I have been extremely frustrated that there is a contingent of the community who seem to believe that none of this is an issue. I have had discussions on the NextNY mailing lists where people have provided a list of successful IT related exits as proof that the tech community in new york is vibrant. This to me is the community sticking its head in the sand.
One of the things I find interesting about this is that the people who think there is a problem seem more commonly to be on the tech side of things, and the people who don't think there is a problem tend to be more on the business/marketing side. I am not sure this will continue to hold as more people join the discussion, but it does make sense to me that the closer you are to the issue, the more obvious it is. Given that we had a room full of people directly involved in the technology issues, there was a strong sense that there is a problem here. Some of the most interesting and relevant points made by the panel were as follows:
- Panel moderator Brian Kelly, Director, Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization, indicated that essentially all biotech in New York leaves immediately after getting funding.
- Panelist John Fox President and CEO, Innovation Fuels said that New York VCs are far more conservative and lose deals to the west coast because they are more aggressive. And since money is so much easier out west, people leave.
- Panelist Franklin Madison, Technology Program Director at ITAC, said that there is lots of IT in New York, but that it is buried in the infrastructure of New York and not as visible as it is in Silicon Valley.
- Chairman of the MIT Enterprise Forum, Bruce Bachenheimer, and Clinical Professor, Director of Entrepreneurship at Pace University asked which if any of the New York area universities are interested in helping students become entrepreneurs.
My personal interest is in trying to figure out a way to improve the technology community in New York, particularly as it relates to what I call "hard core" technology. The New York Tech Meetup is great, but most of the products we see are not solutions to hard problems. The tech often seems thin.
One of the more obvious tasks is getting the major New York area universities to encourage technology entrepreneurship or working in an entrepreneurial environment as an exciting career path. In New York, a disproportionate number of the computer science students are ending up working on Wall Street. I think it would be helpful if there was more of a spirit of creation in the New York computer science graduates, as there is in those from the bay area.
In any case, the MIT event surfaced all of these issues both on the panel and it lots of informal discussions afterwards. Lots of people approached me and wanted to tell me their war stories. It appears to me that there is serious problem bubbling up to the surface.
But the goal of this piece is not to complain, but to figure out how to move the ball forward. The first step of attempting to fashion solutions here has to be people from the various constituency groups coming together. As such, I would like to begin an ongoing dialog about the issue. Please leave comments below, or join the just formed http://groups.google.com/group