Culture / Environment / Startups

Brooklyn won’t be the next Silicon Valley, and that’s a good thing

The idea of New York City turning into Silicon Valley puts some writers here into a mild panic.

How "bro" does this crowd look to you? Members of the innovation economy at NYCEDC's 'Next Top Maker' event in Downtown Brooklyn, January 2015. (Photo by Brady Dale)

We really like hearing Manoush Zomorodi, the host of the WNYC podcast New Tech City, talk about brogrammers. Honestly, she just kind of seems to like the word.
That said, she also addresses it because she knows her audience. The specter of frat boys with cash partying on their first draw of venture dollars is enough to give the progressive, liberal arts-educated Brooklynite listening to public radio pause.
On a recent episode of the Technical.ly Podcast, our cofounder, Chris Wink, said he thought tech leaders should quit talking about trying to be “the next Silicon Valley.”
Other writers take it a step further, though. They express a certain horror at the idea of Valley culture showing up here.
Covering the same Bushwick Hackathon that we wrote about, a writer at Brooklyn Magazine opens her story by explaining that she went to find out if tech might “transform all of Bushwick into a swathe of sparkly conformity.”
She says that the idea of brogrammers taking over the place had her scared, and that’s what she came to the event to find out about:

I was surprised to find that many of my preconceived notions were unfounded. Shockingly, not all of the “hackers” were the basic white dudes that apparently populate Silicon Valley. I found a fairly diverse set of nerds represented–people of color and yes, even women! There was a 14-year-old, too, a boy named Maurice. I asked him if he was the youngest person around: “I think I might be,” he nodded.

The sense of (qualified) relief runs throughout. Then, on Thursday, Slate published a piece a similar theme, about the rise of the NYC tech scene, using the news of an IPO at Etsy as the news hook.
The piece extols New York City for being more niche-oriented, more modest. With references to makers and “the quaint economy,” it’s about how the ambitions here are inoffensive. In what may be one of the best paragraphs we’ve read on innovating here, Slate’s senior technology writer praises NYC startups for looking to build a business, not rule the world:

While Manhattan’s ad-tech and fin-tech firms may be more business-minded, their goals tend to be limited as well, in various ways. Today’s New York startups, by and large, are not out to conquer the world and overthrow Google. They’re out to address a niche audience, capitalize on a market inefficiency, or solve a specific problem, often one that is faced by companies rather than, say, teens.

Which isn’t to say there’s no one here that wants to take over the world, but our experience here confirms the sense above: this city is not a bad place for people who want to make a cool thing that also maybe makes them some nice profit. It just doesn’t have to be Bill Gates money for them to feel good about it.

Companies: Etsy
Series: Brooklyn
People: Manoush Zomorodi

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