Outsiders, Insiders & Disruptive Technology
I spent Sunday at the first-ever NYC video hack day. It was awesome. So many startups. So much energy.
After the masses demo’d at General Assembly, an old friend approached me: “Dude, so do you miss it? Do you miss New York?”
I thought for a second, then looked him in the eye: “Not at all.”
“Really?” he asked, a bit surprised.
“Yeah man, as a city, I love New York, but there’s no place like the Valley. My only regret is that I didn’t leave sooner.”
His brow furrowed. He shot me a dubious look, then the moment passed. We clanked beers and moved on.
I’ve been thinking about this exchange all day. What is it about the Valley that’s so special? New York is awesome––the bars are better, the city is cleaner, the women are hotter––but there’s something in the air that doesn’t jibe with me. And that’s when it came to me…
New York is for insiders. San Francisco is for outsiders.
Think about it. The New York tech scene derives its competitive advantage by being close to other industries: Fashion. Media. Finance. Art. Advertising. The list goes on.
As a general rule, successful New York startups have:
-Created technologies that sustain and grow other industries
-Focused on customers first, technology second
Example #1: Art.sy. They work with super high-end art galleries to put their inventory online, make it discoverable and drive business to their established money-making schemes. Art.sy is NOT disrupting the art world. Quite the opposite.
Example #2: Tumblr. Big brands love Tumblr. Even creaky ole’ Newsweek has a Tumblr. (I have a Tumblr too!) Tumblr is servicing and partnering with the established order, not telling it to fuck off. And that’s the right move. Those guys are smart.
Example #3: DoubleClick. Ad tech for Madison Avenue. Also a multi-billion dollar company! Not too shabby.
If I’m right, the implication is that, in the long term, the winning companies in New York will be led primarily by insiders with relevant professional experience. Or, barring that, by people who are really good at networking with the old guard and schmoozing with insiders.
That was never me.
Silicon Valley, for better or worse, is the opposite: Fuck the status quo. Fuck the old guard. Disrupt! Disrupt! Technology first, customers second.
I like this paradigm. It fits me well.