Does Silicon Alley Know Its Strengths?

siliconalley.jpegThe New York City Economic Development Council, together with Polytechnic University, sponsored a panel discussion this morning on Silicon Alley 2.0. The purpose of the event was to foster growth in New York’s tech sector.

I attended because the panel was largely comprised of media companies and ad-supported startups:. Present were President of Hearst Interactive Media Kenneth Bronfin, Jason Rapp, who heads M&A at IAC and UPOC Networks head Steven Spencer.

The event turned out to be notable because of the lack of discussion of the city as a hub of media, marketing and advertising. In introductory remarks, New York City was lauded as a hub that can attract tech startups thanks to its strong academic, legal, financial and fiber optic infrastructures. At the same time, the morning was filled with East vs. West laments, particularly numerous wishes that “the next Google” would incubate in New York, alongside laments that local VCs wouldn’t have had the vision to fund a YouTube.

Yet the VCs and city agency made nary a mention of what attracted Google to establish a major New York outpost in the first place (not to mentions its rivals such as Yahoo and MSN). It’s because this city is the ground zero of advertising and media — the financial engines that power the lion’s share of the Internet economy.

Marketing New York means identifying its differentiators. The city appears far from that most basic element of crafting a message. There are plenty of places with universities, lawyers, banks, VCs, and broadband. Madison Avenue doesn’t exist anywhere else, ditto New York’s concentration of broadcasters and publishers.

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