NYC's new huddled masses: tech entrepreneurs looking to make it big

by Anthony Sodd
June 3, 2016

At least once a week Built In NYC receives an email about a company moving to New York City. We get the notices so frequently that sometimes it’s hard time keep track of all the new arrivals. They come from all over the world to run their businesses in one of the most expensive, crowded and competitive markets on earth. But why?

To find out, we caught up with Pini Yakuel, an Israeli CEO and founder of Optimove, a customer retention automation company that recently opened a sales and marketing office in the Flatiron District. 

Yakuel left Tel Aviv with his wife, child and dog two months ago and took up residence in Brooklyn. Pini is the CEO of a quickly growing tech company, arriving at JFK with plans of hiring American talent. They could have gone anywhere — but they chose New York.

“The United States is the modern version of ancient Rome. If you were the best musician, artist, scientist, or poet, you’d go to Rome,” Yakuel said. “Today, you go to the United States. Not that I’m the best tech entrepreneur in the world, but I think that the company and what we built is extremely sophisticated and matches the level of innovation that the U.S. market is looking for.”

Optimove has been operating in Tel Aviv since 2009, and has about a hundred employees there. Their clients already include some big U.S.-based companies, and they’ve seen their revenue double every year for the last three years. They expect to see the U.S. market account for 90 percent of their revenue in the next five years — an increase from 30 percent today. 

“There are great tech companies in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area,” Yakuel said. “But I work a lot with our Tel Aviv office. If I’m in New York, I get three more hours a day to work with them, since it’s a seven hour time difference instead of 10 hours in San Francisco.” 

It’s an advantage we’ve heard echoed by European executives as well. 

“We’re not a business that’s looking for a ton of money or dev talent — I’m building my technology in Tel Aviv and we’re bootstrapped, which takes away a lot of the advantages of Silicon Valley,” Yakuel said. “If you look at it from a market perspective, where are your potential customers, there are a lot more of them in New York. If you want to visit your prospects or your customers face-to-face, without having to fly across the country, New York wins — big time.”

What’s more, New York is just a short flight to many of the country’s largest cities, not to mention closer to Europe and Israel. A flight from New York to Boston or Washington D.C., takes just an hour, while a flight from the West Coast will take upwards of five. 

“And then, there are personal reasons,” Yakuel said. “My wife is an actress, and if I’d taken her to San Francisco, she’d probably of put a bullet in my head.” 

A sentiment shared by many, many, New Yorker transplants, I'm sure. 


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