New York as tech startup center: Silicon Alley redux?

'Palo Alto is like Google -- big and established. New York City is like Foursquare -- not as big and growing...'

In the late 1990s, as the dot-com industry was in the throes of its legendary boom, many startups flocked to and established themselves in the offices, lofts, and converted warehouses of New York City. "Silicon Alley" was fueled by technical talent from Wall Street and the banks, combined with NYC's abundant supply of creative talent.

In a new post at the Wall Street Journal site, Alexander Holtz asks whether a new startup boom is taking root in New York.  Along with the overflowing tech talent from Wall Street and overflowing creative business talent from everywhere else, NYC offers another plus: a gigantic market of potential customers.

And he quotes Carter Cleveland, CEO of the art-trading website Art.sy, who recently moved from Palo Alto, California, to New York: “Palo Alto is like Google. Big and established. New York City is like Foursquare. Not as big but tons of hype. It’s going through a growth period and very exciting.”

While actual comparative data on startups and business creation in Palo Alto versus New York is not readily available, Holtz lists several reasons why New York feels better than the West Coast right now for startups:  there's a vibrant, entrepreneurial community, greater support coming in from the educational community and city government.

And, most importantly, there appears to be venture capital:

"Although nationwide VC investment dropped in the first quarter of this year, in New York City it was up almost 20 percent, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. The second quarter saw investment in media, entertainment and software triple in New York compared with last year."

Is the startup excitement of the tech sector, famously a part of Silicon Valley and its Sand Hill Road, moving back east?  Or is this a case of New Yorkers not really seeing what's happening west of the Hudson?  (Remember the classic New Yorker view of the world that shows Manhattan in detail, with all west of the Hudson River -- New Jersey, distant Pacific and Asia -- relegated to the outer edge?

Also, with the technology and global networking services we now have in place, does it even really matter where individuals and companies set up shop?  As noted at this blogsite a few months back, while it often seems the bulk of the economic action is concentrated on the coasts, there’s a story slowly unfolding that suggests our networked economy is supporting a new breed of immigrants to cities deeper within the heartland. Places such as Boise, Idaho also offer greater opportunities with all the connectivity required to grow a global business.

But still, a lot of people need and love to be where the action is.

(Photo: NY World Financial Center, by author.)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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