NEW YORK--"We are not an alley."
So said venture capitalist Fred Wilson of at the Web 2.0 Expo here in his keynote entitled "New York's Web Industry From 1995 to 2008: From Nascent to Ascendent." A longtime leader in Gotham's culture of digital innovation, Wilson, of Union Square Ventures, gave a short "history lesson" to the hordes of conference attendees, many of whom had come from hundreds of miles away.
And the term "Silicon Alley," he said, is one that the city should shake off. "We are one of the largest cities in the world," Wilson said. "We are one of the largest Internet development communities in the world. Let's bury the name Silicon Alley."
New York's technology community is still considered an afterthought in comparison to the Bay Area, and Wilson, though he has invested in companies like Delicious and Twitter over the years and runs one of the Web's most influential venture capital blogs, isn't yet in the league of true Valley legends like John Doerr.
But the numbers, Wilson said, show a very different trend. In 1995, 230 early-stage companies in the Bay Area received venture backing, and only 30 did in New York. By the end of the year, 2008's numbers should be 360 in the Bay Area and nearly 120 in New York. "We have grown here in New York by four times in 14 to 15 years, and Silicon Valley has grown by 1.5 times," Wilson said. "We've gone from being one-eighth of the activity of Silicon Valley to one-third. In my mind that's very significant."
The keynote took the audience back, in fact, to 1979, when New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program was first formed. "It started in an art school, the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU," Wilson said. "I think that still to this day defines a distinguishing characteristic of the New York Internet community."
The timeline went on: the rise of interactive ad agencies in 1995, along with the debut of The New York Times Web site, which first launched in conjunction with the visit of Pope John Paul II to New York; the debut in the mid-1990s of digital businesses like iVillage, The Knot, and Star Media; the sale of Total New York to AOL, and the IPO of DoubleClick in 1997--New York's first tech company to go public.… Read more