New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threw the switch Wednesday on Digital.nyc, an online portal that’s meant to connect the city’s burgeoning entrepreneur community to investors and tech talent. The site also offers links to event listings, shared workspaces, courses and numerous other resources.
de Blasio said the project shows that the Big Apple won’t play second banana to any locale—not even Silicon Valley—when it comes to attracting new technology investment. New York City is “a natural and strengthening tech hub,” de Blasio said at a press conference in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood, which hosts several hot startups.
Etsy, which sells artisan-made crafts online, Maker’s Row, a business-to-business site and app developer Tendigi are among the companies that have recently set up shop Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
Venture capitalists and angel investors poured $3 billion into New York City’s tech scene in 2013, up about 275 percent from $799 million in 2009, according to CB Insights.
de Blasio wants to see more such investment, and said Digital.nyc will help spur the city’s growth as a tech hive. “It’s a tool we never had before,” said the mayor. He stressed that the site, backed by a public-private partnership that includes IBM and venture capital firm Gust, was designed to be accessible not just to tech pros but also those considering a career in tech.
“This is not a site that uses mystical and complex language,” said de Blasio.
de Blasio, in a rare hat tip to his predecessor, said Digital.nyc builds on the foundation that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid during his tenure. Bloomberg scored big wins by attracting major industry players like Facebook, Google and Cornell Tech to the city.
IBM, meanwhile, will expand its already sizeable presence in the city and region next week when it opens the doors to a new facility in Greenwich Village that will house its Watson cognitive computing business. Digital.nyc runs on Big Blue’s Bluemix cloud platform.
de Blasio threw down a gauntlet of sorts to his counterparts on the West Coast. He said New York City’s mix of tech, financial and media talent, along with its urban density and flair, makes it the country’s best environment for startups in hot markets like cloud, mobile and social media.
“We love and respect our brothers and sisters in Silicon Valley … but people here can find each other,” said the mayor. de Blasio made no mention of rising Manhattan commercial real estate prices, which on average exceed $700 per square foot, that has some longtime tenants like Forbes magazine heading for New Jersey.
But de Blasio stressed that his New York City tech dreams extend across the river and include all five boroughs. At Tuesday’s event he was flanked by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Majora Carter, CEO of StartUp Box, a South Bronx-based organization that helps youth from the area prepare for and find careers in tech.
Among the services offered by Startup Box is quality assurance for video game publishers. “It’s a service that is frequently offshored,” said Carter. Gust CEO David Rose called Digital.nyc “an unprecedented resource for an early-stage ecosystem.”