So there was a fiery post from Antonio Garcia-Martinez on his company’s blog that hit Hacker News yesterday. The post was titled "New York will always be a tech backwater, I don’t care what Chris Dixon or Ron Conway or Paul Graham say". Charged, indeed.
I moved to New York two months ago to start full-time at blip.tv. I have also been fortunate enough to live in San Francisco and New York before (along with Seattle, Los Angeles, Düsseldorf and Berlin). Given that there’s a constant surplus of work to be done and not enough engineers to do it, it’s realistic to assume that I could have worked in any city I wanted in just about any industry (as long as I was designing software or pounding code in some capacity). Given that the Bay Area is so gung-ho on everything silicon, why did I choose New York City over Silicon Valley?
In short, New York City is more interesting and—I believe—better suited for the startup and a young guy’s lifestyle. While I was not one of the first employees at blip.tv, the startup lifestyle seems to be pretty standard up until about 40 people. So when Antonio railed on my chosen city for 1,000+ words, it’s difficult to not have a small existential crisis. Did I make the right choice? What if he’s right?
San Francisco is fun, don’t get me wrong. Compared to New York, it’s boring. I have trouble even thinking about living in an apartment in Mountain View, Cupertino or Palo Alto. Those places are socially dead. Getting out into the real world is an important thing to do once in awhile. Talking tech over microbrews with other startup founders doesn’t count. Most of the products and companies coming out of the Bay these days are… a little too optimistic.
Every once in awhile, you see a Google emerge from the Valley. But for every Google emerging from the Valley, there are ten thousand equally ambitious startups that fail. Some of them fail catastrophically. Bay Area startups are much bigger gambles than many NYC startups. Given the lifestyle in the City, products are much closer to the pavement and are a solution to a real-world problem from Day 1. Not some social network plaything.
I’ve got plenty of normal friends in New York. When I’m giddy about an idea, pitching it to someone that doesn’t spend 8+ hours per day on a computer can bring me back down to earth. The social component of a real city with museums, clubs, venues, pubs, bars and barcades is important. Is housing more expensive? Yes. Am I paying for a car? No. Am I saving a decent amount of money by not worrying about car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance? Very much so. New York really isn’t that much more expensive that the Valley, SF or LA if you compare them correctly.
I’ve never experienced the ibanker elitism that Antonio spends so much time lamenting over. That’s Wall Street. That’s part of New York, but that is not New York in its entirety. I’ve picked up that much in the two months I’ve been here. Many people are genuinely interested in you when you say that you work for a startup. And besides, if you’re expecting to have some sort of social status because you’re a
professional gambler startup employee, I’m guessing you’re in it for the wrong reasons. But what do I know? I’m only 23.