Posts from NYC

Feeding The Trolls

Danah Boyd has a nice post up about what it was like to live on the block that the second bomb was placed this past weekend in NYC. But the post is really about something way more important. It is about the fact that we are increasingly letting the trolls drive us nuts. The trolls are the people who do these acts of terrorism intended to turn us into a scared and terrified society. And she is right, they are succeeding in that effort, aided by the media making a bigger deal out of these things than they should.

I heard about the bombing on saturday night at a party in Brooklyn. It was upsetting but it did not impact us much that evening. We continued to celebrate our friends birthday and anniversary. We took an Uber back to Manhattan. We went out for a late dinner and then went to bed. The next day was more of the same. We did not let this nutjob impact how we live and what we do. My friend Jerry asked me on Monday how I was doing. I said fine. He brought up the bombing. And I had already forgotten it. I said “nobody died Jerry, a few people got hurt. It sucks.”

I am more upset by the massive increase in homelessness on the streets of NYC, I am more upset by the fact that the Hudson river comes close to coming over its banks every time there is a big storm, I am more upset by the fact that young black men get killed by the police for no good reason.

I am with Danah. Fuck the trolls. The police and the other security apparatus can and will deal with them. I am going to go about living my life and not thinking about them.

Video Of The Week: Citibike Rage

AVC regular Rob Underwood sent me this video a couple days ago:

This happened at a Community Board 6 (Cobble Hill Brooklyn) meeting this week. Here’s a news report that explains the context of what happened here.

I am posting this for several reasons.

I am a huge Citibike fan and user. I’ve already used it three times today and its only 8:30am

citibike

Citibike has made living in the city so much better for me in so many ways. So I am thrilled that Citibike is expanding in NYC and becoming available to new neighborhoods and providing Citibike access to new neighborhoods.

But I realize that not everyone is a fan of bikes, bike lanes, and bike stations. This man certainly is not.

The anger and resentment this man is feeling is an example of how many are feeling in the US (and the world) right now. Things are changing around him and not for the better, at least for him. It’s worth mentioning that he was initially set off because there were no american flags on display at the community board meeting. If you want to understand the appeal of Donald Trump, this man might help you do that.

Finally, a suggestion. Why doesn’t Citibike offer free monthly passes for all residents of homes and buildings that are next to a Citibike station? And why doesn’t Citibike allow these homes and buildings request a Citibike station next to their building so that they can obtain this benefit?

Rob has a Citibike station in front of his house and he is mostly happy about it. I would love a Citibike station in front of my house. I realize not everyone feels this way. But if you provide some incentives for having one, the folks that are open to it would compete for it and the folks that are not open would likely not have to have one. It would be worth trying this in a new neighborhood and seeing if it works.

Local government and politics is not easy. But finding ways to move forward in ways that people can accept and get behind is the work that must be done. Staying put is certainly not the answer, as much as some would like to do that.

Fifteen Years Ago

September 11th snuck up on me this year. It wasn’t until Friday evening, walking out of a restaurant in the village, when I was greeted with this sight.

twin-lights

But September 11th is always there in the back of my brain. When a plane flies low over NYC, I always look up with a slight panic in my gut.

That’s how it happened for me and two colleagues having breakfast before a board meeting that morning. We were sitting outside at a cafe about a mile straight north of the towers. A plane flew low right over us, we jumped up into the street and watched that plane bank and slam right into the tower.

The rest of the day unfolded a bit like a dream. We were just moving through it, taking care of things that needed to be taken care of, but mostly staring at the TV screen trying to make sense of things that make no sense.

I don’t think much about that day anymore. But when someone brings it up the flashback is vivid and real. Everyone says “I remember exactly where I was that morning.” Of course we do.

It was fifteen years ago. My daughter who was ten is now twenty five. The VC firm I was working at is long gone. The company whose board meeting we were heading to is long gone too.

New York City has mostly recovered from that wound. One World Trade stands as a tall reminder that we can rebuild. And the two lovely memorial pools are a reminder that we can never forget.

Time does heal all wounds, but the scars remain. And for as long as I live, the eleventh day of September will be a day to stare at them.

Fun Friday: Labor Day Weekend Activities

It is labor day weekend. The unofficial end of summer.

I’m curious how we all celebrate the long weekend.

We are spending it in NYC, after spending much of August at the beach.

How are you spending the long weekend?

The AI Nexus Lab

In Matt Turck‘s recent blog post about the state of NYC’s tech sector, he wrote:

The New York data and AI community, in particular, keeps getting stronger.  Facebook’s AI department is anchored in New York by Yann LeCun, one of the fathers of deep learning.  IBM Watson’s global headquarter is in NYC. When Slack decided to ramp up its effort in data, it hired NYC-based Noah Weiss, former VP of Product at Foursquare, to head its Search Learning and Intelligence Group.   NYU has a strong Center for Data Science (also started by LeCun).  Ron Brachman, the new director of the Technion-Cornell Insititute, is an internationally recognized authority on artificial intelligence.  Columbia has a Data Science Institute. NYC has many data startups, prominent data scientists and great communities (such as our very own Data Driven NYC!).

And now NYC has our very own AI accelerator program based at NYU’s Tandon Engineering School Accelerator, called The AI Nexus Lab.

The 4 month program will immerse early stage AI companies from around the world with NYU AI resources, computing resources at the Data Future Lab, two full time technical staff members, and a student fellow for each company. Unlike a traditional accelerator, they are recruiting only 5 companies with the goal of market entry and sustainability for all 5. They won’t have a Demo Day, the program will end with a day long AI conference celebrating AI entrepreneurs, researchers, innovators and funders during which which they will announce the 5 companies. Companies will get a net $75,000 for joining the program.

If you have an early stage AI company and want to join this program, you can apply here.

The State Of The NYC Tech Ecosystem

Matt Turck has penned a “State Of The City” post about where the NYC tech ecosystem is right now. I get asked this question all the time and I haven’t been doing a great job of answering it. I will use some of Matt’s work the next time that happens.

Here’s some of my favorite points from Matt’s post. If you live and work in the NYC tech ecosystem, or care about it, you should go read the whole thing.

NYC as a leading AI Center:

The New York data and AI community, in particular, keeps getting stronger.  Facebook’s AI department is anchored in New York by Yann LeCun, one of the fathers of deep learning.  IBM Watson’s global headquarter is in NYC. When Slack decided to ramp up its effort in data, it hired NYC-based Noah Weiss, former VP of Product at Foursquare, to head its Search Learning and Intelligence Group.   NYU has a strong Center for Data Science (also started by LeCun).  Ron Brachman, the new director of the Technion-Cornell Insititute, is an internationally recognized authority on artificial intelligence.  Columbia has a Data Science Institute. NYC has many data startups, prominent data scientists and great communities (such as our very own Data Driven NYC!).

 

NYC as a home to “deep tech”:

Finally, one trend I’m personally particularly excited about: the emergence of deep tech startups in New York.   By “deep tech”, I mean startups focusing on solving hard technical problems, either in infrastructure or applications – the type of companies where virtually every early employee is an engineer (or a data scientist).

For a long time, MongoDB was pretty much the lone deep tech startup in NYC.  There are many more now.  A few of those are in my portfolio at FirstMark:  ActionIQ, Cockroach Labs, HyperScience and x.ai.   But there’s a lot of others, big and small, including for example: 1010Data (Advance), BetterCloud, Clarifai, Datadog, Dataminr, Dextro, Digital Ocean, Enigma, Geometric Intelligence, Jethro, Placemeter, Security ScoreCard, SiSense, Syncsort or YHat – and a few others.

 

The Diversification and Broadening of NYC’s Tech Ecosystem:

One way of thinking about New York’s tech history is one of gradual layers, perhaps something like this:

  • 1995-2001: NYC 1.0, lots of ad tech (Doubleclick) and media (TheStreet)
  • 2001-2004: Nuclear winter
  • 2004-2011: NYC 2.0, a new layer emerges around commerce (Etsy, Gilt) and social (Delicious, Tumblr, Foursquare), on top of adtech (Admeld) and media
  • 2012-present: NYC 3.0 – in addition to the above, just about every type of technology covering just about every industry

Certainly, the areas that put NYC on the map in the first place continue to be strong.  New York is the epicenter of the redefinition of media (Buzzfeed, Vice, Business Insider, Mic, Mashable, Bustle, etc.), and also home to many great companies in adtech (AppNexus, Tapad, Mediamath, Moat, YieldMo, etc.), marketing (Outbrain, Taboola, etc) and commerce (BarkBox, Birchbox, Harry’s, Warby Parker, etc.).

But New York has seen explosive entrepreneurial activity across a much broader cross-section of verticals and horizontals, including for example:

  • Fintech: Betterment, IEX, Fundera, Bond, Orchard, Bread
  • Health: Oscar, Flatiron Health, ZocDoc, Hometeam, Recombine, CellMatix, BioDigital, ZipDrug
  • Education: General Assembly, Schoology, Knewton, Skillshare, Flatiron School, Codecademy
  • Real estate: WeWork, HighTower, Compass, Common, Reonomy
  • Enterprise SaaS: InVision, NewsCred, Sprinklr, Namely, JustWorks, Greenhouse, Mark43
  • Commerce infrastructure: Bluecore, Custora, Welcome Commerce
  • Marketplaces: Kickstarter, Vroom, 1stdibs
  • On Demand: Handy, Via, Managed by Q, Hello Alfred
  • Food: Blue Apron, Plated
  • IoT/Hardware: littleBits, Canary, Peloton, Shapeways, SOLS, Estimote, Dash, GoTenna, Raden, Ringly, Augury, Drone Racing League
  • AR/VR/3D: Sketchfab, Floored

 

 

I like the NYC 3.0 moniker. It’s a very different place to start and invest in tech companies than it was even five years ago. Bigger, deeper, broader, and scaling nicely. Just like the companies themselves.

Mayoral Control Of The Schools

One of Michael Bloomberg’s most important accomplishments as Mayor of NYC was taking control of the NYC school system. In the decade since he did that, NYC public schools have improved significantly including increased high school graduation and college readiness rates. The public school system remains a work in progress and there is much more to do. The system has improved but not nearly enough.

So it concerns me greatly that politics in Albany are playing around with mayoral control of the schools. Mayoral control of the NYC public schools is set to expire on June 30th and there are signs that the Governor and state legislature are thinking about not renewing it.

This would be a colossal mistake. Organizations require accountability to succeed. The Mayor must be able to hire and fire the school chancellor and drive the necessary changes in the system. We tried the other way for many years and it was a disaster. I urge the elected officials in Albany to come to their senses and renew Mayoral control, not just for another year, but for at least the next five years. Longer would be even better.

Disrupt NYC

I am doing not one, but two, appearances at Disrupt NYC today.

The first appearance will be at 9:05am est which is a chat with Jordan Crook. We did not discuss what we are going to talk about in advance (I hate doing that), but I did send her this list of things I think are interesting to talk about:

– robotics (drones, autonomous vehicles, etc)
– machine learning/AI
– VR/AR/MR/etc
– blockchain/bitcoin/ethereum/open bazaar/etc
So hopefully we will cover that stuff. The chat is 20mins long so 9:05am to 9:25am est.

The second appearance will be from 2pm to 2:20pm est. Tim Armstrong and I will talk about Tech:NYC which I blogged about last week.

I believe the entire conference is being livestreamed on the Disrupt website. So in theory you can watch these two appearances from your desk. That’s great.

Tech:NYC

Yesterday was the launch of a new organization in NYC that I have been working on since last fall. This new organization is called Tech:NYC and will be led by Julie Samuels. It will be co-chaired by Tim Armstrong and me.

For years the tech sector has been represented in the city and state and with local civic organizations by a loose and informal group of well known entrepreneurs, CEOs, VCs, and engaged members of the tech sector. I have been one of them.

Lately, as the tech sector has grown in importance in the local economy, this approach has become unsustainable. The same small group of people keep showing up at meeting after meeting.

We need a formal mechanism that allows the entire tech sector to be engaged with local government and civic organizations and we need to get the right people to the right meetings instead of the same small group meeting after meeting.

Tim and I explained all of this in a blog post that aired yesterday on Tech:NYC’s website.

Tech:NYC will be member supported. We would like every tech company, large and small, to join and be represented and engaged. Membership details are here and startups with less than 20 employees can join for free.

If you run a company in NYC, we hope you will sign your company up to be a member of Tech:NYC. If you work at a company in NYC, we hope you will encourage your leaders to join Tech:NYC.