Northside Festival "Gets" New York Tech

By Erin Griffith , written on June 6, 2012

From The News Desk

Northside Media Group has made a very specific bet: that Brooklyn is the national adjective for "what's next." The company behind hipster necessities like The L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, and Summerscreen also runs an annual festival. Previously focused on music, film and art, this year's Northside Festival -- coming up on June 14 and 15 -- will feature a two-day entrepreneurship series. Also, GZA.

There are a lot of tech conferences out there. But I think this event is a little different, partly because it's not created by a company that serves an isolated readership of tech geeks. Rather it was created by a company that understands the way New York's tech scene fits into the city's diverse fabric. Unlike Silicon Valley, New York's technology scene is one small piece of a vibrant, diverse ecosystem.

In New York, entrepreneurs aren't necessarily rock stars, says Northside Media Group CEO Scott Stedman. "What's different is that entrepreneurs literally live with rock stars," he says. Tech will probably never dominate New York City's economy and culture the way it does in Silicon Valley, so tech founders view themselves as underdogs, trying to raise their cache. It means New York startups don't operate in a tech-obsessed "Truman Show"-dome.

That has its pros and cons. Our Mayor and most Made in NY advocates would argue it is a pro. This is why members of General Assembly will brag that they sit between guys tasting coffee (Craft Coffee) and ladies sifting through vintage clothes (PickiPicki). Generalizing wildly, they taunt that West Coast startups "all look like different versions of the same boring social sharing app."

That diversity, and acknowledgement of how one fits into the rest of the world, is reflected in the way Northside Group set up its Entrepreneurship two days. It's not a trade show; it's not a bunch of panels. It's a series of quick presentations, Q&As, and interviews that all attempt to answer one key takeaway each.

They're all influenced by Northside Festival's emphasis on creativity. The tech world is part of the larger creative scene of people who make things, and this festival aims to discuss and celebrate entrepreneurship in that context, Stedman says.

The entrepreneurship track of panels includes a kitchen sink collection of content on anything from urban farms to slacktivism and the brilliance of Makerbot (something we can all agree on). There are high level talks on the "Business of Brooklyn," and the parallels between starting a band and starting a company. (GZA can speak to that -- he co-founded the Wu Tang Clan.) Etsy's CTO will give a confessional on "stupid shit that seemed like a good idea at the time." I expect this will include anecdotes both personal and professional.

There might not be any nitty gritty explorations of the Series C crunch or, say, the fact that Firefox 13 was updated a day early (OMG!). But I think the conversations will be reflective of New York's startup scene -- a diverse ecosystem that thrives amongst New York's other creative industries.

The company has just released detailed descriptions of the programming with the panelists. View it here. Use the code PANDO for 25 percent off when purchasing an Entrepreneurship badge.