Posts from NYC

Citibike

In a time when there are so many options for getting around the urban landscape (walking, subway, e-bikes, e-scooters, Yellow Cabs, Uber, Lyft, Juno etc), you would think that the six year old Citibike service in NYC would be “old hat.”

But it remains one of my favorite things about living in NYC. The addition of bike lanes all over lower Manhattan (where I live and work) has made biking a lot safer and pedestrians are increasingly aware of the bike paths and the bikers on them.

The kiosk system, vs the dockless system that many of the newer offrrings use, has some challenges around trying to dock in a full kiosk at the end of your ride, but it is much preferable for the tidy/neat nature of the bikes.

Citibikes are particularly great for the one to two mile journey that would take 20-30mins to walk but 5-10 mins to bike.

I did that this morning from this kiosk in the west village to the Union Square neighborhood.

It took me 7 minutes and I was early enough to my meeting that I had time to get a cup of coffee before the meeting.

I honestly don’t think there is a better way to get around NYC for short distances on a lovely spring day. It is one of the things that makes living in NYC so enjoyable.

#NYC

Blockchain Week NYC

It is that time of year again, when the entire crypto sector comes to NYC. It is called Blockchain Week NYC and there are a dozen or more industry events like the Coin Center Annual Dinner, The Third Annual Token Summit, Consensus, Women On The Block, and many more.

There will also be breakfasts, dinners, company sponsored events, etc, etc.

I will be at many of these events, speaking at a few of them, and am excited to see the crypto sector live and in person this week in NYC.

With the crypto winter seemingly coming to an end and spring on the horizon, it is a great time to take stock of the sector and get excited about it again. Except that I never lost my excitement. Sometimes you just need to hibernate for a year and last year was a good one to do that.

Finally, I am so pleased that NYC was able to secure the spot where the crypto industry comes together once a year. It makes sense that crypto would be big here, given the financial services talent, engineering talent, and commercial sensibility that has always been resident in this town.

If only our regulators in NYS would be as excited about crypto as I am and everyone who is coming to NYC this week is.

#crypto#NYC

Underground Infrastructure

One evening last week my daughter and I spent an hour with a team from our portfolio company Pilot Fiber who were pulling a new fiber cable from Sixth Avenue to Fifth Avenue along a cross street in lower Manhattan.

My daughter is doing a project and wanted to understand how this all worked and I was curious myself. It was fascinating.

We met them at a manhole near Sixth Avenue where they had pulled a fiber cable into a building where one of their large customers is based.

The team uses a thin line of “mule tape” that is placed in the conduit between the manhole and the building to pull the fiber cable from the manhole to the building. Ideally the mule tape stays in the conduit so that the next team that needs to run fiber from one manhole to another or into a building can use it again.

Pilot had a couple of their trucks on the street that have huge fiber spools on the back of them.

The team runs fiber using the mule tape in the conduits that exist from manhole to manhole. This was the next manhole they worked in that evening.

You can see that there are a lot of fiber cables in these manholes. The big clunky plastic things are splice enclosures that protect the splices that join fibers to each other.

You can see a line of mule tape on the lower right of the photo above that the team was using to pull the fiber cable from one manhole to the other.

When we got to Fifth Avenue, the manhole was cavernous. One of the team members was comfortably working down in the hole which would not have been so easy in the manholes on the cross streets.

I learned quite a bit that evening about how all of this infrastructure is laid and managed. But mostly I was so interested in how this modern infrastructure (fiber) has overwhelmed the prior kind (copper and coax) under the streets of NYC.

If you want high speed/reliable/reasonably priced fiber Internet in Manhattan for your company, you can get that from Pilot Fiber who is out on and under the streets of NYC most nights laying the cables to make it happen.

#NYC

Fewer Cars More Mass Transit

Well it looks like NYC is finally going to get congestion pricing, a technique used successfully in a number of cities around the world to reduce the number of cars on the road and increase the investment in mass transit.

The concept is simple. Tax cars coming into the center of a city and use those tax revenues to invest in other ways of moving people in and out of the city.

I have been a supporter of this idea going back to the Bloomberg era in NYC when it looked like we were going to get congestion pricing and then it fell apart due to political opposition.

I wrote about congestion pricing late last year when a report came out from the Governor’s committee on metro area transportation which recommended congestion pricing and increased investment in the MTA.

I think this is the right policy. We need to create financial disincentives to drive in NYC (with the proper exemptions like people with disabilities) and we need to invest more in mass transit.

This will be good for the tech sector in NYC, where employees largely use mass transit to get around. Julie Samuels, Exec Director of Tech:NYC, explains why in more detail in this op-ed.

I do have concerns about giving billions of new tax revenues to the MTA which has not been great at using the billions we have already given them to deliver better mass transit. I mention those concerns in my post late last year.

But we should not let perfect be the enemy of the good. NYC needs congestion pricing and we need it now. It will reduce traffic in lower and midtown manhattan and it will provide the resources we need to modernize and improve our mass transit options.

If we could couple congestion pricing with structural reforms of the MTA, then we would be really cooking with gas.

#NYC#policy#Politics

An Open Letter To Jeff Bezos

This ran as a full page ad in the New York Times today. I signed it along with the top labor leaders in NYC, the top political leaders in NYC, top business execs, and the leaders of NYC’s higher education institutions. I believe it was a mistake by Amazon to pull out of NYC and I very much hope they will reconsider.

#NYC

Token Summit IV

Chris Burniske reminded me yesterday of something I said a while ago:

We are in the post crash cycle in crypto and that has made the sector interesting to me again. Prices are way down and there is a lot of great work being done on projects we are invested in and projects we want to invest in.

And no better place to soak up all of that progress than at Token Summit IV, run by our friends William Mougayar and Nick Tomainoon May 16th in NYC.

When William asked me if I thought they should do it this year, I said “hell yes” but also suggested that they dial it back in line with crypto prices. And that is what they have done.

They are capping the number of attendees at 550, about the same number they had at the inaugural Token Summit in May 2017. They are planning to do it at an intimate venue and keep the content and attendee list very tight.

The first 200 early bird tickets are available for purchase immediately at a price of $699. After 200, anyone can sign up but they will be “invite only” and they are selecting signups based on quality, experience and diversity of thought they bring.

This year’s Token Summit will focus on the following issues:

  • Cryptonetworks and open source blockchain protocols versus startups: what are the differences and similarities?
  • Open finance: what are the challenges to getting open, global financial products in the hands of millions of users?
  • dApp development: can next-generation dApp platforms be a catalyst for greater adoption?
  • Latest practices in extracting blockchain data for insight: what can we learn and why is this important now?
  • Are we decentralized yet? Is there an optimal criteria for decentralization, and how do we get there?
  • How do we quantify the value of blockchain protocols, and applications?
  • What are the success factors in deploying decentralized protocols?
  • Decentralized governance – what is working now versus what is experimental?
  • Tokens evolution- what are the best cases with real innovation, real users and real benefits?
  • The regulatory front: Is the US losing its position as the standard bearer? Is there a perfect jurisdiction?


#blockchain#crypto#NYC

NYC Is Savills' Top Tech City

Savills World Research, a global property agent, has been ranking the world’s top tech cities based on a bunch of criteria for years. In this year’s rankings, NYC tops SF to become the number one tech city in the world.

This is just one survey and I am certainly not going to assert that NYC has surpassed the bay area in terms of the best place to start a tech company.

But the bay area is absolutely struggling with some challenges. Labor and real estate costs have skyrocketed in the last decade. And from what we are seeing it is easier to convince someone to leave the bay area and move to LA or NYC than it has been in the past. The bay area is not an easy place to live and work anymore.

Truth be told, NYC has some of those same issues, but it has the benefit of five boroughs, a mass transit system that even with all of its problems moves 5.5mm riders a day, and a vibrant business community that is diverse and talented.

Another truth is that any of those thirty cities would be a fine place to start a company. Tech has gone global and so has tech talent. And investors are eager to fund innovative tech companies in many places around the globe.

USV has portfolio companies in about a dozen of those top thirty cities and, while we limit our investments to North America and Western Europe, we certainly hope to increase that number in the coming years.

But regardless of all of that, I am proud of what NYC has been able to accomplish over the last twenty-five years. In the mid 90s, I doubt NYC would have been a top ten city on this list. And now it is number one. Well done Gotham.

#NYC#VC & Technology

The Amazon Backlash

NY State Senator Michael Gianaris is leading the efforts to stop Amazon from opening up a large presence in the borough of Queens in NYC.

I get that this makes for good politics at some level. Standing up for the taxpayer and expressing outrage at a massive tax giveaway to the one of the wealthiest companies in the world, run by one of the wealthiest people in the world, makes for great stump speeches.

But there is one problem with all of that. The voters and taxpayers in Queens, particularly the minority voters and taxpayers, approve of Amazon’s move to Queens by very large margins.

The very people that Gianaris and others like Ocasio-Cortez represent and are “standing up for” want Amazon in Queens by large margins.

What the voters and citizens of Queens seem to understand is that this is a once in a decade type opportunity to change the face of a borough and a city.

As historian Kenneth Jackson explained in this excellent NY Times Op-Ed piece yesterday, history shows that the economic fortunes of cities change quickly with once dominant industries moving on and new ones arriving. This is a fantastic opportunity for NYC to cement its role as a leading tech sector and one that should not be missed. There is no guarantee that the NYC of tomorrow will be as vital as the NYC of today. We have to work to make it so and this effort to recruit Amazon to NYC is exactly the kind of work which will make it so.

My friend Kathy Wylde also penned an important argument in favor of Amazon in yesterday’s Daily News. Kathy explains that Queens has been planning for this sort of thing in Long Island City for over a decade and many of the issues that the rabble rousers are raising have been considered, planned for, and are already being worked on.

In my view, politicians like Gianaris and Ocasio-Cortez are being irresponsible and reckless in their opposition to Amazon while playing politics with something that is without question good for NYC, good for Queens, and good for their voters. Their voters know it and so should they.

#NYC#policy#Politics

Winternships

I heard about a cool program that helps NYC tech companies build more diverse teams. It is called Winternships.

The program is run by a group called WiTNY (Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship in NY) which is a three year-old collaboration between Cornell Tech and CUNY to drive more female students into tech majors or minors, and into the NYC tech ecosystem.

It works like this:

A Winternship is a paid, three-week internship experience during the January academic recess for freshman and sophomore women in tech. Participating companies design an ‘immersion’ experience in their business – students sit in on meetings, meet executives, go on site visits — and they work together on a challenge project that they pitch on the last day. WiTNY identifies students based on a match between your needs and their skills. Their team will even help you craft the Wintern experience if you want.

Here are some stats on the program:

Last January, 46 companies raised their hand and welcomed 177 CUNY women into their companies. Amazingly, 54% of these young women were able to parlay that experience into a paid summer tech internship somewhere in the city.

And here is the demographic of the CUNY student body:

CUNY is among the largest and most diverse universities in the country, with 250,000 undergrads and approximately 85% students of color.

If your team is trying to figure out how to diversify your internship and entry level hires, or just want to open your doors to transform the lives of young New Yorkers, considering hiring a Wintern team this January. And if you’re a small startup or a non-profit, WiTNY will even pay the student stipends for you.

Sounds great, right? If you want to host a Winternship at your company this January, you can get started here.

#employment#NYC

Mapping A City

My friend Ro Gupta co-founded and runs a company called Carmera which makes real-time HD maps for the autonomous driving market.

They do this by operating “an owned and professionally crowdsourced vehicular sensor network” (ie Google StreetView) which captures real-time data about what is happening at street level.

In an announcement they made today, they describe a partnership with the City of New York in which they “will share data with the NYC Department of Transportation, including historical pedestrian density analytics and real-time construction detection events. In turn, we’ll gain access to key city data sets that allow all parties to work together to improve the accuracy of street inventories while doing our part to increase private-public transparency.”

This is an example of a pedestrian density map of the west village in NYC, where we live.

This is an example of a growing trend I am seeing where tech companies, which traditionally have wanted to “do it ourselves”, are partnering with the broader ecosystem (large companies, governments, public agencies, etc) to build more comprehensive data sets.

It is also an example of goverments and other large bureaucracies getting more comfortable sharing their data and being more open to working with startups and the broader tech sector.

This is a very hopeful trend.

We have significant problems to solve in the coming decades around a warming planet, overloaded and failing transportation systems and urban infrastructure, and many other things.

If all sectors of society come together to work on these problems, we stand a much better chance of solving them.

#hacking government#NYC