Red Burns

Back in 2008, when I gave my talk at Web 2.0 on the recent history of the NYC tech sector, I said that Red Burns was responsible for restarting the tech sector in NYC when she created ITP at NYU in the late 70s.

1979-Red Burns Opens ITP Program @ NYU

The entire slide show for that talk is here.

Many of you know this sad news already. Red passed away this past week. She was an incredible woman who left NYC with the gift of a resurgent tech sector and a community of passionate makers and entrepreneurs. It is her legacy as much as anyone's.

Here are some links to the best posts I've seen on Red this week.

The New York Times

The Gotham Gal

Dennis Crowley

Clay Shirky




Comments (Archived):

  1. andyswan

    Nice tribute. I had not heard of her prior, but I look forward to getting to know her now.

  2. JimHirshfield

    Sad to hear. But great to know of tech leaders pre-1995. So much of our “history” in tech seems to focus on what has happened since 1995. But there’s so much more. So many more players.

    1. Elia Freedman

      In mobile that’s 2008. The rest of history has been abandoned.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Shirley, you jest?

        1. Elia Freedman

          I wish I did. And stop calling me Shirley.

          1. LE

            It’s “don’t call me shirley”. Lack of attention to detail like that could cause a plane to crash.

          2. Elia Freedman

            No worse than having the fish.



    2. LE

      Reminds me of when I was growing up and my parents would refer to some actress from the 40’s or 50’s that I had never heard of. And my wife who is much younger knows nothing about things surrounding Camelot.History tends to start at the point at which you become aware of what is going on in the world. Anything before that is not important.I remember the companies that you worked for (that used to be in your sig) because I was around at that time. Would imagine many of the readers of AVC have no clue what they were.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Those companies are in my profile – mouse-over to see.I think that our interest and knowledge of history grows in direct correlation with our age: The older we get, the more we see back before our birth date.

        1. LE

          Well then in my little “tip of the day to disqus” you can pass along that that pop up should also appear on mouseover on a person’s name. [1]That’s actually a more obvious place than a picture. (I’m not saying that I’ve never moused over a picture but the name is the more intuitive place).[1] Then if they have more time on their hands they can make it scroll as well so more info can appear and it doesn’t cut off like yours did. To click (to see more) means fear of losing one’s place.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Perhaps. I’m no UI/UX guy. But the avatar is much bigger, and therefore easier to mouse-over. Even easier to mouse-over by accident which you could call serendipitous discovery of that feature, maybe?

          2. JimHirshfield

            …and you won’t lose your place. Profiles appear as overlays. But I get your point that the user doesn’t know that at the time of click.

    3. ShanaC

      We don’t study our history. So we keep repeating it

      1. JimHirshfield


      2. Mark Essel

        We study our history so we can re-experience only the best parts.

      3. Cam MacRae

        Yeah, but this time it’s different :/

    4. CJ

      In that it’s just like hip-hop. A lot is said about 1996 – Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, Pac, plus more…it was a very good year. But there was great hip-hop before that too, Kane, Rakim & Eric B, Boogie Down Productions, LL Cool J, Run Dmc, on and on. But no one talks about them anymore.

      1. JimHirshfield

        The Sugarhill Gang 1979 🙂

        1. pointsnfigures

          Hotel Motel Holiday Inn, if your girl starts acting up, then you call her friend.

          1. JimHirshfield


  3. pointsnfigures

    Very sad when a trailblazer dies. So glad she left a trail.

  4. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    There was one word definition of her … “force” by GG.Wow … never heard of that to define a person.

    1. jason wright

      a force of nature

  5. Brandon G. Donnelly

    And a fellow Canadian

  6. panterosa,

    What most impressed me about Red, Burns from the videos I have seen of her and other, was her openness, curiosity and trust of artists and creative people. Very few people can live in a way that guides a mind which is exploding with ideas and chaos and not only not be overwhelmed, but help reach into that mind and shape it according to the needs of the mind, not the dictate of the teacher’s agenda. It’s like holding the mirror up to the student to have them see for themselves what is missing or needs to happen.I teach kids, age 4 – 12, on and off, while I developed my games over the last years, and allowing them to really develop as artists is a sacred task. You have so much influence, and must use it so wisely.She was obviously a maverick personally and there are too few women who have the courage to be themselves at that level. Women like that are unforgettable. They are a gift. Like Shiva, creator, protector, destroyer.

    1. awaldstein

      Actually the tech world does a poor job of celebrating its heroes beyond the present. Especially true for women.Example–Was fortunate to work with Heidi Roizen, probably the first and one of the most successful women entrepreneurs in Tech. T/Maker founder, Softbank, Apple.Everyone knows who she is? I bet not.

      1. fredwilson

        i know Heidi

  7. Dale Allyn

    Thank you, Fred. I don’t know a lot about Red Burns, and will read the posts you’ve linked.

  8. Guest

    When I lived in NYC, I went to NYU’s events and was impressed by how integrated the ITP is with other schools in NY and further afield. The fact that students have single-site access to a wealth of paid research reports (from Datamonitor to Bberg); entrepreneurship talks by the top founders in NYC and the $75,000 Rennert Prize as well as dynamic interaction with the startup community generally is testament to Red Burns and others who laid the foundations, did the heavy lifting, made it easier for students to become entrepreneurs and cultivated NYC into the successful ecosystem it is today.Europe could do with inspirations and trailblazers like Red Burns.

  9. William Mougayar

    I had not heard of Red Burns prior, but now that I’m up to speed, I can see how inspiring her trail blazing work was for NY.

  10. Leo Ramalho


  11. Leo Ramalho

    oh red burns!