New York startups refused to be washed out by Sandy

Hurricane sandy has taken down datacentres and destroyed places of business, but many of the startups located in significantly affected Lower Manhattan are refusing to go down without a fight.

New York City businesses may have sustained significant disruptions, but many startups in the area are doing what they do best: finding different ways to get the city up and running again.

Many startups will be unable to re-open their doors as the recovery process begins in New York City, threatening their livelihood. But many entrepreneurs are not content to sit around and wait. Many have put the call out, organising among themselves to find temporary desk space in the area by using the Twitter hash tag #sandycoworking, listing themselves on PivotDesk, and using CrowdMap to plot the location of anyone that has space to spare.

Many have either dropped their rates due to the hurricane, or made desks available for free.

Squarespace and Fog Creek have taken a low-tech approach to its problems. Fog Creek's primary datacentre, Peer 1, is also located in the startup rich area of Lower Manhattan and had been set up with a few days of fuel for its diesel generators. However, flooding in the basement took out the fuel delivery system, strangling the supply of fuel. Fog Creek quickly moved one of its popular startup collaboration tools, Trello, to Amazon Web Services upon the bad news, but kept its other services in the datacentre.

To deal with the impending disaster, Squarespace, Fog Creek, and Peer 1 established a "bucket brigade" of 25 runners who manually carried bucket-loads of fuel to the generator on the 17th floor of the complex, to extend its service and keep them online. As of 11pm EST, the brigade had enough fuel stored and a plan in place to hopefully give them the time needed to pump water out of the basement and repair the original fuel delivery systems.

For those toughing it out in the region, startup Airbnb, which helps accommodation owners let their rooms or houses out, has said that it will waive all of its fees for any of the 20,000 listings in the areas affected by hurricane Sandy. While the cost of accommodation in these regions will be up to the individual owners, Airbnb is hoping that it will encourage hosts to at least pass the savings on to those that need it the most.

It's a lesson picked up by another controversial startup, Uber, which provides private car services on demand from a smartphone app. Its pricing model is partially based on the supply and demand of riders and drivers. In the current case, where public transport is in disarray and drivers are less likely to brave the streets, it meant that prices automatically doubled in some instances, raising the ire of New Yorkers who took to Twitter to express their outrage at either being hit while down and accuse Uber of profiteering of others' misfortune.

However, the startup quickly revised its pricing for riders to pre-"surge" rates, while keeping the rate of pay to drivers at increased rates to ensure that there would be enough incentive to stay on the road, and effectively taking on any loss in profit.


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