When our start-up, Dashlane, started working on building our product in Paris, we knew that our success or failure would be decided in the United States. The world in general and certainly the Internet in particular are now fully globalized -- but innovation, capital, and talent are much more concentrated in America, which is also the single largest unified consumer market. With a product like ours, which is by nature truly global, conquering the U.S. first would make us a very tough competitor to displace.
By 2011, when our team and product was ready to look for institutional funding, we knew we wanted target American venture capitalists. In tech, the United States is still the heart of the industry.
Having lived and worked in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, I have a good understanding of the major hubs for innovation in America. These were all incredible places, so different from each other, and so different from Paris, when I was born and raised.
When the time came to think about where our ship should land, the two obvious options were San Francisco and New York, or the Valley vs. the Alley. We had not yet raised our series A round, and our founding investor Bernard Liautaud (founder and CEO of Business Objects, sold to SAP for $6.8 billion in 2007) had lots of ties and contacts in Silicon Valley, so that seemed to be the natural destination. And there are worse things in life, after all, than drinking an espresso on the Sausalito harbor on a sunny weekend morning.
Yet I felt drawn to New York. At first the attraction was purely visceral. New York is like Rome 2000 years ago, the capital of an empire. The noise, the level of energy, the dirt, the cold, the heat. It all feels like the core of the engine. It's 24/7. Every food, every product, every culture, every race on the planet can be found in New York. No one is a foreigner in New York.
And in New York, you walk. Your rapport with the terrain is like nowhere else; you measure distances with your bones and your muscles. You build a physical relationship to the city. When I left New York to return to Paris a few months after 9/11, I was sad and deeply moved and swore I would come back.
But we ultimately picked to establish our company in New York over the Bay Area not for its personal appeal, but because we truly believe that the tech scene in New York offered us more than the more established one out west.
First, we knew that we would keep our tech team in France for quite some time. Engineering talent there is fantastic, and the team was already big enough that moving everyone to the U.S. would have been a nightmare. Having run companies with one foot in Europe and one foot in the States before, I had painful memories of relationships and travel between the West Coast and Europe; too many miles and too many time zones.
Second, for a consumer tech start-up like Dashlane, the New York tech scene clearly rivals that of San Francisco. Foursquare, Tumblr, Meetup, and Boxee were all founded in New York; even established companies like Google, Twitter and now Facebook are building massive presences here. The change from 10 years ago is truly impressive.
Yet in spite of the exciting growing tech scene here, in New York there is this incredible sense of diversity, whereas Silicon Valley feels so much more uniform. Everyone is tied to tech; nearly everyone has been or is working on a startup project. You cannot go into a café in SOMA or Menlo Park or the Mission without hearing people talk about their next startup gig.
New York remains the capital of media, finance, advertising, retail, and this is of tremendous value to the tech scene here, because we cannot help but be pushed out of our bubble and think more creatively. Because we want Dashlane to be a "tech company" that breaks with the mold of what that means, we decided New York was where we needed to be.
And in the end, my brain is still part of my body. And since my body really wanted to walk up and down the streets of Manhattan again, it helped my brain realize that New York City is the best place in America right now for a tech start-up.
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