Silicon Alley U
On Monday, the lobby of the Weill Cornell Medical College, which resides on a particularly gray stretch of the Upper East Side, was crawling with men and women in wooly blazers dotted with “carnelian” buttons—the technical name for the maroon hue that invariably moves Cornell students to chant some version of “Go Big Red!”
Inside the auditorium, as an assembly of press, pols, and local technorati waited for Mayor Bloomberg to appear, a giant projector flashed a mosaic of the Cornell University logo.
The news had been leaked to every major news outlet by midnight on Sunday; there was no point in being coy.
When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told a crowd of reporters last week that Facebook would be opening its first engineering office outside Palo Alto right here in New York, it sounded like the Bloomberg administration’s dream come true. Could the West Coast tech giants finally be taking New York seriously as an innovation center, rather than just a convenient base to sidle up to advertisers?
Indeed, earlier this year, the Economic Development Corporation said its goal in accepting bids to build an applied sciences campus in New York was to “increase the probability that the next high growth company—a Google, Amazon, or Facebook—will emerge in New York City and not in Shanghai, Mumbai, or Sao Paolo.” An engineering office from a company on the verge of what might be the biggest IPO in history sounds like the next best thing. What’s more, Facebook seemed so confident about luring technical talent (typically a sore spot with New York techies) that they weren’t waiting for the campus to break ground.
Facebook’s decision was so glaringly aligned with the city’s goal of diversifying into an innovation capital that it was hard not to wonder if New York had tried to sweeten the deal.