For a long time, for me, New York had been the Big Apple, home of Spider-Man and a place that had borne the brunt of tens of Godzilla attacks. As I stepped in the city, instantly the reel turned real- head tilted by the tallest of tall buildings and dodging the oncoming stream of foot traffic the words of Sinatra rang loud in my head,
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York”
The sight of the financial district from Brooklyn across the east river (which is not exactly a river, I learnt) brought back memories of the financial crisis, which was no less terrifying than the devastation caused by Godzilla. Nevertheless the city rose from the crisis and economics of the city is turning much more dynamic now. As we learnt from the speakers, Alejandro Crawford and Brian Gurski, the biggest lesson from the financial crisis was that New York needed to diversify. Its sole dependence on financial institutions had crippled it during the recession. As a result, the city is now transitioning towards a more diverse economic environment. The city is trying to create an ecosystem that nurtures and provides a collaborative setting for entrepreneurs. It is very important to provide not just access to capital and mentors but also industry associations, community, as well as suitable economic and political policy environments- regulations need to function as an enabler and support small business and fuel innovations. While the small business and entrepreneurial innovation provide important economic diversification, the big businesses do provide stability and a convenient exit strategy for small businesses. This association becomes very intuitive and obvious when we look at all the food trucks, cafés and restaurants catering to employees of the big MNCs.
The overarching theme for the week seemed to be data, while the presentations by Aron Foster from Pfizer and the session at CUSP directly talked about big data; the sessions by Keith Kulper and the Acceleration group had subtle hints about data, or information about customer, investor or employer to be more precise. With the session at a law firm, Friedman Kaplan Seiler and Adelman the flavour for the week was complete. Within a day I had experienced a range of emotions, from the saddeningly mundane view of the street from my dorm room to the spectacular view of Times Square from the 28th floor of Times Tower. New York is a city of great contrast and great opportunity. Big data analyst and lawyers work and succeed here as do the food truck operators and subway train drivers. The question then is what makes the city tick? Perhaps the coming three weeks will reveal the answer.