Sunday, May 22

Too hard on the City for their "Roadmap"? Here are some thoughts...

So, the past weekend, I have had a number of people talk to me about my post on the Roadmap and how I was quite disappointed. For the most part, people were in agreement with my sentiments and we similarly disappointed in what was published. But one has to wonder, why did the Roadmap so disappoint me?

I should clarify that I was unhappy with the Industry portion of the Roadmap, not the Roadmap in general. But from my own noodling on the issues, I wanted to clarify some of my thinking.

The NYC Administration could not politically afford to do anything
Very simply, Mayor Bloomberg's Administration is running out the clock. The race for the next Mayor will begin and while the business of governing is a nonstop effort, creating new expenditures is not going to be possible in an environment where the Administration is having to close firehouses and fire teachers. Creating a program that requires ANY expenditure would create a howl of frustration from other parts of the City - which would be politically damaging and cause more headache than is needed. Just look at the hullabaloo caused by Rachel's CDO salary.

The NYCEDC is focused on MANY efforts, not just technology
Unfortunately, while I may be a NY Tech enthusiast, the NYCEDC is not necessarily focused on building a tech industry. The programs they foster have to address a number of constituencies including the real estate/developers market (those large corporations pay lots of taxes in those buildings), the finance industry (maybe not as much in taxes), fashion, legal, accounting, etc. Building a tech industry and providing some support for a growing community is not a major priority. I will say I have heard of a gentleman in the EDC that is focused on these issues (I believe his name is Andrew and is an entrepreneur) looking to help in these efforts. But he is one out of 436 employees as of 2010 and I would guess he has little if no budget to work with.

Chief Digital Officer is a liason, not a budgeted organization

Monday, May 16

Grading the "Road Map for the Digital City"

When I got the alert that Rachel and Mayor Mike were announcing the Road Map for the Digital City and the associated Roadmap (PDF) for it, I typed the URL in my browser with the enthusiasm of a starving man to food on the table. After being part of the discussions for the 2008 NY Tech Meetup Organizer election and having echoed my thoughts on the State of NY Tech, (in three separate posts [1], [2], [3]), I wondered if they had considered what was needed for the tech ecosystem.

After reading a lot of boilerplate, I was sadly disappointed.

Yes, there are a lot of services that the City will provide to its citizenry, attempt to offer additional services to the mechanations of city government and yes, will open up their data sources such that people can create interesting and worthwhile applications. And yes, it will expand its presence on various social media channels.

But when it comes to helping the NY Tech industry, the verbiage was incredibly disappointing. Especially after communicating my own concept of the needs for a tech ecosystem to the EDC and seeing snippets of discussion here or there.

The Roadmap Supports NY Tech - sort of

Tucked firmly back in Page 53 of the 68 page document, begins the discussion on how the NYCEDC will help foster NY Tech. These actions include:
  • NYCEDC Innovation Index - which measures innovation on R&D, Finance, Human Capital, Intellectual Property, High-tech Gross City Product and Entrepreneurship/Employment Dynamic
  • Streamlining New Business Creation - the Mayor's Office of Operations is currently exploring new ways to further streamline the process of starting a business in NYC
  • Working withfor New York City - lessening hurdles to getting vendors to work with the City
  • Help Getting Government Contracting from the Department of Small Business Services
  • Making Requests for Proposals for visible by supporting RSS feeds, email alerts and such
  • Creation of an Applied Science Faculty from leading institutions
  • Workforce Development though FastTrac and JumpStart, Diversity training from MOME and support of the MOUSE program (via DOITT)
  • Recruiting Support - a keystone will be "ongoing
    outreach and listening sessions with private sector stakeholders including entrepreneurs,
    engineering institutions, and investors to analyze needs and evaluate progress."
  • Industry event support like NYC BigApps and MOME's support of InternetWeek
  • Financial support for the New York City Entrepreneurial Fund (in partnership with FirstMark Capital)
  • Development of low-cost workspaces for entrepreneurs with 160 Varick (hosting 35 startups) and Hive @ 55 (for 50 media professionals)
Now, after looking at this list, you may say - "But Sanford, there's a lot there. They solved some things right?"

Actually, no.

Let's go to the boards, shall we?

State of NY Tech 2011

There is a concept in academia called information and communication technology centers (ICTs). I was interested in them after leaving Silicon Valley and living in England and discovered that NYC was a budding environment for one. In 2008, during the crash, I was pointing out that the Tech sector could be the guiding light out of the economic downturn (which Scott Heiferman was saying at the same time). But to get there - we needed to address the issues necessary for building tech businesses in the area.