Betaworks’ John Borthwick: VC Scene in NYC is “Pretty Busy” Right Now, But Not “Overheated” Like San Francisco

Betaworks‘ CEO John Borthwick took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York with Crunchfund’s MG Siegler this morning to discuss Betaworks’ investments and the state of the investment business in San Francisco and New York in general. Betaworks, the New York-based company behind popular services like bitly, Chartbeat and SocialFlow has also made a number of investments in other startups, including Tumblr, Kickstarter and the recent Zynga acquisition OMGPOP.

As for the difference between the state of the venture capital scene in New York and San Francisco, Borthwick noted that he thinks things are pretty busy in New York right now, but that the market is not overheated in the same way the San Francisco market is at the moment. While the easy availability of capital drove a lot of lazy entrepreneurship in the tech bubble of the late 1990s, he noted that he is not quite seeing this yet.

“We still have so much stuff to build,” Borthwick said, so he doesn’t think the innovation curve the recent crop of good startups is building upon will flatten out anytime soon. “We are just at the beginning of this,” he said. In terms of humanizing digital experiences, he noted, a lot still remains to be done. He did, however, wonder if the Facebook IPO won’t take at least some of the air out of the startup scene on the West Coast.

Talking about the difference between the East Coast and West Coast, Borthwick argued that the two scenes are probably quite complementary in the end, especially thanks to the media focus in the New York scene and the different skill sets on both coasts. The line between technology and media, though, he said, “is becoming gray.”

Asked about Fictive Kin, the Brooklyn-based design collective that is one of Betaworks’ latest investments, Borthwick noted that this is a pretty novel concept for Betaworks and different from its other investments. Over the next two years, Betaworks will essentially get the right of first refusal for all products that come out of Fictive Kin. Borthwick described this deal as a way to expand the Betaworks brand. Our own Kim-Mai Cutler took a closer look at this deal last week.

The discussion also touched upon Betaworks’ investment in OMGPOP, which was recently acquired by Zynga. The story of OMGPOP and how it really wasn’t doing so well before it hit upon Draw Something is relatively well known and as Borthwick noted, “prior the launch of Draw Something, the company wasn’t going anywhere fast.” One thing that’s happening now, though, he noted, is that the infrastructure is in place to have these things take off very fast.”