New York City's tech scene, like the city itself, is largely made up of people who came to the city from somewhere else. For many people, working in the city is a right of passage — after all, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
But, how does the city's tech scene really compare to the tech scenes in cities around the world? To find out, we caught up with people who have lived, worked and thrived in major tech-hubs around the world before moving to New York. Here's what they had to say:
Dan Pratt, Founder and COO at Adhawk
What city did you work in before coming to NYC? Boulder, CO
How does the NYC tech scene compare to Boulder's? Like everything else in New York City, the scale of the tech ecosystem is so much bigger here than in Boulder. New York is also very much a melting pot, and the diversity of ethnicity and gender I see across startups here continues to impress me.
Are there any big differences or similarities? I think the biggest difference between Boulder and New York is access. Access to investors. Access to companies to partner with. Access to potential customers. Meetings that once required some extensive plane travel can now be accomplished by hailing a cab or hopping on the subway. It's a great feeling to have so much at your fingertips.
On the whole, which one do you prefer? I will always love Boulder and admire what their startup environment has been able to produce, but at this point in my career I would not want to headquarter a company in any other city but New York. The pace is just so much faster.
During the early stages of our business, we were hiring from San Francisco, Boulder, and New York. One of our mentors told us to remember that people in San Francisco value equity, people in New York value cash, and people in Boulder value time. A little simplistic maybe, but it painted a very clear picture around why my co-founder and I needed to build our business in New York. We want to surround ourselves with people that are going to grind things out until the business becomes successful.
Is there anything you miss or wish the NYC scene would adopt? Leaders in the Boulder startup ecosystem focused more on community than any other city I've worked in (San Francisco, Boston, New York). Startup events in Boulder felt more personal because everyone knew everyone, which is something I don't think I'll ever get in New York.
McLean Donnelly, Director of Design at Shutterstock
What city did you work in before coming to NYC? Before my recent move to join Shutterstock in NYC, I lived in Seattle and worked for Expedia Inc.
How does the NYC tech scene compare to Seattle's? The New York tech community has a lot of diverse industries influencing it. It’s also incredibly international, with deep roots to vibrant, artistic and academic communities. As a result, I think there is a sincere appreciation for visual web design. Speaking from a designer’s standpoint, I find our engineering partners in New York to be particularly collaborative.
Are there any big differences or similarities? Because of the historic and fiercely competitive startup scene, the West Coast has a bit tighter alignment between design and business needs. They’ve realized that differentiating user experience has become a strategic business advantage. With its already strong creative backbone, the East Coast design and tech community is well-positioned for growth as the work continues to fuse with business goals.
On the whole, which one do you prefer? Both! Working out of the West Coast with a highly business-minded design environment, and now learning from designers with visual chops really has made me a more well-rounded design leader.
Is there anything you miss or wish the NYC scene would adopt? I don’t miss the rain, but I do miss the coffee…
Pini Yakuel, CEO and Founder at Optimove
What city did you work in before coming to NYC? I worked in Tel-Aviv, where I founded Optimove six years ago. After the company has taken off internationally, I moved to New York to run our American operation. I'm still a newbie in New York, but I've already got my sea legs.
How does the NYC tech scene compare to Tel Aviv's? Both Tel-Aviv and New York have a sprawling tech scene. In both cities, literally everywhere you look new startups are sprouting up, right along with the Meetups, conferences and networking events that are part and parcel of the business. And both scenes are super-innovative, sophisticated, original and courageous.
Are there any big differences or similarities? When I compare the two scenes, the first thing that comes to mind is a difference in the common trajectory of tech companies. It is a well-established fact that in Israel, startups are looking to make an exit — to be bought (faster rather than slower) and sometimes integrated into bigger companies. The exit is the Holy Grail of Israeli companies. In New York, on the other hand, startups are built to last. Founders, owners and CEOs are interested in building a business, and this different state of mind has ample implication.
Another difference has to do with tech verticals. Israel is more focused on hardcore technologies: cyber, security, big data processing, etc. Here, there is a much larger emphasis on consumer facing technologies and product viability. This is one of the reasons that it is such a great fit for us.
And of course, one can’t overlook the matter of size. New York has a larger population than the whole of Israel, not to mention Tel-Aviv. (Actually, there may even be more Israeli startups in New York than in Tel-Aviv, which is kind of crazy.) Size brings with it more variety, more opportunities and an improved platform for scaling and growth.
On the whole, which one do you prefer? That’s a tough one. I’ve been in New York for less than six months, so I'm still very much of the child-in-a-candy-store mindset. The proximity to great innovators, tech thinkers and leaders is a boon. I'm surrounded by a deep understanding and appreciation for new technologies, and that sort of rubs off, which is great. And geographically speaking, I feel smack in the middle of the world – in contact both with our clients on the West Coast, our European headquarters and R&D back home.
On the whole, I feel that this is the right place for me and for Optimove, and I'm delighted at being here.
Is there anything you miss or wish the NYC scene would adopt? Well, for starters, I wish I could beam up my local Tel-Aviv café and place it in Manhattan right across from my office. Some habits just die hard. Other than that, it's mostly the people back home that I miss. But I'm flying back to Tel-Aviv for a full work week in mid-July, so I'm sure that'll help.
Michelle Leirer, Director of People Services at Animoto
What city did you work in before coming to NYC? San Francisco.
How does the NYC tech scene compare to San Francisco's? In comparison to San Francisco, I think New York has a smaller, but still comparable tech scene. Being in New York I am exposed to more of the companies born and bred here than before, and there seems to be new ones popping up more and more rapidly, which is exciting. I'm also seeing some larger tech companies expanding into New York which I think is a testament to the growth of the tech community here.
Are there any big differences or similarities? The New York tech scene seems a little like what the San Francisco tech scene was like 3-4 years ago. Being in the HR field, I notice a difference in the talent pool of New York. There are a lot of people here who haven't been as exposed to tech and as someone who was raised in Silicon Valley, it's pretty refreshing. The perks and benefits that come with pretty much all tech jobs in San Francisco aren't as pronounced here. It's humbling to see appreciation for things like great benefits, catered lunches, flexible schedules, etc., which in San Francisco felt like an expectation.
On the whole, which one do you prefer? I prefer New York's tech scene.
Is there anything you miss or wish the NYC scene would adopt? Not really. I think it's important for the NYC tech scene to create a name for itself that is unique and unlike other tech hubs.
Jamyn Edis, CEO and Founder at Dash Labs
What city did you work in before coming to NYC? London (by way of Boston, Paris, and Hong Kong).
How does the NYC tech scene compare to London's? New York is much more entrepreneurial, and risk-taking, yet still focused on revenue (not just 'vision' or 'disruption'). But, New York still has a chip on its shoulder, as a tech hub, versus Silicon Valley.
Are there any big differences or similarities? There is a terrific emphasis on certain verticals, such as financial services, media, retail and real estate in both cities.
On the whole, which one do you prefer? I like both for different reasons. New York has a vibrancy and energy that is unparalleled outside of places like Tokyo or Hong Kong. London has a heritage, a history, and the sense of an unmovable foundation.
Is there anything you miss or wish the NYC scene would adopt? I would like founders and investors to recognize that New York's tech scene is more than just fintech and adtech. There's zero reason that it shouldn't be seen as a hub for hardware, AI, VR content creation, and robotics. You have the ideas, the talent and the capital here. And, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere...
Scott Buxton, VP of Finance at Datadog
Where were you before coming to NYC? San Francisco
Are there any similarities between working in San Francisco and here? Similar to San Francisco, there is a lot of buzz in the New York tech scene with the vast amount of VC investments over the past few years. From fintech to adtech to software, there are certainly a diversity of tech verticals similar to San Francisco. It feels like this buzz is at a much earlier stage in New York, being the younger sibling to the tech scene in San Francisco, which has been a mainstay for decades.
Are there any big differences? The largest difference is the tech industry in New York is one of many industries in a very large economy that has financial institutions, insurance and many other non-tech related companies. The boom in San Francisco has been predominantly because of tech, with a few exceptions of larger traditional companies in the area.
The largest similarity is the tech community itself. There are lots of networking groups here in New York of tech and/or VC backed company professionals who are all dealing with the same issues and all willing to help each other out.
Which scene do you prefer? This is an impossible question to answer because both tech scenes are great with a tremendous amount of growth and opportunities.
Is there anything you miss or wish the NYC scene would adopt? I wish the New York's scene started seeing more tech IPOs!