NYC Officials on Charm Offensive to Woo Emerging Media Firms to City

New York City government went on a charm offensive today at two tech industry events in the hopes of attracting new media and tech business to the Big Apple. Mayor Mike Bloomberg was an unexpected speaker at today’s TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York, while his deputy mayor for economic development spoke at a Google event touting the company’s economic impact.

As the city recovers from the financial industry meltdown and its negative effect on its tax base, it aims to establish itself as a rival to Silicon Valley and a place for small and large tech and new media firms to set up shop.

“We would welcome [Google] as you think about moving your headquarters here to New York City,” quipped Robert Lieber, New York City’s deputy mayor for economic development, while speaking at an event held by Google today. While the event, held at home goods retailer Gracious Home, was intended to promote Google and its contributions to New York’s economy, Lieber took advantage of his attendance by suggesting that the city aims to “create the kind of environment that supports” innovative companies like Google.

The more prominent appearance of Mayor Bloomberg at the TechCrunch event offered an even clearer glimpse into the mission to bring more emerging media and technology companies – and their tax dollars – to the city.

During his talk, the mayor stressed programs created recently to foster a nurturing environment for tech firms, including incubators for tech startups and “social media freelancers.” He said tenants of the incubators have received funding from the city.

He also announced the city will launch a media lab “at a major university” in the city later this year. He compared the initiative to similar programs developed by Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. Stanford is just a short driving distance from the headquarters of Yahoo and Google.

He also promoted an increase in funding associated with the city’s entrepreneurial investment fund, which provides small investments to NYC-based startups. Through a partnership with FirstMark Capital, the fund will invest “up to” $22 million in tech startups, Bloomberg said. A recipient of cash from the fund is mobile app provider My City Way, which won the city’s mobile application contest with its New York City tourism and information app, NYC Way. Perhaps mirroring New York’s own goal to generate revenue from beyond Wall Street, the founders of My City Way themselves hail from Wall Street financial firms. According to Bloomberg, the company has moved from New Jersey to New York City.

The city also aims to burnish its own digital reputation. It is seeking someone to fill a new chief digital officer position which combines press communications skills with more technical tasks such as helping improve website usability and monitoring analytics.

While several digital advertising and technology firms already are headquartered in New York, the mayor may have alienated some during his somewhat rambling response to a question about media companies in New York. “A pop-up cute ad is fine, but after awhile you stop looking at the pop-up cute ads and you say, ‘Wait a second. What am I wasting an hour a day for and not learning anything?’ ”

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