October 9th, 2013 Conversations on Urbanization: Fred Wilson and Richard Florida


On October 9th, 2013, OLC attended the event, “Conversations on Urbanization: Fred Wilson and Richard Florida.” The event was hosted by NYU Stern Urbanization Project, the NYU Stern Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the NYU Stern Entrepreneurs Exchange club. The feature panelist of the event was venture capitalist and Founder of Union Square Ventures, Fred Wilson. 


http://www.usv.com          http://www.theatlanticcities.com       

The event was moderated by Atlantic Cities Co-Founder and NYU professor, Richard Florida.

Richard Florida, Co-Founder of Atlantic Cities and professor at NYU, started the event by asking the question that pertained to the reasons that contributed to the boon that is the tech industry in New York City today.

Fred Wilson,Venture capitalist and Founder of Union Square Ventures, answered; “one of the biggest influences of the relatively recent tech boom in NYC has to do with the internet.” The connectivity of the internet has been a huge factor in the rise of the tech industry in NYC because the development of the internet marries social engineering with electrical. Technology must reflect the social and cultural paradigms of the time and this point connects to the next topic of the panel.  

Richard Florida then pointed out the sociological anomaly that is connected to the rise of the tech startup industry in New York City. “How and why does the increasing influence of the bohemian counter-culture in major cities encourage the growth of NYC’s tech boon?”

For Fred Wilson, this type of cultural dynamic and its relation to technology is mostly “generational” and NYC’s tech growth is more an “art” than “science”. First, Wilson points out that artists like to congregate where they can best interact with one another and secondly, New York City is a commercial hub. “So, New York City is a site of innovation where artists are connected to entrepreneurs.”

He uses the example of the founder of Etsy, Rob Kalin to best explain this dynamic. Kalin himself was not of a scientific or engineering background but the key development that gave birth to Etsy was applying his artistic interests in the form of digital technology.

Another big factor in New York’s meteoric rise in the tech scene is gentrification. NYC in the past was a crime ridden and economically depressed area but with gentrification, certain boroughs such as Brooklyn have become safer areas to live and do business. Furthermore, since areas like Brooklyn have cheaper land and rent prices, young millennials familiar with the modern technology and creative intellectuals inhabit the area which not only provide a staple work force for technology start-ups but cheap, modern, and fashionable workspaces too. (An example of this would be a majority of startups in Williamsburg.)

But Wilson continues that although the tech industry in NYC have grown exponentially to rival even San Francisco, there are many issues to deal with to continue this growth.

Firstly, landlords must accommodate startups and reform how they implement and negotiate leases. (Ex: 1 ½ year leases with options to extend space.) Secondly, Startups need “talent” rather than subsidized capital, real estate, and etc. What drives startups is innovation therefore, there needs to an impetus and drive to bring experience and talent to NYC. Wilson states that although there is “no shortage of talent” in NYC, it is about bringing experience married with talent.

And NYC is somewhat successful with this venture from its renowned quality of life but Wilson calls for the optimization of the quality of lifestyles in NYC to bring in more talent.

In conclusion, NYC is a great place to “get your stuff sold” but as it is also an area of cultural development, it creates an interesting and revolutionary dynamic that marries culture and science.