Mayor Bloomberg Announces New Advisory Council on Technology at NY Tech Meetup

10/13/11Follow @jpruth

Tuesday night’s NY Tech Meetup took on a new spin when a special guest took the stage. Though it was interesting to spot David Tisch of TechStars in the audience, what was most notable was that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spoke at the monthly gathering of local technology entrepreneurs and innovators for the first time ever.

Addressing a full house of some 700 attendees at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University, Bloomberg announced the formation of the Mayor’s Council on Technology and Innovation. The council, to be chaired by Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel, is made up of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to explore ways Bloomberg’s administration can foster growth in the local technology community.

“We can’t sit here and let Silicon Valley be bigger than us in anything,” Bloomberg said. The mayor said the depth of the fashion, media, publishing, and bioscience industries concentrated in New York made the city a hub for innovation. “This is the big pond,” he said.

The new council includes David Tisch, managing director of TechStars NYC; Susan Lyne, chairman of Gilt Groupe; John Borthwick, CEO and founder of Betaworks; Mitch Jacobs, CEO and founder of On Deck Capital; Perry Chen, CEO and founder of Kickstarter; Barry Silbert, founder and CEO of SecondMarket; Jonah Goodhart, co-CEO and founder of Moat; Hilary Mason, chief scientist with bitly; Ntiedo Etuk, co-founder and CEO of DimensionU; and Susan Crawford, professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

Bloomberg seized the opportunity to kick off the latest NYC BigApps competition. The annual contest returns for its third run this time with $50,000 in total prize money at stake. The competition, which is hosted online by New York’s ChallengePost, calls on developers to create apps that improve life in New York as well as draw upon data that has been collected by city agencies. Entries will be accepted until next January 25 with the winners to be announced next March.

Bloomberg also shared the names of some of the institutions that have filed proposals to fulfill the previously announced Applied Sciences NYC project to build a new academic campus for applied sciences and engineering in the city. “Stanford University wants to come here, Cornell University wants to come here, Purdue University wants to come here,” he said.

Bloomberg said a university will be chosen by year’s end to pursue the project, which his administration has pledged $100 million to help fund. Applied Sciences NYC is part of the mayor’s effort to grow the ranks of local technology talent.

Bloomberg described for the audience some of his challenges as an entrepreneur when he founded Bloomberg L.P. in 1981. In the early days of his financial data and media company, Bloomberg served as an installer and repairman for the information terminals—even going so far as to help solder together circuit boards himself. “It took three years from when we started until we got our first customer,” he said.

He also shared some advice, which echoed the late Steve Jobs, regarding understanding the nature of one’s business and being in command of how best to meet market needs. “You must listen to your customers but not too much,” Bloomberg said. He explained that an entrepreneur should ask questions about what people want, “but don’t let them design your product.”

The night continued with presentations from tech startups and other innovators:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg addresses the audience at the NY Tech Meetup (photo courtesy of Clay Williams/NYTM).

Artsicle: A website that lets users rent artwork from up and coming artists.

Amicus: A platform that nonprofit and political organizations can use to leverage personal connections from their social networks for fundraising campaigns.

Aurasma: A visual browser app from HP’s Autonomy that uses the cameras on smartphones and tablets to scan photos and other images in the real world and then find Web videos related to that subject.

bitly: Known for shortening Web links, the company is leveraging the data it has collected and creating its own search engine that shows popular links.

Framesocket: Lets users steer viewers of Web videos about their product or company to their own websites rather than to a third party such as YouTube.

Goodsie: An e-commerce platform that lets sellers setup online stores without coding.

Gust: The new, upgraded version of AngelSoft, which lets entrepreneurs create profiles that potential investors can peruse.

LayerVault: Lets designers update and control the version of projects their teams work on together.

Twilio: For the coders in the audience, lets users turn their Web browsers into functional telephones.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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