When I accidentally moved to NYC earlier this year, I was a renegade, a soldier running back to enemy lines for a cup of water – a suicidal start-up founder. For the last two years I have been asking myself where the real sustenance was in the mystical Silicon Valley. Tech event after tech event, same faces, same VCs, same ideas getting funded over and over. Where does the pitching stop and the real business start?
Its easy to think that one needs to dig deeper but that is what I believe kills many start-ups who come west to “pursue the dream.” Stop digging. What you see is what you get -there is no gold in ‘them waters. Silicon Valley is the Hollywood of tech, where every waiter is a entrepreneur and every app is the next blockbuster.
I’d like to argue there is even a Social Curtain shielding San Francisco from knowing what it’s like to conduct real business and make real money putside of the valley. When you are in Silicon Valley, everything in the media environment confirms that you are indeed in the center of the universe. But similar to a communist North Korean regime, Silicon Valley drinks much of its own Kool-Aid. That said, engineers are worshiped like gods, beer is common in the workplace, and organic food is cheap. If I had to slave all day writing code for someone else’s idea, I would do it in San Francisco in a heartbeat. But as a founder who doesn’t wear flip flops or walk around throwing out Zuckerberg mottos, Silicon Valley just ain’t where it’s at.
I once told a very notable advisor of several successful start-ups that I was thinking of moving my start-up to Boston because of access to resources. He looked at me as though I had said the world is flat.
“Start-ups don’t leave Silicon Valley,” he said. “Stupid.”
As we look at the shift of what has been taboo to say or even think about saying, we see I am not the only one who is seeing through the fog. Paul Carr of TechCrunch wrote an article this morning explaining his initial draw to San Francisco and now the lack of. “Even Eris, the girl who convinced me that SF was the best city on earth, has moved to New York to work…” he wrote. So is that it? Is the Social Curtain falling down?
Every first Tuesday of the month there is a NY Tech Meetup and unlike other tech events in Silicon Valley, it is just that – a monthly meetup. No one asks about business models. No one asks how much money you raised. People look at your idea and technology and decide if it’s cool or not to the community. Hosted in a huge theatre at NYU that can easily fit a thousand people, all styles mix and mingle and sitting next to one another only decides what is cool. There’s aren’t major plugs. VCs with expensive shoes don’t ask you where your idea came from or what you did before. The community asks, “what do you need?” and digs into contacts to help.
Even Naval Ravikant, the spearhead of San Francisco-based Angellist, recently said they are seeing growth in New York City and mentioned how getting traction in a different city may actually trigger Silicon Valley into investing in a round.
So which is it? Do you stay in Silicon Valley to get funded or get funded elsewhere, forcing Silicon Valley to fund?
Further confirming this “Social Curtain” is the fact that most of Silicon Valley is in New York City all the time. In my first few weeks of living here, I ran into Ben Huh (Cheezburger Networks), Garrett Camp (StumbleUpon), Dennis Crowley (Foursquare) and numerous others which leads me to suspect: when based in San Francisco I had no clue so much time was spent by others back east. I knew Joe Fernandez of Klout went back often but he used to live in NYC and has some angels there. Another friend of mine abruptly moved to the East Coast, only to resurface as the co-founder of MileWise, one of the hottest stealth start-ups currently.
So maybe now I’m drinking a different kind of Kool-Aid but at least the flavor tastes different and not like 2002. If you have done like a select few and made success on the east coast then migrated west, you have a serious advantage.
Don’t worry – I won’t tell anyone.
(This article is part of a series by our resident SocialTimes entrepreneur, Ellie Cachette. Cachette is the founder of ConsumerBell and also writes on topics covering Consumer Web. For more articles by Ellie, click here )