NYC Start-ups: Growth of Silicon Alley

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 08:  U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference where it was announced that free
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 08: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference where it was announced that free Wi-Fi will be provided by Google to the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea on January 8, 2013 in New York City. Google has teamed up with the Chelsea Improvement Project, a local New York City non-profit and the city government to provide free Wi-Fi to the historic neighborhood. The network will become the largest public outdoor service of its kind in New York, and the first neighborhood in the city with free WiFi. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NYC's tech scene has been buzzing recently, especially with Mayor Bloomberg's Made in NY initiative. In actuality, the city has been cultivating tech innovation for the past 10 years. During my time in NYC, I've seen the community grow in many exciting ways. And it seems to be contagious -- as talented entrepreneurs and engineers are choosing to make NYC their home, so are some of the most original, viable start-ups including Kickstarter, Gilt Groupe, ZocDoc and Etsy, to name a few.

Since the beginning of the New York tech renaissance around 2003, the number of start-ups in New York has grown and the city has joined the ranks of Boston and San Francisco as one of the country's leading technology centers. A major impetus for the growth of tech in New York can be directly correlated to Google's presence in the city. In 2003, Google brought engineering operations to New York to join their existing advertising department that made the move in 2000. Tech enthusiasts were drawn to Google's NYC office and the local ecosystem gained positive momentum. Many former Googlers went out on their own to create companies such as Dennis Crowley, who founded Foursquare. The way I see it, Google planted the tech seed that blossomed into Silicon Alley.

Another major factor was cultivating support from local universities. Just as Silicon Valley has Stanford University, NYU and Columbia embraced the importance of the startup community in Silicon Alley and, in the early 2000s, the universities began to produce the next generation of bright tech minds. This will only continue to grow stronger with the addition of Cornell Tech, which began its 'beta' class of eight students studying computer science in January.

When I joined Seamless (then SeamlessWeb) in 2007, New York had developed into the clear leader in fostering disruptive business models across advertising, new media and financial technologies. In 2008, five times as many startups received funding than what the city experienced in 1995. New York is also uniquely equipped with financial resources located just downtown. Last year NYC-based tech companies secured more VC funding than Boston-based companies ($1.67 billion versus $1.4 billion respectively, according to Fortune).

What's more, NYC is home to headquarters and satellite offices of many of the country's largest, most innovative corporations, providing easy networking and business development opportunities to tech companies of all sizes. Successful startups like Rent the Runway and Gilt Groupe's proximity to the NYC's fashion industry and Betterment's connection to the financial services industry is beneficial both for recruiting and partnership development.

An avid supporter of NYC tech innovation, Mayor Bloomberg recently announced We Are Made in New York; an economic initiative supporting the city's tech community by highlighting job opportunities within the digital sector. The Made in NY list includes companies that base at least 75 percent of their development in New York City and have at least 1,000 users or monthly visitors. This, coupled with educational efforts, will further bolster the tech community -- recruiting new talent and ensuring the city's commitment to the industry.

While many ask whether or not Silicon Alley's growth will ever overcome Silicon Valley, the real question is how can these two communities spur growth and creativity in each other? The presence of growing tech scenes outside of the Valley allows the tech community at large to overcome the echo chamber effect often created in engineering circles, adding fresh perspectives to innovation. NYC will continue to grow into a tech mecca with its increasing VC support, innovation and deep talent base.