The Big Apple versus The Emerald City. Could this be an epic showdown over data geeks?

Times Square. Photo via Kurt Schlosser

That’s the discussion in a story by New York Times reporter Claire Cain Miller who writes that New York and Seattle are “already sparring over which will be the next hotbed, beyond Silicon Valley, for educating these analysts of the future.”

The story itself is balanced, and does a good job of presenting both communities. It highlights the ambitious efforts of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who is launching a new science school in conjunction with Cornell University — and it points to the corporate money in Seattle — critical dollars that are supporting the University of Washington’s computer science department.

It concludes with newly-appointed UW professor Carlos Guestrin discussing the importance of large companies, with the computer scientist declaring that “the data is on the West Coast.”

All good stuff.

But what gave me pause was the accompanying infographic, a flawed scoresheet in my view which reads more like something from the city’s economic development department.

info44Yes, New York has more Starbucks and IT workers (they do have more people living there after all). Yes, there’s more in-city “green space” and apparently more on-street bike lanes in NYC (Uh, there are three National Parks within spitting distance of Seattle, not to mention green space and bike trails galore just a short drive away. New York touting more green space is like Seattle saying we have better pizza).

Venture capital is worth tracking, and that’s a known weakness in Seattle which needs some improvement. But why not analyze market values of public technology companies, or federal research dollars to universities or engineering offices of Silicon Valley companies (since the story centered on these topics).

I guess I can’t complain too much.

At least there seems to be some recognition of the fact that Seattle exists. You may recall my column from last May — Hey, NYC: There’s a tech hub out here called Seattle — in which New York barely mentioned Seattle in their New Tech City report.

Seattle skyline. Photo via David Herrara

I love Seattle, but I am not a pure homer. The region has its flaws, which I routinely point out. (See my earlier postsLet’s stop the Silicon Valley comparisons, and take a look at why NYC is kicking butt and, just from this past week, VC investing tanks in Washington, overtaken by Oregon for first time since 1993).

I love what New York is doing in many respects — especially as it relates to the new Cornell NYC Tech school which is prominently featured in The New York Times today. The city has adopted a strategy around tech, and it is moving to execute on it.

It’s good to know that Seattle is at least on the NYC radar. It should be, given that some of the most important cloud computing companies in the world are based here.

I think both cities have a lot to learn from one another. And while educating and encouraging the world’s smartest geeks is certainly a critical factor in the success of a tech hub, so is this … a little luck.

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  • newbie

    I just moved to Seattle from East coast. The biggest problem I see in Seattle is public infrastructure. The roads are like what you see in 3rd world countries. Freeways going through the middle of the city?? The city lacks energy and amenities. For a technology hub, internet and cell phone connections surprisingly slow compared to the east coast. The State needs to start collecting taxes.

    • asok14215

      What do you call the east side and west side expressways in Manhattan?

    • boop

      Really? Have you ever tried to drive on a road in a third-world country? Or are you just saying that? I would agree with you if you had “the sidewalks are like what you seein 3rd world countries.”

    • tryingtocalmdown

      oh great, another east coaster leaving the east coast then berating us for their high taxes and so called infrastructure. spare us your moralizing. we’ve heard it all before from the others that have come before you. i’d rather have air that i can’t see and water that i can see thru (yes i know nyc has good water). much lower violent crime per capita and generally healthier overall. and weed is legal here. so welcome but please shut up about the so called advantages of whereever you hailed from.

    • Billy T

      Having actually lived in 3rd world countries in Asia and the Caribbean for 16 years, I can assure you that the streets and sidewalks of Seattle are not even close to 3rd world country status. It makes a fun soundbite, but it’s not even remotely close.

  • Tom Leung

    Welcome to Seattle @e163997bc8f36a19a333ece626595cb9:disqus! I think you’ll find the tech community here to be very collaborative, supportive, and authentic. Agree on the need for some more infrastructure — it’s in the works.

    • Tom Leung

      p.s. i did not put ur name in all caps. must be some kind of disqus “feature”

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    The infographic is bogus at best. Sad to see the NYT fall to the level of printing unsubstantiated facts that are easy to rip apart.

    Let’s see – NYT says 85,500 employees in Seattle metro area. Microsoft employs 97,000 alone. Fail.

    Starbucks itself reports 223 stores in New York and 187 in Seattle (not 271 and 139 as NYT says). This is via which crunches the numbers from Took me like two minutes to find it. There are 86 Starbucks on the Eastside alone. Fail.

    And sheer quantity of a resource is perhaps less important than resource per capita. Would you rather have one acre of green space per 55 residents (Seattle) or per 100 residents (New York)?

    But here’s the real kicker:

    Starbucks with a drive-through:
    Seattle proper: 11 (excluding Eastside)
    New York City: 1 (all five boroughs; you’ll have to drive to Brooklyn)

    • asok14215

      I highly doubt that the 97k that Microsoft employs live in Seattle/Eastside. I believe that’s a worldwide figure.

      Oh, and the number of drive thru Starbucks is not necessarily a metric to be proud of.

      • boop

        Does anybody know the number of Redmond-based Microsoft employees (minus orange badges)?

      • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

        FYI, I don’t even drink coffee. So I think Starbucks is a stupid quality metric. But if you’re going to have a stupid metric, you should make it really stupid, like counting drive through locations.

    • boop

      Whatever the number of Starbucks is, it is certainly *enough*.

    • Ryan Parrish

      These stats are idiotic in the extreme. Seattle has 20,000 fewer people per square mile than NYC, 62,000 less per square mile than Manhattan, which has almost 3 times as many people in a space almost 4 times smaller. So, of course you’re likely to see higher concentrations of features of convenience like bike lanes and numbers of coffee joints.

  • Stephen Purpura

    NYC is awesome if you take advantage of the social scene, you are independently wealthy (or work in finance), or you don’t mind the poverty lifestyle.

  • Stephen Medawar

    John – I think it’s just as crazy to not adjust for population as it is to pick this weird cross-section of stats (I notice that they conveniently left WNBA championships off the infographic). :)

    Here are their stats adjusted for population (per 100k people):
    Bike Lane Miles:
    NYC – 6.9
    SEA – 29.0

    NYC – 3.3
    SEA – 22.4

    Google Employees:
    NYC – 38.8
    SEA – 161.1

    Green Space SQ Miles:
    NYC – 352
    SEA – 999

    Information Employees:
    NYC – 2,042
    SEA – 13,773

    VC Dollars (in millions):
    NYC – $19.4
    SEA – $108.1

    VC Deals 2012:
    NYC – 3.3
    SEA – 13.2

  • Paul_Owen

    The article is a win for Seattle. It’s not Austin, Boston, Portland or Raleigh It’s Seattle. As much as we think we’re the center of the universe, there are other tech centers out there.

  • George P. Burdell

    New York Starbucks still have 3 fold napkins but in Seattle we’re stuck with 2 fold napkins. What is up with that?

    • boop

      Just trying to conserve the trees ya know …

  • Guest

    Per capita, Seattle wins every competition vs. NY.

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