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The Startup Culture: Silicon Valley Versus New York

One of the questions I'm asked most often on both coasts is "What's the difference between the startup culture on the East Coast and those on the West Coast?" I'd like to share some of my thoughts on the differences. I have noticed that both coasts have very active startup communities with events on nearly every weeknight.
One of the questions I'm asked most often on both coasts is "What's the difference between the startup culture on the East Coast and those on the West Coast?" I'd like to share some of my thoughts on the differences. I have noticed that both coasts have very active startup communities with events on nearly every weeknight.The biggest difference is in the openness with regards to concepts and ideas. In the valley, people are willing to share their ideas when they only have them scratched on a napkin. In New York, startups aren't willing to share their ideas until they are ready (or close to) launch. I sat in a session recently in NYC which discussed hiring for startups. Nearly 80% of the attendees said they were working for or at a startup, yet not one of them would name the startup or discuss the idea. Last month I spent two weeks in the valley and couldn't go far before another startup entrepreneur wanted to share his or her idea with me.

Another area of discussion is the cost of running a startup. Most tend to believe that it's more expensive to operate a startup in NYC than it is in Silicon Valley. As a former accountant, I've spent some time crunching the numbers to see if there is, in fact, a difference. I'd suggest that overall the total costs are nearly identical. Office space is more expensive in NYC but other costs are higher in the valley. For example, transportation costs are higher on the West Coast. In NYC, you can get by without a car by using the very inexpensive public transportation which blankets the entire city. Out West you need a car, as public transportation overall is spotty.

Lastly, the type of startup can help determine which coast will provide a better chance at success. What I've seen is that if you are trying to build a social network or a service that's looking for a massive user base and low per-user revenue, the valley is the place to be. The attitude in the valley is much more accepting of a service that might take a while to realize its financial potential. In NYC, you better have your business plan worked out the moment the "launch" button is pressed. Many NYC startups also focus on services that will have fewer users but a higher revenue per-user. Also, the word on the street is that if you are building a media company or plan to work with media companies, NYC is the better choice.

In summary, I'd suggest that all entrepreneurs research both coasts (and everywhere in between) to determine where is the best place for your specific startup. Each location offers so many wonderful benefits that there is no single model that can be easily applied to determine the best location.