Here's my "poke the bear" post for the week.... This is mostly reprinted from a fantastic thread going on over on the nextNY listserv. 16 authors, 33 replies so far....(Join up to see it)
"The space issue is BS.
The lack of technical people issue as a NYC specific issue is BS.
The good lawyer issue is BS.
The lack of funding issue is BS.
Here's my theory:
If you are aiming to build a successful startup, anywhere, I feel like you need to know your niche through and through. If you are building an events database for uber-trendy clubs, not only should you be a club kid (or have one on your team) but every single last club owner and club promoter in NYC should not only know who you are, but think you are the shizzle.
If you're just someone with an idea for someone else's community, don't expect anyone to help you out. But if you're an athlete with an idea for a sports related service, someone who deals with wealthy museum patrons who wants to build enterprise software for galleries, or a hedge fund analyst that wants to build a Lamborghini aggregator, you'll have no trouble finding these resources.
On Space: When I left Oddcast, I hung out at the extra desk at Union Square Ventures because I had a good relationship with them. Surely there is some company on the face of the earth that you have built enough goodwill with that they'd let you hangout at a desk or two for a short while to get on your feet. If you don't even have that kind of a network, I question whether or not you're ever going to gather enough resources to succeed or whether you have the network needed to really catapult your business. When you have 5 people, you're at a different stage and not many people are building something with a team of 5 without at least a little angel money. If you have angel money, you should be able to afford Techspace or Sunshine Suites.
On Finding Tech Talent: No, there aren't people hanging around with "Free agent" slapped across their forehead dying to work on your company... you need to find the perfect guy and convince them that they have to work on your idea. If you can't convince a tech person to work with you, then maybe your idea isn't as good as you think it is. There are plenty of freelancers around and people who work at big boring companies who would commit to a project if it excited them. If you cannot find them with your pick axe and shovel, good luck finding the right people in your client's organizations to sell your product to or finding your first biz dev person, sales person, marketing person... good people don't fall from the sky. Go build out your network. If you're an entrepreneur with less than 50 LinkedIn connections, don't expect to find anyone to do anything.
And yes, anti-stealth works for this. Talk to everyone you can about this. It turns out that one of my college roommates (this random guy who filled in someone else's spot last minute) was one of the first employees at a successful NYC area startup... he just wrote me yesterday asking if there's a spot at Path 101... I asked him about his availability back in the summer and he turned me down, but then I think he's been lingering on the blog and our last post seems to have seeped in... we're having lunch next week to talk about it.
The lack of lawyers... also bs. You can go two ways on this...One, you can go ultra cheap to get your company incorporated, but that's not even a must, unless you try for funding. del.icio.us was not a company until AFTER it had 10,000 users. Are cheap lawyers good? Probably not.. but can they do a simple incorporation and basic angel agreements... sure... and if you get enough traction to do a real round, a good lawyer will fix all those mistakes, but it doesn't matter because you'll have money and traction at that point. Or, if you have the afformentioned network, you can find one of the 4 or 5 good startup lawyers in NYC and get them to work with you. And they're available, too... Wilson Sonsini does their free startup classes, Jay Rand has volunteered his time at a nextNY event...people within this group have worked with this caliber of legal professional before... they're not that hard to find.
Lack of funding? Are you serious? In NYC? Has anyone seen the sheer number of luxury apartment buildings going up around us? There's no shortage of money going around this city. Is it tech angel money? Nope. BUT, go back to the network point. If you don't have anyone in your network that could chip in to help based on your reputation with them or that could make an introduction, I fall back on the idea that you're going to have an absolutely terrible time getting just about every other kind of resource you need.
Entrepreneurs are not lone rangers!
They're more like that stupid Verizon commerical where the cell user walks around with the whole Verizon team behind them. I know a guy who used to work at an ibank who went back to his former bosses to get funding... the guy worked his but off for them for a few years and not only did they come through, but one of the guys got so interested in his business that he joined it.
Frankly, I think too many wanna-be entrepreneurs are just lazy... and that's a lot of what I saw in the crowd at StartupCamp... lazy entrepreneurs who didn't want to do the legwork of getting others behind their idea to support it. They just complain that there are no tech people, no VCs who want to take risk, no space. Excuse excuse excuse. (PS... If your response to this is, "Hey, I'm working hard on getting people to support my idea and talking the talk and walking the walk... I'm not lazy!" then that part didn't apply to you... you're right, you're not lazy.)
Its not hard to build yourself into one of the most widely known people in your market... Take Scott Karp, for example. He's jumped into the startup scene after years of working and building his name up on the publishing industry as the Director of Digital Strategy for Atlantic Monthly and through the Publishing 2.0 blog. I'm sure he didn't struggle for funding, space, lawyers or tech people because he became a leader in his field first, THEN went out and harvested his network and goodwill to help him with his startup.
In the Valley, I think you can just code something and someone will bet on your idea... here, most of the time, you actually need the additional qualification of being someone to somebody (even just one supportive angel) in order to get them to help you out. I don't actually think that's such bad hurdle to have in front of scarce resources, because ideas (like lightweight Web 2.0 apps) are a dime a dozen.
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