The Evolution of the NY Tech Scene and Need for Applied Sciences NYC
Andy Dunn is co-founder and CEO of Bonobos, now the largest apparel brand in the United States ever launched over the web.
The start-up scene in New York has transformed dramatically since I arrived in 2007 to co-found Bonobos. At my one bedroom apartment at 17th and Irving where I lived with 400 pairs of pants, I felt alone. Potential employees and vendors eyed me skeptically, a crazy man talking about how the world was going to change. My harebrained vision was that the worlds of technology and consumer retail were about to collide and that room of pants was going to become a company.
Those who believed me were also the crazy ones; they are now founding employees and investors of Bonobos’ wonderful team. From them, and through the grapevine, we heard whispers of others with similar ideas. We met them and befriended them. Alexandra, Alexis, and Kevin at Gilt. The Jennys at Rent the Runway. Dave, Neil and the Warby Parker crew, who came through our offices seeking advice on vertical e-commerce; we now ask them for their insight. Joel and Tracy at StyleOwner. Katia and Hayley at Birchbox. Daniella, Amy and team at Bauble Bar. Chantel at Chloe and Isabel. And the list now goes on and on.
It became clear it was not just technology and branded e-tail (as opposed to blanded e-tail: you know who you are) colliding for the first time, but a technology-enabled movement empowering consumers and individuals emerging out of New York. Foursquare. Etsy. Second Market. Tumblr. Kickstarter. Grovo. ZocDoc. And why wouldn’t it? NYC is the capital of individualism and consumerism. This is the experimental petri dish of humanity. It was only a matter of time before it got technology-enabled. Yes we do have Times Square. All strengths have their shadows.
Like the story of how high schools eventually generate what the pros needs in Michael Lewis’ book The Blind Side, the investors started to show up about five years later. Accel Partners, our cutting edge investors, became the first blue chip west coast firm to set up shop here. Fred, unsurprisingly, was likewise out in front. Charlie and Phin planted the First Round flag. Kirsten of Forerunner Ventures started making trips. Jeremy from Lightspeed is always on the scene. Ben and his dad set up Lerer and did a partnership with SV. Founder Collective sprouted up. Mo and Bijan at Spark Capital. Techstars. Dogpatch. Thrive. And on and on and on and sorry I’m missing you, the money flowed in.
And yet, through all of these exciting arrivals, we must still ask, where are the engineers and the computer scientists? Why does hiring every VP of Engineering candidate take twelve months with four hiccups along the way? How can we afford NOT to have a new graduate school of applied science established right here in New York?
It’s simple: We cannot. Without it, we simply won’t have the talent pipeline we need to maintain this amazing momentum.
I couldn’t be more thrilled by the prospect of Stanford opening its doors on the shores of the East River. The jobs are here, and its presence would bring even more. While America is not winning in all things, we do win, and can continue to win, at innovation. Like the scene in the 90s edition Robin Hood where Kevin Costner kisses the sand, I think I speak for many in the technology scene in New York City when I say, “We are ready to pucker up to your island, sandy beaches or not.”
- Andy Dunn, Stanford GsB 2007