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The humorist and author Mark Twain once said, “The man with a new idea is a crank — until the idea succeeds.”
The reality is that throughout history, there’s been a constant stream of new ideas, entrepreneurship, and innovations — from the train, steamboat, plane, and automobile to the printing press, radio, television, computers, and smartphones — that have dramatically changed how we live and work. The same holds true today.
Today’s big idea is evident in our rising support of an app-based economy. To an individual consumer, this transformation in our market will change how products and services are delivered. Shifting from traditional channels, we’re beginning to consume the bulk of these products through the cloud — which also fuels entrepreneurial innovations at a much faster clip.
New York City is no stranger to leading the charge on world-changing innovation, and its tech community is flourishing on the wave of this shift. The New York City tech ecosystem generates approximately 541,000 jobs, $50.6 billion in annual compensation, and $124.7 billion in annual output. Further, it generates more than $5.6 billion in annual tax revenues to the city, representing 12.3 percent of the city’s 2013 tax revenue.
Not surprisingly, a huge driver for much of this recent growth is the cloud. What once could take a startup weeks or months to build, deliver, and market is now drastically accelerated, as the cloud allows them to do this same process in just days, or even hours.
For example, Measurence, based in New York’s booming Flatiron District, uses a cloud-development platform to power its analytics and intelligence solution so that brick-and-mortar retailers can quickly gauge valuable metrics just by sensing the smart devices customers carry — such as their phones or wearable fitness devices — providing insight into customer foot traffic, loyalty, time spent in the store, frequency of customer visits, and more.
Another example is data-science startup 8 Path Solutions, which is based on New York’s Upper West Side and founded by two born and raised New Yorkers, who are also the products of New York public schools and universities. By tapping into the power of cloud, they’ve been able to create unique data analytics and data science solutions for their clients.
New York City’s tech market is an object lesson in how you can sustain and nurture such a creative, entrepreneurial and thriving technology culture and embrace market disruptions and dynamically changing industries as an opportunity, rather than a death knell. So how do you do this within a community? You double down in three primary areas:
1) Drive community-based innovation
In a unique public private partnership with IBM and venture capital firm Gust, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and the New York City Economic Development Corp. launched Digital.NYC, a cloud-based platform that brings together all the resources emerging-tech companies need to launch a new business, including news, jobs, workspaces, resources, and technology education. Adding to New York’s status as the media and financial center of the world, Digital.NYC is designed to bring the city’s dynamic and creative business culture into the cloud and unleash a new wave of innovation.
2) Invest in tomorrow’s skills today
In such a dynamic environment, it’s vital to ensure that the next generation of technologists has the right skills. In Brooklyn, for example, in another public-private partnership with the city, P-Tech is a new kind of high school where graduates get both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in science and math and are first in line for potential jobs at IBM and other major tech firms.
3) Invest in the ecosystem
You might notice a trend here: The city of New York builds strategic, public-private partnerships with some of the city’s most influential and innovative tech players. By working with these tech players, the city is able to make sure it is equipping its ecosystem with the right tools, skills, and resources that the tech community needs to succeed — from co-working space and consulting for fledging startups to nurturing the next generation of young developers to help provide larger companies with the right talent.
Though communities today are increasingly interconnected through social networks — many delivered over the cloud and mobile environments — it’s still vital to ensure they have the right foundation in place to collaborate. For startups, innovation can flourish when developers, venture capitalists, and other investors, and other creative thinkers can come together. Through hackathons, meetups and other similar events, you can expand the tech ecosystem in such areas as cloud, analytics, mobile, social, and cognitive computing.
With so many dramatic shifts happening in technology simultaneously, it’s a thrilling time to be a contributor to this community. At the same time, we must always look forward as things can shift in a New York minute. As Twain also said, “Plan for the future, because that’s where you are going to spend the rest of your life.”
Sandy Carter is general manager of ecosystem development at IBM.
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