Hurricane Sandy

The Day After: Surveying the Damage to New York’s Tech Community [Updated]

Battered but mostly okay, techies take stock.
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Photo taken last night on 8th Street by @dens.

The storm’s passed and the sun’s up, which means it’s time to take account of the havoc wrought on New York City.  That includes the city’s techies, many of whom are currently dealing with power outages, water damage, and inconveniences ranging from the minor to the maddening.

On a basic level, with the subways out of commission and a huge swath of downtown Manhattan (a popular neighborhood with techies for work and living alike) without power or cell service, many startup workers are likely either holed up at home or headed north in search of power.

For example, after a long night of tweeting rather dire images from the East Village, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley reported in this morning:

But it looks like he found shelter soon enough:

Has any sports bar ever seemed so welcoming?

In terms of businesses affected, one victim seems to be the TV livestreaming service Aereo, which had expanded its try-for-free option to serve New Yorkers without cable. Everything was working fine when this reporter went to bed around 12:45 a.m., but upon attempting to log on this morning we found this:

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:(

We can’t help but worry about that warehouse with all those tiny antennas, secreted away somewhere in Brooklyn. We’ve reached out to Aereo and will update if we hear anything back. UPDATE 1:05 p.m.: Virginia Lam, Aereo’s VP of Communications and Government Relations, tells us the service is back up and try for free has been extended once more. Guess the temporary outage had more to do with the power outages than any more serious damage.

Data centers and servers seem to have taken quite a hit. Gawker Media and the Huffington Post have experienced problems with their sites. Even those who aren’t totally screwed are dealing with nagging inconveniences. From reporter Kashmir Hill:

WYNC’s New Tech City program didn’t air this morning. Said host Manoush Zomorodi:

DUMBO-based Huge is also closed today, but reports no damage to the company’s offices:

SwissMiss Tina Roth Eisenberg reported that Tattly shipments will be a couple of days late, but the team is safe:

Hey @tattly fans, our team is safe but our studio is in the evacuation zone so we won’t be able to ship any orders today/tomorrow. #sorry — Tina Roth Eisenberg (@swissmiss) October 30, 2012

A spokesperson for Chelsea-based social prototyping startup Quirky told Betabeat that the company’s basement is currently flooded and they’ve got no power, but the site is up and running. We’ve also reached out to two other companies with major facilities, Shapeways and Makerbot, and will update if/when we get more details.

Venrock partner Marissa Campise has been posting some pretty amazing pics of the damage downtown:

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That’s not good. (via @Marissa)

Meanwhile, those with power are pitching in. Local Response CEO Nihal Mehta announced, “dear NYC: looks like the @LocalResponse office (28/6th) has power + internet + water. tweet or email at nihal at localresponse if u need it!” A followup tweet suggests it’s quite the happening hotspot:

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Caption: “power + pingpong = hurricane party @ LocalResponse HQ”

Om Malik sends warm thoughts eastward, via a blog post titled, “For my friends and New York – stay strong“:

At every corner is a flashback. And there are friends – so many of them. Some who I grew up as a kid. Others who I just met a few months ago. And many who I work along side every day. How can I not be worries about them as the city gets submerged in water from the angry sea.

But it is New York. It will get back on its feet. It always does. Because if it doesn’t then what’s the point. Stay strong my friends. Stay stronger New York!

UPDATE 1: Looks like Squarespace having data center issues, as well. From the company blog come reports of flooding in their data center:

Unfortunately, this means that Squarespace will be offline soon (our estimate being at 12PM today). Be assured that while this will impact our availability, there is no chance of data loss or any other permanent effects. We have simply run out of power, backup power, and cannot access our fuel in a flooded basement.

UPDATE 2: Good news from Shapeways. A spokesperson tells Betabeat:

We just got word that the factory in LIC was totally untouched by the storm. We’re also happy to report that our servers and machines are now powered backup.

Perry Chen has also checked in:

UPDATE 3: Betabeat has learned from Betaworks CEO John Borthwick that the firm’s office is closed but dry (despite flooding in the general vicinity). However, Mr. Borthwick himself is dealing with the storm’s aftermath. “My family and i are bailing a foot of water out of my kitchen,” he told us.

We also talked to Livestream CEO Max Haot, who’s still on the West Coast. “The power actually went out during the night… we actually have backup power that is provided by the building, by generators on the roof, and that still is what is powering operations there.” Hence, they were able to keep the #SandyCam running. Mr. Haot estimates they got at least 400,000 unique viewers throughout the day, and Livestream was also the first media outlet on the scene of the collapsed building in Chelsea.

Like many tech companies, Livestream’s data center is facing floodwaters. “They’ve lost power as well, as has everybody south of 34th Street.” They’ve got about a hundred hours of backup fuel, so Livestream hasn’t felt any impact on their core servers, but it could become a headache if their data center doesn’t get more fuel and the power supply doesn’t come back online sometime soon.

Yesterday, Mr. Haot added, the company was able to run its sales and customer support operations just fine, with New York-based employees working from home. Today, however, “most of these guys have now lost power and are now MIA because they’re dealing with their own families and their own issues” and Livestream’s VOIP provider is having issues. So business operations aren’t quite back up and running just yet. All in all, though, Mr. Haot seemed relatively upbeat about how Livestream was weathering the weather.

Update 4: We caught up with Makerbot CEO Bre Pettis to find out how the company had fared. Their offices and manufacturing facilities in downtown Brooklyn (at 87 3rd Avenue and 314 Dean Street) escaped unscathed, though Mr. Pettis admitted, “we’re going to have to put everything back together, because we put everything up on tables, just in case there was flooding.

Their workshop by the Gowanus had a closer call: “The water basically came right up to our door and then receded.” Next time, the Makerbot team plans to have sandbags at the ready. “We got lucky–the folks down the street were all pumping out their basements today,” Mr. Pettis added.

Also, it seems Twitter took in the Gizmodo team in their time of troubles:

 

Betabeat will be updating this post on a rolling basis with any new information from the city’s startups. Please email tips@betabeat with any details about how you or your fellow tech types are coping. 

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com