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This blog represents my own views, not those of my employer, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures.

Do not pitch me a story or book review for me to write about. This is my personal blog. For more info on that, see this post.

 

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The Robert Moses Effect

History presents a lot of patterns we can learn from, if you examine them closely. Lately, I've been talking a lot about the "Robert Moses Effect".

From the 1930's to the 1960's, Robert Moses was the most powerful influence over the development of New York City's urban landscape. Nearly every highway you've ever driven over in the Big Apple was put their at the order of one man.

He believed that adding more highways would mean less traffic. Pave over some housing and through some neighborhoods and auto congestion would go away. Rush hour would be faster.

It was a total miscalculation. What happened in reality was that when you put a road somewhere, people use it. "Let's take the highway, it will be faster!"

"In fact, let's get a second car."

Adding highways meant adding traffic--more than ever before.

We're seeing the same thing happen within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As you build more infrastructure to support entrepreneurship, more people become entrepreneurs.

Think about the hundreds and hundreds of people working in co-working spaces.  If you had rolled back the clock just four or five years ago, you would have never guessed that there would be enough of a market for these kinds of spaces--yet every time a new one opens up, it gets full right away.  I didn't think you'd ever be able to fill General Assembly so quickly, nor would I have guessed that there would be nearly 200 people who wanted to work way up in North Williamsburg (Greenpoint) at The Yard.  You then realize how many people are on the verge of quitting their cube jobs or work independently already who look in their backyard or in their social network and think, "Yeah, that seems like a cool place to work... sure, I'm in."  The more you build, the more people who get that itch.

That's happening in the DIY world as well.  We're seeing more and more services and amenities pop up to de-risk being a one person company--Etsy, Kickstarter, Square--and more ways for people to monetize their off hours to help make this happen, like Taskrabbit.  This is opening up the door for more people to turn their passions into businesses.  Kickstarter creates more doers and makers than it supports existing ones. 

That's why the addition of new NYC schools like the Cornell campus on Roosevelt Island and the urban innovation campus at 370 Jay in Brooklyn are so critical.  People keep asking whether or not they're going to solve the shortage of engineers.  If anything, they're going to make it worse--because they're going to train more innovators and more makers who will be inspired to create things.  Many of those things will become companies--way more than we have now, and so, in a sense there will always be a shortage of engineers and other people to work at startups as long as you keep producing more innovators.  You build roads, you get more cars.  You educate people to solve problems, you get more startups.  The engineering and the traffic problem will always persist.

 

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