What Exactly Does New York City Offer Tech Startups Besides High Taxes?

To be fair, there are a thousand reasons to be based in New York City: it’s great, the talent is great, it’s magical, all that jazz. Don’t like living or working anywhere else. Plus, there’s a Starbucks everywhere for when you have a cruddy office with no conference room. That is A+. Oh but wait, why would you support a non-NYC startup with coffee money? Take that meeting to, say, Gregory’s Coffee. But what has the City done for you lately, besides offering terrific mass transit service and a lack of affordable rent? Mayor Bloombucks has gone on the charm offensive once more about tech startups: “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched ‘We Are Made in NY,’ an initiative which aims to support the local tech scene by providing ‘resources and programs’ that help startups grow, highlighting job openings at tech startups, and helping to introduce ‘novices’ to the growing industry…. This program, which was announced at BuzzFeed’s NY HQ, will tap the city’s existing Made in NY Digital Map, but will take the form of a campaign rather than a set of tools.”

So yeah, this happened at BuzzFeeᴅ, which is a reasonable choice. (One great thing about BuzzFeeᴅ is that it’s created a real ton of jobs in New York City! I am very pro that. Also that is possible because they have about $32 million (really random outside estimate) in investment money in their bank account.) Anyway, so: “Resources and programs” is in quotes; then this program… will “take the form of a campaign.” Oh! It’s right there: This program is a campaign. Basically you can apply for a “Made in NY” certification. Neato. Guess what! We are a small independent job-creating tech business that pays an inordinate and unholy amount of taxes to the City of New York, so we are just going to call ourselves certified as Made In New York already.

But okay so, these “resources, benefits and programs to help startups grow in New York City”: ooh, go on?

• Some industry-specific incubator spaces, and some generalist ones, most of which are not actually that affordable for a non-venture-backed company. (Our current rent would be at least tripled if we took the desks we needed at an incubator. Recently we were contacted by a new incubator, that is raising seed money. Our rent would go up five-fold if we moved in there.)

• There’s NYC Seed, which is a great idea, providing seed money to startups — up to $200K, which is reasonable. Here’s their portfolio. Honestly? It’s so-so, but we’re pro.

• They have a link to the “fully searchable database of procurement notices” for the City. So get ready to start searching that to figure out how to get some City contracts.

• There seems to be a good bit of money in grants for staff training, which is actually very cool, if all outside what most people think of as tech startups. People getting certified for HVAC installation, that kind of thing. (Although past trainings are almost all software training; or, one home health-care agency used their “award to advance 10 home care workers into supervisory and administrative roles.”)

• There seems to a be a pro bono lawyer referral system if you call a case manager somewhere?

• There’s a competition to pay people to move to Lower Manhattan, basically. Just like Goldman Sachs! 🙂

• And there’s support for business run by immigrants, and then minority and women-owned certification systems, which of course pre-date this campaign, which are good things.

And that’s about it. What’s there for a small business, making it and hiring and hustling in New York City? Honestly, not much. We’d be better off near-shoring all our infrastructure and workforce to say, Hungary, or New Jersey and Utah. (Right, just like Goldman Sachs!)

Enough negativity! What would I want?

• Structured pooling of professional resources, like payroll. Small independent businesses use up a lot of their time doing their own bookkeeping and doing their own payroll. Would I happily share a payroll person with a team of other startups? Yesssss.

• Assistance with small-team health insurance. That’s the big nightmare.

• Tax credits for hiring in New York City, or credits for new businesses, or credits for businesses with other criteria that reflect their being part of the City’s ecosystem.

• Assistance with the various kinds of business insurance, including things like life insurance for business partners.

• Man, toss us a reduced Metrocard once in a while!

• Assistance to local banks and credit unions to provide better small business services. Most local businesses end up using large national fee-heavy banks because the online services are better, therefore not supporting NYC’s small financial-services companies.

And now, I am going for a physical with a real actual doctor for the first time in eight years.