TEXT OF INTERVIEW
KAI RYSSDAL: Six months ago, a job Six months ago, job posting went up on the City of New York’s online bulletin boards: Mayor Michael Bloomberg was looking for a Chief Digital Officer.
Today he found one. Rachel Sterne, tech entrepreneur and social media consultant, has gotten the job.
Rachel, it’s good to talk to you.
RACHEL STERNE: Thank you. Good to be here.
RYSSDAL: So a lot of companies have chief digital officers — this company does, many others do. What does the chief digital officer for a city do?
STERNE: Well, in this role my primary goal is to look at how we can use digital technologies to better serve our citizens. Those are, in business talk, our customers. So that’s our goal. And in line with that, another thing that I’m going to be focusing on is how can we save our taxpayers money by making our city services more efficient and more responsive. And also in line with that is to look at how I can continue to support our growing and thriving digital start-up scene here.
RYSSDAL: Well, let’s explore that a little bit. How much will you be working with new tech firms in New York, the folks down in Silicon Alley, and all those guys?
STERNE: In terms of a percentage, I couldn’t really give you a number. But it will certainly be a regular and very important part of my role, which is to make sure that we’re listening to the private sector, to entrepreneurs, and digital executives to see how we can help make sure their companies are growing and they’re getting both the staff resources and the investment opportunities that they need.
RYSSDAL: Well let’s take a personal example. You founded a citizen journalism site called GroundReport. It’s been doing pretty well. What could the city of New York have done to make it easier for you to get going?
STERNE: I mean, as an entrepreneur, it really does come down to you. But I do know that if we are going to look at something that the city can help to support, the number one challenge that I faced as an entrepreneur — and that I hear from a lot of the entrepreneurs in New York City — is finding great, strong engineers, developers to help staff their companies. So while we have a really strong, creative workforce here in New York, there are also incredible, incredible developers and engineers, but the trick is making sure that we’re connecting them to all these employment opportunities and making sure that we’re attracting them to New York City, which was recently named number one for young entrepreneurs.
RYSSDAL: How do you do that though? The city is heavy on finance. It’s heavy on media and fashion. How do you make it innovation and technology and digital savvy and heavy?
STERNE: Well for all the reasons and all the incredible industries in New York City that you just mentioned, that’s what makes New York such an amazing place for the sort of next wave of growth on the web and in the technology sector, which is already underway.
RYSSDAL: Here’s another thought: New York City is a good place to be for technology, entrepreneurs because that’s where the money is, right? You’ve got VCs there, you’ve got Wall Street.
STERNE: Yes, absolutely. In terms of investment, and more and more we’re seeing that there’s enormous amount of investment going into New York City start-ups. As Mayor Bloomberg mentioned in his State of the City address, New York just surpassed Boston to become the number two region in the United States for venture investment. So that’s really an enormous amount of growth and we’re looking to see that grow even further.
RYSSDAL: Rachel Sterne, the brand-new chief digital officer for the city of New York. Rachel, thanks a lot.
STERNE: Thank you so much.
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