Going Beyond Early Promises, NY Works On Its Follow-Through (Part 2):
"What’s Next for the New York Ecosystem?"

For cities to truly thrive in this economy, fresh ideas must be cross-pollinated from beyond their borders—and New York offers its share of honey to lure in startups. This international gateway can be the place for companies to break into the U.S. market, meet new collaborators, and tap the resources of well-heeled investors.

A panel drawn from the city’s innovation scene, venture capital community, and mayoral administration gathered Thursday to discuss “What’s Next for the New York Ecosystem.” This was part of a daylong event presented by the Worldwide Investor Network, which helps international technology startups find funding and other support to enter the U.S. Addressing an audience of largely international entrepreneurs, it was a chance to hear how startups from abroad can be part of the city’s growth.

The panel comprised David Aronoff, general partner with Flybridge Capital Partners; Jessica Lawrence, executive director of New York Tech Meetup; and Benjamin Branham, chief of staff with the New York City Economic Development Corp.

Aronoff heads up Flybridge’s New York office, which opened a bit more than a year ago. He said the firm, though headquartered in Boston, is rather familiar with the innovation community here. Aronoff and some other members of the Flybridge team were with Greylock Partners during the prior tech boom. “[Greylock] started investing in the New York tech scene with DoubleClick,” Aronoff said. “At the time, the Internet was nascent and the idea of investing in a tech company in Manhattan was really a strange concept.”

Though the first tech bubble burst, he said he did not stop coming to New York. “There was something that started then, this kernel that has really continued to blossom,” Aronoff said. Starting about six years ago, partners from Flybridge spent more and more time in New York, he said, and in 2010 the firm’s deal flow here began to rival its deals in Boston. “Now more than half of our deal flow is in New York,” he said.

Benjamin Branham, Jessica Lawrence, and David Aronoff discuss New York's technology ecosystem.

The various efforts to train more homegrown engineers over the next decade are changing the city, Aronoff said. “The mayor’s legacy is going be transforming New York into a true tech center,” he said. “That’s the reason why we’re back.”

New York Tech Meetup’s Lawrence has been championing not only the monthly tech demos hosted by her organization but also the local innovation community’s presence. She said NYTM’s membership has grown from 15,000 in April 2011, when she became part of the team, to currently more than 32,000. “The trajectory has been insane,” she said. “I feel like I joined the organization right at that point when tech industry and community in the city was really taking off.”

The idea of community, she said, plays a substantial role in the growth of the tech industry in the city. Lawrence said members of NYTM turn to each other to find resources and advice. Each month New York Tech Meetup lets innovators demo ideas in front of an always-packed theater of some 800 people, with more watching remotely via video simulcast. The organization’s influence extends far beyond the monthly presentations. “Our meetup has led to a lot of others,” she said. “There are over 650 tech-related meetups in the city.”

Perceptions of the city have evolved, Lawrence said, as more tech talent gathers here. “We started a list of companies being engineered in New York to combat the … Next Page »

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