New York mugs

Don’t get me wrong. The growth of New York’s technology community over the past five years has been nothing short of amazing. The city that never sleeps is thinking big, pushed by a mayor who wants to diversify the economic base beyond Wall Street.

I love the Big Apple’s desire to build a world-class tech campus — something I’ve encouraged Seattle to do — and things like Mayor Bloomberg’s new “Made in NY Digital Map” are inspring.

But sometimes New York’s claims have a bit more sizzle than steak, and they often come with the myopic East Coast view that nothing really happens west of the Hudson River.

That’s how I felt after reading a report today from the Center for an Urban Future called New Tech City. The report does a nice job showcasing the growth of New York’s tech ecosystem, touting job growth in the IT sector as well as the rise of venture capital and tech accelerators.

It also compares NYC to other tech hubs, including Boston and Silicon Valley. And here’s where I have a beef. It fails to recognize Seattle, mentioning the city just twice in the 45-page report. (A chart about venture capital financing didn’t even include Seattle, comparing New York to Silicon Valley, New England, Texas, LA and San Diego).

What’s Seattle, chopped liver?

Perhaps it’s the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but there are repeated remarks about how New York has now claimed the No. 2 spot in the U.S. tech hub race from Boston. (A report measuring tech hubs out last month had already concluded that Seattle had surpassed Boston and Austin. It ranked New York as No. 2).

It may very well be the case that NYC is now No. 2. And as I’ve pointed in the past there are areas, namely venture capital financing, where New York has gained a ton of momentum. (See my earlier postLet’s stop the Silicon Valley comparisons, and take a look at why NYC is kicking butt).

New York companies such as Gilt Groupe, Tumblr, ZocDoc and Buddy Media have raised huge rounds of financing of $90 million or more. But venture capital is just part of the story.

And here’s where I think Seattle gets short-changed in these discussions.

For whatever reason, two of the biggest success stories of the past year in Seattle eschewed traditional venture capital. (PopCap Games sale to EA for up to $1.3 billion, and Double Down Interactive’s sale to IGT for up to $500 million)

For its relative small size, Seattle also has the headquarters of more tech titans than most cities on the planet:, Expedia and Microsoft.  Combined, they have a market value of more than $350 billion. (Amazon alone has more than 1,000 open positions in the area)

Seattle also has attracted a growing stable of engineering centers from the California powerhouses like Facebook, Splunk, Hulu, Zynga, Jawbone, RichRelevance and others. Google — the first of these Silicon Valley titans to arrive — now employs about 1,000 people in the Seattle area, split between offices in Kirkland and Fremont.

Now, there’s a big debate going on right now whether these big tech companies are actually helping or hurting the startup ecosystem of Seattle, gobbling up the best talent and stopping innovative smaller companies from taking root.  But that’s a topic for another column.

I’ll stand by what I wrote back in April on the topic of NYC vs. Seattle: New York certainly has a lot of momentum, from city officials to venture capitalists to the media. But, at the same time, I wouldn’t trade Seattle’s technology community for New York’s.

After all, as much as I enjoyed reading the New Tech City report, I keep going back to its title page which included this image showcasing New York’s tech scene:

Some good companies for sure. But, ask yourself: What Seattle companies would you put on a similar skyline here?

And would you come to similar conclusion that Seattle — despite its well documented shortcomings — is a No. 2 to Silicon Valley? I think you could at least make the case.

Previously on GeekWireThe top 25 startup hubs in the world: Seattle ranks 13th

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  • daryn

    I’ll be honest John, I love Seattle, but we’re not number 2 (not that we’re the other type of number 2 either)  

    NYC’s startup ecosystem has a lot of the same traits that we pride ourselves on here, plus they’ve got a great investor community, and have had a lot of big hits. Maybe I just need to be reminded of some of the more quiet success stories here (when are you bringing back the Seattle Startup Index?), but I can’t make a list of Seattle companies off the top of my head that hold a flame to that Times Square image. 

    It would be very unlikely I’d ever move to the valley, but NYC? In a heartbeat.

    • ash bhoopathy

      If someone has a list of those companies, I’d volunteer some time to create the iconic Seattle image.   

      However, like Daryn i really lament the list will be very long.   We’ll have a few companies that are covering the space needle, is about all…. :-)

      • johnhcook

        I think you have to think of Seattle broader than just startups, and think of the entire ecosystem. I’d love to see this, and I can get you started. I

        So, in one camp, you’d have big public companies like: F5, Expedia, Amazon, Microsoft, Concur, Zillow, etc. 

        Then, in another camp, you’d have all the big Valley companies that are here: Google, Splunk, Hulu, Facebook, eBay, Zynga, EA, EMC, Jawbone, RichRelevance, etc. 

        Then, you’d have the up-and-comers, many of whom we featured at the Seattle 2.0 Awards. Companies like: Zulily, Z2Live, Tableau Software, Redfin,, Apptio, Opscode, Cheezburger, SEOMoz, INRIX, Valve, Gylmpse, Has Offers, Symform, Big Door, Datasphere, etc. 

        I’d love to see this graphic, and we’d give you a shout out on GW if you created. What other companies should be on here?

    • johnhcook

      If you think of Seattle simply as a “startup ecosystem,” then you may have a point. But in my view NYC doesn’t hold a candle to the entire “tech ecosystem” of Seattle. I can’t think of one major tech titan that’s based there. They may be grooming them, but they aren’t there yet. 

      The East Coast, really? Have you spent time there? I don’t think so. 

      • daryn

        Well, I spent 18 years in Baltimore, so yes, I’m familar with the East Coast :) That said, NYC is the only east coast city I’d really want to live in. I suppose maybe Boston or DC too, but much less so. 

        As far as “tech” versus “startup”, what do you consider tech? Just software? True, NYC doesn’t have an Amazon or a Microsoft, though both have offices there, but there are massive amounts of technology behind some of the large media and finance companies based there, and they’ve got a lot more later-stage “startups” (say, > 10M active users or > 10M revenue).

      • Vonetc

        If you think of Seattle as a “start-up ecosystem,” then I think it has a ways to go.  I like what the folks at Founder’s Co-op are doing; but having been a part of and worked with many tech start-ups in the Boston tech community, what Seattle lacks is a constantly replenishing talent pool that puts talent and ideas above money and connections.

      • DS Benbow

        If you’re looking Sea-Tac, I would include internetidentity also…

      • Avniel Dravid

        As somebody who grew up in Palo Alto, took his first job in NYC and now live/work in Seattle, I can honestly say each scene is different, and every good startup (no matter how early) should be exploring more than one scene.

        At my current company Enliken, we are based in Brooklyn and Seattle. NYC is great for ad tech related investors/meetups because the community has more well-rounded professionals. Seattle and The Valley feel very engineering-heavy, in my opinion.

        As far as big exits, it certainly remains to be seen if NYC can hang with the west coast.

        Totally agree with johncook that the general tech ecosystem in Seattle is much stronger given MSFT, AMZN and the presence of GOOG and FB. Good place to recruit engineers. Bad place to recruit creatives (compared to NYC!).

    • Mikey Tom

      This just in, Daryn moving to the Big Apple after hearing about Tony Wright’s move to the Valley ; )

    • ‘Red’ Russak

      Having lived in NYC for 6 years, I agree that you’d love the tech vibe there, but in my mind, it will always be Silicon Alley ;-) Plus, Seattle Summers vs. NYC Summers…there’s no question you’ll be happy you stayed out here. Having said that, the subway system is a serious plus.

  • Bob Crimmins

    Damn right, John!  ;)

  • Aaron Evans

    I like the (apocryphal) story about Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.  There was a great rivalry between them about who was the best tenor in the world.  Domingo also insisted he was better than Pavarotti.  Pavarotti never mentioned Domingo.

  • Victoria

    Seattle seems to have a lot of tech/startup enthusiasm but is still in the infant stages of building more of its own organic infrastructure to support them. 

  • Michael ‘Luni’ Libes

    I’ve recently spent a lot of time talking with people involved in building the NYC community (for market research, not at all to jump ship and move), and it is clear that NYC is way past the tipping point to be called a “hub”, and now their sheer size of population and money makes them a unique competitor vs. Seattle, Boston, Austin, Portland, and the other cities aiming for Silicon Valley’s coattails.

    With 10x the population of Seattle, the NYC tech events draw in 1,000+ attendees, while ours draw in 100+.  We’ve seen the same ratio with VC investments.  It likely wont’ be long until the same is true for numbers of startups, and size of the talent pool.

    With that, I agree with you John that we need to think about the whole entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Seattle, not just the tech sector.  But at the same time, as we measure that, NYC will throw in media, finance, and other sectors as well, which they’ve dominated  for the last century, not the last five years.

  • Nate Hart

    Seattle has New York beat hands down. Venture-Tech companies may be generating buzz, but they have yet to generate much real money. Yes, I said it. Looking at Seattle, you have Microsoft, Amazon, Real Networks, F5, Expedia, Zillow,. You have development offices for Google, Incoming Facebook Office, EA, Nintendo, Epic Games, Bungie, and more. You have massive, established companies. You also do have some startups.

    Now, New York is primarily all these new startups, some of which are becoming established, but many are up and coming. A few months after you hear about an up and coming company, you often hear “remember when”. Is is fair to give New York more credit because they have these new companies popping up, or do the old Vanguard of Seattle beat them?

    I would argue that neither should be discounted, but until you see how New York plays out, you can’t compare it to Seattle. Tech campuses, history, and real dollars run this town.

  • Knuckles Mutatis

    Why are journalists abusing the term “tech” so much lately? – Tech is much, MUCH more than simply software & computer/phone/tablet hardware. It seems writers somehow forgot everything from biotech to aerospace/aviation to automotive engineering (heck Michigan has more engineers per capita than ANY other State), and so on.

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