Posts from NYC

Covid Alert NY

I’ve written a bunch about Exposure Alerting and its potential to limit the spread of Covid by alerting people when they have come in contact with someone contagious.

Back in April, Google and Apple came together to create GAEN, a framework for secure and private proximity data sharing on mobile phones.

In July, the Linux Foundation open-sourced two code bases that operate on top of GAEN for public health authorities around the world to build mobile apps with.

And yesterday, NY State launched Covid Alert NY that was built on those open source code bases. Covid Alert NY was built by the NYS Dept. of Health and Tech:NYC (where I am Chairman), along with Google, Apple, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Goldman Sachs, and a coalition of technology and research partners.

Here’s how Covid NY works:

  • Phones that have downloaded the app are assigned a random ID that can be exchanged with other phones via Bluetooth technology.
  • Devices that are within six feet of each other for 10 minutes or longer exchange those random IDs.
  • If a person tests positive and reports it on the app, an alert goes out to those with whom they had close contact alerting them of potential exposure.
  • The app also serves as a resource hub of daily case count numbers and informs users of the steps they can take to prevent further virus spread.

And it’s designed to work by placing privacy first:

  • It uses secure Bluetooth technology, not GPS, that can only detect when two devices are in proximity to each other, not geographic location. It doesn’t collect users’ data on their location or movement.
  • The random ID assigned to your device changes every 15 minutes, and users are not identified to other users, nor is their personal identifiable information shared — not with other users, Google, Apple, or the NYS Department of Health.

I hope that all NYers download Covid Alert NY to their phones and participate in a voluntary network of exposure alerting. This alone will not end the pandemic, but it can slow the spread of the virus by letting people know when they might be contagious and encouraging them to isolate and get tested. Imagine if we had this technology widely deployed back in January and February?

I downloaded Covid Alert NY to my phone this morning and am now participating in this voluntary exposure alerting network. You can join me by downloading Covid Alert NY to your phone:

App Store (for iPhone)

Google Play (for Android)

#Current Affairs#NYC

Rebuilding NYC

The Gotham Gal and I spent a good part of saturday walking around NYC. At one point, we walked through the massive and amazing Chelsea Piers complex and saw this plaque:

Think about that. In one four year period, the New York Public Library, Grand Central, the subway, the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges, the fire hydrant system, electrical street lights, firehouses, schoolbuildings, and 51 piers, including the Chelsea Piers, were built.

That right there is a recipe to get NYC back on its feet once this pandemic is over. We can and should build our way out of this downturn.

There is no shortage of things to build in NYC. We need more housing, particularly affordable lower and middle-income housing. We need more transit. I am a fan of light rail, like the proposed BQX, throughout the outer boroughs. We need fiber to every block in NYC, not just the wealthy neighborhoods. We can build zero carbon buildings out of mass timber and reduce our carbon footprint. These are just a few examples of things we can and should build in NYC.

Building can be financed with bonds. Building puts people to work. Building makes our lives better. Let’s do it NYC.


Circulate Networking Events

My friend and former colleague Charlie O’Donnell created a new kind of networking event for the moment we are in. These are virtual networking events designed to “include diverse perspectives in the innovation community.” They are called Circulate.

These are curated discussions, meaning you sign up to participate and the right group is selected to attend.

These industry-specific events will bring together a who’s who of accomplished and influential professionals as well as the most promising and most curious people from underrepresented communities that represent the future of these spaces.

The next three events are shown here:

If you are interested in participating in a Circulate Event, pls sign up here. There are a few remaining spots open for the event Thursday night on Education.

#entrepreneurship#NYC#VC & Technology

Home Sweet Home

We have been back in NYC for about a week after being away for the entire pandemic. We were in LA when the pandemic hit and then spent the summer on the east end of Long Island.

Like everyone, we have read the horror stories of NYC being a wasteland of homelessness, crime, shuttered storefronts, filthy streets, and more. These stories occupy the front page of the NY Post every day and cannot be avoided.

While we have not ventured into every borough and neighborhood, we have been in downtown Manhattan and North Brooklyn, and what we have found is almost the exact opposite of what is being reported.

New Yorkers are out and about, wearing masks, keeping their distance, and enjoying our city very much. Fall is the best season in NYC and New Yorkers are taking advantage of it. My daughter and I biked in Prospect Park yesterday like we do most Sunday mornings and it felt as busy as any Sunday morning in my memory.

The Gotham Gal and I have been going out to dinner at our favorite restaurants in lower manhattan, sitting outside, and enjoying the experience. The walks to and from dinner through lower manhattan are amazing, the streets are bustling and NYC feels very much alive.

It is true that the streets are filthier. It reminds me of NYC in the 80s and 90s when we first fell in love with this place. It is also true that many storefronts are empty, a continuation of something that has been going on in NYC for the last decade and has been accelerated by the pandemic.

I am sure there are parts of the city that are not doing so well. I’ve heard that midtown is empty and facing challenges. I know that the neighborhood around the USV office in Flatiron is not as vibrant as it usually is. And I am sure that there are challenges in the neediest neighborhoods where the pandemic hit hardest and the economy is the most challenging. I am not saying that NYC is doing great.

What I am saying is the demise of NYC seems to have been greatly exaggerated by the media and others. The NYC that we are experiencing is showing its resilience and makes me very confident that it will once again get back up from the punch it just took and start swinging again.


Better Residential Internet In Manhattan

Our portfolio company Pilot Fiber, which provides the best fiber internet to businesses in NYC, has teamed up with a national telecom provider to offer residential fiber internet in Manhattan.

Here’s the way they describe it on their landing page:

Pilot has teamed up with a no-BS, national telecom company (trust us, you know them) to bring gigabit fiber to apartments, condos, and brownstones across Manhattan. We provide the super fast, reliable infrastructure—they hook residents up with a customer-obsessed home internet experience. 

If you live in Manhattan and want better fiber internet, go here and leave your name and contact info and get on the list.


NYC Is Dead, Long Live NYC

There is a lot of negativity around NYC right now. Bloggers writing sensational headlines. That sort of thing. It makes me want to go out and buy a ton of NYC stock right now.

It is certainly the case that many talented people are leaving NYC right now. It is also the case that the City is suffering from rising crime, filth, etc. And the City is in deep financial trouble and cutting costs everywhere it can. Commercial real estate is facing a huge crisis and residential real estate might not be far behind. Real estate tax revenues (which provide much of NYC’s income) will decline creating an even more difficult fiscal situation for NYC. The short term outlook for NYC is bleak.

When companies go through this situation and their stock prices get clobbered, you have to ask yourself if the company is going to go out of business or not. If the answer is no, then the question becomes what price is the right entry price.

NYC is not going out of business. It will need a turnaround. It will need new leadership, which it will get. The pandemic will end. Restaurants, museums, broadway, nightclubs, etc, etc, etc will re-open.

It won’t be the same NYC that existed pre-pandemic. But that is a good thing. NYC has sucked for the last decade or more.

Many people who can will leave forever. Rents will be lower (maybe a lot lower). Artists will be able to live in NYC again.

We have the opportunity to reimagine what NYC is. We can reimagine transportation, schools, policing, housing, construction. We can create an environmentally sustainable NYC. We can create an affordable NYC. We can create a better NYC.

But the first thing that has to happen is we need all the people who are afraid of all of this change to leave so those who are left can come together and create this better NYC. And thankfully that is happening.


Doubling Up

Regular AVC readers may have noticed that after blogging about my once a day routine, I posted twice yesterday.

What happened is that I had been planning on blogging about Summer Bridge, a project we’ve been working on for the last few months, first thing Monday morning after the July 4th holiday.

But when I woke up, I had a DM from my friend Jonathan with some data about the content on AVC over the years and got excited to share it and did.

A colleague reminded me about doing the Summer Bridge post and so I published as planned mid-morning.

For those that may have missed my post about Summer Bridge, it is a new youth summer employment program for the neediest kids in NYC. It is a virtual/remote internship program that runs most of the month of August. The City and State are providing the stipends and companies provide remote “workplace challenges” for the kids.

USV is planning a workplace challenge around finding interesting startups working to address the climate crisis. I am excited to work with our teenage interns on that project next month.

If your company wants to work on an interesting problem with inner-city youth this summer, please consider participating in Summer Bridge. You can sign up here.

#Current Affairs#NYC

NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

NYC’s Summer Youth Employment Program is the nation’s largest youth employment program, historically connecting NYC’s neediest young adults (between the ages of 14 and 24) with a paid work experience every summer. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into it this summer and it was canceled. In response, the City and State and over 50 nonprofits have come together to design the Summer Bridge program for summer 2020. Summer Bridge will provide low-income NYC students with City and State-funded professional workplace experiences in the tech industry and beyond.  

Summer Bridge will provide summer internships to 35,000 young adults this summer.  Student interns will participate in workplace challenge projects for 10-20 total hours (2-4 hours per week for 4 weeks.) The program begins on August 3rd and finishes on August 28th.  Summer Bridge and its non-profit partners will match student interns with companies, compensate students with a stipend ($700-1000 for the summer), and manage day-to-day-student relationships.

We want the NYC tech sector to be a big part of Summer Bridge this summer. Please consider having your company involved. Here is our ask of your company:

  • Design a “workplace challenge” for students based on a real business need or problem in one of four areas: product, engineering, marketing, or design.  Tech: NYC is providing templates for these challenges.
  • Recruit employee volunteers to meet weekly with small groups (15-20 students) for hour-long virtual interactions. Ideally, each volunteer would see 2-3 groups a week.
  • Offer feedback to students at a virtual final workplace challenge presentation.

We hope your company will participate in Summer Bridge this summer. If you would like to participate, go here and sign up.

#Current Affairs#employment#NYC


Today, NYC starts the process of reopening its economy from almost three months of lockdowns to halt the spread of Covid 19.

It is time. The city has massively reduced the spread of the virus in those three months. Here is a chart of infections and testing in Brooklyn over the last three months:

The two things about that chart that get my attention are that the virus is still out there and that testing has massively increased.

Almost 80,000 people were tested in New York State last Thursday, almost 30,000 of them in New York City.

I hope we keep up this level of testing. If we have a uptick in cases as a result of reopening, we can see them, trace them, and react to them. I hope we don’t have an uptick in cases, but now we are so much better prepared to deal with them if we do have them.

Phase one of NYC’s re-opening plan means construction, manufacturing, wholesale and non essential retail businesses will be allowed to reopen.

We are reopening several construction sites that the Gotham Gal and I are running right now. They have been closed since early March. I am so happy that the workers are coming back to work. And we will run those jobs with the proper safety precautions on the job sites to make sure they are safe for the workers.

I am excited to see stores reopen. The lockdown has been very hard on small business owners and I am hopeful that they can rebuild their businesses while remaining under constraints. I plan to shop at stores that are reopening.

But even with all of this energy around reopening, I expect that we will continue the mask wearing and social distancing that we perfected over the last three months. I know that I will.

NYC was the hardest hit of any location in the US this spring with over 200,000 of known cases and likely millions of actual infections. Over 50,000 people were hospitalized and over 20,000 probably died from Covid related illness.

That’s a huge toll. I have lived through many tough moments in my adopted hometown over the last forty years and I think this is the toughest of them all. I think NYC faces enormous challenges recovering from the pandemic, which is still going on and will continue to go on until we have a widely available effective vaccine.

But today is step one of that recovery and I am hopeful and excited to get going again.

#Current Affairs#NYC