The Inevitability and Necessity of the New York Tech Community

Curiosity and opportunity led me to cover the New York startup scene for Xconomy, first as a correspondent and then for the past three and a half years as the local editor. Much like the companies I watched grow, evolve, and exit, I will be moving on.

New York is a city of change—an ongoing story of new ideas being born from distinct, diverse minds.

One of the most telling aspects of this tech community is the effort to bring more people of varied backgrounds into the fold. Innovation clusters worldwide need a healthy dose of what is happening in New York, particularly when it comes to championing diversity. To be frank, this can be a point of contention, depending on who you talk to ;  some believe there is already enough representation of different genders and ethnicities in tech, while others see a need to continue to “change the ratio,” as entrepreneur and writer Rachel Sklar puts it.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Anil Dash at New York Tech Meetup (photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth)

Rightly so, this city is a focal point for this movement, from L’Oréal USA’s Women in Digital program to efforts by General Assembly, the New York Tech Alliance, Girls Who Code, PowerToFly, Code/Interactive, venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s push to make technology literacy part of education in all schools, and of course technologist and entrepreneur Anil Dash, who never minces words about making tech (and the world) more inclusive.

It has been my privilege to capture tiny pieces of their stories over the years, by showing up at places, events, and companies that—no offense to my peers—other media outlets regularly overlooked. Being there in person, with a worm’s-eye view, felt crucial to connecting to the developments in New York. Technology is being democratized and created by people of all walks; there is no stopping this momentum.

The one-on-one interview with Olivia Munn at the Women in Digital awards was a personal favorite of mine. Just little old me, and People, landed Q&A time with her that day. Plenty of paparazzi turned up for red carpet photos, and some other news outlets popped up at the latter part of the event, but they did not dig into what was going on.

Naturally People focused on the entertainment angle of a celebrity keynoting an event — but Ms. Munn made time to answer all my questions about the importance of creating opportunities and seeing more role models to help young women envision what they want to become. Moreover, I got the chance to tell the stories of the dynamic founders of Poptip (acquired by Palantir Technologies), 72Lux (now Shoppable), and Joyus.

Outsiders sometimes question the validity of this city’s tech scene. You can chase tales of unicorns in lots of places. The vibrancy of New York’s tech community runs deeper than simply wishing for huge returns when a startup exits.

In New York, there are hefty helpings of social change married to technology. In New York, there is tough love from outspoken angel investors —especially you, Brian Cohen. In New York, there are more stories waiting to be told.

Sunset, New York Financial District (photo by Joao-Pierre S. Ruth)

Sunset, New York Financial District (photo by Joao-Pierre S. Ruth)

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