Bubble 2.0 and New York's "Sad-Assed Tech Backwater"

New York Magazine columnist and veteran tech journalist John Heilemann takes his swing at the fat Bubble 2.0 pitch and bludgeons New York’s tech industry at the same time. Despite all the hours he spends hunched over in Valley-bound aeroplanes, Heilemann’s a New Yorker, so before you rush for the flamethrower, note that this is just hometown tough-love.

(Also, more importantly, note that Heilemann’s not actually insulting you tech entrepreneurs.  He’s insulting the traditional media organisations who (don’t) write about you, and the supercilious Financial-industrial-complex types who wonder if you’re ever going to get a real job.)

Heilemann has two points: 

  1. Yes, Bubble 2.0 is probably a bubble, but whatever.
  2. The fact that New York media is obsessed with Bubble 2.0 illustrates why New York has a pathetically small tech industry (and why the New York Times’s market value is 1/70th of Google’s)

The Bubble 2.0 point is straight from the Josh Kopelman school of bubble commentary, and it’s a hundred times more perceptive than the 3,962nd rant about how “investors have gone crazy again.”  Awareness that economies are cyclical is helpful.  Yelling about how outrageous and idiotic this is is pointless.  (Except when one is trying to sell newspapers and feel virtuous about slaving away for 1/100th as much as those “crazy” investors)…

Heilemann also argues that one profound difference between New York and Silicon Valley is the different attitude toward risk-taking and failure.  In New York, trying and failing is something we’re supposed to be ashamed of: “You quit Morgan Stanley to join a start-up in the late 90s? You mean you temporarily went insane?”

In Silicon Valley, trying and failing is the whole point. “You’re on your third start-up? Awesome!” In New York, working at Morgan Stanley means that you’re mature and successful.  In Silicon Valley, as Michael Lewis observed, working at Morgan Stanley means that you’re so risk-averse and un-ambitious that you’re content being “the help.”

The good news: New York’s tech-start-up culture has survived not only a cyclical bust but the five years of mainstream-media tut-tutting that has followed.  In contrast to the traditional media edifices that are crumbling on every corner, it’s also alive, well, and stronger than ever.

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