Mayor Bloomberg Calls For More NYC Startups At TechCrunch Disrupt (update: transcript)

Today, TechCrunch Disrupt attendees were treated to a very special guest: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg addressed the audience of entrepreneurs, urging them to make their way to New York City to start their next venture. As he put it, “When you want to start a business, you don’t have any choice. This is where the best and the brightest are.”

Mayor Bloomberg also announced that New York City and FirstMark Capital have teamed to offer a $22 million fund to fuel entrepreneurship in NYC. The city has set aside $3 million for the fund, and FirstMark is contributing the remainder. The first company to receive funding from the NYC Entrepreneurial Fund is MyCityWay.

Here’s the full video of Mayor Bloomberg’s talk (which was followed by a brief Q&A). Updated: Full transcript below.

Mayor Bloomberg:

Let me start by trying to establish my social media and IT credentials. I’m the proud owner of a new iPad – it’s amazing, I told Steve Jobs the other day if he can top this it’ll be amazing, every day I discover something new. This morning before this conference I also updated my Facebook feed, sent out a tweet, checked my Digg feed and checked in at Foursquare. I even posted a personal on Craigslist. (laughter)

I did – Cleveland basketball star wanted to save basketball in the big apple. Whether Lebron’s reading it or not, I don’t know. Anyway I hope he makes the right choice and comes to the city, because I think TechCrunch made the right choice in bringing its conference here. (cheers) Thank you very much.

Because in media and advertising technology, I really think New York is number one. We already have more information and media jobs in New York City – 315,000 and counting – than any other metropolitan area in the nation, and during the first quarter of this year, venture capital funding increased in New York by 19% even while it went down in Silicon Valley and the rest of the nation. It’s true, this is where it’s happening. And I’ve said this a thousand times, my company could never have been anywhere as successful if I had started it anyplace else.

The value proposition here is a great place for people where intellectual capital is important. If you want to compete in the big pond, if you want to have a lot of cultural opportunities, be able to interface with the others of the best and the brightest, this is the place to come and I’m going to tell you a little of how we’re going to increase our market share in this high-tech, fast-paced world.

20 months ago, when Wall Street went into a tailspin, city hall went into overdrive. Now we know that talent is the city’s number one asset, and the people losing jobs at financial sector firms were people we knew we had to keep in our city. Nearly 30 years ago I was in that job too, when I was fired from my job on Wall Street – I had a harebrained notion about making financial services information available on desktop computers, and the truth of the matter is when I started the business, PCs did not exist, and for those of you not old enough to remember, the internet did not exist when I started Bloomberg.

We went and built our own hardware, I used to go up on Saturdays to Connecticut to the barn that our engineer worked in, and I would solder resistors and capacitors into circuit boards and that’s what we put on people’s desks. We would rent telephone lines and buy muxes and created our own internet, but then as PCs were developed I felt we could not compete in that world and so we switched our product to running on PCs – and when the internet came in, it helped us get out of the telecommunications business as well. So we are a technology company but we’ve changed as the world has changed. That’s one of the keys to success. Too many companies just stay with the same old thing and are trying to stop the waves from coming in. But you have to sit there and recognize as things change, the opportunities you have.

Now our idea worked out pretty well, and while I don’t know who’s going to create the next big thing in technology, we do know where the next Bloomberg or Twitter needs to be headquartered, and that is here. And so we’ve geared up our support for startups especially in information technology.

We’ve been working to eliminate or reduce the state’s unincorporated business tax for 17,000 freelancers and contractors, and that one reform put up to 3400 hours a year back in their pockets. With partners in academia and in the real estate community, our economic development corporation, led by its president Seth Pinsky, has also opened up two incubators for tech startups and social media freelancers, and we know that office space and equipment and the chance to rub shoulders with your colleagues are what people who launch startups need. So we created these incubators and I will say that they’ve been very successful. The tenants have already received more than $8 million in venture capital funding and counting, and so we’re going to launch a media lab at a major university in our city later this year. And like the labs now at Stanford and at MIT it will foster IT research and collaboration. We’re continuing to help IT firms find out about opportunities to do business with our city agencies. New York City has a $64 billion budget annually; we have 300,000 employees; we have 8.4 million customers and so we have a lot of business to give out and we want to make sure that the people who can help us will know how to do that, and that will also help them.

Now, today, President Obama is welcoming small business owners across America to the White House – you’re lucky to be here with me, some of them are unlucky and had to go with the President, but hey, you know. (laughter) It’s just the way it is. He’ll be urging congress to authorize new lending programs and tax cuts to the small businesses that will generate the jobs that our nation needs – and the president, all kidding aside, really does understand that small businesses are the future of America. And here in New York we know that these initiatives are vital for startups, and the faster congress approves the president’s proposals, which are right on the mark, the better.

That’s why at the local level, in addition to the tax cuts I already mentioned, we also created a loan program for the businesses that, despite their credit worthiness, were being shut out from sources of capital. And more than a year ago, we put three million city dollars into an early stage investment fund for tech startups. It is the first fund of its kind created by any city outside of Silicon Valley. We originally hoped it would attract nine, maybe ten million in private funding. But today, I’m pleased to make two announcements about that fund: first, thanks to a new partnership with the venture capital leader Firstmark Capital, who is co-investing up to $19 million private dollars with our NYC entrepreneurial fund, will now be able to invest up to $22 million, and that’s significantly more than we ever thought possible, and proof, I think, that Firstmark shares our optimism about the future of New York City startups.

And second, today we’re announcing our first investment of $300k from that fund, and it’s going to an exciting mobile application provider, MyCityWay, and if you haven’t heard of them yet you will, and in fact let me tell you a little bit about them right now. A year ago our administration launched a competition we called “NYC Big Apps,” and we made data from over 30 city agencies available to tech entrepreneurs: property tax records, the city-wide tree census, wi-fi hotspots, where dog runs are located, you name it. We threw it open to all of the city’s tech world and we set up a contest to see who could come up with ways to use that data creatively. Did they rise to the challenge? Did they ever, with more than 100 submissions. And MyCityWay put in one of them. It’s called NYCWay, it puts everything New York right at your fingertips, and it’s what native New Yorkers and visitors need. It’s the lowdown on four-star restaurants and also the best eats, information on theatre tickets, art galleries, and hotels, and if you’re from out of town and thinking of relocating here, which we definitely hope that you are, you can find jobs jobs and real estate listings as well.

Well we liked what they did so much, we not only named them the Big Apps winner, most likely to be an investor’s choice, but we also chose to invest in them. And I’m delighted to tell you that it’s enabled them to move to New York City from their former home in New Jersey, and also to add some new employees. In a few minutes, the MyCityWay team and Lawrence Lenahan (sp?) will join me to describe that to the reporters, but before we leave, let me leave you with this. In New York City, we understand that innovation leads economic growth – from the days of the trans-atlantic telegraph cable right up to today, we’ve been nurturing information technology. And it doesn’t matter now if you’re in New Jersey or in New Delhi – if you have an idea, or a product, or an app, New York City I think is the city for you.

If you take a look at what’s been happening in this city, you go to restaurants here, they will all tell you business is better, you go to stores, they tell you business is better, if you take a look at the real estate market here, business is better, if you look at our tourism numbers, tourism is only down a couple percent; it’s down double digits in virtually every other city in the country. New York City has just become the number one tourist destination in America, something that Orlando had for an awful long time. This is the city where it’s happening. It’s happening in IT and in Bio science, and all of these things, it’s the fashion capital of the world, it’s the financial capital of the world, it’s the media capital of the world… if you want to start a business, and you want to see that business grow, I can’t guarantee that you’ll be successful, but I can tell you from personal experience, that is an awful lot easier to attract the best and the brightest, because they want to live here. It is an awful lot easier for you to interface with other people who have ideas, and you can exchange and cross-pollinate, and it’s the place where you can have the greatest life to live. If you’re a smart person, this is the happening city.

Thank you all, and we hope you all move here if you don’t live here already.

———————Q&A (paraphrase)——————-

If you’re a world-class startup, why pick NYC?
Most immigrant friendly place in America. Gateway to the US. What is unique about NYC is that we live as a mixture, not a mosaic. Live together in a way that promotes understanding. People don’t have to forget where they came from.

Microsoft, Google, Reuters have few thousand people each in this city.

If you were starting today as an entrepreneur what would you do?
Something that wasn’t be done, or something that was only being done by big companies. Competing with big companies is much easier than small companies. Live expectancy of a company is relatively short. They become big, they develop infrastructure, and everything looks small in the bottom line so they don’t do it. And that’s when the next big thing comes along.

Your company was about disruption. Today’s media companies are being disrupted by the Internet. What’s your advice to the media?
I’m a big fan of quality media. I think that the problem is not, is it distributed via truck or fiber. The question is it something that you need> I would argue an awful lot of the media has gone away what the public wants to receive. Examples: The Economist keeps growing, it’s probably the most expensive general interest magazine that I know of. There are companies that sell what people want. An awful lot of companies got away from that. It’s not the technology. The magazines that are in trouble are in trouble because they are writing the same thing as everyone else does. They aren’t germane to people’s lives anymore.

Tax incentive programs for tech companies?

Basically, no. We have the fund, we have incubators. But NYC we tax people. We make this the safest big city in the country. Our streets are cleaner, safer. We support our cultural institutions. Rather than tax breaks we’re investing our money in making this city a better place for people to live so that when you want to start a business, you don’t have any choice. This is where the best and the brightest are.

“Thank you all… live in New York City!”

More discussion:

(transcribed by Devin Coldewey)