Today we get insights from Mark Wachen, Managing Director of DreamIt NYC, one of the world’s leading startup accelerator programs. Wachen is also the Managing Director and Founder of Upstage Ventures, a firm that advises and invests in consumer internet and interactive marketing companies. Prior to Upstage, Wachen was the CEO of Optimost, the company that pioneered multivariable testing and optimization on the internet. Wachen founded Optimost in 2001 and served as its CEO up until its acquisition by Interwoven in November 2007. Prior to Optimost, Wachen worked for seven years at Sony, managing a variety of internet ventures.
What is your take on the current scene in New York today?
The NY tech scene was born in the early ’90s, and perhaps fumbled a bit through early adolescence during that decade. But the 2000’s brought the beginning of a serious growth spurt, that has gone unabated since then. The NY tech scene is now without question, one of the top tech scenes in the world.
What do you see happening over the next 3-5 years?
I think the NY tech scene will continue to grow, and continue to become the preferred destination for many startups. More and more people will appreciate the key advantage NYC has over other tech scenes in that we have such a huge diversity of people and industries that populate the city. In Silicon Valley, everybody and his uncle, mother, child, and gardener is either working on a tech startup or working at a tech startup. The NYC tech scene is exploding but there are also other gigantic industries like media, finance, fashion, etc. The cultural diversity is massive as well. So you interact with a much more diverse group of people, which is very healthy for developing products and companies for the world-at-large rather than just people in the tech industry.
What do you see as challenges?
The biggest challenge is that we need more tech talent. Initiatives like the new Cornell campus on Roosevelt Island will be a major boost, but we need to come up with other creative ideas to encourage tech people to plant their roots here. Also, affordable office space and living spaces continue to be challenges.
Where does your company fit in the ecosystem?
We think accelerators like DreamIt are having a very positive impact on the NY ecosystem. In addition to providing a place for emerging NY companies to accelerate their growth, we’ve also attracted many exciting startups from across the nation (and the world) to our program. Many of the companies in DreamIt NYC have ended up staying in NYC post-program, which further grows, and adds greater diversity, to the NY startup community.
Read more on what top entrepreneurs are saying in the “Pulse of the Alley”.