Start-Up City: a look at the city’s dynamic entrepreuneurs
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been working to position New York City as one of the world’s greatest tech capitals, and his most recent initiative showcased some of the city’s youngest and most dynamic in the industry: a registry of hundreds of “Made in NY” start-ups.
The nearly 1,000 companies on the mayor’s list have harnessed the creative energy of the city to power a wide array of businesses, from online dating to eyewear, in ways that are as unique as the city they call home. Metro looked at four of the proud Made in New York businesses below.
The guys behind Songza are, in some ways, the literal posterboys for the mayor’s Made in NY platform: their photo is featured in many of the ads plastered around the city.
Songza is a music-streaming website, but Elias Roman, one of its creators, sees it as more of a “lifestyle service.” Songza offers a selection of playlists based on possible moods you could be in given the time of day.
There are no algorithms or “computer deciding what songs go on what playlists,” Roman said. The playlists featured on Songza are “hand-curated” by a team of “30 curators around New York who are just the best of the best.”
Songza has been proudly based out of Long Island City since 2007, and Roman says the neighborhood continues to perfectly suit them.
“We get our own space to be weird, to find out who we are and deliver that to users,” Roman said.
How About We is an online dating website placing more emphasis on the “dating” than the “online.”
“We had the idea that people believe in experience, they want to do things,” says owner Aaron Schildkrout. “It’s just cooler to meet based on the idea of actually going on a date in the real world than the idea of endlessly browsing profiles or chatting online forever, or ‘winking,’ whatever.”
Users sign up and propose date ideas, then are matched up with people with similar date ideas. Schildkrout describes the interface as “a lot like a Twitter stream, but it’s of dates.”
How About We is launching a new service for couples exclusively in New York: members go on free, “beautiful curated” dates monthly, Schildkrout explained.
How About We is based out of DUMBO, a location that Schildkrout said is “perfect.”
“It’s kind of the bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and we wanted to attract people from both areas,” Schildkrout said. “It’s kind of a great middle ground in that sense, and there’s also a really vibrant start-up culture here.”
Neil Blumenthal started Warby Parker with some friends while they were still in graduate school at Wharton in 2010, but moved the operation to the city immediately upon graduation.
As a native New Yorker, Blumenthal explained, “it’s hard to live anywhere else.”
The idea for Warby Parker came about when Blumenthal and his friends realized “glasses cost as much as an iPhone,” and decided to “find the frames that we love and make them from premium materials but charge $95 instead of $500.”
Warby Parker’s Soho showroom now brings in the same amount of sales for square foot that Tiffany’s does.
Freelancers Union is essentially an insurance company, but for the ubiquitous kind of New Yorker most insurance companies would scoff at: the (sometimes-struggling) freelancer.
Started in 1995, Freelancers Union now has over 200,000 members.
“I grew up in Brooklyn and have lived here my whole life,” said founder and CEO Sara Horowitz, explaining how she saw the need for the service. “I saw that my neighbors were piecing together their work lives in new ways — the accountant who sings opera at night, the nanny who builds websites.”
Now, Horowitz says, one in three workers is independent.
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat