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A New York State of Mind

First Draught
A New York State of Mind
By M.G. Siegler • Issue #160 • View online
Just got back from a quick trip to New York. I had to go see about a deal. Which has happened a few times in the past few months. Which is great. But it also has me thinking more about the ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley.
This is nothing new. In fact it’s so not new that it’s almost a cliche at this point to point out that there is interesting stuff happening outside of the 7,000 or so square miles that is the Bay Area. The on-going and continually mounting “techlash” is only exacerbating all of this. It’s very en vogue to rag on the main tech hub.
Of course, a lot of it is also warranted. I’ll dive more into this one day, I’m sure. For today, I’ll just point out how much I’ve grown to love the New York tech ecosystem.
It too has gotten its share of ridicule over the years, mainly because there have been attempts to build it up multiple times as a foil or at least a counterpart to Silicon Valley. Yet the massive exits and returns just haven’t been there, at the same scale. It’s not that I think this is an unfair comparison, I just think it misses a point. One which is increasingly important.
What makes New York great as a tech ecosystem is that it’s decidedly not the Bay Area. Such strengths and weaknesses have been debated ad nauseum throughout the years. But to me, from afar, it’s more just the general spirit and vibe of day-to-day life there. To make an overly simplified and reaching statement: because the entrepreneurs are less immersed in a cocoon of non-stop technology, they’re able to think outside of that very particular box. That is to say, whereas the Bay Area – and San Francisco, in particular – is increasingly all-tech, all the time, New York is decidedly little tech, less of the time.
Perhaps because of that comparative less success, or probably more simply because of the size of the city, it’s just better insulated from a lot of the nonsense that comes with drowning in the tech hype 24/7. Said another way: ecosystems are made of people, and the people of New York, in this case those that work in tech, just seem more well-rounded, in this regard. And I think whereas such diversified interests may have hurt them a bit in the past when the tech ecosystem as a whole was more nascent, it’s now helping them.
In my six years at GV, I’ve led the majority of our NYC-based investments. This wasn’t an intentional effort on my part – after all, I live some 3,000 miles away. It’s far from convenient, quite literally. But something time and time again has drawn me to the entrepreneurs working on technology, in that city.
Someone like Dan Teran, the CEO and co-founder of Managed by Q. Over the past five years, he’s built a business very much his way, focusing on things that truly mattered to him, such as good jobs where everyone, no matter their role, has a literal stake in the company. Today, this is a more popular notion, but it was antithetical when Dan was pushing it. And it wasn’t easy, but Dan built a business impressive enough that WeWork came knocking. Same with our friends at Anchor, with Spotify. And so on.
Anyway, just some thoughts I had on my flight back from NYC. I feel like folks building technology companies in the Bay Area can increasingly learn a lot from the entrepreneurs on that other coast.
Drinking: a Trappistes Rochefort 8 🍻

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M.G. Siegler

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