Raise Cache and the New New York

I was at the “Raise Cache” fashion show to benefit HackNY last night at the armory on Lexington. A few things occurred to me:

  1. This event could not have happened or even been contemplated five years ago in NYC
  2. The crowd was almost exclusively 21-35 year olds
  3. There were very few if any poseurs there. Much of the crowd were legitimate entrepreneurs running and/or managing established startups from Thrillist to BaubleBar to Birchbox to Sailthru
  4. The place was packed!

That’s when it really hit me. No, not that “New York has made it.” That already happened at least in the eyes of most industry and media observers twelve months ago. What really struck me is that New York has its own scene now.

For background, I’ve worked in startups and VC in New York, Silicon Valley and Chicago. I’ve gotten a pretty good sense over the past decade what each is like, but up until a couple months ago I hadn’t lived in NYC in a while. For the past four years I took a little sojourn and spent a couple years at a startup in the Valley and a couple getting an MBA and working in VC in Chicago. 

Unlike five or so years ago, New York now feels both extraordinarily vibrant and authentic. The event itself was a fashion show. It was young and full of 21-35 year old urbanites. The companies in attendance were authentically New York representing many of the industries headquartered in New York including fashion (Birchbox, BaubleBar, Bonobos, RentTheRunway, Gilt, etc.), advertising (SailThru, OnSwipe, etc.) and media (Thrillist, Business Insider, Tumblr, TurnTable.fm, etc.). On top of that, New York now has its own set of homegrown heros to look up to. The folks coming down the catwalk and seated around it in the VIP chairs, from Fred Wilson of USV to David Tisch of TechStars NYC to Carter Cleveland of Art.sy, create a sense of community and shared identity that really brings people together in our already dense urban jungle and makes things tick. 

My point is not that last night’s event couldn’t have physically happened in the Bay Area. Of course you could find hundreds of folks in SF to get together to celebrate tech, but it would have been different. Different is neither good nor bad. Different is New York not trying to be “a mini-Silicon Valley” (something we are often accused of) which we would surely fail at. New York now has its own tech thing going on. I think this means NY will evolve on a completely different and new trajectory from the Valley. The rules and specific ingredients required for the Valley’s growth and the characteristics those produced do not need to be replicated in NY. Just like Facebook did not follow HP’s path from garage to IPO, New York doesn’t need to follow the Valley’s path from fruit orchards to tech Mecca.

The New York Tech Scene has not only arrived, but it is different and it is defining its own trajectory. It is characteristically and unabashedly New York.


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