely can get an apartment in Manhattan for that price that I would like, I've been in several. Obviously in Manhattan, I wouldn't own a car so thats why the comparison holds.

(I assume that utilities, TV, internet are basically constant no matter where you live).

Food is the big X factor. I can't quite figure out what the cost difference is. When I worked in Manhattan I ate out for lunch and it was generally around $10, sometimes more and sometimes less. My lunch now is around $7. Should I extrapolate that across my food budget? That makes me think it is going to be an extra $200 a month. I really don't know.

I think the cost of living gets so skewed because people try and compare price for a square foot. Right now I live in a 3 bedroom condo with a garage, a dining room, a laundry room, 2.5 baths, etc. I pay $1400 for that. But if I moved into NYC I'd have a 1 bedroom or a 2 bedroom and a roommate. Obviously if I wanted the same interior space I'd pay an enormous amount. But I don't need all that room. I don't even use it all now. So you have to compare lifestyle not the physical dimensions. In my current house, my family room is enormous and has a fireplace (that I never use). Do I need to be 15 feet from my TV? Of course not. It probably would look better if it I was closer. If you put me in the typical NYC family room, my couch will be 3' from the TV. I've lost a lot of space, but functionally the room is exactly the same. I still get the same enjoyment out of the place and the same utility.

A lot of people walk into a tiny NYC apartment and say, this is so SMALL! How do you even live here! But frankly, it just doesn't matter.

A lot of people walk into a tiny NYC apartment and say, this is so SMALL! How do you even live here! But frankly, it just doesn't matter.

Right now I live in 634 square feet in the Bay Area -- not a tiny apartment by any means, but the smallest place I've lived for a long time. It has a view, which makes it feel more spacious, but I still find that the small size makes it slightly depressing after a while. I miss the idea of going for a walk around my house, or of going to sit in a completely different part of the house.

That's not to say that it's terrible, just that size does matter. My next place definitely needs to be bigger.

Maybe one thing is the sense of property in NYC. Outside the city, I completely understand the idea of walking around 'your property'. In NYC, outside the door, is 'your city'. Manhattan is built for walking, no 'true native' owns a car here.

Walking around the streets isn't quite the same thing as walking around your own place, though.

For those of us who never moved around so much: when "small" is too small? i.e. 20 sqm?

20 sqm (about 215 sq ft) is probably the size of a lot of studios in manhattan that you'd find for $1800/month or so if you were lucky. You'll obviously get a lot more in Brooklyn for the same price (mine is about 450 sq ft).

You just have to be creative about your use of space in the city. It doesn't end up being all that hard, you end up just pairing down.

I once heard a realtor say "if you got a studio in Manhattan for under $1600 and there were no chalk lines on the floor, you got a deal."

My boyfriend and I live in a studio, large enough for the both of our "startup lifestyles", and we pay less than that in a safe neighborhood in Manhattan, close to a subway line that can take us practically anywhere in the city. This isn't a particularly rare gem, you just have to know where to look.

Everyone mentions the prices in NYC and Brooklyn, but living in the often forgotten borough Staten Island I pay $800 for a 1 bedroom apartment right at the water, with a Manhattan bound bus minutes away. I have the luxury of privacy since I don't need a roommate, and things are a lot more quiet and peaceful here and for me personally, I enjoy coming home to that after spending 12 hours coding away in the city - I have unwinding time on the bus and then just relax without all the city noise.

I found this apartment via craigslist.org - I think that will be the easiest route to go without dealing with an overpriced realtor.

That might be because the Brookfield Landfill on Staten Island was an illegal toxic dumping ground for 20 years and is still being cleaned up. http://earthjustice.org/our_work/cases/2008/brookfield-landf...

Since this is being brought up, and since even most New Yorkers don't know this (and therefore Staten Island is the brunt of many jokes) -

The Fresh Kills Landfill, which consists of 2,900 acres and includes the Richmond Avenue Truckfill, the Brookfield Landfill, the Isle of Meadows and parts of the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge. This was a city planned land reclamation and waste management engineering project which would convert swamp and creek ground to habitable ground in the future. The landfill itself had daily covering over all new garbage dumped, and when it was closed, a 2 foot final cover was put on top of it.

The Fresh Kills Landfill project lasted 55 years in total from the start to the final dump; however that did not include all portions of the Landfill project. The Brookfield Landfill specifically (since that is what I am commenting on) was open from 1966 to 1980, and in it's 14 years of operation, there was unfortunately a scandal where there was illegal dumping of toxic waste at these grounds - at one point a sanitation supervisor was convicted for taking bribes for looking the other way. The Brookfield Landfill covers 132 acres of the 2,900 acres that was the Fresh Kills Landfill.

Since closing they have monitored all the landfill from this project for safety, and environmental impact and are currently transforming the grounds to the largest park in the 5 boroughs - even bigger than central park. In the 9 years I have lived on Staten Island, I have had no complaints about smells, etc. The landfill itself (as far as the portion bordered by Richmond Ave, Arthur Kill and LaTourette) is grassy and there is plenty of wildlife living there. Ecologically speaking, it is thriving.

It is unfortunate that there was illegal dumping - but the ground was not an illegal toxic dumping ground for 20 years. I am more concerned about illegal dumping of toxic waste in water ways.

As for it still being cleaned up; as I mentioned, the Fresh Kills Landfill is currently in a 30 year project to convert it in to the largest park in the 5 boroughs - and remediation of the Brookfield Landfill started last year, it was the last of the landfill grounds in the project to commence remediation. The ground is safe, and the only reason the residents that lived next to the Brookfield Landfill property line were sueing was to force remediation of the property so that it wouldn't just be overgrown land, and could also be turned in to a recreational area for the community.

Please don't just spew out things about the Landfill unless you actually know the background and what is being done. I didn't grow up on Staten Island, and I don't care about the jokes, so I have really no care in the world what people say - I just want informed discussions taking place.

Some sources of information for numbers and stuff I wanted to confirm while responding:




How long is the bus ride?

It depends on where you are trying to get to and where on the island you live. If you live near the ferry you can be in Manhattan within 30/40 minutes. If you live on the south shore of the island like me, it generally takes from an hour and a half to two hours. When I lived more towards the center of the island, my commute was door to door an hour and a half. The bus is like the tour buses, with reclining seats and overhead reading lights so it's really not that bad plus it's more time I generally spend reading a book or even doing work on my netbook.

The south shore is nicer in terms of houses and area, while the north shore is more convenient - but definitely a different type of neighborhood.

Right now we have a two-person office at WeWork on 34th. $1,000 per month, month-to-month lease, decent facilities (conference rooms, phones, printers, etc.) About what you'd pay renting desks at another company, less than you'd pay for shared space at an incubator. I'd start with a short-term office rental like we've got, or possibly a sublet. Commercial leases in Manhattan are a pain in the ass.

Manhattan is expensive; the further you go from Manhattan, the lower the rent. I live in Hoboken, right across the river in New Jersey. New Jersey carries a moderate stigma (snotty Manhattanites won't travel there) so you end up getting more for your rent. I wouldn't overlook it if you're trying to save money, as long as you're walking distance to a PATH station. (The PATH train runs 24 hours, just like the NYC subway, except it's slightly cheaper and cleaner.) I used to live on 138th St. in Manhattan, and now I have the same amount of space in a nicer neighborhood for less money - and my commute to the relevant parts of Manhattan is both shorter and more pleasant.

The tech community's there if you want it, but it's not omnipresent like it is in San Francisco. If you put in an effort to meet people you'll be fine. I wouldn't describe it as 'more cut-throat' at all. People are both nice and social.

Recruiting is brutal. Then again, I hear recruiting in San Francisco is also brutal.

Health insurance is a pain. If you've got real funding, a professional employer organization (PEO) like Ambrose is the way to go - they take care of payroll and health insurance. If not, talk to a broker and get something with a high-deductible - you're getting it in case of catastrophe, not for every sniffle. Don't go without.

I'm an immigrant, but I had my permanent residency sorted long before I started starting companies, so I can't help much there. I can tell you that as a Canadian, I found U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services inefficient and irritating to deal with, but not malevolent. They'd probably have a similar attitude towards you - Ireland's a first-world country. Just be completely honest and make sure your paperwork is perfect.

If you do relocate, send me an email, and we'll get lunch.

As someone who also lives in Hoboken, I second the suggestion of living here. It's beautiful, safe, and fun. A good amount of the population is young and everything is within walking distance. And you're just a 10 minute PATH ride to the city. Its definitely something to look into.

Second the suggestion. Hoboken's got fantastic access into the city, they have their own tech meetup too (NJ Tech) and there's a new shared workspace that's opened up there too: http://www.missionfifty.com/

Office space with walls is limited but there's lots of coworking space - check out loosecubes.com to search it. Private reserved desks are ~$500/mo.

Apartments: nybits.com / streeteasy.com / nakedapartments.com. Look for no fee apartments. Brokers here take 15% of your annual rent as a commission and renters generally have to pay that. They'll also want to make sure you make 40x your rent. For example, $2500/mo apartment (~650sq ft in Manhattan) == prove you make $100k/yr with 2 years of tax returns, financial statements. If they could take a blood sample I think they probably would.

For camaraderie, go to events at GeneralAssemb.ly, check out meetups, check out Hackers & Founders.

Just to add onto this, you could also set up shop in the outer boroughs. There are quite a few good startups and design shops out in Brooklyn that are doing good work. Additionally, rent is generally cheaper and apartments are somewhat more accessible in Brooklyn and Queens than it is in Manhattan. I'd take a look in Greenpoint or other places along the west coast of Brooklyn. There's also a pretty strong Irish expat community in Woodside and Sunnyside in Queens along the 7 line, if that matters.

I came back to the US after living in Paris, France and have had nothing but amazing support from the NY tech community.

I work out of General Assembly, and have found the network to be really supportive. In general, I think the community is smaller than in SF (from what I'm told) but seems actually pretty tight knit. People are willing to help you get to where you need to go, to be sure.

The fact that things like Kickstarter and Skillshare were founded in NY attest at least some to the idea of community based collaboration and support.

Definitely couldn't have asked for a better start for our project Good Karma than in NY.

Offices in Manhattan are expensive - i'd look at shared workspaces that others have mentioned. Actually, everything in Manhattan is expensive. Brooklyn is a lot more affordable, though increasingly hot spots like Williamsburg, Greenpoint etc., are becoming just as expensive.

You should DEFINITELY check out the Startup Visa project that's being backed by big names like Brad Feld, Dave Mcclure etc. if you're looking at visa issues.

NY is fun. There's no other place in the world where people are passionately putting everything on the line to realize their dreams, failing, and trying to do it all over again the next day. It's energy incarnate.

If you're speaking with investors, and are good about networking with funded startups chances are you can get office space for free for several months.

Regarding rent, you'll be paying a lot, and finding an apartment in NYC is a grueling process. But, there's a reason rent is high -- people love NYC!

Finding an apartment in New York is not that difficult a process. It's just expensive.

> We'll be offered support in getting visas and such, but I'd like to hear any anecdotes about the process.

Does "support" mean "Hi, I'm the lawyer who will make this all work, like I've done dozens of time this year, so most of your contact will be with my assistant, and my fees and the expenses are already taken care of." If not, you've got a lot of work to do.

WRT moving to NY (or anywhere for that matter).

(1) Why and by how much will moving improve your chances of success?

(2) How much will it cost in time and money to move?

Is (2) less than (1)?

Seriously - the absolute best case is that you spend a week moving. The more reasonable best case is that you spend a month (preparing to move and dealing with the move after you're there will also take time). The likely case is that you'll lose 2-3 months and you could lose more.

New York is one of the most expensive place to live and work. This is not just the cost of housing, but also food, travel, and hiring. NYC is more cut-throat than SF - you know the old song "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." This is a problem with so many people working so hard that it is almost an uncaring attitude for your fellow man. However, NYC is where the money is and a good surrogate to Silicon Valley. New York is a very active city, and has the best mix of culture, food, and experience that you will find anywhere in the world. There is good infrastructure to live outside the city (but you will pay in time for commuting). If you do decide on NYC, I will gladly help - look me up on my profile

I'm Irish-American doing a (pre-funded) startup in Brooklyn. Living in Manhattan would be an extravagant expense for someone doing a startup. If you want to be around other Irish people, there's a great community in Sunnyside, Queens.

On Monday there's a YC meet up here in NYC where PG is going to deliver comments on NYC as a startup community. I'm looking forward to what he has to say, he criticized New York in the past as a startup hub, but since YC is having a 500 person meet up here I'd expect his feelings have changed.

It's true that apartments are expensive in NY, but they're also similarly expensive in San Francisco, and parts of Silicon Valley (Palo Alto).

There's a lot of affordable co-working spaces in NYC if you want some sort office to start, but the most ideal space might be your apartment anyway.

You can also choose to live a little further out of the way if you're trying to save money - like in Queens, Brooklyn, or Jersey City. Depending on proximity to the subway etc, it can be just a 15 minute commute to Manhattan from any of these areas.

+1. I'd look into a coworking space. There are plenty of other web startups looking for space too.

Email me if you want any help finding a spot. kevin [at] ignighter [dawt] com

I just came back from a visit to Dogpatch Labs[1], where several start ups are sharing office space. It was quite a cool space, I have to say. I'm not sure if there are others like this in NYC (I imagine this isn't the only one) but check it out.

[1] http://dogpatchlabs.com/about/

http://nyhacker.org/ ... there's plenty of camaraderie in the city. You can easily meet up with a different organized group almost every night and not run out. And a +1 for http://nwc.co as well

For workspace and a chance to network, check out some of the co-working spaces available in NYC:

http://nwc.co/ http://hiveat55.com/

You'll be able to find local people to talk to at the NY tech meetup:


For finding real estate, rentals, rooms/sublets, Craigslist is still probably the best bet (unless you're up for Airbnb):


It is generally cheaper to find a place to live right outside the city in Brooklyn/Queens that is close to the subways and/or bridges (if you want to bike).

Hope that is somewhat helpful, others can comment more on startups / immigrant issues.

I can't compare to SV, but I wouldn't say there's a lack of camaraderie among NYC startups.

Apartments - check out http://padmapper.com for data. Chances are you'll be spending between $800 (in places like Astoria) up to $2400 (in nicer buildings in central Manhattan) per person, depending on your living arrangements.

Office: I think desks are usually around $1000/month, though you might find some cheaper. How many are you? I can check in with my CEO and see if we have any vacancies (we have a whole floor, most of which we sublet, at 36th and 6th). I do agree with the advice to get into a General Assembly/DogPatch/etc. if you can, though.

I just did the Leaving Cert in Dublin in June and I'm currently interning at Hunch. You'll hear a lot of people going on about just how expensive New York is, but, honestly compared to Dublin, it's cheaper or the same price for pretty much everything. New York is exceptionally expensive in comparison to the rest of the US, but, in comparison to Dublin, it really isn't at all.

As for camaraderie, the tech scene here feels very friendly and there're plenty of people helping each other out (I don't really have anything to compare it to though). Get in touch if you have any questions.

I've heard NYC startups are more interested in making money/generating revenue while SV startups are more disruptive.

I imagine the public transport will be better in any case....good luck

Another tip - combine your office and apartment unless you need a brick and mortar place for sales. Just because you have funding doesn't mean you need to spend it.

+1 to the previous posts. Only additional link I'd add is for the NextNY list - http://groups.google.com/group/nextnydigital .

You should try getting in touch with @meetforeal and @amonter5. They both came over from Ireland with a similar story and now work with us in WeWork Labs.

On the flipside, what's it like to move to NYC to be one of the first employees for a startup? Anyone have any experience doing that?

I did this in 2005 and I've been in the area since. When I moved, I rushed my apartment search and got something suboptimal - fine space, just a poor location.

A lot of places are shown by brokers who want a month or so worth of rent from the tenant - this is a ripoff, but it's common. If you can afford this or if you can get your startup to cover this, you've got more options than if you're just looking at no-fee listings.

Assuming you're a reasonably-competent developer, you don't have to worry about being out of work should it not work out at your startup - lots of companies are recruiting aggressively. So that, at least, you don't have to immediately worry about. (Future economic conditions may vary.)

Just make sure you're paid enough to live how you want to live in NYC, and that NYC itself is for you, and you'll be fine.

I lived in New York City, Sunnyvale (Silicon Valley) and San Francisco.

In California, you spend +- $800/month on car stuff... and your small apart. will eat another $1000/month...

In New York, no car is needed and you can found a shared space for a very good price...the keyword in NYC is "shared". shared apt. , shared workspace...shared girlfriend.

The most important is the people of New York City (including Brooklyn). They are amazing! It will take you a good two years to be accepted as a "local", but when you are "in", they will become your extended family... this is priceless... you won't get this in California.

I always compared New York City as a nasty girlfriend, you want to leave her because she is nasty to you, but you stick with her because the sex is so good.

I would say: do it. Then again, I'm already in New York.

Manhattan is more expensive than Silicon Valley but the "greater metropolitan area" is not as bad as the Bay Area. In California, even far-out suburbs are expensive. In comparison, you can live 45 minutes from New York pretty cheaply.

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