Why NYC Could be the New Tech Capital
The new site pulls together resources from all over the city.
Today (Feb. 19) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new program to encourage tech startups in the Big Apple, providing help in finding offices, broadband and job recruits. The new online resource, WeAreMadeinNY.com, also lists assets around the city to help people get into technology, from the Academy For Software Engineering high school to classes for seniors.
And this isn't to kick-start a nascent sector. New York City already has 900 tech startups, with 3,000 job openings. (And Kickstarter, by the way, is one of them.)
At one time, it was safe to assume that most tech companies, from chipmakers to meme makers, operated out of the San Francisco Bay Area. But if you have bought or sold on Etsy, gotten financial tips from LearnVest, made a doctor appointment on ZocDoc or tracked the latest cat memes on Buzzfeed, you've been dealing with New York companies.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, New York businesses tried to jump on the irrational exuberance of the tech bubble by coining the term "Silicon Alley," a play on the real home of tech in Silicon Valley. It was a stretch.
Those were the days when technology was measured in megahertz, gigabytes and kilobits per second. It was all about getting hardware that worked half decently: hard drives that could hold all the footage from (still analog) camcorders, enough processor power and RAM to keep a bunch of apps running smoothly, and graphics cards that wouldn't choke on the newest video games. New York didn't make anything tangible. It was just a city of ideas.
But technology has changed in 10 years, now focusing more on ideas — software, Web services and social networks — and less on hardware. It's not necessary to buy a computer every year or tear into one to upgrade the hardware.
The major game consoles get makeovers only about every five years (the latest round is upon us). And the old models still play the latest games with aplomb. [See also: Is it Too Soon for a PlayStation 4?]
Few people need to upgrade their hard drives anymore: apps run in the Web browser (Google Drive, Gmail, Mint.com), and all the music and videos are moving online to "the cloud" (YouTube, Pandora, Spotify), making them accessible even from a smartphone that has virtually no storage.
That smartphone is perhaps the biggest change. Even in this product area, the need to have the latest gear is subsiding. The iPhone 4s was pretty much the iPhone 4. The iPhone 5 is a little taller and thinner. Soon there will be a Samsung Galaxy S IV smartphone!
However, the desire to do more with the smartphones we have is growing incessantly. Mobile games are constantly hot. Photo and video apps like Instagram and Vine became overnight sensations.
With omnipresent GPS, location services make it possible to know exactly what events and attractions are around you. Foursquare (a New York company) kicked that off with its "check-in" service.
And while Facebook and Twitter are in the Bay Area, people are increasingly socializing and sharing on other sites, such as Buzzfeeed and Tumblr, or meeting in real life on Meetup.com, all New York companies.
And New York is even starting to build hardware. The city is especially big in the 3D-printing space, anchored by cheap printer-manufacturer MakerBot. But even in this area, the ideas are what matter. The items made by 3D printers, from figurines to food to gun parts, don't come out of factories or workshops. They come from digital files, in the cloud.