Not to be outdone by the West Coast, today the New York Economic Development Council is unveiling a new website, Digital.NYC, to help connect Silicon Alley.
This new website is an extension of the NYCEDC’s “We Are Made in NY” campaign, which aims to connect the broader film and digital media industry around New York through a giant map of companies, job openings, and co-working spaces. This new initiative more broadly targets New York City’s burgeoning tech sector.
The site includes a searchable database of companies and investors, jobs, classes, events, and other media aggregated through a series of partnerships. It is powered by AngelList competitor Gust and IBM’s Blue Mix Cloud technology. Entrepreneurs who visit the site will also get a free 30 day trial of IBM’s Blue Mix cloud technology to build their own digital infrastructure or mobile apps.
IBM Vice President Sandy Carter tells me that nothing like this is being done anywhere else. “[Other cities have] sites sponsored by individual folks that say here’s a listing of some startups and some VCs, but nothing that’s being done by any government,” she said.
Three years ago former Mayor Bloomberg hired a chief digital officer, Rachel Stern, to help his team put together a “Digital Road Map” to bring New York City up to speed with the digital age. In addition to increasing Internet access for all, the plan sought to provide sweeping services, including the development of open APIs that leverage the city’s data and educational opportunities.
As that was happening, the NYCEDC was also erecting a series of programs to better connect New Yorkers with jobs. One of the biggest hallmarks of this effort has been BigApps, an annual competition where anyone can pitch an app that solves civic issues using the city’s vast data. As it stands now, the EDC has an assortment of different programs meant to enable startups and entrepreneurs of all varieties — from biotech to fashion. But because some of its programs are in such disparate fields, it may only be reaching pockets rather than the tech community at large.
A site connecting the tech community and investors is definitely a big step towards bridging this gap.
It’s also interesting to see this effort coming out of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, since de Blasio has come across as out of touch with tech at times. But he likely sees a big opportunity here. There are 291,000 tech jobs in New York City, according to a report released earlier this year by HR&A Advisors. Nearly half of those jobs, as the study notes, don’t require a formal college education. And the same study finds that workers in NYC’s tech ecosystem make 49% more than the average hourly wage.
Right now, New York is lagging behind Silicon Valley in terms of tech job numbers (Silicon Valley’s figure is 347,000).
The EDC’s mandate is to build New York City’s economy through connecting its many inhabitants to jobs and attracting businesses to set up shop here. New York’s growing tech community provides a unique opportunity to both bring money into the city and connect New York’s nine million citizens to better wages — with the right mix of educational programs, of course.
It’s an ambitious idea. The new website is meant to be very user friendly, to help demolish the idea of the tech community as an insiders club. In Silicon Valley, the tech community is better known for sharpening the divide between rich and poor, not softening it (hence the Google bus debacle).
The NYCEDC assures me that this is not the final word on tech initiatives but the beginning. The success of the platform will hinge on how the community reacts and the number of educational resources the EDC can provide. But if it does prove to connect New York’s many classes to good jobs, it may be an initiative worth replicating in Silicon Valley and beyond.
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