I'm testifying at New York City Council today on tech entrepreneurship and how the city can better support this community. I always want to represent and learn from those around me so I asked some of the best in the business. Through their insights and my experience combined, here are some thoughts going into the hearing.
1. Creative capital -- This city has maybe one of the highest pools of creative capital in the world. If anything, New York should be encouraging these hugely innovative people to take the leap to start their businesses (that statistically create more jobs). In order for this to happen, individuals need to have enough time and resources to focus on their ventures. Help with necessities like expensive health care, capital investments (computers, etc.), office space (even lawyers and accountants) would be a big burden lifted. But as the old adage goes, time is money.
2. Money -- it's not scarce in New York, yet the number of venture funds and angel investors in this sector are slim compared to counterparts in SF. It seems like the money here is locked up. Either those with the potential to invest don't understand what's going on or they just can't find it because they are so guarded (my opinion is the latter as I've met plenty of great potential investors who are very excited about social entrepreneurship once they get a glimpse of what it's all about). It's a question of education and I think that could happen most effectively by offering incentives to get involved in the space. New Orleans' tax credits (a sliding scale between 30 to 50 percent write off) of Angel investment in startups has been a boon to the sector. Events to facilitate interaction and education might also be helpful.
3. Media -- in New York is easy and there isn't much competition as far as getting your voice out. Thankfully, we've got that on our side.
4. University -- The potential for collaboration with learning institutions is untapped. Universities offer an enormous potential resource as far as time, facilities and talent to create new technologies. The Universities here are not as entrepreneurial as those in other cities like Boston. Creating bridges through incubators or even facilitating internships between startups would be beneficial for both sides.
5. Community -- This is one the city can support somewhat by getting behind initiatives like Internet Week, incentivizing conferences to come to the city, (even having more Wi-Fi around would help). In the end, this is a huge, yet organic piece of the puzzle (the reason Silicon Valley is what it is derives from community and knowledge sharing). In the end, NYC needs incentives for the community to move here, start up their own and grow what we've already got.
5. Social -- From the social entrepreneurship perspective, New York is the epicenter of some of the most creative companies working to support this particular community. Pop!Tech is in Brooklyn, TED is on the west side, Echoing Green which advises the Obama administration on the subject is headquartered here. If anything, the social entrepreneurs working here could potentially solve many of the problems the city is dealing with while generating income and creating jobs. Total win. The individuals themselves are already doing this, of course -- Ian Marvey and Rooftop Farms are providing food for the city, Hot Bread Kitchen has created a business giving women the chance to bake their native breads -- the list goes on. But if government was able to help scale or support more initiatives, we could be in a really amazing place.
All in all, the future looks bright. We just need to open up the stuffy doors and get the winds of change blowing through the city corridors. It's called NEW York for a reason. Time to live up to the novelty. (I'll report back more after the hearing.)
For those who want to follow, the New York City Council Technology in Government Committee is twittering from http://twitter.com/nycctechcomm.