Working at startup companies has become the new norm, which means media has turned its attention to satirizing and dramatizing what goes on behind the scenes at these auteur-driven companies. Mike Judge, famous for King of the Hill, Idiocracy, and the original workplace satire, Office Space, turned his wry, zany sense of humor and style to startups through the lens of the hit HBO series Silicon Valley. Although many of Judge’s storylines hit close to home for tech startups (a lot of colleagues and friends have cited the show as being “too real”), the show can only capture so much of the startup culture since it’s based on the West Coast, which is just a portion of the big picture.
What goes on behind the top tech companies and startups in NYC, however, is a different story altogether. New York City was just named the Best Smart City of 2016 at the Global Smart City Awards. With the fastest wi-fi for all with Link NYC only improving and expanding as well as the the greatly lauded takeoff of the .nyc domain, New York City has quickly become the haven for startups looking to grow their ideas into fully realized, viable products.
Money Talks, Dreams Walk
“When you marry the cultures of startups and New York City, you have an intensely different beast from anything in California, emphasis on “intense.”
– VC Yuval Ariav
There are significant differences between the Silicon Alley and Silicon Valley. VC Yuval Ariav says that “West Coast founders are typically bigger dreamers, very often at the expense of having a solid, grounded, viable monetization plan.” Mr. Ariav’s notion is illustrated vividly in the most recent season of Silicon Valley, where the protagonist’s vision for his company’s app is changed into a box in order to make more money for everyone involved. In this way, a West Coast startup focuses its attention on dreams and lofty ideas, which does not coalesce greatly with the practicality and financial groundedness and viability of an NYC business.
Following whichever avenue to make the most revenue is a NY ideal as posited by NYC entrepreneur Tristan Louis. He states that
“New York tech companies are looking to generate high returns…by establishing businesses with stable and easily understandable path[s] to revenue.”
In NYC, money talks; having a great idea and ambitions for expansion is great as long as those also make (more) money.
More Than Tech, Life is Bursting at The Seams
Whereas Silicon Valley is almost exclusively focused on creating the next big thing in tech, NYC startup companies insert themselves into markets that were formerly nonexistent or just on the brink of exploding. For example, Blue Apron took the subscription model of streaming services and combined it with fresh foods for easy cooking, all of which greatly appealed to the millennial working class who live by Netflix and Hulu but don’t have enough time in the day to spend preparing meals. Noticing the trend in subscription-based models and combining that with the market research of millennials eating out more than cooking and dining in, Blue Apron essentially created its own audience by appealing to a niche that did not previously exist.
Because New York startups are surrounded by various industry bigwigs and peers, creating the newest “it thing” in tech that will revolutionize life is not an NYC startup’s priority. With the constant competition and array of other industries surrounding them, New York startups often focus more on the social impact and how their respective companies will work in conjunction with others to improve everyone’s future.
Silicon Valley startups may be determining how people and technology fit together in the future; NYC startups are seeking to determine how to make the best future with what already surrounds us.
This social aspect does not stop at the types of startups that excel in NYC. With a vibrant nightlife in the city that never sleeps, there is always something to do in New York. Whereas West Coast startups might be more focused on achieving a proper work-life balance, and Silicon Valley companies specifically want you to work and little else, NYC defines the saying “work hard, play hard.”
At its core, the NYC startup culture is an amalgamation of New York City ideals and values (e.g., hard work, efficiency, goal-oriented) with the DIY nature of startups. The people who support startups at the ground level have great ideas and ambitions; but what they also have is the drive to succeed and unbending fortitude to turn their ideas into a successful product with viable financial outputs.