Silicon Alley (NYC) Myths: Debunked

Batch 5 represents in NYC!
Andy Sparks (LaunchGram) + Yours Truly

I’m still flushed with the thrill of a visit to New York City — and a 500 Startups NYC event hosted by Shai Goldman, the newest addition to the 500 staff (thanks again, Shai!). I want to lay out just how new the city feels when as an entrepreneur meeting people from the startup ecosystem. I’m going to debunk my own preconceptions about kick-ass NYC startups, the weather, and Shake Shack.

Myth #1: NYC only produces media/adtech startups. 
While NYC is certainly known for its hot media companies like Tumblr and Foursquare, there’s a lot of talented startups that are outside this norm. I met with incredibly cool people from companies like:

  • David Bloom, Ordr.In | David’s built a powerful way for restaurants to craft their online presence. And he has an amazing understanding of just how big the foodtech industry is.
  • Dazhi Chen, Relevant | Dazhi knows the restaurant industry like no other, and has created a dashboard for restaurants to understand customer loyalty.
  • Michael Korn, CraftCoffee | Subscription coffee packages, curated by the coffee tastemakers — and Michael is definitely a tastemaker and super-generous guy.
  • Edlin Choi, Lean Startup Machine | I actually attended this workshop in LA and LOVED it. Based on Lean Startup methodology, it gets you going fast and mean. Edlin and their team of mentors are amazing. Plus, Edlin knows his NYC food and makes awesome recommendations.
  • Brian Wang, Fitocracy | Our new hire is obsessed with Fitocracy. Brian the founder is, of course, fit and #500strong.
  • Michael Ong, Skillshare | As a 500 mentor, Michael has been hosting office hours left and right (surprised I hadn’t connected with him until now). He’s building a marketplace like us, but doing it centered around classes.
  • Alexis Tryon, Artsicle | Although not an artist herself, Alexis has created a marketplace for artists to sell their wares. We spent a lot of the conversation discussing how being creative sometimes just means creating: startups, communities, change, etc.

Myth #2: New Yorkers don’t complain about the cold.
I thought locals would have some magically thick skin that helps them deal with the cold. Makes them impervious to the cold snaps that roll in every year. The ability to grow more chest hair just to keep warm.

Lies: New Yorkers hate and complain about the cold just as much as this Cali girl does — except they do it in this thick accent that makes them sound pissed at the weather.

I actually spent $0.25 to go to a public bathroom at Madison Square Park, and was delighted to enter a heated, sanitized place of near worship.

What $0.25 gets you in New York

Gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. And HEAT. Something about the frigid 50-degree temperature make a sauna-like public bathroom that much more enticing.

Myth #3: Shake Shack > In ‘N Out
Actually, it’s not a myth. I will say that for vegetarians, Shake Shack more than accomodates — they’ve created a whole other burger! In ‘N Out relegates us to a meatless version of their standard burger, and calls it a “grilled cheese.” THIS is a vegetarian burger:

The Shroom Stack – Vegetarian goodness

I took my shivering, California ass to Madison Square Park and the outdoor Shake Shack stand. The wait was brief, the air was chill, and I got a sample of their infamous frozen yogurt. Their special for the day, pumpkin pie, was creamy and deliciously spiced. But the focus was the burger I ravaged:

The melted cheese piled into the portobello stack was so gooey, I had to remove my gloves. Frostbite was a small price to pay for getting my hands on this.

A note on how to make traveling rock
I have officially become an evangelist for JetBlue. I had a red-eye flight, and they had these complimentary “Snooze Kits” on the seat, including an eye mask and earplugs. How delightful.

Now I’m soundly back in Mountain View with the team — and couldn’t be happier. I only gave NYC 3 days this trip. Next time, I’m digging in for a week.

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