This post made it to the top of Hacker News today. I give myself my first ever Hacker News high-five, but also I realize that really means nothing in the grand scheme of things. So there…
I spent last week in New York, discovering the differences between their tech scene and ours here in the Bay Area. I was visiting a tech startup located on the border of Chinatown and Tribeca. I don’t even know if I spelled Tribeca right. Maybe it’s TriBeCa or tRiBeCa. They seem to be into that there.
I stayed in the East Village, a hub of excellent food, bars, vintage stores, and bagel shops. It felt like autumn for once, and the cold made it impossible to use my iPhone while walking because my fingers would go numb.
My most important discovery was the stark contrast in the tech scenes between New York and the Valley/SF. And most of those differences were in New York’s favor.
I love San Francisco, there’s no mistaking that – I came back here and plan to stay here for a reason. But there were three aspects of NY tech culture that immediately stood out to me. We should work to adopt these more here.
First, there was far less elitism. This was surprising to me given that the East Coast is home to finance giants and “old money”. But the tech scene there seems to be an escape from elitism rather than an outlet for it.
Elitism runs rampant through the Valley and through San Francisco. Whether it be around “founder” status or lack thereof, the difference between “technical and non-technical” people (one New Yorker told me that those words are absolute BS, and I couldn’t help but agree wholeheartedly), or who got more funding or thought of something first.
We should strive to collaborate and appreciate our differences here rather than belittle one another for what we may culturally deem to be shortcomings.
Second, diversity. It was an actual thing there. San Francisco is diverse but, for the most part, we run in segregated circles. When I stepped foot into a co-working space in NYC, I saw diversity in action: people of various ages, genders, ethnicities, national origins working together to get sh*t done. This rarely happens here, and we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
Third, New York feels more well-rounded. Perhaps this is just because it isn’t the tech capital of the world. Instead, it’s home to fashion, art, film, literature, theater, banking, and more. All of that touches tech, but tech isn’t the main focus. It’s a means to an end. Because of that, there is deeper appreciation for art, literature, and all things in between. There is some of that here in San Francisco, to be sure. We’ve got Dave Eggers, Chronicle Books, world-class art museums (still smaller than New York’s) and Golden Gate Park. But we need more, or at least to cultivate an appreciation for all the ways that culture affects us. I have a hard time finding people willing to talk to me about classic literature here and what the human condition may or may not be. We should be thinking about these things more. We’re creating products to help human beings live better, are we not? So we need to understand where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how we can most effectively reach to people’s centers and make their lives better to live.
Of course, San Francisco and the Valley have their obvious strengths. The fact that a concentrated group of people can concentrate on “the future” and how technology will get us there makes for a culture of openness. That is, we tend to say yes to more chance encounters and yes to more crazy-sounding projects.
But let’s also say yes to throwing our egos out the door, accepting one another’s differences, and cultural appreciation.
Share what you think in the comments. Do you live and work in New York or another city? What do you think the biggest differences are? Or is the Valley really the be-all-end-all?