New York

These are the people making NYC tech rock

A while back we asked for your nominations for New York City’s most influential techie. Now we’re, ready to announce a list of finalists — one of whom we’ll name our top Silicon Alley tech influencer later this month.

The group of finalists all embody the energy and passion that we’re finding so remarkable about New York City’s tech community. We’re highlighting the VCs, entrepreneurs, and community leaders (many are an impressive combination of these categories) that have all made a significant impact in the city.

These individuals are especially important now as New York City is cementing itself as a technology hub. We’ve seen major companies rise up over the past few years, and a concerted effort from Mayor Bloomberg’s office to push digital initiatives. And in a few years, we’ll see additional technology schools from Cornell and NYU, which should generate a healthy supply of engineers to the startups that desperately need them (not to mention sparking another wave of entrepreneurs).

But it all starts with amazing people, like these.

Rachel Haot

Chief Digital Officer, City of New York

Formerly Rachel Sterne (before she married Livestream CEO Max Haot), Haot landed the newly created role of NYC’s Chief Digital Officer after proving her tech savvy as founder of the social news site GroundReport. She also ran her own independent digital strategy firm for several years, and has served as an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School (where she taught a course on social media entrepreneurship).

Haot has been a prominent voice in the New York City tech scene for several years now, and these days she’s a constant presence with Mayor Bloomberg whenever he makes a tech-related announcement (most recently at Boxee’s headquarters).  As chief digital officer, she put together a digital road map for NYC and is always working to promote digital initiatives that can help New Yorkers.

Hilary Mason

Chief Scientist, Bitly; Co-founder, HackNY
Bitly is more than just a link shortening service — mostly thanks to the work of one Hilary Mason. As chief data scientist, she dives into the company’s massive trove of data to come up with new products and features. It also wouldn’t be a stretch to call her New York City’s hacker queen. Mason co-founded HackNY, a non-profit that brings together student hackers with startups. And she’s also a member of the hacker collective NYCResistor.

Cyrus Massoumi

Co-founder & CEO, ZocDoc

On paper, ZocDoc sounds like a fairly simple idea: It offers an easy way for you to find and make doctor appointments online. But from that kernel of an idea, Massoumi has built a fast-growing service with more than 1.8 million monthly patients and around $95 million in funding. Now the company is also aiming to rid patients from the chore of filling out paper medical forms. ZocDoc proves that NYC isn’t just a home for media and social startups — even health technology can succeed here.

Nihal Mehta

Co-founder & CEO, LocalResponse
Now on his fifth startup, Mehta may just be the model CEO that every budding NYC entrepreneur aspires to be — and it’s not just because he spends an insane amount of time at work. Mehta’s also dedicated to helping out the community whenever possible: He made a New Year’s resolution to meet a new entrepreneur every day, and failing that he aims to teach classes at NYU, he told the Next Web. Together with some friends, he also co-founded ENIAC Ventures, a seed stage investment firm focusing on mobile.

David Tisch

Co-founder & Former Managing Director, TechStars NYC

When Bloomberg decided to air a reality TV series based on one of TechStars NYC’, it’s not hard to imagine that the energetic (and often foul-mouthed) Tisch was one of the main attractions for the network. Tisch spent two years leading TechStars NYC accelerator program, where helped 36 companies build their businesses. Of those, 34 are still active and have raised more than $50 million.

Tisch is also a managing partner at BoxGroup, an angel investment firm for early stage companies. He’s made investments in more than 40 NYC companies, including Fab, Boxee, and GrouMe. Even though he stepped down from his managing director role at TechStars NYC in August, Tisch remains involved with the group as an investor, mentor, and co-founder.

Nate Westheimer

Entrepreneur, Executive Director, New York Tech Meetup

If there’s one defining gathering for this city’s tech crowd, it’s the more than 28,000 member strong New York Tech Meetup. Since he took over organizing the event in 2008, Westheimer has helped grow its member base from 7,500 members. He’s helped to promote and rally NYC’s techies, while at the same time pursuing his own startups, including AnyClip and PictureLife. He also serves as an advisor to Flybridge Capital Partners.

Fred Wilson

Co-founder/Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures

A longtime venture capitalist and insightful blogger, Wilson has been the most vocal proponents of New York City as a hot spot for building technology companies. At Union Square Ventures he helped to land some notable investments in NYC startups like Tumblr, Foursquare, and Kickstarter (not to mention big West Coast investments in Twitter and Zynga).

He’s also been offering up free advice to entrepreneurs at his personal blog, A VC, since 2003. Though Wilson rarely takes the media spotlight himself, his enduring efforts to help and promote the NYC tech community have made him a legend. (Personal aside: his blog was one of the many forces that drove me to move to New York to cover tech.)


VentureBeat will be hosting a private launch party this week in New York City. Want to snag an invite? If so, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, then send a tweet to the @VentureBeat Twitter account with the hashtag #vblaunch telling us why you should be there. We’ll choose five winners on the morning of October 24.

Who deserves to be the top Silicon Alley influencer? Cast your vote in the poll below, and tell us more in the comments. (VentureBeat will pick the winner, but your votes will be taken into consideration.)

Top photo via Chris Isherwood/Flickr

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