Cornell Tech Welcomes Amazon to NYC”: I totally agree with them! and totally disagree with criticism against Amazon’s decision to bring their new headquarters to Long Island City, Queens.

Some activists even proposed to boycott last Amazon’s Black Friday: it was ridiculous and failed, of course. 

Photo by Max Touhey

I think that the more the better. A great city like New York can and should make room for more and more people and companies, as Nobel laureate Paul Romer would say…


“The new headquarters is sure to boost the already growing tech ecosystem in New York City sparked by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s vision when in 2010 he launched the competition for an applied sciences campus that led to the creation of Cornell Tech,” reads a Cornell Tech press release. “By choosing Long Island City for HQ2, Amazon will join one of the world’s fastest-growing and most diverse tech communities – said Josh Hartmann, Cornell Tech’s chief practice officer -. Cornell Tech is spinning out hundreds of graduates each year as well as groundbreaking, impactful research, and through key partnerships with CUNY and K-12 public schools, we are expanding the city’s pipeline of skilled tech talent. New York City has emerged as a destination for tech and innovation, and Amazon’s arrival will accelerate growth and success for the city and for Cornell Tech.”

After Amazon, also Google plans to add more employers to its already large workforce in New York City: “Google is gearing up for an expansion of its New York City real estate that could add space for more than 12,000 new workers, an amount nearly double the search giant’s current staffing in the city,” writes the Wall Street Journal.

A rendering of St.John’s Terminal in New York City’s West Village neighborhood. PHOTO: COOKFOX ARCHITECTS

If rumors are confirmed. Eventually Alphabet/Google will occupy, besides its NYC HQ at 111 8th avenue: St. John’s Terminal, Chelsea Market, 85 10th avenue, and Pier 57, for a total of more than 20,000 staff. It will strengthen NYC status as a tech capital, and also require more and more engineers and software developers in the city.

Can you imagine that when Alessandro and I wrote “Tech and the City” in 2012 there were only 3,000 Googlers in NYC? This was the story:

<<For three weeks straight in April 1951, without sleeping and without eating, only kept awake by gallons of coffee and other not so legal stimulants, Jack Kerouac wrote the first draft of On the Road in one go. At least so says the legend of the Chelsea Hotel where the beat generation poet lived at the time, and where for decades, artists, musicians, actors and writers have enlivened the bohemian life of its namesake neighborhood.
Kerouac’s typewriter is one of the images in the mile-long mural of Chelsea’s history that wrapped the scaffolding on Google’s New York headquarters in the spring and summer of 2012. An artistic way—thanks to the work of Dark Igloo design studio of Williamsburg (Brooklyn)—to make something as monotonous as periodically checking the façade of high-rises, as required by municipal law, into something entertaining.

According to Google’s website, which boasts of the records and the beauty of its building, it takes nine minutes to walk around the building and see the whole mural. You start out at 111 8th Avenue, and walk north to 16th street, then west to 9th Avenue where the main entrance is located at number 76. Then you continue south to West 15th and you’re back at your starting point. It is an Art Deco building that dates from the 1930s, occupies a square block, and has 17 floors, many as big as two football fields, for a total of 2.9 million square feet. Until the 1970s, it housed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Google moved into the building in 2006, at first only occupying a few offices and then, as it continued to grow, it decided to buy the whole building in December 2010 for $1.9 billion.

Today, just under 3,000 Googlers work in the building in a creative environment where the hip lifestyle of the twenty-to-thirty-somethings who come to work in shorts and flip-flops meet the rigor of the algorithms that are at the heart of the Internet giant’s business. Nothing is boring, everything is in motion, each detail scrutinized to stimulate the minds and the imaginations of the people who work there. Parked at the entrance to each floor, a fleet of scooters is available to move employees from one part of the immense office space to another. What is more, each floor reveals its own interior design theme linked to a particular idea. The fifth floor theme for example, is “old New York.” The large dining room is designed as if it were on the roof of a building, including the typical wooden water tower that is part of the New York skyline, and even fake pigeons. A puzzle that goes from one end of the room to the other has been incorporated into the flooring and only the engineers are up to solving it.

Two of the conference rooms have a theme. They are furnished as if they were typical New York studio apartments—one where a 20-year-old male lives complete with sofa, his bicycle leaning against the wall, and laundry strewn about; the other is meant to be that of a woman, with a kitchenette that is neat and tidy—probably because she always eats out. There is also a library with a virtual bookshelf with eBooks that can be purchased using a smartphone. And there is a wall of physical books too, but it hides a secret passage to a relaxation room.

There are normal office desks, but they are not the only places where Googlers work. In fact, hardly anyone has his or her own desk. The idea behind the design of the space is to encourage informal meetings and exchange of ideas. That is Google’s philosophy and it is the same in Silicon Valley, as well as in all Google offices worldwide. But here in New York, the second most important Google center, it has a special meaning. “It’s true, there are differences in being a Googler in New York,” states the website. “This is the capital of finance and fashion, of publishing and theater. And it makes a subtle difference in how we communicate and how fast we work. It’s difficult to put into words but you always know you are in New York.” And for many young people the idea of going to a bar on foot or walking to a gallery to enjoy an exhibit at the end of a tiring work day is much more attractive than commuting in the traffic of the San Francisco Bay area to get to and from the Googleplex, the Silicon Valley headquarters.

Google’s first outpost in the Big Apple was opened by Tim Armstrong, the current CEO of AOL, in 2000. He was selling advertising, working out of a Starbucks on the corner of 86th and Columbus Avenue. The first engineers were hired in 2003, and the first offices were in Times Square. Today half of the staff spends its time on advertising, working closely with ad agencies and the media. The other half works on creating new products and projects, from system software to applications. And the organization keeps growing: since 2008, some Googlers have had to work in the adjacent Chelsea Market (in a space of almost fifty five thousand square feet) waiting for space at 111 Eigth Avenue to free up when the current tenants’ leases expire.

New recruits are typically from East Coast universities. They are chosen through an extremely competitive process. In the summer of 2012 for example, Google held in New York the final phase of an annual contest for young programmers. Thirty-six thousand developers, aspiring Googlers, entered the contest. Eventually, the 25 surviving programmers had to challenge one another solving a variety of algorithmic problems for several hours. One of the tasks was to find the optimal way to destroy an army of zombies marching on their computer screens. The prize was ten thousand dollars, and the chance to interview with Google. A young Polish programmer, Jakub Pachocki, won. But nothing says he’ll become a Googler, given New York’s hunger for excellent coders and the stiff competition from other high-tech companies to get them. >>

Amazon’s second headquarters is coming to New York, according to rumors. If it’s true, “it’s the biggest success for New York in 10 years,” says Marcus & Millichap’s Eric Anton. The area where the new HQ2 would be settled is Long Island City in Queens, where “a forest of apartment towers sitting dark at night as a metaphor for the area’s challenge with new residential supply.” Or – like “The Real Deal – New York Real Estate News” puts it – “glut of new apartments and commercial space could have been a key selling point.”

A view of Manhattan – and of Roosevelt Island – from Long Island City

Just a five years ago – when Alessandro and I wrote “Tech and the City” – this part of Queens had a long way to go before becoming another center of New York high-tech. It didn’t have a ‘cool factor’. However Long Island City holds the record for playing host to the largest dot-com to have successfully survived the bursting of the bubble in 2000. This was none other than, a model of eCommerce in the food sector, studied and imitated by so many on both sides of the Atlantic (it has recently moved to the Bronx). Since 2012, Long Island City has also become one of the world centers for a new way to mass produce goods using 3D printers. Shapeways, the startup that wants to “make things possible, easy and inexpensive, and manufacture any object created by anyone for whomever” has a large factory here, and recently announced it got $30M in new funding led by Lux Capital, which will accelerate its expansion.

Another boost to Long Island City’s becoming a new tech area is the CornellTech campus on Roosevelt Island that is located directly opposite this bank of the river.

Savills Studley’s Jeff Peck noted that Amazon could help transform Long Island City from a neighborhood seen as a satellite to Manhattan’s office market into a destination all of its own. “The same thing happened in Midtown South and the Meatpacking District,” he said. “Tech behemoths like Facebook and Twitter made those submarkets their homes. And then the mid-tier and smaller tech companies followed suit.”

“I am moving to #NewYork” said Apple CEO Tim Cook after a standing ovation at BAM, Brooklyn where he launched new #MacBookAir and #iPadPro.

Apple’s coming to New York, for the first time, to launch its new products is another sign of how much cool and sexy the city is becoming for the tech industry!

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, at BAM, Brooklyn, October 30, 2018

Dr. Sam Natapoff, the President of Empire Global Ventures LLC, has just written a very interesting article about “Why New York City is giving Silicon Valley a serious run for its money“. He says: “Fifteen years ago, New York City was a tech afterthought. Today, it is ranked the second highest performing startup ecosystem in the world after Silicon Valley. More significantly, in certain tech sub-sectors it beats Silicon Valley at its own game, a trend that may continue.”

Some interesting numbers: NYC now has over 7,000 startups, valued at $71 billion, and it received over $11.5 billion in venture capital funding in 2017. It is the home to the most “unicorns” in the U.S. after Silicon Valley, including WeWork (valued at $20 billion), Infor ($10 billion) and AppNexus ($2.2 billion). The city employs over 326,000 people in its tech sector (over three times its East Coast rival, Boston), hosts over 100 incubators.

“Strikingly, NYC managed this feat without a strong engineering base by relying on the natural strengths of its existing economy, its diverse industry base, its human capital diversity, and its desirability as a place to live,” points out Dr. Natapoff. In fact: “89 percent of tech talent cite diversity as a key attraction to move to NYC, 74 percent say a diversity of industries, and 80 percent say the access to cultural institutions, entertainment, restaurants, and sport. NYC ranks first overall among 50 global cities (ahead of even San Francisco) for its ability to attract and support women-owned businesses.”

NYC model is very difficult to replicate, but it must be studied by other cities to understand how a tech startup community can thrive.









Congrats to Josh Hartmann, just appointed Chief Practice Officer by Cornell Tech!

Josh Hartmann

“Hartmann – said Cornell Tech – will serve as the primary practitioner faculty member at Cornell Tech dedicated to implementing and designing pragmatic courses and programs that will combine traditional graduate education and digital-age practice. Hartmann will also be leading and teaching in the Cornell Tech Studio—taking over for Greg Pass, former CTO of Twitter who has led the Studio as Chief Entrepreneurial Officer at Cornell Tech since its founding in 2012—an interdisciplinary curriculum which provides opportunities to develop, implement and build new product and business ideas, collaborate with classmates from across the Cornell Tech campus, and interact with innovators and thought leaders among New York City’s thriving technology and startup communities.”

Previously, Hartmann held interdisciplinary leadership positions serving as former Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operating Officer at several tech companies including Amplify and Travelocity. He will bring a broad range of industry knowledge in travel, education, and media, to Cornell Tech.

“Our goal is to become the leading digital manufacturing company in the world, to bring more manufacturing back to the US where these products are being used,” says to NYPost Jonathan Schwartz, co-founder and chief product officer of East Williamsburg-based Voodoo Manufacturing, where some 200 robotically operated printers churn out everything from cookie cutters to fully functional prosthetic hands.

Some 200 3-D printers at Voodoo Manufacturing in Brooklyn (by Ellis Kaplan)

Upper West Side native Schwartz, 27, and two college buddies founded Voodoo Manufacturing three years ago after leaving 3-D printer creator MakerBot, also based in Brooklyn.
It’s a new wave of 3-D printing business that can be the key to resuscitating New York’s long-dormant manufacturing industry.
It started with MakerBot, founded by Bre Pettis: in “Tech and the City” we described him as “an evangelist of <the maker movement,> that is people who create, invent, repair, transform or improve things as a way of stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship. The common thread is the criticism of the model of capitalism that took us into the Great Recession and the search for a way out, using the ingenuity of the individual. And having fun doing it!”
In 2013 MakerBot was acquired by Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS).

Congratulations to Brian Frumberg, CEO & Founder of VentureOut for growing so much and so fast! Since its foundation in 2012 VentureOut has been a great player in the NYC startup community, helping foreign   entrepreneurs orient themselves when they come to New York seeking partners, funding and business opportunities. Around 200 innovative startups from all over the world take part of VentureOut programs each year. One of their alumni, the Israeli CodiPark, has recently successfully exited, acquired by ParkWhiz.

NowBrian and his team are expanding with new initiatives, and they are hiring. Apply here for a Program Director and a Business Development Analyst.

I remember the first time I met Brian, on October 11, 2012, when Alessandro and I started our research for the book “Tech and the City”. The event was entitled “German Innovation Showcase”, a parade of five German startups. The venue was a kind of “underground” room with not many people attending it… What a difference with today programs! 

Brian understood there was a need and he was brave to create his own startup to respond to that need: BRAVO!

When in 2012 Alessandro and I wrote “Tech and the City”, startups were not popular yet in New York. We were surprised that on the Made in NY Digital Map website there was the news that 1,040 technological companies were hiring. Today NYC is home to over 7,000 Startups, and the tech ecosystem is worth $71 billion with more than 326,000 jobs, according to the last Global Startup Ecosystems Report (GSER), just published.  This report is an analysis of over 60 startup ecosystems in 24 countries produced by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN): it concludes that New York City is the world’s second highest performing ecosystem.

Another finding of the report is that some of the new strengths of the NYC tech ecosystem are in advanced manufacturing and robotics, cybersecurity, and health and life sciences subsectors.

Cornell Tech Bloomberg Center

Life sciences will be the focus of the European Tech Night on April 26 at the Italian Consulate . The NYC ecosystem is supported by major local assets: nine academic medical centers, $1.6 billion in National Institutes of Health funding research in 2016, and 450,000 local jobs. The sub-sector is also being accelerated by the City’s 10-year, $500 million LifeSci NYC initiative.

It’s nice to see that one of the new trends that “Tech and the City” had identified as important for the future of New York is getting real. In the chapter “Beyond Consumer Web: What’s Next?” we wrote:

Beyond enterprise software and database systems, the technology sector in New York can also develop in other directions. That’s what Micah Kotch hopes: “I would like to see the city embrace things such as health care IT or energy IT, what we call ‘clean web’, and really expand and look to get smart people working on problems that really need to be solved. New York City should not try to replicate Silicon Valley. We’re not Silicon Valley, and we’ll never be like Silicon Valley. But if you look at California’s track record for deal flow and volume, they have really a sophisticated network in health care and life sciences, and that kind of sector diversity is something that New York really needs to encourage.”

Already in 2012 the Partnership for New York City Fund with the support of the Department of health of New York State launched the New York Digital Health Accelerator, which now is called New York Digital Health Innovation Lab: an annual program for growth-stage companies that have developed cutting-edge technology products for health care organizations. Now there are many more spaces for Health and Life sciences startups – such as Alexandria Center for Life Sciences, Biobat, Biolabs, IDA, Harlem biospace, SUNY Downstate medical center biotechnology incubator, and Johnson&Johnson Innovation Labs – and programs such as ELabNYC and New York Bioforce. More info here: LifeSci NYC. 

More and more European entrepreneurs are choosing New York City to establish their tech startups: compared to Silicon Valley, it’s more convenient because it’s closer; and it’s more diverse, from all point of view. Collaboration among different ideas, backgrounds, disciplines, and businesses is crucial for the success of a startup community, and NYC is a perfect environment that fosters this kind of collaboration.

    Recently, the European consulates have started a series of events – “European Tech Nights”- to create a network among European startups and to help them connect with the NYC scene. The third one will be on April 26th, at the Consulate General of Italy in New York, Park Avenue 690.

Dante Labs Whole Genome costs $699

   This Tech Night will focus on Life Sciences. After welcoming remarks by Consul General of Italy, Francesco Genuardi, Bristol Meyers-Squibb CEO Giovanni Caforio will talk about the NYC startup ecosystem from the perspective of corporate innovation.

    Fernando Gómez-Baquero – Director of Runway and Spinouts, Jacobs Technion Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech – will talk about the role of NY academia/ research institutions in the startup world.

   Then I will lead a conversation with startups specializing in life sciences, such as Darwin Health and Dante Labs, both founded by Italians; Shade from France and Kaia Health from Germany.

   It will also be fun! with Italian beer Peroni and panini Alidoro! 

   FREE with registration here.

Refreshments with Peroni beer & Alidoro panini

Finally, by the end of 2018 in New York City there may be a Made in Italy Tech accelerator. That’s what Nicola Garelli, president of iStarter, announced during the NYC edition of its “2020” world tour, on February 26, at Grand Central tech.

German startups have their German accelerator, French startups have La French Tech in NYC, Israeli startups have plenty fo connections in the Big Apple. Italian tech entrepreneurs can count on the support of the Consulate and of the Italian trade agency, but with iStarter they’ll be able to find also investors, mentors and partners, Garelli hopes. He is principal at the Boston consulting group and he founded iStarter in 2011 with Simone Cimminelli and Mattia Pontacolone. iStarter is an accelerator with about 100 equity partners: since 2012 they have invested directly about 35 million euros in 32 projects, which are mostly alive (only seven have gone or are going shut down). They focus on Italian innovation and in New York they have exhibited ten startups with features they love. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
Amicomed, based in San Francisco, co-founded by ceo Giangiacomo Rocco di Torrepadula: a digital therapeutic service the leverages proprietary algorithms to help manage people’s blood pressure. Armadio, based in NYC, founded by ceo Matteo Mattia Gemignani: a direct-to-consumer offering a curated selection of the best undiscovered designers from Italy.
Biddo, based in London, founded by ceo Federico Solinas: an e-commerce that transform shopping into a game and offers deep discounts.
Bidtotrip, based in London, founded by ceo Sara Brunelli: a bidding system to get luxury hotel rooms with up to 70% discount.
Competitoor, based in London and Carpi, cofounded by ceo Davide Lugli: specializes in price intelligence and monitoring, for e-commerce and brands; among its clients it has Barilla.
Dante Labs, based in NYC, co-founded by ceo Andrea Riposati: it sequences 100% of people’s DNA, by using the most powerful genetic testing technology. Goal: to revolutionize healthcare and enable personalized medicine.
Desmotec, based in Biella, Italy, founded by ceo Alberto Bertagnolio: it builds and sell performance, rehab and recreation equipment with isoinertial training technologies.
Evensi, based in San Francisco, co-founded by ceo Paolo Privitera: a search engine dedicated to geo-located events; the world’s largest events discovery platform.
Kinetech, based in Pisa, Italy, co-founded by ceo Lucia Lencioni: a spin-off company of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna of Pisa, makes exoskeletons and wearable robots for robotic-aided training and rehabilitation.
Orwell, based in London, co-founded by ceo Franco Mignemi: a Fintech startup specializing in one layer of the banking services stack, the cash management function.

It was a brilliant sample of Italian startups, confirming that Made in Italy excellence is also tech, as Consul General Francesco Genuardi said opening the event.