Most founders agree that networking is key to launching a successful business--and that's especially true in New York City. Whether you're operating in IT services or food, social justice or online payments, there are some key figures who can help you start and grow your business--be that through funding, mentorship, or general advice.
Heading into the new year, in no particular order, these are the top 10 New York City power brokers you should know:
1. Jessica Lawrence Quinn, CEO, New York Tech Alliance
Quinn is arguably one of the most connected founders in the tri-state area. As the head of the New York Tech Alliance, a nonprofit that aims to support the city's burgeoning tech sector, Quinn has helped gather more than 60,000 entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators. She's also the organizer of New York Tech Meetup, a gathering of more than 50,000 technologists. If that doesn't convince you of her leadership skills, this might: At 28, Quinn was the youngest Girl Scouts CEO, while serving the San Gorgonio Council in Southern California. These days, Quinn says she's focused on nurturing ethical companies. "I've always been a big advocate around the future of work," she tells Inc. Specifically, she says, "building human-centered companies."
2. Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, and NYU professor
The founder of the Future Today Institute, a strategy and technology research firm, Webb has been studying the future of technology and media for more than a decade. (Previously, she launched Webbmedia Group, a company that advised media and tech companies.) These days, she also lectures at Columbia University, and was recently designated an adjunct assistant professor at NYU's Stern School of Business. Insiders called Webb a key "trend spotter" of the New York startup ecosystem. Webb is also a columnist for Inc. magazine.
3. Bradley Tusk, founder and CEO, Tusk Holdings
Tusk is the entrepreneur and investor behind Tusk Holdings, the parent organization of companies including Tusk Strategies--which runs marketing campaigns for the likes of Google, Walmart, and NBC News--and Tusk Ventures. The latter is a venture capital firm that helps tech startups navigate government regulation and red tape. Tusk is also an Inc.com columnist.
4. Jason Hirschhorn, CEO, MediaRedef
A New York City serial entrepreneur, Hirschhorn sold his first company--a series of music websites--to Viacom in 2000. Since then, he's held executive roles at companies including MTV, Sling Media, and MySpace. His weekly newsletter, called MediaRedef, which he launched in 2006, now reaches thousands of media industry veterans and influencers.
5. Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group
A serial entrepreneur and restaurateur, Meyer is the founder of beloved eateries including the recently reopened Union Square Cafe. He's probably best known for founding Shake Shack. The New York City-based fast-casual chain, which launched as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in 2004, has since expanded to more than 60 locations worldwide. The company also raised $112.3 million in its 2015 IPO. But don't let the success fool you: Meyer, who heads up the restaurant conglomerate Union Square Hospitality Group, has said he, too, often feels like an imposter: "Some people are near- or farsighted--I'm thorn-sighted," Meyer said in a 2015 interview with Inc. "The thorns on the rose are in really sharp definition for me, the rose petals a little fuzzier."
6. Nihal Mehta, general partner, Eniac Ventures
A founding general partner at Eniac Ventures--a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage tech companies--Mehta has advised or invested in more than 100 startups, and launched five of his own. Mehta's most recent business, Qualia Media, grew revenue by 2,153 percent between 2011 and 2013, landing on the Inc. 5000 list at No. 204 in 2014 (No. 14 in New York City). Says Laurel Touby, the managing partner of New York VC firm Flatiron Investors, Mehta "figured out that mobile was going to be big before other VCs, and made a big swing by creating a mobile-only fund very early."
7. Andrew Rasiej, founder, Personal Democracy Media
Rasiej is the founder of Personal Democracy Media, a website focused on politics and technology, and a co-founder of Civic Hall, the New York City co-working space for startups working to bridge the gap between tech and government policy. He's also the senior technology adviser to the Sunlight Foundation--a Washington, D.C., organization pushing for more government transparency--and the chairman of the aforementioned New York Tech Meetup.
8. Josh Kushner, founder of Thrive Capital and co-founder of Oscar Health
You've probably already heard of Josh Kushner, the founder of venture firm Thrive Capital and the co-founder of Oscar Health, an insurance startup built on the back of Obamacare's health-insurance exchanges. He's also Ivanka Trump's brother-in-law, making him only two degrees separated from the recently inaugurated U.S. president, who last week signed an executive order undermining the Affordable Care Act--i.e., the very infrastructure on which Kushner's company is built.
Political theater aside, you'll want to remember his name. Kushner's Thrive Capital investments include unicorn tech companies Slack, Jet.com, and GitHub.
9. Fred Wilson, co-founder and managing partner, Union Square Ventures
Wilson is the co-founder and managing partner at Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm that has invested more than $1 billion across six funds, and a co-founder at Flatiron Partners, an alternative investments firm. Wilson writes frequently on topics relating to technology, venture capital, and entrepreneurship on his influential blog, AVC.
10. J. Kelly Hoey, author, Build Your Dream Network
Hoey, a corporate lawyer-turned-startup investor, was recently named among the 100 most influential women in the world, according to the tech website Richtopia. She's a networking expert and startup adviser, who recently published the career strategy book Build Your Dream Network. Hoey is also an Inc.com columnist.