Op-Ed: Calling All NYC Entrepreneurs, It’s Our Time
Hello, from New York City’s first ever Entrepreneur at Large.
I’m a week into this new role.
The Entrepreneur at Large program is part of the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s ongoing efforts to encourage entrepreneurship.
So — why the need for this new role — and, one may ask, why me?
NYCEDC is the city’s main vehicle for promoting economic growth in all five boroughs. Already, New York City has a network of incubators in the five boroughs where the city provides low-cost office space, training and networking opportunities to hundreds of startups and small businesses. In addition, in 2010, NYCEDC launched the first city-sponsored seed and early-stage investment fund that is located outside of Silicon Valley; it will make up to $22 million available to New York City-based technology startups.
But among business types, startup entrepreneurs are a unique animal. We are fierce, independent, driven and inherently take risks. On the other hand, we’re also often untested, sometimes new to business, or new to the area in which we are working — and driven by what can’t be done as much as what can.
Simply said, the nature of entrepreneurs fits nicely into what most of us encounter on the subway every morning. Strong-willed, driven, elbow-throwing strivers who aren’t afraid to jockey for a seat.
We breed entrepreneurs here in NYC.
Today we’re standing at a critical turning point in technology and media. The building blocks of the digital world are in place. The open-source software, the cloud infrastructure, the low cost database technology and the collaboration software. We’ve built it, now it’s time to program it.
And programming means storytelling. So think about it — look at the startups growing like crazy in New York today: FourSquare, Tumblr, Bit.ly — all are certainly companies that require talented and innovative developers. They’re also about stories — about using New York’s unique population density and diversity to create software that turns extroverted New Yorkers into content creators.
NYC’s newly appointed Entrepreneur At Large Steve Rosenbaum gave a recent TEDx talk about how curation is the engine that makes the web work.
Which is to say: New York startups, this is our time. New York is ready to be the center of the technology universe. In the past three years we’ve grown an active and fast moving seed-stage venture community of venture capitalists and angel investors. We’ve grown an impressive list of rock star startups and grown the sources of revenue and resources available from Madison Avenue to mainstream media. Now we’re the home to nearly a dozen sexy startup communities — including incubators like General Assembly that give new ideas a place to grow and thrive. A collection of events from Internet Week to Social Media Week, to the Webby Awards all recognize and advance the story of the Startup Island. And don’t forget the most precious resource of all: the smarts. From NYU to Columbia to CUNY to the soon to be announced applied science campus, New York runs on brainpower.
So again, why me? How can I help to engage this vibrant and fast-moving community and act as a useful catalyst? First of all, government agencies don’t speak the same language as startups. During my first few weeks with the folks at NYCEDC I’ll be doing a lot of learning and listening. I’ll be getting the lay of the land with city agencies, asking the right questions to ensure that New York becomes a better place for startups. I’ll also be teaching and guiding the NYEDC to ask the right questions and helping to break down the language barrier between the government and New York’s startup community.
I’ll also be sharing what I know from personal experience with any of the companies that would like to learn from my mistakes (there are many) as a serial entrepreneur and would like to use me as a conduit to the various EDC initiatives.
My plan is to have information flow both ways. Startups need to share actionable information from the community with each other and with the EDC. Happily, it’s a part-time gig so I’m not leaving the startup world altogether. Far from it. I’m better positioned to help others while still running my latest venture, because New York City needs one of its own, someone in the throes of running a startup to help breed and nurture the next generation.
So if you’re thinking of moving out West, think again. You know you’re a New Yorker at heart. And if you’re reading this from Silicon Valley — hey, come on by for a visit. You’ll find a great community, great talent, great inspiration, and fertile soil to plant your big idea and watch it grow.
Steve Rosenbaum is the founder and CEO of Magnify.net, which powers video curation for more than 90,000 websites including New York Magazine, Patagonia, TEDx and Parenting.com. He is the author of “Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators.”