Quit Whining: How To Make An NYC Startup Work


We hear it all the time, so it must be true: Launching a startup in NYC is harder than anywhere else: You can’t find good people, there’s no space for fledgling companies, everything’s too expensive and there’s no money to be found. But SAI contributor and Path 101 CEO Charlie O’Donnell is having none of it: In a response to a thread on the NextNY listserv, he argues that startups are hard anywhere — if they were easy to do, everyone would be running a startup — and that NYC has plenty of resources — for people who know how to find them. You can read a longer version of this post on Charlie’s blog.

The space issue is BS.
The lack of technical people issue as a NYC-specific issue is BS.
The good lawyer issue is BS.
The lack of funding issue is BS.

If you are aiming to build a successful startup, anywhere, I feel like you need to know your niche through and through. If you are building an events database for uber-trendy clubs, not only should you be a club kid (or have one on your team) but every single last club owner and club promoter in NYC should not only know who you are, but think you are the shizzle.

If you’re just someone with an idea for someone else’s community, don’t expect anyone to help you out. But if you’re an athlete with an idea for a sports related service, someone who deals with wealthy museum patrons who wants to build enterprise software for galleries, or a hedge fund analyst that wants to build a Lamborghini aggregator, you’ll have no trouble finding these resources.

On Space: When I left Oddcast, I hung out at the extra desk at Union Square Ventures because I had a good relationship with them. Surely there is some company on the face of the earth that you have built enough goodwill with that they’d let you hang out at a desk or two for a short while to get on your feet. If you don’t even have that kind of a network, I question whether or not you’re ever going to gather enough resources to succeed or whether you have the network needed to really catapult your business.

On Finding Tech Talent: No, there aren’t people hanging around with “Free agent” slapped across their forehead dying to work on your company. You need to find the perfect guy and convince them that they have to work on your idea. If you can’t convince a tech person to work with you, then maybe your idea isn’t as good as you think it is. If you cannot find them with your pick axe and shovel, good luck finding the right people in your client’s organisations to sell your product to or finding your first biz dev person, sales person, marketing person. Good people don’t fall from the sky.

The Lack of Lawyers: Also BS. You can go two ways on this. One, you can go ultra-cheap to get your company incorporated, but that’s not even a must, unless you try for funding.  del.icio.us was not a company until AFTER it had 10,000 users. Are cheap lawyers good? Probably not… but can they do a simple incorporation and basic angel agreements… sure… and if you get enough traction to do a real round, a good lawyer will fix all those mistakes, but it doesn’t matter because you’ll have money and traction at that point.

Lack of Funding? Are you serious? In NYC? Has anyone seen the number of luxury apartment buildings going up around us? There’s no shortage of money here. Is it tech angel money? Nope. But, go back to the network: If you don’t know anyone that could chip in to help based on your reputation with them or that could make an introduction, you’re going to have an absolutely terrible time getting just about every other kind of resource you need.

Too many wanna-be entrepreneurs are just lazy. They don’t want to do the legwork of getting others behind their idea to support it. They just complain that there are no tech people, no VCs who want to take risk, no space.  Excuse, excuse, excuse.