NYC: a winning culture and the start-up

Michael Karnjanaprakorn wrote a great piece on the NYC start-up scene and included a list (growing through the comments) of all the great things happening in the city where I spend most of my days for First Round. He says, “I believe that NYC tech start-ups have a better eye for design, user experience, business models, and creating companies that solve real problems (and not launching more “me-too” companies).  And the icing on the cake?  The companies coming out of NYC right now are just… sexy.  There’s no other way to explain it.”

Since June, I have been hanging out in the New York tech scene (and getting back into the NYC-kicks scene as a sneakerheadVC) and think the environment that cradled jazz and created Hip-Hop is now supporting a new generation of creative talent. For me, the key to the NYC community, what makes it sexy, is a culture that expects to win and to win big. Certainly the urban density and the consumer insight this offers to those who will listen is powerful and the scale required for notable success in this environment sets a high bar for entrepreneurs to judge themselves against, but it is the swagger of NYC, the assumption of victory and pride in the success of other New Yorkers that defines this movement.In my mind companies being built in NYC have advantages and these advantages led an entrepreneur to tell me, “I don’t care what they do. I am in New York, they aren’t. Ultimately, we will win.”

The reality of starting a company in NYC is an environment that shapes your thinking as an entrepreneur:

1. User feedback — surrounded by millions of people who will try shit, interrupt you and tell you what they think. NYC start-ups know they have to iterate early and often or become irrelevant. Stealth doesn’t happen here.

2. Not afraid to jump — you have to have guts to live in NYC in the first place. Starting a company is hard, but the street-smarts required to survive the bright lights and big city serve New York founders well.

3. Really big pie — when the center of the universe is outside your front door, you don’t view ideas or the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a zero sum game — collaboration, not competition, is the dominant approach. Entrepreneurs in The City know each other, help each other and root for each other. They are also honest with each other.

4. Culture of winning — success is expected in NYC. Home to the world’s most famous arena, Wall Street, Hip-Hop, Madison Ave. and the fashion industry–if it is not a big idea it is not getting airplay in NYC. But everyday new ideas spring up and take shape as smart, highly motivated people are inspired by their environment and informed by their community.

5. No sleep ’til Brooklyn — the answer to “what do you do?” in NYC is your job. In New York people live to work, love to crush and the entrepreneurs find time to have a blast doing it. I have been lucky enough to work hard and play hard in NYC this year and I can’t think of a better place to do it or a better group of people to do it with.

If you have other reasons that NYC is creating so many sexy companies with such great commercial potential, I would love to discuss in the comments and if you want to include me in your hard work or play in 2010, shoot me an e-mail (phin@firstround.com) or find me on twitter @phineasb