An interesting report on New York City’s powerful wave of digital-technology startups has issued from the Center for an Urban Future (a non-partisan think tank where I’m a long-time advisor and occasional author, though not involved in this report).
The report “New Tech City” does a solid job capturing the way Internet-enabled startups (supercharged these days by mobile technology) have begun to cluster and thrive in a way they did not back in the dot-com 1990s. As the report correctly notes, the secret sauce has been a new enthusiasm by City government and civic leadership for facilitating healthy symbiosis between digital entrepreneurs and the several sectors where the City already boasts world-dominating business clusters. Mainly, that means the media/publishing/advertising sectors, finance (toujours finance), and what might be called the creative/cultural/educational complex. These happen to be clusters that both exhibit clear vulnerability to disruption and wield enormous purchasing power.
The Center for an Urban Future has finally released the long-awaited study of the City’s innovation sectors, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation through the NYC-focused civic program managed by Ted Greenwood. At the City Futures website you’ll find both a full study, and an appendix with an “index” of innovation indicators.
I can scarcely provide an impartial review, since I’ve been involved with this project from its earliest stages. I provided commentary to Sloan prior to the award and then served as an advisor (relax: unpaid) to co-authors Jonathan Bowles and Jim O’Grady through repeated drafts. However, if you’re prepared to accept admittedly self-interested commentary, I think this report hits the nail right on the head: what has stood in the way of New York City’s emerging as a technology center whose standing is consonant with its research preëminence is a series of primarily cultural issues. Go read it and tell me in the comments or by any other means if you think I’m wrong.