It’s been a little over a year since Fred Wilson and Tim Armstrong appeared onstage at Disrupt in New York to launch Tech:NYC.
The two titans of New York City’s tech scene were angling to create a new organization that would speak out for the interests of the tech industry in both city and state government while planting a flag for New York’s place at the forefront of innovation around the country.
With Julie Samuels at the helm as executive director, the organization has done more in that year than I think either Armstrong (my boss at… um….
Yahool, AOoo, Oauth, Oath) or Wilson could have imagined.
From battling back bills that would have hamstrung online marketplaces like hometown heroes Etsy, or marshaling the community to speak out against national policies that effect the technology industry, Tech:NYC has taken a leading role in policy discussions in city hall, the Albany statehouse, and as a beacon nationally.
“The biggest achievement is that we’ve been able to create a community,” says Wilson.
Indeed they have. Over the year, Tech:NYC hasn’t gone from just zero to one (thanks Peter) it’s gone from zero to over 400 members (technically it started with five founding members — the pre-Yahoo AOL, Bloomberg, Facebook, Google, and venture firm Union Square Ventures).
But the organization’s reach extends beyond its sheer numbers.
For Wilson and the executive director Samuels, nothing exemplifies the kind of work that Tech:NYC can and should do more than its response to the Executive Order signed earlier this year that denied entry to immigrants, refugees (and even US citizens) from several countries from entering the United States without extreme vetting.
“Just getting the local community to stand up against what’s happening down in Washington was an achievement,” Wilson says. “We need to do it.”
For Samuels, the response to the executive order crystallized everything that the new technology organization can do, both locally and more broadly.
“It was an expression of New York values,” says Samuels, and something that the organization will continue to advocate. The coalition of signatories (and indeed the technology community in New York broadly) reflects the diversity of experience and background that Samuels believes will make New York one of the great technology centers in the world.
Part of that effort is also dependent on policy… another area where the Tech:NYC coalition came together to battle for its interests against what it viewed as bad laws coming from Albany.
Earlier this year, the state government floated a proposal for a marketplace tax that would, in essence, place unfair burdens on companies like Amazon, Etsy, and any other ecommerce company looking to do business in New York, according to the Tech:NYC arguments.
With a coordinated effort including education, and a well-placed op-ed in the New York Post, Tech:NYC was able to kill the proposal.
Finally, the organization is pushing an agenda that emphasizes gender and racial diversity in the New York technology industry and looking to encourage that through job training and primary education efforts.
Wilson has been instrumental in encouraging New York City to develop its Computer Science For All program, first instituted by current Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Tech:NYC is picking up the banner and encouraging the governor to expand the program statewide.
Given the current political climate, Wilson said, it’s important for the technology industry to stand up for its interests and, more importantly, its beliefs. Organizations like Tech:NYC enable companies to use their collective power to influence policy and have a voice in what their communities and cities look like.
Given its successes, it looks like the organization is well on its way to ensuring that the technology industry is well-represented in the discussions of what a future New York state looks like. And since New York is one of the wealthiest and most populous states in the country — its policy decisions can shape the national discussion.
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