I just spent a week in NYC. What the city did vis a vis crime reduction between the 80s and 90s it did vis a vis start ups between the 00s and the 10s. It’s a whole new tech scene here. And it’s very new.

I remember when I invested in the first round of Tumblr with John Borthwick the tech scene in NYC was minimal. And that was as recently as 2007. On this trip I visited General Assembly and it was buzzing, and they are not the only nurturing grounds for entrepreneurship, there are many as well as many start ups who are making it big.  Also what has happened in the last decade is that now Brooklyn is not a lesser cousin but an integral part of NYC as well and there are a lot of start ups and tech people who live there.  It is interesting to see how Brooklyn has made it and NJ has not considering that they are both a river crossing away, but Brooklyn has a history and beauty that is tough to compete with.

Here’s a short and random list of reasons why I believe NYC is making it:

-when you leave work you have a lot to do.

-NYC is more environmental than the life in your car Silicon Valley. The ecofootprint of a New Yorker in his high rise apartment is lower than that one of a SV techie in his house in Palo Alto.

-NYC is way more than tech.

-NYC is half way between SV and Europe and SV is in theory closer to Asia but flying times are the same.

-Bloomberg, who had his own financial internet before the internet really gets it and is promoting NYC as a tech town every week, indeed this week he was at Tumblr promoting his tech friendly policies.

NYC is now a true rival to Silicon Valley and that is great news. Chicago is also happening I hear, thanks to GroupOn, not my favorite start up but still a force. And then there is London with Spotify, Badoo and many others.  Overall I think that what happened to USA in the last few decades is happening to Silicon Valley now.  SV is still number one but in relative terms shrinking in relevance. NYC, London, Berlin, TelAviv, Tokyo, Shanghai/Beijing/Taipei, Bangalore, all valid alternative places for tech start ups.

I lived in NYC for 18 years, between 1977 and 1995.  Now when I visit I realize that I owe a lot to that city, my education, my first successful ventures.  Would I move Fon to NYC? Well we decided to open our US office there and not in SV.  But for us, the engineering talent we find in Spain would be hard to replicate in NYC.  Spain as troubled as it is, is a great place in which to have your start up.  With 47% youth unemployment and many talented young people if you have a great project you can get the engineers you need for it. It is true that Spanish work ethics are not as good as the American work ethic, but people are realizing that either they truly work or the country will sink.  And the attitude is better now than a few years ago.  So while I won’t move back to NYC for now I will go more frequently.  There are too many admirable people there!

Correction, after writing this post Daniel Ek contacted me to say that NY has become so attractive for Spotify that now they have more employees in NYC than London. I also forgot to mention that large companies like Google and now Facebook have very sizable offices in NYC.


Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Epirot Ludvik Nekaj on February 19, 2012  · 

Thank you Martin for hearting NYC. indeed, NYC Loves You. I wish I knew you were here, we are just block away from General Assembly. Well, as you said you’ll be back soon. looking forward.


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Adan on February 19, 2012  · 

Martin, check out “The Next Big Sound.” They’re about to open an office in NYC. It’s got great potential.

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Pablo on February 19, 2012  · 

I imagine the cost of hiring is also much higher in NYC compared to Madrid. But it is good to know things are diversifying.

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Martin Varsavsky on February 19, 2012  · 

Technology is not an industry in which saving money on people yields more profits. Technology as we know it is a winner takes all or almost all market. It is an industry made of category killers. So you don’t really save if you get employees in Madrid who just cost you less, indeed you may sink your industry. Fon is the largest WiFi network in the world now not because we save on employees but because we get the best in the world and either bring them to London or Madrid or find them in those cities. As it happened with football there are other industries in which Spain does have the best people in the world and it is our job to find them and keep them happy at Fon.

Alfonso de la Nuez on February 19, 2012  · 

Muy interesante, Martín. How about getting the best of 3 worlds? A SV office, NYC and one in Barcelona? 😉 That’s what we’re thinking as part of our growth plan.

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Eduardo Lina on February 20, 2012  · 

Here is another example of a post by means of which I learn a lot from you (it has not been the only one, indeed). To put it simply, for a person such as me who is not part of the Entrepreneurial / Business / Technology Industry or world, you open up windows that allow me to glimpse into it. Thanks for that.
And now, to the point: I wonder if you know of books that describe this phenomena of Start – Up cities / areas / countries such as those you mentioned in this post. I have come across “A Start-Up Nation” and found it interesting. Do you know of any other?
I guess I should follow the blogs you follow to learn a bit about that, but in the meantime, I prefer books (and might get them at the University where I study, who knows?)
I am just curious and also like to spend time learning (had I been very religious, I might have found my way into a Yeshiva – the eternal “Yeshiva Buches”, albeit with due respect for those who really are such, but I am not).
Congrats for Mia!

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paco ortega on February 20, 2012  · 

Thanks for believe in spanish people¡¡¡ Now we need some help an recover our pride.

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Manuel on February 20, 2012  · 

Thanks Martin for sharing your point of view, I really enjoy reading your blog.

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Eduardo Lina on February 21, 2012  · 

Hi Martin! Having just finished writing the exam and papers I had as a student, and before getting those I will give to my high school pupils ready, I took some time to browse (just that) that long list of blogs you favor. I see now why you say you read a lot (but not books). Some blogs are puzzling for more reasons I might write down.
I have noticed that at least one of those blog writers whose blogs you follow is about to finish writing a book (see: http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/ ). I know Martin you once mentioned that you had considered the possibility of writing your book, yet you dropped the idea. It’s a pity: you could write the book on the subject I mentioned in my previous comment on this post. I guess you could contribute ideas on many other subjects, too. I am sure (well, I guess) there will be readers waiting for it

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