A Trip Down Memory Lane

With the news of Google and Amazon’s huge expansions into NYC, many people are asking “how did NYC tech get to this place?”  Well, I am going to post a 25 minute video history lesson at the end of this blog post that explains that.

But first, I’d like to talk about how I ended up doing that history lesson, which in and of itself is a history lesson.

When the Internet sector started to emerge from its nuclear winter in the late 2003/early 2004 (which is also when Brad Burnham and I went out and raised the first USV fund), those of us who were still working in the Inernet sector were looking around for a narrative and a rallying cry.

Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle came up with it. They called the re-emergence of the Internet/web sector “Web 2.0” and they launched a conference called Web 2.0 Summit in the fall of 2004. It became the hub of the renewed vitality of the tech/internet sector and we went out to SF every year to attend it.

By 2008, it was clear that NYC was increasingly an important part of the Web 2.0 story, by virtue of companies like Etsy, Tumblr, Delicious, and other important “web 2” companies started in NYC (and funded by USV).

So John and Tim decided to host a Web 2.0 Summit in NYC in 2008 and to celebrate that, they asked me to give a history lesson in the emergence of tech in NYC in the mid 90s. I did that and it remains one of my favorite talks I have given.

Here it is. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed doing it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    ‘A Trip Down Memory Alley’

  2. awaldstein

    Thank you Fred!

  3. johnboehmer

    That was fun. Wow, how much I have forgotten. As someone who has served the start up tech community since 1992, almost as long as you, it was great to be reminded of where we came from and how we got here. Thank you, Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      thank you!

  4. Pointsandfigures

    Good to remember the history. One interesting thing, people just did stuff. No master planned community. No true leader or figurehead. Lots of people acting independently doing their thing.

    1. fredwilson

      100% accurate

      1. Pointsandfigures

        I think this is an important point. In Chicago, Penny Pritzker is putting together a committee to “lead tech” and create a master plan for 2033. Its called Project 33. Nice sentiment but i never saw the plan for SF or NYC.

        1. Paul Bourdel

          Haven’t heard about this tech committee in Chicago. Thank you for sharing that.

        2. jason wright

          By committee? Run!

  5. Mike Zamansky

    This is terrific. Thanks for putting it together and posting.I’ve been thinking a lot about the past couple of decades of tech in NY but through a different lens.Got lots of students and stories going through my head now!!

    1. fredwilson

      when did Stuy start offering CS classes? 1995? that should have been part of the story since so many Stuy grads populate the NYC tech sector now

      1. Mike Zamansky

        ThanksMy first CS graduates were ’95. Spring ’95 was when I also created my first elective beyond APCS-AB. I only had them for their senior year.I created my intro course around ’98 or ’99 and it became a requirement a few years later – that was a game changer.Cool thing now is that many of “the family” are helping support what I’m working on at Hunter and we’re making great progress there.

  6. Tom Labus

    People were having a lot more fun winging it!!!I have no idea where are now. Another valuation implosion is a real possibility too.

  7. Vendita Auto

    Off for the Xmas break so still memory lane just not tech. Health & Wisdom to all …https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplay

  8. William Mougayar

    If you take the 1998-2008 parts, you could almost replace the web with blockchain today, and we’ll have a similar history playing out in front of our eyes, right now.

    1. jason wright

      Is that a wholly valid comparison?

      1. kenberger

        Not really, in my opinion.

        1. jason wright

          i tend to concur.

      2. Richard

        To the hammer everything looks like a nail

        1. jason wright


    2. awaldstein

      Dunno my friend.I lived and worked through both as well.Sure there are analogs as the one constant is the behavior of markets and capital flow.But I see more analogy to the evolution of Open Source and the communities around it then the web itself with its big cat and mouse hardware/software dance.

      1. William Mougayar

        The overshooting that was done w the web is being replicated with the blockchain. That’s a key thing that’s going on right now, and that’s what precipitates crashes typically.

        1. awaldstein

          Don’t quite understand but that can hold till another time. No biggee.Just thought of you as spent the last two hours tasting 10 natural pet nat’s at Racines with Pascaline and David Lillie.Kinda heaven. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

          1. William Mougayar

            Great. I recognize 5 of them.

          2. awaldstein

            Cool. Oldest form of making sparkling, as old as wine itself. And even more than skin macerated whites, something where innovation new word and old is off the charts.Even I didn’t know that some of these were disgorged.The pleasures of drinking every week with the people who know the most about every detail. They humble even me.

      2. kenberger

        yep. I was in the Valley from 1995-2005. There are similar characteristics for sure, but some real differences. Key is that the crypto runup lasted a matter of months, not enough time to really attract masses with their families, as we saw in late 90’s to SV, NYC and elsewhere. Feel like it’s an even tougher stretch to compare those months to a 10-year period. But I def recognized bits of 1994, 95, 99 and 2000 this year, being ensconced in crypto.

        1. awaldstein

          We are really fortunate to participate in all of these cycles.Couldn’t be more interested in working every day which is in itself a cause for celebration.

  9. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:Can also go down memory lane on the Advanced Network and Services (ANS) was a United States non-profit organization formed in September 1990 by the NSFNET partners that closed its doors on 2015 and was incorporated in the State of New York. New Yorker’s still claim outside of the five boroughs. (Rarely-:-))Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  10. Grant Hummer

    Hi Fred. I run the SF Ethereum Developers Meetup. I saw an excellent video today on Twitter of you talking about Ethereum at the MultiCoin Summit and how Ethereum is blowing its lead. Would you be willing to write a post about Ethereum and how you would go about fixing it? I can show it to the right people at the Ethereum Foundation.Thanks.

  11. steve cheney

    It’s amazing watching this. Wow

  12. Jeff Hohner

    Love this Fred – what a wonderful trip down memory lane and thank you. The world was so different – no Apple, Facebook, Tencent, Amazon, Alibaba et al domination – so strange. Nor no real inkling of the impact of mobile. Incredibly, Josh Harris did touch on the current societal structural issues related to privacy and social – strategic nightmares now experienced by Facebook and others. Another 10 year retrospective and NYC’s contribution will be fascinating to see – are you up for it?