START is an expansion of the annual tech event in Dublin called f.ounders, which began in October 2010. “[Being an entrepreneur] can be a very isolating experience,” said founder Paddy Cosgrave to the START NY audience. So he brought together the founders of rapidly growing companies to connect with key media, partners, and investors. He wanted to help get these early startups out the door. The first f.ounders event brought together 500 attendees, 3 startups, 12 investors, and 12 media sources – including the founders of Twitter, YouTube, and Skype. This year he hopes to bring 7,000 global attendees to Dublin, which is no small undertaking.
“When your friends ask you for the third time to come to dinner on a Friday night and you’ve promised them you’d be there, and you cancel on them last moment… A lot of times people don’t understand that.” – Paddy Cosgrave, Founder of f.ounders
Gosgrave decided to bring the first START Summit not just to the US, but specifically to New York City. With a Jameson sponsored after party, New York was glad to have Dublin friends just in time for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. A second START Summit is planned for later this year in San Francisco.
But why did the f.ounders team choose New York City? This question was answered during a panel called A New York State of Mind: Why Here? You can watch the entire panel session here.
Spencer Reiss of WIRED moderated the panel, which featured five different NY-based founders. Ironically, Reiss was the only native New Yorker on stage. His panelists, Chantel Waterbury (Chloe + Isabel), Oisin Hanrahan (HandyBook), Aaron Schildkrout (HowAboutWe), Matt Brimer (General Assembly), and Scott Heiferman (Meet Up), hail from all over the country. They were asked why the tech startup scene here is flourishing, and like true New Yorkers they all had different, strong opinions.
Chantel Waterbury: “There are certain companies that have to be here [to succeed]. Nowhere else can you find people who work with both tech and fashion.”
Oisin Hanrahan: “We wanted to be near the most difficult customers. If you can make New York customers happy, then it’ll be way easier anywhere else.”
Aaron Schildkrout: “Building a dating site is about building a brand, particularly if you’re building a subscription site. It felt like this was the place to build a brand.”
Matt Brimer: “I think, post recession, the opportunity cost for people to pursue an entrepreneurial career or consider more alternative career paths went way down. So you started to see people coming out of all these different industries.”
Scott Heiferman: “Well, New York is where you have to be if you want to work on a certain kind of Internet. They’re here because of the collision of people […] because at the end of the day the Internet is about how people are turned to each other.”
Heiferman’s point resonated so much that it became a recurring theme throughout the rest of the session. The panelists seemed to agree that NY tech startups thrive on being in close proximity to other people; Schildkrout even referred to New York as a “Bump-into-each-other Petri dish.” Here, startups aren’t reliant on meeting with big companies or potential partners over the phone. Instead, they can walk down the street and meet at a coffee shop. As Heiferman puts it, “[New York] is a fertile mass of human collision that creates this ugliness that is the future.”