Internet Week New York shows how far the city's tech sector has come

The annual event, starting Monday, will include the Webby Awards, the Webutante Ball and a focus on hot startups and the future of music and media



Last Updated: Friday, May 16, 2014, 9:44 AM


Take that, Silicon Valley.

New York’s tech center — once poised for global dominance until the Internet bubble burst in 2000 — is surging back thanks to an increasing number of startups, state-of-the-art technology education programs, the relocation of numerous big-name firms and one thing New York City has always had over San Jose: access to billionaires with money to invest.

And Internet Week New York, which starts Monday and includes 200 events, is like a victory lap for the city’s Web culture.

“New Yorkers in tech hate the question (of whether New York or Silicon Valley is the main tech center) because we’re not trying to be Silicon Valley,” says Charlie O’Donnell, who runs Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, a tech “seed fund,” after helping create the venture-capital firm First Round Capital.

“If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to build a big company,” he adds.

Of course, New York has been a tech center since the ’90s, when the hot companies were,, Cisco and GeoCities — and an ad firm named DoubleClick made headlines just by posting a “Welcome to Silicon Alley” sign atop a building in the Flatiron District.

But when the bubble burst, the city lost 14,100 tech jobs in two years.

Now companies are again hiring. A state report revealed that in the last four years, the city added 25,000 tech jobs — up 33%. The sector, responsible directly or indirectly for 291,000 jobs, is now 7% of the city job market, behind health care (16%) and retail (8%).

“More and more companies are launching, or hiring in New York’s Silicon Alley,” says Richard Blakeley, head of business development at Rabbit, a video chat technology company. “It’s the world capital of media, fashion, publishing, finance and hospitality, so most startups are gravitating East.”

Stanford University will continue to churn out talent to San Francisco and environs, but with the coming expansion of Cornell University’s NYC Tech to a bigger campus on Roosevelt Island, some of the computer whizzes who would normally fantasize about a future in Palo Alto might be deciding to launch the next Mashable or MySpace in New York instead.

“We have great talent, plenty of venture-capital dollars, and most importantly, it's the best place to live on the face of the Earth,” says O’Donnell.

And New York’s supply of billionaires is proving fruitful for those seeking capital to make their dorm-room dreams a reality.

“There has absolutely been a growth of opportunities to raise funding in New York,” says Allison Arden, managing director of Internet Week New York. The cost of creating a business here is high, but the access to fat wallets and fund-raisers full of them is unparalleled.

There are scores of events during the week, so we handpicked the must-see talks, parties and other events that any technophile should start hyping on social media immediately.

The Webby Awards

Rarely does one awards ceremony honor such a wide range of talent, from Justin Bieber (his Girlfriend perfume launch won this year’s People’s Voice Webby) to the Jamaican bobsled team (Webby Athlete of the Year). Patton Oswalt will host Monday’s ceremony, where winners are limited to five-word acceptance speeches. (Al Gore probably nailed this format, accepting his Webby in 2005 with, “Please don’t recount this vote.”) Other winners this year include Airbnb (Best Travel Website), Medium (Best User Experience) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (Best Viral Marketing, Best Online Commercial, Best Branded Entertainment Short Form).

The Webutante Ball

This is where techie couples go to show off their media prowess, make rare appearances in formalwear instead of corduroys and hoodies and take record numbers of selfies. This year, organizer Blakeley says to look out for “digital media power couple” Josh Topolsky and Laura June, who both work at Vox Media’s The Verge, an entertainment and news site from one of the buzziest online conglomerates.

If we’ve learned anything, it’s that you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to build a big company.

Startups to watch

O’Donnell is excited about Makr, which he calls “simply the best place to do all of the branding for yourself or your business.” What Squarespace is to personal websites, Makr (at is to individuals, creating business cards, thank-you notes, labels, stationary and more. Stylishly, of course. Blakeley is fascinated by Casper, which launched less than a month ago, and “did the impossible by making the process of buying a mattress sexy to people in their 20s and 30s.” Co-founder Philip Krim says, “We created Casper for a generation of savvy Internet consumers who wanted an amazing mattress at a fair price.” Insiders are also buzzing about Foursquare’s decision to divide into two apps — introducing Swarm, a Yelp-like review site that doesn’t require users to check in. Arden calls it an example of “more established startups disrupting themselves.”


Everyone knows CDs are obsolete. But these days, manually creating your own playlist on an iPhone based on iTunes purchases is primitive, too. It’s all about the carefully curated Spotify selection or figuring out the right people to track in your newly developed music cloud — where your own purchased music coexists inside an app featuring other users’ suggestions. Adam Shore of Red Bull Music Academy and the folks behind Mixcloud, a music- sharing community, will chat about the future of music to a crowd of Beats by Dre aficionados. The mere fact that Apple just paid $3 billion for Beats suggests how important digital music is right now.

The Future of Media

NY1’s Pat Kiernan will be moderating a panel on the future of media. Newspapers aren’t going anywhere just yet, but the ways in which people read the news are changing. Kiernan will join Vox Media’s Lockhart Steele and Mashable’s Stacy Martinet to talk about reimagining how people consume their information these days.