Why New York City?

The recent development of the local technology scene has pushed swissnex Boston to expand its activities to the New York area. But what is so unique about the New York innovation ecosystem? A mix of economic and historical reasons have led the city to transition towards a strong innovation economy.

 

The last ingredients of the NYC Tech scene success is the public support of the Bloomberg administration. In the direct aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg – himself a successful tech entrepreneur – launched several initiatives to boost the growth of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in NYC, as a way to diversify the industrial landscape. The most ambitious project of its administration is definitely the construction on Roosevelt Island (Manhattan) of the Cornell Tech NYC campus, a satellite office of Cornell University dedicated to engineering sciences. The campus aims to nurture the raising start up scene with talented engineers, while fostering the creation of new tech companies in the metropolitan area.

 

New York's excellence in education and research

Historically, the greater New York area has been an academic center of excellence with three Ivy League Schools (Columbia, Yale and Princeton University) within a radius of 75 miles around Manhattan as well as top ranked universities such as New York University or Rockefeller University. Following the influence that Stanford had on the emergence of the Silicon Valley cluster, the universities of the NYC area have been playing an increasing role in catalyzing inventions and bridging the local scientific and business communities through entrepreneurship programs and tech transfer initiatives. The Cornell Tech campus that will be built in downtown Manhattan (read below) illustrates the prominent role of New York schools in the local innovation economy. The quality of science and academic research in the New York area has also contributed to the development of a strong life sciences cluster in nearby New Jersey, host of many major global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

 

Creativity drives innovation

New York has always been among the most innovative cities in the world. Besides the strong financial sector, its economy rests mostly on creativity-driven industries, like advertising, media, fashion and design. The transition to the digital economy in the early 2000's has revitalized those historically strong sectors and empowered a new generation of entrepreneurs in the fields of digital media, e-commerce and consumer web, which took advantage of the proximity to the industry giants to get started in New York City. The success of the advertising platform DoubleClick (sold to Google in 2007) or the e-commerce website Gilt Groupe has marked the emergence of Silicon Alley heavyweights. Among the more recent success stories: the blogging platform Tumblr and the social media Foursquare.

Additionally, the dominant financial sector has been playing a key role in the emergence of NYC tech scene. Since the computerization of trading in the 1980’s, Wall Street has been a driver for innovation in information technology. Among a plethora of accelerator programs and co-working spaces, New York hosts a few incubators only dedicated to start-ups active in the financial services. After the crisis of 2008, private or corporate investors in New York turned to angel/seed investments or venture capital as an alternatives to market finance. Since 2008, the amount of VC deals in New York has increased by 32% - more than anywhere else in the nation. Access to funding is a strong argument for New York in its efforts to lure innovative companies.

Leveraging all of these contributing factors, New York is one of the most cosmopolitan agglomerations in the world. It’s a sample of the world market and having your product validated by consumers in NYC is a promising step toward going global.