It doesn't take an expert to tell you that New York and San Francisco are worlds apart. Even the most casual traveler can see that the weather is different, the clothes are different, and the vibe on the street is also wildly different.

But how do those differences of culture and environment translate when it comes to how startups based in the two tech hubs are conceived of and run?

That's what a questioner on question-and-answer site Quora wanted to know when he asked, "How is the culture of NY tech startups different from that of Silicon Valley tech startups?" A handful of veterans who have experienced both scenes chimed in with their opinions, offering remarkably consistent opinions about what makes the two cities unique.

Dreamers vs. planners

If you're looking for the perfect place to dream gigantic dreams unconstrained (at least initially) by economic reality, head west, agree the respondents.

"West coast founders are typically bigger dreamers, very often at the expense of having a solid, grounded, viable monetization plan. This compared to east coast, who on average are more business oriented," claims VC Yuval Ariav. "I attribute this to the general vibe and business focus of SV vs. NYC, as well as the difference in availability of capital available."

New York-based entrepreneur Tristan Louis says much the same thing with a slightly different spin: "Valley tech company are out to generate massive wealth by changing how the world works and drive revenue to their businesses; New York tech companies are looking to generate high returns to their investors by establishing businesses with stable and easily understandable path to revenue."

Serial entrepreneur Gil Silberman is more concise: "San Francisco tends to be dreamy and idealistic to New York's crafty and practical."

Is tech everything?

The other widely agreed upon difference appears to be this -- in Silicon Valley, predictably, tech is everything. In New York it's just one industry among many, which changes the atmosphere within the sector.

"Valley tech entrepreneurs fundamentally believe it is their job to invent the future and see the world as one that will conform to the future they are building. New York tech entrepreneurs are exposed to other industries on a regular basis and therefore see their offering as sitting alongside others in building a future," writes Louis, for instance. This "translates into an attitude that may focus New York tech companies more on the social impact," he asserts, citing Kickstarter and Etsy as examples.

Native New Yorker and consultant David Friedman describes this difference as a certain "insularity" in Silicon Valley. "Whereas startups in NYC have to compete with real companies for staff and office space, startups in SV/SFO compete with each other, and, to a much more limited extent, larger and more established software/tech companies," he claims. "There are benefits and drawbacks to that kind of insularity," he says, but cautions Silicon Valley can more easily fall prey to "group think."

Veterans of both scenes, do you agree with these characterizations?

Published on: Aug 11, 2016