New York City matters to tech. It's also a place where the high-tech sector is largely tied into existing industries such as fashion (Gilt Groupe), marketing (Foursquare), and media (Tumblr). Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been outspoken in the past about diversifying New York's high-tech scene, and the city government has just unveiled a new tech job directory—Made in NY—that lists jobs from hundreds of local firms.
Bloomberg announced the initiative on Tuesday morning at Internet Week New York. At the press conference, NYC chief digital officer Rachel Sterne said the city government wants to attract engineers, programmers, coders, developers, and program managers from around the world—not just New York. The mayor then went on to criticize the H-1B Visa Cap that restricts foreign tech talent from entering the United States. Boosting and diversifying New York's tech sector has been one of Bloomberg's pet projects; a science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island was recently announced by Cornell University and Israel's Technion; the school (which was involved in a controversial bidding process) is expected to double the number of engineers graduating from the city's colleges and universities. Despite the robust tech efforts of NYU and Columbia University, New York has no nerd educational hub on the level of Stanford University or MIT.
The map launched with job info preloaded for over 325 tech firms, and also contains a visual guide to investors and coworking/incubator spaces. The investor roster mainly consists of A-list VC and financing firms (Union Square Ventures, Elevation Partners, Lerer Ventures) but also includes an impressive coworker/incubator space list that ranges from biggies like General Assembly to tiny coworking spaces in residential Brooklyn. NYC.gov created the map with the assistance of New York Tech Meetup members and the design was handled by Mike Bodge. Job information for the map is imported directly from the listings pages of participating companies—a challenge when it comes to future site maintenance.
A bigger issue for the growth of New York's tech sector is the wretched state of local broadband access. Although a much-vaunted recent study by the Center for the Urban Future said New York has the fastest-growing tech sector in the country, the same report said local broadband infrastructure rates a solid B-. Despite New York's status as the world's top business hub, technical factors make it difficult to acquire broadband redundancy—a must-have for many firms. Both FiOS and Time Warner Cable commercial broadband are regularly plagued by outages; Internet connection speeds also vary wildly from building to building. A larger issue is the fact that high-speed commercial Internet is severely limited in cheaper outlying neighborhoods—as tech firms who are leaving high-priced Silicon Alley and DUMBO for cheaper Greenpoint and Long Island City have found to their chagrin.
At the Internet Week press conference, Mayor Bloomberg ducked an audience question on the poor quality of broadband infrastructure. On-stage representatives from the city government said that a new broadband improvement announcement would be made in the coming weeks, but no details were given.
Mayor Bloomberg, as always, is an aggressive cheerleader for the city's tech sector. He riffed off an audience question by claiming that tech-heavy Manhattan neighborhoods like NoHo and Chelsea held the same allure for Internet entrepreneurs as Brighton Beach does for immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The Mayor's team also brought Josh Miller, the 21-year-old CEO of Branch, on stage. Branch moved from New York to Silicon Valley and back in the past year; on-stage, Miller boasted about how New York gives entrepreneurs far more opportunities than California. The CEO, who has raised millions in VC, also told the crowd how he “never had a real job” before starting Branch.
In the biggest surprise of the press conference, Bloomberg appeared to criticize Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for not giving enough to charity. After an audience member asked Bloomberg what he thought of the upcoming Facebook IPO, Bloomberg declined a direct answer and instead urged Zuckerberg to “give something back” and to engage more in philanthropic efforts. Perhaps Bloomberg was upset that Zuckerberg's philanthropic efforts are mainly west of the Hudson?
[Image: Flickr user Charley Lhasa]