Over the last few months I’ve detected a disturbance in the Startup Force. While startups from Europe have often looked to the US as a natural market to scale up in, they’ve traditionally looked at the Valley as a natural place to start. But based on what I’ve been hearing, I’m starting to wonder about that. Sure, every company is different, and for cloud startups, Silicon Valley remains the Mecca. But increasingly, New York’s burgeoning tech scene is making it more and more attractive for Europeans to de-camp there. Being in New York for TechCrunch Disrupt has only served to strengthen my impression.
So, here’s what’s happening. For starters, European startups have noticed the growing VC and Angel scene in New York. Sure, it’s not the same size as the Valley but it’s more convenient to get to travel-wise. Similarly, New York funds like Betaworks (Tweetdeck was one of theirs) and Fred Wilson / Union Square Ventures have been visiting growing European tech clusters like London and Berlin hunting for companies that can scale internationally.
Secondly, the tech sene in New York itself has gotten a lot bigger of the last few years. That means hiring people here for a US base for a European startup has become a lot more attractive. It’s also growing at such a pace that if you arrive in the New York tech scene now, you’ll be welcomed into the community with open arms. It’s still small enough that if you join now, you’l be considered to be more prominent than if you tried joining the much older network in SF / Silicon Valley, which – although still welcoming – is relatively harder to break into because it is so established.
Thirdly, the time zone is far more convenient for dealing with distributed teams back home in Europe. I’ve spoken to many a European entrepreneur based in the Valley and they have plenty of horror stories about waking up at ungodly hours just so they can do Skype calls with their team back in European time zones. New York’s location makes it much easier to stay in sync, and from there San Francisco is only a red-eye flight away when you need to be there.
But a strong reason for New York is also about the nature of the startups themselves. Right now we’re seeing a flowering of startups in Europe – and especially London – often attacking traditional industries, especially around fashion, music, media, advertising and financial technology. All of those have big synergies with New York’s biggest business sectors. It makes a huge amount of sense to look towards New York as a natural place to find partners.
And a simple straw poll of European startups I conducted found plenty who either have a New York base already or are looking to create one. Those with established presences include Huddle, Skimlinks, OpenGamma, CognitiveMatch , Spotify, Brandwatch, Zemanta, Mendeley and Covestor to name just a few. Some lesser known startups are putting down roots including Forward3d, Yourkarma, Campalyst, FreeAgent, Checkthis, Admazely, Dashlane, Shopcade, Nuxeo, Zedge, Wrapp, Fluidinfo and Twingz. Meanwhile plenty are looking to get an NYC office and starting the hiring process, such as FantasyShopper and Conversocial.
As one founder put it to me: “I’m spending around 50% of my time there. New York is our beach-head for the US, not Silicon Valley.”
So, New York, you just got a big new friend, and her name is Europe. Let’s cuddle up.