I had breakfast yesterday with a friend who had recently relocated to NYC from SF. He told me he was taken with the hyperactivity of NY'ers. I asked him where he thought it comes from. He had a great answer and I am going to share it with all of you.

He said that NY is "meta unstable" meaning that it is inherently unstable and therefore in a constant state of imploding on itself. And NY'ers implicitly understand that. So they only way we can keep the city functioning is to be constantly seeking to upgrade it in real time. So that's why the city is in a constant state of construction. That's why NY'ers are always looking for a better way to do something and a faster way to get somewhere.

This may sound like psycho physics babble. In fact it is. But it also captures something inherent in the NYC psychology that I have felt since the day I arrived here in 1983. This city is in a constant state of seeking to get to a better place. And that is why it is such a great place to be an entreprenuer despite all of the challenges of operating a business in NYC. And it is why I felt at home here the day I arrived and why I suspect I always will.

I'd also like to wish a happy birthday to my partner in our Big Apple adventure. The Gotham Gal. Who brings a measure of stability to our metainstability.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Carl Rahn Griffith

    That definitely resonates from my time living and working in NYC – makes it a very special place. Most similar city I have experienced that in thus far in life is Tel Aviv.Most cities are so busy wallowing in their own sense of smugness complacency sets in and they fade away or simply become irrelevant. London is definitely at risk of this, as is much of Europe – especially old-school places such as Vienna. Beautiful, yes, but no flux energy.Happy Birthday, Gotham Gal! Must be something about October 4 that breeds very special women – it’s my wife’s birthday also, today. Similarly, she’s definitely my metainstability rock. Happy Birthday, Helen!

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Agreed, it’s political will, leadership and vision that replaces the wallowing you mention – and sadly it’s not strong enough in small towns, perhaps not enough incentive for people to stay in those places but instead to move to bigger more vibrant cities like NYC.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Places like NYC have a spirit that suggests if you’re not keeping pace, not striving forwards, you’re going to become irrelevant – from barista to startup. Old Blue Eyes was right 😉

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Indeed. And I can imagine if you’re taking care of everyone so they can be healthy and happy and have the ability to be productive, then this pace and vibrancy will be even greater.

    2. fredwilson

      i think we’ve discussed this before. it’s cool that our wives share a birthday. happy birthday to Helen.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Thanks, Fred – will pass it on.



  2. Matt A. Myers

    I love the speed people walk in NYC.Whenever I visit I end up walking fast like a New Yorker; Here’s a great Improv Everywhere skit wonderfully illustrating this:…NYC like any thriving and evolving ecosystem is in a state of perpetual imbalance (another phrase that works along with meta unstable), and so will constantly be trying to find balance. Balance comes from efficiencies, equilibrium, etc. between all influencing factors – so when new arrives it needs to find its place.Destruction does create temporary chaos/instability/imbalance from whatever disruptions occur – more people, innovation occurring / new technologies, political will, etc..And HAPPY BIRTHDAY Gotham Gal! Have a great year 🙂

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      yep. walking fast … the symbol of vibrant and meta-in-stable city.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        I’ve always thought people don’t walk fast enough in the city I am in. This city is stuck in the contrains of conservative voting, mainly elected by for-profit business interests to keep status quo so they can maintain control over development, etc.. A few of us are trying to change that though many are wondering if they will leave soon with possible stupid decisions like putting a casino here, etc..

        1. panterosa,

          My English mother was teased by her English friend for having a ‘no prisoners taken march”. My German friend walks at a rate I run to keep up with. My Swedish friend pushed her stroller at a similar pace. Funny how the NY adopted city dwellers almost amplify the NY pace.

    2. fredwilson

      i am guilty of that. i am always thinking “should i cross here or wait for the next intersection”

      1. Matt A. Myers

        It’s nice / neat to stop and see everything flow by and around you.

      2. JimHirshfield


        1. fredwilson


      3. panterosa,

        Always game the lights.

      4. Nick Grossman

        brad and I were just talking about this the other day, walking from usv to penn station. I walk pretty strictly according to an algorithm (mainly applicable to walking in diagonals across the city) that looks something like: 1) always keep walking, never stop 2) cross an avenue when you can 3) but: don’t cross town too quickly, lest you run out of room and are forced to walk in a straight line and thus may be forced to break #1That may not be exactly right, but it’s close

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        2. fredwilson

          i use that one too. i suspect we all do!

    3. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Good old entropy, I guess.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Indeed – part of evolution.

    4. Saffron Rainey

      Happy birthday Gotham Gal. Good post Fred – Schumacher’s creative destruction and on a high gearing leads to faster cycles of entrepreneurship. However would SF on the San Andreas should be even more unstable.

  3. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    When i first read the title … i could not read it … i thought it is a new word for ‘maintain’ + ‘stability’ …probably influenced by previous MBA monday’s post on sustainability.I can relate the ‘meta-instability to any vibrant city around the world … when you see people rushing out (running) in the subway stations and fast walking on the roads (as though they are going to miss something if they don’t do that fast ) that is the sign of vibrant city … or meta-instability city.

    1. fredwilson

      which are the meta-unstable cities you are most familiar with

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        Vibrant i can tell … First one I came across was MumbaiSecond NYC.Third Sydney (not that vibrant).I heard tokyo is the most vibrant one…never been there.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Sydney? Pfft. Come to Melbs… one of the few places a New Yorker feels at home. (Our winters satisfy even the most diehard Londoner too).


          I’m going to tokyo Sunday , I’ll feedback how fast they walk 🙂

      2. Rohan


        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Lol 😉

        2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          R u serious?London I found it little lazy … same with Glasgow.

          1. Carl Rahn Griffith

            Agree, but not so much ‘lazy’ as sybaritic and complacent – sure, we did an awesome job re: the Olympics, but it’s become the slush-fund capital of the world, largely thanks to the ‘work’ of Tony Bliar (sic).

  4. jason wright

    The Big Squeeze.

  5. Dan Lewis

    My favorite thing about NYC is that there’s no one industry which rules the roost here, and by and large, people who work in any one given sector can move to others. I’m a decent example. I’ve been here 10 years, and over that time period I’ve been a student, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, and a communications person. Four different roles in four different places, but all in Manhattan.I’m a little more versatile than most, but consider a lawyer working in-house at a major bank. There’s nothing keeping him or her from going to an ad agency, startup, or thousands of other things. There’s a lot more diversity of experiences because of that. There’s no Hollywood (LA), auto industry (Detroit), etc. here which kind of dictates that culture.

    1. fredwilson

      wow. what are you going to do in the next 12 years? can you hit a curve ball?

      1. Dan Lewis

        Man, I wish. Heck, I wish I could hit a fastball!

        1. Richard

          The trick to hitting is locating the pitchers release point. Keep your focus on that spot and the baseball will slowdown and look like a beachball.

          1. fredwilson

            wow. dropping knowledge!

          2. Richard

            Figured this out in my late 30s playing Amateur baseball with 21 Year olds. Would have been nice to know in highschool and college.

          3. JamesHRH

            What a cool nugget.I thought – from reading MoneyBall – that another trick was to make the pitcher throw something you could hit.Which is an all time favourite analogy.

          4. Richard

            Moreover..most amateur pitchers have different release points for different pitches. Maybe the analogy is: know and focus on the customers release point. where does it happen?, when does it happen?, why does it happen?

          5. JamesHRH

            Love it – and the two together: what is your customer’s release point (sale); make sure you can hit what your customer’s pitches (satisfaction).

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Bigger ecosystems allow for more options, more diversity, and it’s more sustainable. That diversity comes from being able to attract people from around the world. It’s really amazing what a few proper leading metrics can lead to – and so tough to convince others who don’t understand their value. I want to try to bring that to my city, though if it’s not going to happen then I will end up moving.

  6. awaldstein

    No I know why Chambers Street has been under construction for close to seven years now ;)In NYC the biggest infrastructure is the people. We just keep moving even when everything around us is broken. I really love this place!Happy Bday Gotham Gal!

  7. Carl Rahn Griffith

    New York Minute.

  8. JimHirshfield

    Go to any other city and try to have more than 3 or 4 meetings in one day. It’s hard. In NYC, twice as many meetings, no problem. Proximity. Density.

    1. fredwilson

      i can now have two meetings in one office. and its not mine!!

      1. JimHirshfield

        Ha. Bonus points for checking in on 4sq at two venues without relocating. They should make the Portfolio Badge for checking in at 5 portfolio companies within the same day.

        1. fredwilson

          I could easily checkin to ten portfolio companies in less than an hour

          1. JimHirshfield

            Ah, but would those encounters be meaningful? Fly-by meetings add no value. 😉

          2. fredwilson

            It would be a goof. Like the Blackberry typing race Howard Lindzon organized five years ago

          3. falicon

            it could be organized around a USV portfolio scavenger hunt! Fun times!

      2. falicon

        I think in the past 5 years, I’ve only taken one meeting in my own office…the rest are almost always out and about…which makes them *so* much more fun (and also has lead me to do away with my own office space for awhile now) 🙂

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      That’s it in a nutshell – and pop to a good restaurant, see a show/gig, go to your favourite bar, all within minutes of each other.*Conditions Apply 😉

      1. JimHirshfield


    3. ShanaC

      I still get cranky after 3. But yes, only in NY



  9. fendien

    Great point about NYC, and in turn I think that it draws a certain type of person who is at ease in the flux and chaos. To me that’s what makes NYC the special, how we are filled with all of these constantly working ‘tinkerers’ not just in the traditional sense, but across all parts of culture here too.And I’m sure it’s what makes so many of our entrepreneuers great, because NYC startups are a microcosm of the greater city’s meta-instability and constantly are being improved too.

  10. Barry Nolan

    City startups tap into a different vibe. Technology today is all about interacting quickly, and naturally, with users. Foursquare’s sole is a city startup, designed for density, urgency and lunacy of city life. I bet if Dens and the team were cooped up in some sterile office park, the dynamic of Foursquare would be fundamentally different.Cities, I believe, are core to great mobile apps – uber, hailo, hotel tonight… Being immersed in the chaos and clatter of a cities infuses and manifests itself into todays best mobile apps for the on-the-go, nano attention span, get it now meta unstablites

    1. fredwilson

      i haven’t used hotel tonight. is it good?

      1. Barry Nolan

        Its amazing. Beautifully executed and great savings. The app even stores your credit card for 1-tap purchase. Last minute saved €290 two nights ago and snagged a five star hotel. Time and tiredness meant I could not be arsed to go online and hunt. Couple of taps and done. Staff were somewhat askance as I rocked up in little more than a grubby twilio T-shirt.

        1. fredwilson

          I will download it now. Thanks

      2. William Mougayar

        I’ve used once but kept checking them many times and although the App is beautifully made, I didn’t get the kind of savings I expected. The inventory and choices were very limited, and the prices were slightly cheaper but not much. I learned that there is certain yield dynamic to their pricing. If you wait til the afternoon instead of noon when they release the prices, the price goes down. I felt it wasn’t a true case of hotels wanting to sell their last minute inventory. Rather, the company buys rooms way ahead at the cheaper rates, then sells them to you at a higher price but still lower than the last minute rack rate.

    2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      that is a very good point. Cities such as NY are great platform for new mobile technologies. I live in Toronto (which I love BTW) but I find many of my mobile apps such as Fouresquare are much more useful in NY because of higher and much more engaged user base



        1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

          The future is in cities but I do see your point. Foursquare depends on local contacts which is why the model is attempted in some emerging markets.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  11. Tom Labus

    When you come around to the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel from NJ you get this incredible shot of the Freedom Tower on the skyline downtown. It’s huge and it’s NYC.Walk around the city and you can feel the history and the energy.

  12. kidmercury

    happy birthday gotham gal!i lived in nyc for 10 years and am still there routinely because of family and friends. what fred refers to as “hyperactivity” i refer to as “the rat race.” unless you are sufficiently wealthy, nyc is a very expensive place to live and i think that contributes to the hyperactivity/rat race element of it. admittedly nyc is doing a good job of being second place (aka first loser) to silicon valley though i think many entrepreneurs would benefit from either (1) going to the big leagues (silicon valley) or (2) going to a discount ecosystem, especially if you are bootstrapping. chicago ftw!

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      It’s the logistics/topography of places such as NYC that most appeal to me, in particular Manhattan – the ability to pretty much walk everywhere or at most pop in a cab/on the subway for a few mins and in such short distances embrace such diversity in life and business. Sure, that is predicated on a density of folk and on skyscrapers, and a pretty high cost of living, but when compared to the vast scale/nightmare of London, with comparable if not higher living costs, NYC is much more attractive, to me.My times in SV I have enjoyed, but not spent as much time there as NYC, but I certainly didn’t relish the distances involved and the sheer blandness of much of the place.Haven’t been to Chicago in years. Cool place.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Chicago is different than NYC. Not better, just different. The start up ecosystem here has reached an inflection point. The plot is thickening, and we will see if we read the rest of the novel or toss it aside. The only sure thing we are better than NYC or SV is basketball (Bulls) and wind chill! If you come here ping me and I’ll buy the first beer.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Cool – deal!

        2. fredwilson

          As long as D Rose is healthy

        3. ShanaC

          better be 312 beer.

          1. pointsnfigures

            that’s made in NYC now. We have some awesome midwest beer start ups. New Glarus, Three Floyds, Oberon, Bell’s, Prairie Path, Finch’s, Daisycutter…..maybe I should go to AA

    2. fredwilson

      second winner

    3. Luke Chamberlin

      How is Chicago working out? I remember you were looking at a place on the north side.

      1. kidmercury

        working out great so far! although haven’t had a winter yet……i ended up getting a place in gold coast because it is closer to my family here and much more viable for living without a car. i like midwestern american culture too, people out here are really friendly. at first i was suspicious of it, like waiting for them to ask for money, but turns out they’re actually just being friendly. pretty cool!

        1. pointsnfigures

          Kid I didn’t know you were here. I live in the Gold Coast too. Are you trading, or at a place like 1871? Meet up sometime.

          1. kidmercury

            i’m working from home chasing the startup dream and doing freelance work. one thing i’m actually working on at the moment is a web site + mobile app for gold coast. at the very least i will have some fun marketing antics.will send you an email — definitely would be good to meet around here.

        2. Dan

          A blog post about the Midwestern approach to startups popped up on HN last week. I tend to agree with the sentiment that the Midwest focuses on “fundamentals over flash”. The scene is less mature, but the puzzle pieces are on the table……Kid, my advice on winter – find an activity that rquires snow and ice or, that you enjoy doing inside. My first year in Wisconsin had 120+ inches of snow…nothing really prepares you for that. Picking up x-country skiing helped make it OK.

        3. LE

          “at first i was suspicious of it, like waiting for them to ask for money”One of the first things that hit me when I got into the internet business was getting phone calls from people in the midwest.They would start off the conversation with “hi how are you today!!”.When doing business on the east coast, the only people that say that to you are people that are going to try and sell you something. Telemarketers and salesman.As customers, NYers in particular are great. They talk fast and understand fast talk. No bullshit no wasted happy talk. Highly efficient. While there are exceptions of course this is what I find to be the case most of the time.I remember a local business person here years ago who sold into NY and opened a branch in New York. He told me “Nyers want to deal with a NY company”. I’m guessing because they speak at the same tempo with the least amount of fumphitting.

          1. kidmercury

            lol htat’s a good story. i guess i was never a true NY-er because i like the midwestern approach more. i don’t think they’re slow and dumb either; i think moving too fast can be a problem too. patience is a virtue.

          2. LE

            “i don’t think they’re slow and dumb either”To someone raised on the east coast “slow” speech triggers “red feathers” response to “dumb” the same way “fast talking” (I’m guessing) triggers “shady”, “slick” or “watch out” to someone who speaks fast. I think it’s an auto reaction.Red feathers:http://www.directcreative.c…Since then, I’ve seen experiments demonstrating that a male robin will attack a simple bunch of red feathers but ignore a detailed replica of an actual male robin that does not have red feathers. This is an example of what scientists call “fixed action patterns” in animals. A fixed action pattern is a precise and predictable sequence of behavior. It’s instinctive. There’s no thought involved, just automatic response. This sequence is set in motion by a very specific “trigger.” For the robin, the red feathers are the trigger, and they set off a sequence of attack. Generally, the trigger works properly, since the red feathers are usually attached to a male redbreasted robin and not to a stick. However, the trigger works even in the absence of another bird — all that’s required is a bunch of red feathers.



  13. Richard

    Manhattan Island – a platform of highly engaged users

    1. fredwilson


    2. William Mougayar


    3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      good one!

    4. Matthew Tendler

      @samedaydr:disqus I’d to learn more about SameDayDr. What’s the best form of communication?

  14. christopolis

    Good post. I wonder if NY is “metaunstabel” because they funneled billions and billions of dollars to the city over the last 4 years, make that 100 years in the form of bailouts (other people’s money)Can you imagine that city and what could have happened to the growth of other cities if these cancers on society called Goldman and JP and Citi had been allowed to die? And not just this time the last 4 or 5 times since 1900 that they have been bailed out.I wonder if all this metaunstableness comes from the fact that just one year after exposing their companies to risks that would completely bankrupt them without the Federal Gov backstopping they used their average 300k bonus to build stuff and buy stuff?I wonder if they used profits from hundreds-of-days-in-a-row of no bad trades to build that city.You guys can stop being jealous of San Fran because when it all comes down to it NY owns the world and through the debt of the US owns a piece of every american citizen.I want to love NY but when you look at it from a far it isnt pretty.

    1. fredwilson

      I am not one bit jealous of SF. I love NYC

      1. christopolis

        That portion of my rant should have redacted. I have no evidence that anyone from NY is jealous. Sometimes get that impressions from media but I think they are just creating a story.

        1. falicon

          I love the startup history of SF, but I love the startup present of NYC.I could happily live in either location really…but my core family and friends are on the East coast (more affordably accessible from NY than SF)…and so that is where my true heart lies.

      2. ShanaC

        not even of their produce?

  15. Luke Chamberlin

    Stasis is an illusion brought on by our small lives. There is no staying the same; we are growing or we are dying. Cities, businesses, societies, cultures it’s all the same.Any city whose skyline is not filled with cranes and whose streets are not filled with the din of construction is dying slowly.

    1. nipulpatel

      One of my favorite quotes for its meaning and simplicity… “What grows, never grows old!”

  16. annemai

    It’s an idea that EB White captured brilliantly in his essay “Here is New York” way back in 1948. It’s a fav I share with anyone thinking of re-locating here.

    1. fredwilson

      I love that essay. I have read it many times.

    2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      thanks for sharing that. It is now on my reading list!!

    3. Steven Kane

      fabulous essay… like pretty much everything that came from the mind and pen of the inimitable EB White

  17. William Mougayar

    “A million guys walk in to a Silicon Valley bar. None of them buy anything. The bar is declared a rousing success.” In NY, they would ask Where was the revenue? Megan Berry has a good HuffPo article that compares the 2 Tech cultures where she mentions that joke and makes other good points. http://www.huffingtonpost.c…If you compared the intensity of the two cities on a scale of 1 to 10, – NY being 10, the SF dial would stop on 3. Look, I’m in SF today, and although I was up at 5:30am, I’m already 3 hours behind on most of you in NY, and especially this blog! NY has this inherent conflict & competition culture almost everywhere. People that move there want to the best in the world because NY has that sense of grandiosity with it. But one is also more likely to burn out in NY than in SF. For many of us visitors, my best advice is- when in NY, be like the New Yorkers, and when in SF, behave like a West Coaster. Both cities rub on you in their own way, but maybe New York’s intensity will rub you more than SF’s. 

    1. nipulpatel

      So which do you prefer? And as a start-up ecosystem goes, which do you think is more productive in the long term?

      1. LE

        ” And as a start-up ecosystem goes, which do you think is more productive in the long term?”I think you have to look further than what is best for startups.In NYC there is more ability to do “plan b” because there are all sorts of opportunities, not just tech or startup.

      2. William Mougayar

        I’m not taking sides. I could have a startup in either places & make it work.

      3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        I think for some startups, the choice of location might depend on the area they are working on. For example startups working in media, financial, fashion, etc… might prefer NY. I have a hunch that many startups don’t have the most flexibility when choosing a starting location and every place has its strengths and weaknesses.

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          Absolutely Abdallah – for us energy efficiency is the goal – we are based in Europe, Switzerland, UK and Germany (France soon).Here there has been no history of easily accessible oil, but there has been shortage of resources (post war) and an advanced technological infrastructure. To start-up an energy efficiency concern in the US is to find large markets but there is not the “purifying fire” that excellence demands.Many VC’s would not accept this distinction – but perhaps they are not so close to the “coalface”



      1. William Mougayar

        True. You get things done in both places, although the rhythm of the music is not the same.

  18. Woody Lewis

    I moved back to NYC in mid-2010 after 14 years on the peninsula, living in San Carlos, working in the Valley and in SF. Even though I had repeatedly come back east on business or vacation during that time, I could only appreciate the difference after my first few months of residence in Manhattan. The Bay Area has a unique set of physical and intellectual attributes, but New York has a superset that moves exponentially faster. For all its apparent diversity, the west coast doesn’t begin to approach what happens in the Big Apple. As a web architect with significant experience, I have been pleasantly surprised at the demand for my skills. Launching my new app will be a pleasure in this environment.

  19. Denim

    Now that’s sustainability FTW. Great description. It’s nature on hyperdrive.

  20. takingpitches

    While some of the criticisms in the comments are true, particularly cost of living, i.e., housing, if you find a way, the great thing about New York is that it is about the energy from the never-ending current of change — whether good change, bad change, or not so clear change — rather than how big your apartment is or how nice your car is (although there is a whole lot of that here too).People here, if they end up loving the place, tap into that energy in one way or the other.I like this quote from Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) which captures some of that:“I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.”

  21. andyswan

    I love New York.

    1. William Mougayar

      And I’m sure New York loves you back :)Kidding aside, we take it for granted but cities give back to those who love them.

  22. mathewi

    Very true! I have felt that as well. And happy birthday to The Gal.

    1. William Mougayar

      I saw your jaw drop when we entered Eataly 🙂

  23. panterosa,

    I was born here, at the former Doctor’s Hospital, across from Gracie Mansion, where they did two things – easy deliveries, and polite WASP’s drying out.It was razed several years ago to make way for starchitecture – a Peter Marino co-op, replete with adds for yummy mummy’s toting little UES uniformed private school boys, and getting into Escalades. They have a downstairs party space and gym, because god forbid, one of the guests spills red wine on your white carpet, or toddlers smear cupcake on the silk upholstery. In the beginning I was sad to loose that old place, on my old street, especially to such an overt advertisement for UES inspired aspirational living sold to non New Yorks as the s#!t. But my melancholy didn’t last. It just shifted my focus to other places where the vibe is more fun.It’s always shifting. Your cool new spot goes under in 6 months. The new new thing is old in one cycle after it’s soft launch, and now has ditzy girls chased by B&T guys. It’s ok to keep looking for the fun, keeping on your toes, but mainly letting most of it slide over you, because actually, hanging out in a no frills, no buzz place with a few friends having a laugh is the most fun of all. I feel like that’s where the real New Yorkers are, just around not making a big scene, but enjoying the buzz we bring each other from day to day life and stories of being here.

  24. testtest

    never wanted to live in san francisco: soulless city.give me the big apple or london any time.creatives, creeps, and culture. ftw

  25. howardlindzon

    The gotham Gal is my amigo. I love to make her laugh. A rock. Hope you both have a great day and if she needs a laugh tell her to buzz me

  26. howardlindzon

    They should hand out lexapro at jfk…the city would hum and take the edge off

  27. testtest

    fred, you should change your visited links to a duller/washed-out red. better UX.the principle, showing the relationship between the links.

  28. whitneymcn

    E.B. White, in Here Is New York:”There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh yes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.”

    1. testtest

      beautiful prose

      1. whitneymcn

        Every time I read that passage I fall in love with a new part of it. Today it’s “each absorbs New York with the fresh yes of an adventurer.”

        1. testtest

          that was my favourite part as well, whitney

        2. Max Yoder

          “…a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart…”+1 AU

    2. panterosa,

      Thanks for this. It is so very true.

    3. laurie kalmanson

      born and raised; no place else feels rightalso: “here is new york,” the title of that piece, was also the name of the popup gallery/exhibit/project in soho via sva, after 911, which became a book; subtitled, “a democracy of photographs,” it was a display of images people capturedthere is a frightening passage in white’s piece about what would happen if …the gallery remains online is the book from the exhibit…

    4. Ruth BT

      Makes me what to get on a plane. As an outsider from faraway, New York is the one city in the world, where the first time I arrived, I felt I was home. The metainstability as you call it Fred is exactly what appeals. Many people have a desire for a villa in Tuscany or France – I dream of the bolthole in NYC!

    5. JamesHRH

      My guess is that EB is from City#3…….terrific stuff.

    6. ShanaC

      I love eb white.

    7. Nick Grossman

      wow that is incredible. I was born into the first category. In my current state I’m in the second (traveling from Boston). One day I may end up in the third.

    8. Mark Essel

      Perfect quote (commuter here)

  29. reece

    tend to agree herethe pure size of NYC – the number of people, the number of restaurants, clubs, industries, modes of transportation etc – there’s so much, that it makes it easy to optimize for conveniencedon’t like that girl? there’s a million more. don’t like that bar? go somewhere’s a blessing and a curse. on the one hand, that density of options is fantastically fertile ground for ideas and opportunity. on the other, it makes for a fickle experience of hyperactivity

    1. LE

      “don’t like that girl? there’s a million more.”Guys don’t even have to travel out of their own neighborhood to find dates. The advice I gave to some people locally who were complaining about the lack of women here was to put in the effort and travel up to NYC.”it’s a blessing and a curse.”Totally understandable. It’s like going to buy a car and finding out that they have 50 on the lot in the model you want. It makes it hard to make a decision.”it makes for a fickle experience”NYC is one big distraction and enabler for people who can’t and don’t find stable relationships. There is so much to do that you can effectively live as a single person and never marry. It seems like it’s quite addicting. There are many woman who live in NYC that can’t find a man but continue to remain in NYC. Yet if they were willing to give up the city they could easily and quickly find someone somewhere else. But they are addicted to the NY lifestyle and they trade that for meeting their emotional needs.

    2. ShanaC

      I dunno, as the girl in theoretical question: No.I could say the same about guys. I don’t. Relationships are about something more than just “don’t like that xyz”And I sound so old right there….

  30. Emmanuel Bellity

    Metainstability just sounds very jewish to me, hence its strong presence in New York, like bagels and pastrami 🙂

  31. andyidsinga

    i meta-s-well have expected this post.

    1. raycote

      Good reach !

  32. andyidsinga

    family and i watched the PBS documentary series about new york before we visited for the first time in march. series has a lot of coverage of the constant change in the city.

  33. Pete Griffiths

    From London, longtime LA, now SF, nearly bought a place in NY last year. It’s so on my radar. 🙂

  34. Ela Madej

    Aren’t all entrepreneurs “meta unstable” = curious/hungry/always questioning?

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      That’s how I see it – nothing against NYC but seeking change is a way of life where-ever change is essential !I’d go further – NYC inhabitants have had it relatively easy in the literal survival stakes during the last 75 years where Europe and much of the rest of the world has needed to continually re-invent itself, politically, economically, agriculturally and socially.Entrepreneur implies change outside the norm – is that the case in NYC or is change just normal!

    2. Marjan Ghara

      Well said!

  35. Guest

    Fred- The idea of New York’s meta-instability are reminiscent of the brilliant meditation on the constant rejuvenation of New York CIty found in “Delirious New York” by Rem Koolhaas – one of the great architectural books of the 20th Century published in 1978. In that book Rem Koolhaas celebrates New York as a place of constant intense change – a city that by its very nature continuously destroys itself (literally physically) to rebuild itself anew. Rem write: “Manhattan is the 20th century’s Rosetta Stone . . . occupied by architectural mutations (Central Park, the Skyscraper), utopian fragments (Rockefeller Center, the U.N. Building), and irrational phenomena (Radio City Music Hall).” Rem uses the constantly changing architectural landscape as a metaphor for the incredible creative energy that is generated in and by the place – a model for creativity, social integration, productivity and wealth generation unmatched anywhere at any time in human history. GREAT book, highly recommended and very apropos your comments and your continued enthusiasm and advocacy of our great City.

  36. Yb927

    Fred- The idea of New York’s meta-instability is reminiscent of the brilliant meditation on the constant rejuvenation of New York CIty found in “Delirious New York” by Rem Koolhaas – one of the great architectural books of the 20th Century published in 1978. In that book Rem Koolhaas celebrates New York as a place of constant intense change – a city that by its very nature continuously destroys itself (literally physically) to rebuild itself anew. Rem write: “Manhattan is the 20th century’s Rosetta Stone . . . occupied by architectural mutations (Central Park, the Skyscraper), utopian fragments (Rockefeller Center, the U.N. Building), and irrational phenomena (Radio City Music Hall).” Rem uses the constantly changing architectural landscape as a metaphor for the incredible creative energy that is generated in and by the place – a model for creativity, social integration, productivity and wealth generation unmatched anywhere at any time in human history. GREAT book, highly recommended and very apropos your comments and your continued enthusiasm and advocacy of our great City.

  37. falicon

    I came to NY in ’99 and instantly fell in love with the endless energy, opportunity, and freshness. I enjoy travelling and experiencing other areas as well, but NY is the only area I can envision living at this stage in my life.Through every part of every day, from the littlest of actions like commuting to the grandest of events, NY offers up the potential for a new adventure. You simply can’t and won’t experience it all no matter how hard you try…and knowing that helps me to appreciate the choices and adventures I do embark on each day.BTW, Amazon Prime has a wonderful series on the history of New York that I highly recommend to everyone ->

    1. LE

      I love stuff like that. I just checked and it’s not available either at I’ll probably watch that even at $3.99 an episode

      1. falicon

        upgrade to Prime…I think it’s $70/yr…gives you cheaper/free shipping and tons of content (including this whole season)…and they continue to add value to the annual Prime membership…quietly one of the best deals online for sure.

        1. panterosa,

          Totally agree! We adore Prime. Pitched and TWC and Netflix.

    2. ShanaC

      Thank you!

  38. Marjan Ghara

    Love this city for its meta-instability! Its hard to become complacent here. Someone once made a funny comment that “New Yorkers are always looking to upgrade their jobs, apartments or lovers”!

    1. danielle

      Ha, yes! This metainstability – this is also exactly why I want to run from NY, right now. Enough is never good enough and it can be exhausting!

  39. mmm_nomnomnom

    Spot on. I miss NYC terribly. Left there a few years ago to join a startup in Boston. I would go back in a heartbeat, if an opportunity presented itself.

  40. Paul Sanwald

    this is a very good point; there is so much about the city that changes over the years, I think it contributes significantly to our mentality as new yorkers.I also felt like I was home my first day in NYC. I remember my boss taking me out for lunch on my first day, and saying “you seem like you’ve lived here a while”, when I was fresh off the truck from north carolina twelve years ago!

  41. Emil Sotirov

    Meta unstable – I love that. It’s how we walk. Lose balance… move ahead.

  42. $27180517

    whether its billy joel or Nas singing it…its a new york state of mind…can’t wait to leave Chicago and go back home..few more months…sigh

    1. ShanaC

      truthfully, I miss the big shouldered city too. Super elegant, super hard working, and super midwest kind. It takes my breath away in a very different way than NYC ever did. Especially when the tulips bloom.

  43. Michael

    Sounds like Israel actually…

  44. Joel Bush

    Metainstability. I like it, and I love visiting NYC a couple times a year from Austin. I hit both The Yard and GA recently. Great energy.Metainstability also strikes me as applicable to markets versus centralized command and control. Dynamism versus stasism to pull from Postrel.

  45. Guest

    Funny, this is also exactly why I want to run from NY. When is enough, good enough? Or do you just leave NY when you’ve burnt out?

    1. fredwilson

      its helpful to have a getaway

  46. ShanaC

    Meta-instability is a kind of stability. It is an unstable that you know exists already. Instability in ny is the same old same old. I actually wonder what NY would be like if it stayed stable, if Ny’ers could adapt. As strange as it sounds, knowing that there will be instability makes life predictable in a way – it is just a matter of being prepared (as you said).And PS: Happy Birthday Gotham Gal! To 120!

  47. Michael Diamant

    People who love NY are people who are uncompromising and who never want to second guess their decisions. It’s expensive to live here but anyone who wants to live in NYC finds a way, and those concerned about money are missing the point of why you’d live here in the first place.

  48. Wavelengths

    I apologize now for the length of my comment, but I’ve spent all day absorbing today’s post and the cumulative viewpoints, and digesting them into my own perspective, which covers a lot of geography. If I could have responded this morning, I would have. The words this morning didn’t feel fully ripe. At this point I feel like I’m supplying the dots of an essay, but if I tried to connect them, I would insult this audience, who is perfectly capable of doing that.I was born across the river, but within the near ripples of the NYC epicenter. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Rockefeller Center and shop windows at Christmas were part of my early childhood. I still know how to keep up with the sidewalk pace. I can drive in NYC traffic and not lose my cool.On September 11, 2001, the whole world shook. At that time I lived in the shadow of the Rockies, and in that town I was the first to announce the news to the local coffee shop, where many entrepreneurs stopped to get their morning brew. Two time-zones from NYC and that particular earthshaking news wasn’t in the day’s morning paper — who would have known if they hadn’t been listening to the radio or TV in the last hour or so to see the unfolding drama. The number of people who died in New York and DC that day were fewer than half the population of where I now live, but for weeks the country was shut down. FedEx couldn’t fly, private and commercial aircraft were grounded, and for many reasons business didn’t happen at the pace that could maintain their crucial obligations. The country (and world) suffered in ways that I’m sure have never been calculated. I saw part of the fallout several years later in Sun Valley, Idaho, where the hospitality industry was still on life support, and in other places where it took longer for the fallout to destroy local economies, but people traced their economic woes to that fateful day in September.Yet, I believe that it has taken people who could create and thrive in that chaos of change to recover and step up to restore the elements of NYC that keep the rest of the business world functioning. That didn’t happen out of SF or LA or Detroit or Chicago.If the town I now live in was destroyed by tornado or other catastrophic disaster, killing as many people as were lost on 9/11/2001, many people would grieve, but the country would not stop. Yet the people here are part of the human machinery that pulls oil and gas from the ground to fuel enterprises in NYC and worldwide.Washington, D.C., has a different rhythm. A bit slower pace, perhaps because the pacing is determined by people from all over fifty states, not to mention the rest of the world, each of which have something of some significance to say in the context of US government. Where else could a beauty-queen governor of Alaska be drafted to run as VP in a national election? I graduated from high school there, in the midst of political upheaval and protests in the streets. A fellow graduate from the same school died in the Twin Towers. In my alumni paper she was mourned as a kind and loving person. (Probably the kind of person who would talk to a stranger and ask how they were, regardless of whether she had anything to sell. She brought her own vibration to NYC, and I hope she was living her dream and truly loving the Big Apple right to the very end.Part of my family were pioneers on the west coast, helping with the establishment of BART in SF, part of the infrastructure that feeds the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Some of those folks are in Napa Valley, I’m sure contributing in their own small ways to thelocalsip.In the last few days I read a novel by John Le Carre that reminded me why at one point I had read everything he had ever published. In the book he brought characters to life who many of us would understand, and placed them in moral dilemmas that reflect our current world. I think even Kid Mercury would appreciate the story. I went to his website and learned of the many books I had missed while he had continued to write. This is a comment from David Cornwell, nom de plume Le Carre, who is now in his 80s and working on another book. He also lives and works at a different rhythm, and I believe he continues to write literature that will last because of the human themes he tackles:“I hate the telephone. I can’t type. I ply my trade by hand. I live on a Cornish cliff and hate cities. Three days and nights in a city are about my maximum. I don’t see many people. I write and walk and swim and drink. Apart from spying, I have in my time sold bathtowels, got divorced, washed elephants, run away from school, decimated a flock of Welsh sheep with a twenty-five pound shell because I was too stupid to understand the gunnery officer’s instructions, taught children in a special school.”Recently a post from a talented blogger reminded me of a quote from Tracy Kidder’s classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Soul of a New Machine.” (Which I hope the AVC crowd can embrace, even though it’s ancient history at this point.) At the end of the book, one of the key developers quit the team and the company, to move to a farm in New England, saying, “I’m going to where time is measured in seasons, not in nanoseconds.”MBA Mondays is now dedicated to the issue of sustainability. That means more than nanoseconds, and as Fred has already said this week, the work of a VC involves patience, much like a farmer who calculates, works, and waits through seasons.From Ecclesiastes: “There is a time to every purpose …” And time is but a frequency.Some of us “Charlies” can live where we nurture vegetables through the summer season, but we are within reach of the Apple. I envy you, but I am also, by choice, somewhere else. Some of us may be in other cultures where we see a market invisible to most of those in the highly developed East and West Coast US, but potentially as profitable as any entrepreneur might hope. We each operate in our own perspectives to the tune of our own drummers.With respect, and a nod and shuffle for referring to my own nom de plume, I encourage us to respect all frequencies, all drummers, all wavelengths. From that we get the symphonies of innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic advancement. My own bent toward technology and development was shaped by Heinlein and Clarke.From Bangalore, Bangkok, Melbourne, Monterrey, Capetown, Calcutta, London, LA, Rio to “right here in River City,” and on and on … those of us on the internet right now sharing our ideas of real progress are a living testament to the heart of the Statue of Liberty in the NYC harbor — “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free …”Regardless of my politics, I believe that our true leap into a better world for all is through conscious application of technological breakthroughs. Every Pennsylvania middle school classroom, every kid in rural Idaho who can log on to attend class, every motivated, literate kid anywhere in the world who can commit to a curriculum such as… can be part of a revolution, with mentors in place to help him or her forward.But this is a parade of many drummers, more than “76 trombones,” and the spectra of many frequencies. The NYC vibe can be crucial to spearhead legitimacy if not investment to give these ideas credibility. So are the frequencies of many voices around the world.

    1. William Mougayar

      Wow. Nothing worth reading is lengthy. So well said that all frequencies, drummers & wavelengths lead to  the symphonies of innovation, entrepreneurship & economic advancement. Is there a blog where we can continue to read you?

      1. Wavelengths

        That means I’d have to keep up with Fred’s remarkable example to keep my readers coming back. :-)I think about blogging, but nothing is up as yet …

        1. William Mougayar

          You’re doing a fine job with long form commenting! No worries.

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith


    3. ShanaC

      beautifully written

    4. fredwilson

      nice comment wavelengths

      1. Wavelengths

        Thank you. And thanks for your daily commitment to wake us up with some new thought that challenges, inspires, encourages, or just brings us an incentive to share fun.

  49. Robert Holtz

    Ah…. that shout out to Gotham Gal at the end was really sweet. Happy Birthday Gotham Gal!I wish you both many years of “metastable” good loving in the foreground of the life you’ve built together amidst the frenetic time-lapse-like “metainstability” that is your backdrop.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks robert

  50. Muba Mi

    156 posts over a comment are an ample proof how interest that post is; but the flip side is this rising number of comments showed Americans adjusted themselves in digital life and almost forgot the pleasantries of literal life. This I am say on the basis of news that Facebook hits one billion users and how much would be Americans is everybody’s guess. The way people are tired of actual life can be seen well at

  51. Nick Grossman

    Speaking of upgrading the city, yesterday I saw a pretty inspiring presentation about this:

    1. fredwilson

      started as a kickstarter project. we backed it and the gotham gal has been doing some light advising with them too. it is very cool.



  53. Richard

    What do you call a mushroom who walks into a bar and buys a round of drinks? A fun_ghi

  54. fredwilson


  55. raycote

    Or maybe Unstable-InstabilityMaybe the driving force is the sheer Flu-Density ofInteractive-Exchange/Remixingthat a place like New York facilitates?