I’m at the Lerer Ventures CEO Summit, mostly as a CEO, since Lerer is an investor in PandoDaily. But delightfully the event is also on the record. The downside is that this means I’m not getting a day off of blogging, which I was secretly hoping for (at least until Erin Griffith shows up).
Uber tech-friendly Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened the day, and he spoke just now about how New York City has succeeded in eclipsing his home town of Boston in terms of tech investment.
Other cities who clamor for more entrepreneurs and venture capital attention should take note: Bloomberg stressed that NY City doesn’t give the traditional big tax breaks to lure them. The playbook is similar to how Apple penetrated the enterprise: Win the hearts and minds of the individuals, and the companies will follow. If you get the talent, they’ll have to.
“If intellectual capital is what makes your business work, this is the place,” he said. “We want potential employees to want [to live] here. So we invest in cultural institutions, we invest in low crime, we invest in an environmental agenda.”
One entrepreneur who said he gets grief for moving his company from San Franicsco to New York asked the Mayor for talking points to explain to Valley friends why he’s not insane. “San Francisco is a beautiful place, but people want big cities. [That's why startups] are moving from Palo Alto into San Francisco,” he said.
He continued, semi-throwing LinkedIn founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman under the bus, describing the difference between a Valley entrepreneur and a New Yorker: “Reid Hoffman said to me, ‘I don’t like all that culture stuff, it takes your mind off the job.’ I don’t buy it. People who are great at their jobs need diversion. And if people are that narrow, they won’t be as successful.”
That does seem a core difference between the two cultures, Silicon Valley and NYC. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a play, opera, ballet, or museum in San Francisco. I’d love to, but I’m just too busy with work. It’s hard to think of anything I do socially that doesn’t involve work in some way. There’s an expectation of being single-minded in the Valley. This is one reason investors love young entrepreneurs — they can work much closer to twenty-four hours a day than older people with families can. The belief in the Valley is that that is how you build a huge company at hyper speed out of nothing in a relatively short time. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Like sleep, culture is for when you’re done.
The distinction reminds me of the chief advantage I’ve heard cited by entrepreneurs, who relocate to the Valley from LA: “There are no girls here to distract you from work.”