This year, New York city came into its maturity, says Brian Cohen, chairman of the New York Angels, an investment group that mentors, coaches and invests in startup companies. Cohen has seen, firsthand, the rapid development of New York City's growing startup scene. He's been an angel investor in the city for eight years, manages a group of more than 75 individual angel investors and is an adjunct instructor at New York University.
The challenge that Silicon Alley faced was to have all the pieces, but [have them be] well-orchestrated, says Cohen. All of the legal, educational, knowledge-based pieces [needed to be in place]. Throughout the year, with companies like Tumblr toppling Wordpress, Gilt Groupe becoming a revenue-generating monster and Fab.com earning $40 million in Series B funding six months after the site launched, the pieces began to come together this grand city. The entrepreneurial minds and willing investors came began to cooperate more than ever. There became equilibrium between all of the elements, says Cohen. There was a real sense of respect and cooperation.
Cohen believes that it was only a matter of time before Silicon Alley began to take shape. It was necessary for the first companies to stake their claim in the New York startup scene, fail at certain things, succeed at others, and share their experience with younger brands.
This year was a turning point for the city. The older brands began to reach out to the youth. The young, hungry minds of New York City had more mentorship than ever before. The number of young people coming to New York City to build a company in the most creative place in the world, it just clicked, says Cohen. It didn't take a long time.
The punctuation on Cohen's point may have been the announcement Mayor Michael Bloomberg made early this week. After six months of deliberation, the Bloomberg administration announced that Cornell won the bid for the New York City high-tech campus. The project is an attempt to boost interest in New York City as a viable location for engineers' career growth as well as internet startups. A spokesman for Cornell projects that the project alone will create 30,000 jobs in the technology sector.
As 2011 winds down, it appears that business minds, politicians and educational institutions have taken large bets on the future of New York's technology and startup sector. I don't believe there's a bubble, says Cohen. And with the confirmation of a New York high-tech campus, it appears that Mayor Bloomberg and Cornell officials agree. While the future may be uncertain, it appears that this year will be remembered as a defining moment in Silicon Alley.