Before I begin, let me tell you that I just read back through this post and realized that there are a bunch of anonymous companies, people, etc. The reason is I don’t want to out anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. I just want to point out where there are opportunities for the community to improve.
So as one with a vested interest in the community I try to come into contact with as many entrepreneurs in the Brooklyn area as I can. It’s always interesting to hear about their businesses. I try to ask what they like and dislike about Brooklyn and what could help out their situation. More often than not I am told how great the environment is and how most employees prefer it to Manhattan because they live in Brooklyn anyway.
This week I heard a couple anecdotes that let me know that things are not all beer and skittles particularly here in DUMBO.
No Damn Space – I was talking to a CEO of a company that recently moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I figured the story would be that this company had graduated to the ‘big leagues’ and wanted the prestige of a Manhattan address. Couldn’t have been further from the truth. He told me that as his company had grown he needed more space. He was looking around for nearly six months and couldn’t find a good deal. He felt forced into Manhattan. And this particular entrepreneur is plugged in. He knows many of community leaders and landlords. He suggested that not only was there not enough space zoned for commercial, but there was also some brinksmanship around which properties in the neighborhood would be developed and when.
I’ve heard conflicting stories about the amount of space that is currently available for startups and what is planned to be zoned for commercial and when. What I do know is that this is not the first time that I have heard this issue come up so there is either some truth to it or some confusion that needs to be clarified. What I’m going to do is try to figure what is available and post something about it.
Plugged In – The other morning I had breakfast with the CEO of a startup who’s company is just ready to lift off. He’s got a great product, good technology and many happy customers that are of decent size. Plus, he is just closing his seed round to expand his business. This is exactly the type of entrepreneur that Brooklyn could use. I have no doubt that this company is going to be a job creator over the next couple years. When I asked when he was moving in he was hesitant. I knew he had been looking at a couple options here. What he told me was that he was drawn to Brooklyn because of the reputation for being a tech hotspot, but he wasn’t sure because he couldn’t figure out how to plug into the community easily. Without that, there wasn’t as much value. In truth, the only thing I could offer him was to introduce him around. I heard this same issue raised the other night at the Brooklyn Bridge Ventures event Making Brooklyn: A Community Roundtable on Brooklyn as an Innovation Center and the point is a good one: the community as a whole could benefit from making it easier for new companies to plug in.
Let The Right Ones In – I was reading this guys blog the other day and it reminded me of a similar story from a Brooklyn networking event over the holidays. Let me start by saying if you are interested in the startup community you probably have heard of Frank Denbow. He curates The Startup Digest. He is a regular at General Assembly. This is his twitter. He’s awesome, not to mention a good person to have involved in your startup community. I had the privilege of meeting him for office hours a couple weeks ago. I told him about my blog and what I was hoping accomplish. He said, “yeah I came out for a Brooklyn event last night. I was waiting in this crazy long line. When I got to the front they wouldn’t let me in. I ended up just leaving.”
This is a tragedy and a blunder. This is the equivalent of not letting Pete Rose into a baseball memorabilia convention. He’s the guy you want to be there. He’s the guy that can help move things forward. I’m not saying that anyone who throws an event has to do it in any particular way, especially one so successful that people can’t get in (that’s a nice problem to have). I’m just saying, let’s not leave any money on the table. If people want to be involved let them.
Self-reflection is always valuable. Even more so when it is acted on. I’m going to do what I can.