New York has many faces: literally, in that it is a melting pot where foreigner-dominated neighborhoods are nothing unusual (e.g. in Queens 48% of residents are immigrants), and figuratively, in that it is a global financial center, fashion avant-garde hub, and vehicle for entrepreneurship. The city has fascinatingly redefined its purpose many times throughout history. In this post, I will try to explain the vital forces that produce innovations that are “Made in New York” and what is required to trigger disruptive ideas that are “Made in Budapest” or “Made in Warsaw.”
Vision on the macro and micro levels
When the financial crisis hit Wall Street in 2008, the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg rightfully identified that the city needed to redefine its role in order to create jobs for high-skilled New Yorkers. For this reason the city created innovation catalysts such as CUSP (Center for Urban Science and Progress) and the NY Polytech Incubator. Similarly, John Sexton, a president of NYU, founded NYU’s Leslie Lab. The conclusion is that the innovation ecosystem cannot be created bottom-up.
“Vision without execution is a hallucination,” says an inscription written in NYU’s Leslie Lab. Indeed, the vision of entrepreneurial New York did not remain onpaper but was implemented very quickly. All the institutions that we visited last week have state-of-the-art offices in the most prestigious locations in Manhattan and enthusiastic, well-trained (well paid?) staff. It shows that the administration believes in the entrepreneurial potential of the city.
Networking is equally as important for entrepreneurs as for corporate Yankees. The sense of community is very strong in all the institutions that we visited, which somehow makes the city more human and more accessible for entrepreneurs. In my view, CEU should be more involved in leveraging the “community capital” in Budapest.
Access to capital
The trust in tech startups is very strong. It is shocking how easy it is to gather capital in the US, not only from the private but also public funds. For instance, the NYC Entrepreneurial Fund offers 22 million USD. Shockingly, one of the ventures that we discussed, Run the runway, has raised 116 million USD. Such numbers make me feel like Cinderella in Gotham City.
New York, due to its unique character, remains a magnet for bold entrepreneurs, talented coders, and generous business angels. Because of the lack of language barriers, newcomers can quickly develop their ideas in New York. Obviously, I don’t expect Budapestians to speak perfect Shakespearean English, but as a foreigner, I recognize that language is a significant barrier in Central Europe.
Ina nutshell, all these “triggers of entrepreneurship” might appear to be unique to New York, but in my opinion, the entrepreneurial ecosystem can be replicated in other parts of the world. Saying that the culture of Hungary is hindering innovation is nonsense.