NYC builds unified voice for city’s startups

By: Ernie Smith

A new organization dedicated to New York City’s technology scene—founded by the CEO of AOL and one of the city’s most prominent venture capitalists—hopes to expand the startup world’s influence locally.

New York City is a big place, but its technology scene is about to get a lot more tight-knit.

This week, an array of startups and major tech companies joined in the creation of Tech:NYC, a new trade group that will represent the interests of the industry in dealings with the local and state governments.

Led by famed venture capitalist Fred Wilson and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, the group includes both household names (Uber, Facebook, Google, Kickstarter) and smaller players that carry a lot of influence in the city’s tech scene (1776, General Assembly, theSkimm, AppNexus).

Part of the reason for the group’s formation, Wilson and Armstrong explain, is that its members have been asked to take on a larger role in local and regional affairs, which has been challenging to maintain.

“These requests have become more demanding in recent years, which is not sustainable,” Wilson and Armstrong wrote in a blog post. “Even more importantly, we feel that the NYC tech community deserves a more formal and representative organization to represent itself before local and state governments and the business community and civic sector.”

A DIVERSITY OF INDUSTRIES

The group’s executive director is Julie Samuels, a former Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney who served as the first executive director for Engine, a national group with goals similar to Tech:NYC. She remains board president for Engine.

In an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Samuels noted that the diversity of the industries in NYC offers a major advantage to startups.

“Something in particular that is so unique to tech here is because so many other industries are based here,” Samuels explained. “Because we have, you know, the banks, and fashion, and advertising, and media, it allows for all these tech companies to not just grow in this kind of traditional startup, build-a-tool way, but but to grow in all of these industries as well. That is so special about New York, and it’s something that we really hope to celebrate.

SUCCESS AND FAILURE

The collaborative industry group could help the New York startup industry work through some of its shakier moments. The New York Times notes that the companies Quirky and Fab, both based in New York, are among two of the most notable failures in the startup space.

Foursquare, a member of Tech:NYC, has mostly shaken off the trend, but the company recently had its valuation cut in half after a down funding round. But few companies based in the city have had true breakout moments—with Etsy, which went public last year, and Tumblr, which sold to Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013, being the two most notable exceptions.

Tech:NYC could help matters for startups by pushing for tax breaks and affordable housing—the latter is a major pain point in Silicon Valley. If it plays its cards right, the group could even attract more companies that got their start on the West Coast.

“New York is in a competition to be where start-ups are going to locate and bigger tech companies are going to grow second and third offices,” Samuels told the Times.

Tech:NYC won’t be alone in attempting to attract business to the city. A similar group for urban manufacturers, Made in NYC, has ramped up its marketing.

View source version on AssociationsNow.com