Silicon Valley vs. New York: Adversity

As part of a series about the advantages New York has over Silicon Valley and why it may become dominant, let’s examine the difference in dealing with adversity.

New York is not always an easy place to live in. Poor bandwidth, inadequate mobile networks, and massive population breed adversity. New Yorkers have learned to deal with it and leverage it to create new experiences.

Adversity is Potential

But where some people look at gaps as an example of why something or someone cannot fulfill its full potential, entrepreneurs look at those as opportunities to create new businesses. So things like making it impossible to open sample sale places in multiple locations around the globe led to the creation of Gilt, creating a whole new model for online commerce; issues around improving government efficiency led to see-click-fix; or more efficient ways to locate where your friends have gathered led to FourSquare.

Another aspect of the advantage of adversity is that it forces New Yorkers to think about solutions that are adverse-condition resistant. So while many look at inappropriate bandwidth being an issue, it’s led New Yorker to create solutions that can work in the US as well as overseas, in markets where bandwidth is more constrained.

I was recently chatting with a New York based founder who told me that he was relocating his technical team from Ukraine to Estonia because, beyond the cost of employees, Estonian users tend to use slower computers and have less bandwidth. I was confused as to why that would be a good thing so he explained to me that since his company was developing software for mobile devices, it was better to have programmers who knew how to wring every single bit of performance out of a 5 to 10 year old computer because that’s the kind of processor you get on a mobile device today. Estonian programmers have been doing that for a long time and it has now become a valuable skill, one he couldn’t find in US markets.

I, not unlike many people in both the valley and New York, have often called for more bandwidth as something that is essential to future growth but that entrepreneur showed to me that such a call may not be necessary: smarter use of limited resources may be a more efficient approach and only when we have have wrung out every little bit we could out of the bandwidth and processing power we have should we start begging for more.

Because investments in large-scale ambitious technological projects have been successful in the past, money in Silicon Valley tends to be less scared when it comes to investing heavily in creating brand new infrastructures. So when an adverse condition arises out of constraints, there is a natural tendency to address the constraint by throwing more resources at it. This brute force approach may not always be the best way to handle it (although, in some cases, it could be: for example, digging up the existing electric grid and replacing it with a smart grid would be something to look at).

So whereas the valley looks at a way to steamroll a constraint, New Yorkers look at a way to mine it.

Takeaway: Don’t look at adversity as something that can be overcome with brute force, deal with it as a normal condition and you will find innovative workarounds.

Update: This post is part of a series of why New York may gain the top position in the tech world, displacing Silicon Valley. The whole series is now online: IntroCulture Part 1Culture Part 2TalentAdversityBusiness

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