Expert Thoughts

Forget Silicon Valley: Tech CEO Explains What’s So Great About New York

"It pays to not be constantly surrounded with others living the startup life."
Shafqat Islam

Shafqat Islam

In the 19th century, immigrants would come to New York City with the dream of finding a city where the streets were paved with gold. While precious metals may not actually line these streets, there is no doubt that it’s a city where dreams are made. In 2010, when we moved NewsCred’s headquarters from Switzerland to the US, we had to decide where to settle down. San Francisco was the obvious answer. But we ended up choosing New York, and I’m always happy to explain the many reasons we’ve chosen to call this city home.

Above all else, New York happens to be home to every major industry, making it a huge draw when it comes to running a company. While it may not be the be-all, end-all (it kind of is), it’s without a doubt the epicenter of American business. As I told Mike Maples, our first U.S. investor, “If I have to choose between being close to my investors or my customers, I’ll always choose the latter.”

We’re a B2B company, and that’s what makes New York so perfect for us. Marketing, media, finance, advertising, fashion, publishing, real estate – it’s all here, bigger and better than anywhere else. Where else can you have eight meetings in a day with the biggest companies in every sector and still make it home for dinner (did I mention New York’s awesome public transportation?). Anywhere else in the world, that’d be impossible and that’s reason enough. The density of this city is unparalleled.

This, of course, goes hand in hand with the enormous amount of diversity here. In Silicon Valley, when you leave work, you don’t actually leave, because you’re always surrounded by people in tech. That’s one of the great things about New York: perspective. It pays to not be constantly surrounded with others living the startup life. This city is a hotbed of variety, teeming with people from every culture and walk of life, amazing individuals leading full, vibrant and wildly different lives. That’s the kind of atmosphere that breeds inspiration and fuels amazing ideas.

New York’s spirit is another attraction for the best and brightest. The people who dwell here speak many different languages, they’re experts in all kind of fields, they’re passionate about what they’re doing and they’ve come here to “make it.” Competition is around every corner and everyone’s at the top of their game. It is the city that never sleeps, after all. When you do make it here, it matters more than it would anywhere else.

Finally, the city’s geographical location makes New York an ideal place for a truly global company to thrive. As a business, staying relevant on an international level is incredibly important. We maintain and nurture our roots in Dhaka, Bangladesh and recently opened a London office, too. Getting there from New York is as easy as it can get. You never know – perhaps an office in the Bay Area is in our future, but even if and when that happens, something tells me our heart will always be in New York.

When it comes to startups, the affinity goes beyond personal preference.

A recent New York Times article briefly outlined our city’s startup scene before settling into the argument that the tech industry’s “breakout hit[s]” are limited to the Valley. Nothing could be further from the truth. What about Tumblr? Etsy? Gilt Groupe? MongoDB? Kickstarter? The list is long and ever expanding.

Cold hard data supports this, too. Earlier this year, TechCrunch reported that New York “has been the fastest-growing technology startup ecosystem in the country over the past 10 years” with $2.6 billion in venture capital invested here in 2013 alone. That puts us in a close second, right behind Silicon Valley and significantly ahead of Massachusetts, another contender for the country’s most significant startup space.

What do those two places have that we don’t? Schools like Stanford and MIT. Which brings me to another one of New York’s greatest traits: the ability to identify a weakness and do something to remedy it. In this case, change is coming in the form of a collaborative project from Cornell and Technion that will oversee the opening of a star-studded graduate engineering campus on Roosevelt Island.

The graduate tech program is set to open its doors in 2017. Until then, it shouldn’t be too difficult to persuade West Coast coders, developers and engineers to venture East and see the benefits of New York City for themselves. After all, everyone should experience living in New York City at least once in their lives. As for me, I’ll never leave.

Shafqat Islam is the CEO and Co-Founder of NewsCred, a leading content marketing platform.

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