Exploring New York's Tech Ecosystem
Where is the New York tech scene, and what does it feel like? One way to find out is to take a tour. You could begin at the lobby of the swanky Ace Hotel. The long tables are always crowded with young, hip New Yorkers with laptops, headphones and four-dollar coffees.
“I’m just trying to figure out who those people are and do they have jobs,” said Chip Morrow, a lawyer from Memphis, staying at the hotel while trying a prescription drug case. “I mean, I see laptops everywhere but I can’t figure out what everybody’s doing.”
What everybody was doing one afternoon included a whole range of digital activities: Saikat Chakrabarti was on a tight deadline working for payment processing start-up Stripe. Nasir Rasheed was just finishing a job interview for his experiential marketing company, Neverstop. Adam Rokhsar was working on a music programming effect he hopes to sell some day.
A very different slice of the New York tech scene could be found at 10 Jay Street, in an office building in Brooklyn overlooking the water. The design studio Studiomates doesn’t necessarily feel like part of the tech scene. When I arrived, I interrupted a discussion about a tech conference run by members of the space—Brooklyn Beta—but the discussion was over what kind of pie to serve.
“I mean, I guess that we are tech,” said Jessi Arrington, a designer wearing green pastel pants and a bowtie in her favorite color—rainbow. “I mean, everybody’s making their living on the Internet pretty much. But Tina’s making temporary tattoos.”
Tina is Tina Roth Eisenberg—aka Swiss Miss—designer and founder of Studiomates. Down the hall is her new company Tattly, where drawers are filled with “designy” temporary tattoos of everything from rainbows to pugs riding bicycles.
“We sell them at more than 300 stores around the world,” she said. “And we just got into Urban Outfitters, and we’re talking to some more big chains.”
Studiomates is one of many coworking spaces around the city—offices spaces where many companies and entrepreneurs cohabitate—each with its own personality.
“My personal philosophy is that co-working is a lot like dating, so not everyone is the right fit for you,” says Nsi Obotetukudo, evangelist at a new coworking space near Penn Station called AlleyNYC. “I mean we honestly think we’re the best fit for everyone. Because we’re a kick-ass space. We’re like the cockiest person you know. But that’s because we are awesome.”
At “The Alley” there is street art on the wall and fortune cookies with start-up advice—“Confucius say, ‘If idea not working, pivot’”— in the lobby. When you pass someone in the halls, there’s a tradition of giving high fives. And every Thursday, there’s even a yoga class.
It’s all part of creating an environment for young businesses to thrive.
“If you start early and hit that wall, you need something to keep you going,” says Obotetukudo. “So high fives help. But so does yoga.”