Mounting Obligation

If you follow the New York startup scene (and Brooklyn in particular) you probably know the today was a big day.

Mayor Bloomberg announced an academic and private-sector consortium to create the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress (aka CUSP) in Downtown Brooklyn at the old MTA headquarter building.  Over the next five years, 370 Jay Street will be reconfigured into a research and science campus.  Approximately 150,000 square feet of the space will be designed for classrooms, offices and laboratory space, with an additional 40,000 square feet programmed for the creation of an incubator for businesses spun off by CUSP or CUSP-related research. The remaining building space may be used by NYU for the future expansion of CUSP, other academic uses or for commercial tenants who are seeking to locate near CUSP.

The academic partners of NYU and NYU-Poly are City University of New York, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Toronto, University of Warwick, and Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.  The private industry partners include two Lead Founding Partners – technology giants IBM and Cisco – who each will provide $1 million a year in financial and in-kind support. There are also four Founding Corporate Partners – ConEdison, National Grid, Siemens, Xerox – who will provide $500,000 a year in financial and in-kind support to CUSP, and three Founding Consulting Partners – AECOM, Arup, and IDEO -who will provide up to $150,000 per year of consulting services at cost.

First classes are in a year in a Metrotech leased space.  First classes in the refurbished building are in 2017.  Today’s press conference is here and the press release is here.

You have to admit that this in combination with the announcement of a Cornell Engineering campus on Roosevelt Island (made this past winter) is a serious commitment to engineering, entrepreneurship and technology.  And… it’s not clear that the Mayor is finished working deals with other interested Engineering schools.

Also today the results of a survey done by the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, in partnership with The DUMBO Improvement District announced the results of a survey they took.  They have identified over 500 innovation firms (I have no idea what that means, but I guess that they have some technology or startup type affiliation) in the the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.  They also figured out that of the commercially zoned real estate in DUMBO (the heart of this area) only has 3% vacancy.

This brings us to the mounting obligation in the title.

We, as a tech community, have an obligation for build an ecosystem worthy of the talent that is being home grown.  We have to build great tech companies where these newly created engineers can learn the ropes.  We need to have an entrepreneurial culture that makes the best talent choose to come and stay in NYC. We must be able to match the access to capital, mentors and industry leaders that the best technology centers in the world offer. It is on us to do this.

More importantly the political leaders have created an obligation to provide the environment for startups to thrive.  That means:

  • Infrastructure – high quality access and connectivity to the cloud.
  • Favorable tax treatment
  • Good public transportation
  • Commercial zoning for technology companies
  • etc.

How could the local government make such a large investment in becoming a technology education center and then let that talent go someplace else, because the condition weren’t right to start their company?  The answer has to be –  they can’t.  With the announcements of the last couple months, promises have essentially been made that must be followed through on.  To not do so would be a shame and a waste.

I do think that elected officials know that they have promises to keep.  And I think they intend to do so.  But I also think that we have an obligation to make sure they follow through.