NYC Catching UP With SV In Seed Funding

Om pulls some interesting data out of CB Insights regarding seen funding of internet startups:

Om Malik, By The Numbers: Seed Funding is The New Black

Here is some salient data from CB Insights’ latest report covering the July-September time frame:

  • Nearly $1.253 billion was invested in 233 Internet related deals. Series A media deal size was at an all time high of $3.4 million, once again proving that early stage investing is going through a frothy phase.
  • San Francisco saw 36 Internet deals that brought in $131 million, while New York City saw 31 Internet deals garner $126 million. In comparison, Mountain View, San Mateo & Palo Alto saw 21 deals focused on the Internet and they brought in a total of $174 million.
  • Early stage investing is dominating the New York area and accounted for nearly 63 percent of all deals. New York can thank folks like Chris Dixon and Fred Wilson for bringing investment dollars to area startups.

NYC is exploding, as I said in this piece last spring:


New York City’s tech scene is expanding at an astonishing rate these days, which raises the obvious question: why now? And, if New York has all the right ingredients to create a rich and deep technology culture, why didn’t it appear earlier?

My theory is that New York lacked, until recently, a critical factor: smart early stage investors.

The other parts of the puzzle were in place: great schools, brainy entrepreneurs, and abundant media and PR people. But without the manure that VCs provide, what looked to be a great greenhouse was cold, and very little would grow.

It is manure that makes greenhouses hot, that makes them hotbeds, and the critical factor is now being provided by folks like Chris Dixon, Fred Wilson, and John Borthwick. Chris Dixon recently made the case that the financial services downturn has dumped a lot of smart people out of financial sector, and also chimes in on the role that smart investors are having:

[…] why did New York City lag behind the West Coast this decade so much more than last decade?  Especially since the internet in the 2000’s has been more than ever about consumers, media, and advertising – traditional New York City strengths?

I think the only explanation is that the finance bubble of 2003-2008 was a giant talent suck on the East Coast.  The people I knew graduating out of top engineering or business programs on the East Cast were all trying to work at hedge funds or big banks or else felt like fish out of water and moved west.   Money was flowing so freely in the finance world that there was no way the risk/reward trade off of startups could compete.  Eventually it just became downright idiosyncratic to be a startup person on the East Coast.  The Larry and Sergey of the East Coast were probably inventing high frequency trading algorithms at Goldman Sachs.

But this is why New York City now seems poised for a technology startup boom. The finance bubble has burst and the industry will hopefully return to its historical norm, about half its bubble size.  The traditional advertising and media businesses are in disarray.  The people who work in them will no doubt find new applications for their talents.

There is also a nice ecosystem developing in New York City.  Union Square Ventures is one of the best VC’s in the country, with early stage investments in companies like Twitter and Etsy (that were followed on by top West Coast VCs at significant markups).   Bessemer is an old firm that has a managed to stay relevant with investments in Yelp, Skype, and LinkedIn among others.  There is also a new wave of scrappy Boston firms spending a lot of time in New York City – specifically Spark, General Catalyst, Flybridge, and Bain Ventures.  First Round Capital out of Philadelphia is extremely active in early stage investing in New York.  There are a bunch of veteran entrepreneurs actively investing in and mentoring seed stage startups.  Google has a big office here and many people seem to be leaving to go start companies.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, recently made the point that NYC has been slowly growing as a start-up hub for a decade:

Chris [Dixon] argues that for the past decade, hedge funds and wall street have been a huge talent suck here in NYC and now that they are scaling back, our kinds of companies will find it easier to attract the best and brightest. I agree completely.

But I take some offense to Chris’ view that NYC was “irrelevant” in the 2003-2008 internet boom. TACODA, Right Media, Gawker, Quigo, Delicious, Etsy, Meetup, Indeed, Tumblr, Return Path, etc, etc.  I don’t call that irrelevant. I call it misunderstood. Good thing people, including our Mayor, are waking up to what a good thing we’ve got going here.

I think a tipping point has been reached, though, where all the pieces are now connecting, and we are moving past an inflection point into explosive growth.

And the result will be a richer, growing, and more dominant tech scene in NYC.

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