Whether or not NYC is the next tech mecca, my moving here is not a reflection on that, one way or the other. I am here for mostly personal reasons. It's where I grew up. It feels like it's where I belong right now, so this is where I am.
In business I like to follow the example of San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh, one of the winningest coaches in history, and also one of the most modest. If you asked Coach Walsh did he think his team would clobber the Dolphins or the Bengals in the Super Bowl, he would tell you the other guys were the best team to ever take the field in the history of the sport. The Niners would be lucky to score a single touchdown against such a formidable opponent.
They do the same thing in politics, always set the expectation a notch below reality. We should do this in tech too. Let the other guy do the blustering. Make sure your team and its supporters know that victory is going to be hard. The other guy wouldn't have gotten so far if he wasn't great. Let the other guy know he has your respect. Maybe he'll relax. ">
Now, with that in mind -- it pays to read Matt Mireles's piece that explains why Silicon Valley is still the place for bright entrepreneurs with a world-changing idea to build a team and get financing. He's probably right about that. But it may not be the best place to incubate the next layer of technology, in fact it almost certainly isn't.
I have some experience with that, because in 1979, as a bright young person probably a lot like Matt, I moved west from Madison to Mountain View to seek fame and fortune as a software entrepreneur. The road was a lot rougher than I thought it would be, but within ten years I had founded a company and participated in an IPO and realized the dream that a lot of people still have today, which I think is good.
When I started my second company, in 1988, also in Silicon Valley -- the industry was approaching a level of maturity that, in tech, warns of a looming implosion. I was too young and inexperienced to know this, but the signs were everywhere. A few years before if you had a good idea, you could ship a product, promote it, build a user base, and find liquidity. Now the dominant companies had grown so big they were starting to choke the ecosystem. And the entrepreneurs who were showing up were less the bright-eyed engineers with big ideas, and more of the carpetbagging MBAs with pyramid schemes. Gotta say the VCs typically went for the MBAs. The era of the engineer, if it wasn't over, was certainly waning.
But even then, everyone thought the future of the tech world was being hatched in Silicon Valley. The only problem was, with the benefit of hindsight, the future of the tech world was actually being hatched in Switzerland.
And in the next implosion, the rebooting tech was being developed by curmudgeons who didn't look like MBAs and sure didn't sound like them, so the bright guys of the Valley missed it. (I'm talking about blogging and social media, of course.)
So that says to me that NYC, with its incredibly huge pool of fresh talent, which is its advantage -- this is the largest metro area in the United States, and one of the largest in the world -- shouldn't be thinking about competing with Silicon Valley. They do what they do very well for a reason.
What we can do here, though, is iterate on the vision for the next level of tech, which I feel intuitively involves the humanities and media, as much as it will involve memory, batteries and input devices. When we need financing, we can turn to local sources, or we can get on that plane and teach the investors of the west coast how to come to JFK, which they all want to do anyway. I think there are enough people here now with the right idea so that the chance of booting up the next level is pretty good. It is not in any way a certainty -- there are plenty of other geographies with a lot going for them.