Noah Weiss (foursquare) on Stanford + NYC
Noah Weiss (pictured above, in the Stanford shirt with his NYC kickball team) is Product Manager at Foursquare. He lives and works in New York City. Noah graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in Science, Technology, and Society.
Everyone agrees more startups could help push NYC’s economy beyond its traditional strengths: finance, media, and advertising. An influx of new engineers would help the cause. Fortunately, NYC is already filled with strong engineering programs within its five boroughs and surrounded by universities in the northeast that produce thousands of new engineering grads every year.
Yet still, Silicon Alley continues to live up to its diminutive nickname relative to Silicon Valley. There are no shortage of reasons why, or essays written investigating the topic. One significant explanation is clear just by looking at a map: Silicon valley has Stanford University sitting at the epicenter, whereas NYC is over 3,000 miles away. The university has been just one of many factors in explosion of tech startups (many of which were founded by faculty, alumni, and students) in the last half-century that have sprouted up within a short drive of the campus. But Stanford’s unique culture of entrepreneurship, combined with its top ranking engineering programs, has undoubtedly played a major role.
No matter what you study at Stanford, it’s hard to graduate without wanting at some point to found a company — or at least work at a fast-growing startup. From freshman orientation when you walk around buildings named after companies founded at Stanford that cover the Nasdaq billboard in Times Square; to junior year when you try to sign up for a class called E145: Technology Entrepreneurship, only to find enrollment is threefold oversubscribed and requires a written application for the privilege of listening to tech CEOs and venture capitalists hold Q&A classes; to the senior year career fairs when the lines next to Google, Facebook, and the latest hot venture back companies dwarf the Fortune 100 stalwarts like GE and Accenture; it is nearly impossible to leave Stanford immune to the startup bug.
I felt that personally after graduating in 2008 when I moved back home to NYC to work for Google. It certainly wasn’t a startup at the time, but it was the perfect training ground for learning how I would build my own company. Earlier this year, I left to work at startup born and raised in NYC: foursquare. My next stop a few years from now: founding my own company, hopefully in the city, and likely with a handful of Stanford grads and foursquare alumni.
That’s a fairly typical path for computer science grads. It hasn’t surprised me to find my engineering classmates working at the top tech companies, from the giants like Google and Microsoft, to fast-growing adolescents like Facebook and Twitter, to startups like Quora and foursquare. I expected that. What has been startling is seeing the friends who moved to NYC to work as strategy consultants and investment bankers — that transcontinental pipeline of talent has been well-honed for years — move in droves to work at local New York startups. From a banker turned data analyst at Yipit, to a strategy consultant turned operations manager at Birchbox, to a management consultant turned venture capitalist associate at Union Square Ventures, the surprise has been my non-technical Stanford friends cutting their salaries in half or more to get a chance to help build a company from scratch. They, too, couldn’t escape Stanford’s entrepreneurship bug.
As a native New Yorker who could never imagine living further than five minutes from the nearest subway line, I spent years at Stanford selling classmates from all majors on why there’s no better place to work than NY in your twenties. Now, as I sit on a flight to San Francisco to help foursquare recruit its next generation of engineers at the exact career fair I stood at four years ago, my task is also to convince students that building a career in tech in NYC is a worthwhile investment.
If Stanford had an engineering and business campus outpost in NYC, my pitch for new grads moving here would be markedly easier. The thousands of highly-trained engineers joining the workforce every year would certainly help. Even more useful would be that Stanford’s culture of entrepreneurship would have to travel only a few subway stops instead of a few thousand miles. Foursquare would appreciate the influx of local talent, but the city itself would benefit even more from the droves of companies that would spring up around a StanfordNYC campus.
This Wednesday, I look forward to recruiting as many amazing Stanford engineers as I can from the career fair. I hope that two years from now, I won’t have to travel nearly as far.
- Noah Weiss
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