Life Goes On: Hurricane Sandy Can’t Hold Silicon Alley Down

Hey, it may not be an earthquake in Silicon Valley, but we New Yorkers are feeling the force of Mother Nature. It has been a devastating and unprecedented few days in our area. Thankfully, everyone in my company and in my family is safe, but some of us have been evacuated or have experienced property damage. And, as I write this, one of my staff is being rescued by The National Guard. And the lovely beach town I called home is basically history. My family is in the process of relocating for the duration of the storm.

And yet, in the midst of this, life – and business – goes on. Meetings are happening, my staff is working, and deals are getting done. In fact, my marketing person told me our website traffic is spiking today. All those people stuck at home must need something to do. And an earth shattering event like this one makes you stop and take stock of what’s important to you. And maybe your job is a piece of that.

Every time I turn around, I hear of more and more amazing acts of dedication and resilience. Co-workers who are opening their homes (and couches) for colleagues they barely know; passing on the word to worried family members; stepping in and covering for their absent colleagues; pitching in to do what needs to be done; working even longer hours from home than they would in the office.

Google NY has no power, Facebook NY is closed, Gawker’s data center is knocked out. I heard that The Huffington Post was offline for a while. So what will be in terms of resuming business? How will Silicon Alley get its groove back?

We will. And we have started. We are fortunate that in our industry, many of us can be productive while working remotely. Yes, I know it’s not the same as being in the office. Collaboration by cellphone and Skype isn’t the same. And yes, if you have no power or Internet it’s not really an option. But in the media and tech world, unlike in other places, you can work from home. And our tech-dependent companies build in backups, redundancies, and hosted solutions. In fact, I heard that The New York Times put out a full edition this past Tuesday with most of its reporters and editors not making it into the office. Kudos to them. And they were not the only large publisher to pull that off. I also heard of an ad ops guy for Sport Illustrated/Golf working 12-hour days from home to keep things going.

But for TV, the impact is much more financial. All those prime time hours devoted to the Frankenstorm displaced prime time programming and its advertising revenue. Who wants to see a commercial for a disaster movie or deodorant during a hurricane? And don’t get me started on political advertising. Five-hundred million dollars in lost revenue is the figure I heard today, and that’s from TV only – it would be interesting to see what the figures are from Twitter (#sandy, #sandy ny) and other social media outlets. While the TV stations were still showing flooded tunnels, Facebook and Twitter emerged as sources of real-time information. It was pretty ironic to see a TV reporter huddled over his iPhone quoting a tweet.

I conducted a conference call for my staff this morning. Two had walked over 75 blocks to work. One spent over two hours getting from Washington Heights to Midtown. One had no power and plugged her cellphone into her car to reach the office. A third of my team made it into the office, and many more were working by generator, at Starbucks, or at a friend’s. But they were back at it, on their game, ready to rock and roll. To all of them, my appreciation.

We are tough New Yorkers, and we have no choice but to show our determination by resuming our normal lives. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone.

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