What Can We Learn From New York's Web Industry?

Last week I had the pleasure to sit through Fred Wilson’s keynote at Web 2.0 Expo in NYC. While the history given by Fred is not comprehensive, it does provide great insight as to how New York has grown to become one of the fastest growing (if not the fastest growing) web industries in the U.S. There were a few key components listed in Fred’s keynote which I think is important for any other bubbling center for web and entrepreneurship.

First, Fred references the launch of the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU back in 1979. Today, in D.C. there is not a single program in the area that I know of that has been able to duplicate what the ITP has accomplished. While many reference the University of Maryland and their Dingman center for entrepreneurship as a hub, not a single program in the area has had the success which ITP has. Go take a look at their course guide for some clues on why this program has been so successful. One thing to note is that this did not come out of an engineering school, it came out of an art school!

Second, Fred references the heavy media presence in New York City. There was the launch of the “Connect Times” in 1989 by Josh Harris. Over the years there was the launch of numerous other digital media outlets including Ziff Davis’ ZDNet and CMP’s TechWeb in 1991. One of the things that I’ve consistently highlighted as being important for any emerging technology and entrepreneurship community is media coverage. In D.C. we are still somewhat behind in our reach but our coverage has improved substantially over the last two years.

Third, in 1995 Mayor Giuliani and Bill Ruden launched 55 Broad St. It was a building from a failed investment bank which was turned into a technology oriented building including high speed internet and incubator space. This is something which still does not exist in D.C. today. The closest thing is a co-working space in Adams Morgan called Affinity Lab but there is nothing supported by the local government.

Finally, there was a large presence of ad networks, new media startups (Silicon Alley Reporter, @NYC, etc), agencies (which were rolled-up) and more. Things quieted down temporarily and then blogging emerged, events launched and the buzz built. We are witnessing the buzz building in D.C. and within the next 12 to 24 months I think we are going to witness D.C. turn into a nationally recognized center for web technology.

D.C. isn’t the only city facing the same challenges though. Chicago, Boston, Austin, Denver, Miami, Atlanta, L.A. and others all are trying to build centers for web technology. Unfortunately for those cities, D.C. is going to beat them to the punch but hopefully they can learn from our success! Check out Fred’s video below for more insight.