Going Beyond Early Promises, NY Works On Its Follow-Through (Part 2):
"What’s Next for the New York Ecosystem?"
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problem of people thinking there were marketing and biz-dev people here but no engineers,” she said. That list quickly grew to more than 500 companies with at least 50 percent of their front-end and back-end engineering done in New York.
In spite of the progressive moves in the city, she said sometimes people on the periphery are unaware of the opportunities the tech industry offers. Lawrence said she was surprised recently while speaking to a class of computer science students at Pace University. “I started throwing out names of tech companies like Etsy, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit, and they had totally blank looks on their faces,” she said.
Lawrence believes more can be done to get the word out about the city being a center for jobs for computer science graduates and others looking for careers in technology.
Branham spoke about plans to create more academic institutions to reinforce the technology industry here. That includes the forthcoming Cornell NYC Tech campus, the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress, and the expansion of Columbia University’s Institute for Data Sciences & Engineering. “The one thing we’ve heard time and again from entrepreneurs, founders, and the funding community is that New York City needs more talent to sustain this incredible growth,” Branham said.
The mayor’s administration also works with partners to start initiatives such as the World to NYC program, he said, which brings startups and entrepreneurs from around the world. “Last week we hosted a delegation from Central Europe with iCatapult and VentureOutNY,” Branham said, “so they can think about whether establishing offices here or relocating makes sense.”
New York sent its own delegation to Israel in April to meet with funders, accelerators, and incubators, he said, to keep lines of communication open.
For all of the city’s benefits, a number of concerns such as the high cost of operating here might keep startups—especially from abroad—from moving to New York. One audience member at yesterday’s forum eagerly asked to know what the city is doing to make sure more visas are available to allow international entrepreneurs to come to the U.S.
Branham said Mayor Bloomberg has been very vocal about immigration, which is also at the center of heated national political debates. “[The mayor] started a wide-ranging coalition of bipartisan interests to push for the exact type of immigration reform that will allow visas to be issued more efficiently,” Branham said. “The last thing we want is reverse brain drain.”
He referred to the phenomenon of students from abroad earning advanced degrees in the U.S., only to be forced to return to their home countries where they start businesses. “That’s not a win,” Branham said. The NYCEDC may not have lobbying muscle to sway the matter directly, he said, but the mayor has been out in front of the issue.
Lawrence said NYTM is part of the coalition Branham mentioned, which is preparing the virtual March for Innovation planned for May 22 and 23 to get politicians in Washington, DC, onboard with immigration reform. “It covers people from New York and Silicon Valley as well,” she said. “Our U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer has been pretty vocal about immigration as well. We hope with all of these different voices that we’ll get somewhere.”