Fred Wilson, Todd Dagres, and More Cheer NY’s Growth in the VC Game

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Much like the New York Giants charging onto the football field, companies such as bitly, BarkBox, and Gilt Groupe—along with their backers—have upped the caliber of innovation expected from startups in New York. In response to this upswell of activity, Xconomy brought some 250 members of the local investor and entrepreneurial community together Wednesday to catch a glimpse of the city’s potential as a venture hub. (And to debate the merits of the Giants vs. the Patriots.)

Fred Wilson, managing partner of Union Square Ventures, and Todd Dagres, general partner and founder of Spark Capital, discussed the role media hype plays with some startups and the rise of social media, during a keynote chat moderated by David Rosenblatt, CEO of 1stdibs.

Admittedly, the media is notorious for picking its darlings when discussing innovation while barely mentioning some growing companies. Though Instagram, for example, makes headlines when it lands funding, Wilson said, Union Square Ventures has companies in its portfolio quickly building their businesses under the radar. “They don’t get caught up in a bunch of nonsense,” he said. “We have companies like Indeed.com and Return Path that will be public companies in three or four years—maybe less.” The management teams at those companies, Wilson said, are more focused on developing their products than building their media following.

Dagres said that some companies simply do not talk up their plans. He compared Twitter, a usual suspect on many blogs and news sites, with Tumblr, which until recently was not as vocal. “Tumblr couldn’t get arrested even though it was growing like crazy and was very substantial,” he said. “You didn’t hear anything about it. Now it’s starting to catch on.”

New York’s Tumblr could be on to something by shrugging at hype in order to endure in the social media arena, Wilson said. He noted that early players such GeoCities gave way to MySpace, Facebook, and now Foursquare and Pinterest. “People are figuring out how to make these services more useful and how to also make them businesses,” he said.

The trouble with GeoCities, Wilson said, was in spite of the high hit counts on those … Next Page »

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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