“I believe that more and more Stanford graduates will find themselves moving to Silicon Alley, not only because we’re the hottest new tech scene in the country, but also because there’s more to do on a Friday night than go to the Pizza Hut in Sunnyvale.”
In his Commencement address at Stanford University a few weeks ago, New York City’s poster boy Michael Bloomberg couldn’t help but add a little plug for his hometown. And his words are backed by actions. Under Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure as mayor, New York’s tech scene has flourished, surpassing Boston to take second place in hottest tech scenes worldwide, only behind Silicon Valley.
Guided by his belief that the “innovation economy” holds the key to future financial success, the mayor has been on a ceaseless campaign for years to create growth opportunities for the technology sector in New York. He helped start city-funded accelerator programs in different sectors, including NYC Seed, that provide venture capital, mentorship, and usually reduced-cost working space. Perhaps in his most ambitious approach to establish high tech, Bloomberg invested $100 million of taxpayer dollars into a new tech campus to be jointly built by Cornell University and Israel’s Technion. Meanwhile, he has also given money to Columbia and NYU to assist them with individual projects that could augment New York’s promising future in the technology space.
The support is paying off. According to the NY Daily News, the high tech sector in the city grew at an average rate of 7.2% per year between 2009 and 2011. Meanwhile, 11.4% of venture capital gets invested in NYC startups, a share which has increased by over 6% in the last decade. In some respects the tech revolution in New York was inevitable: the city has always attracted talented and ambitious individuals, and the depth of its financial resources gives it some clout with potential entrepreneurs.
Still, it is hard to believe the shift into the innovation economy could have been so rapid or smooth without the unceasing support of a business-savvy mayor. Now, as Bloomberg’s last term nears its end, business leaders and tech followers around the city are wondering what’s in store for the future, making technology a hot ticket item on the mayoral campaign trail.
Christine Quinn, the current Speaker of the New York City Council and front-runner in the race, has made promises to make New York the “most wired city” in the country by 2018 if elected. That would include a massive campaign to create city-wide high speed WiFi. It would also include an unlikely push to put an iPad in every student’s hands.
Widely known for his sexting scandal a few years back, Anthony Weiner has miraculously risen up in the polls over the past few weeks. Weiner has been making headlines in the tech world recently for rejecting sharing services like Uber and Airbnb that have hit roadblocks in the city because of legislative issues. These platforms “undermine the laws” held in place by the city, the former congressman said at a panel a few weeks ago.
At the end of the day none of the candidates can really claim the same mantel as their predecessor in the technology realm. As the city says goodbye to Bloomberg, we must sit back and hope that one of these “technology tourists” can propel the startup movement—or at the very least not impede it.