On Tuesday, fellow slashRootian James Farrington and I went to New York City to casually tour “Silicon Alley,” the foremost East Coast corridor of tech activists and startups. I very much wanted to introduce James to many of my friends in the New York tech scene.
We started at Wix Lounge on 23rd Street.
There we met our first smiling face of that day: that of Galo Delgado, a NYC photographer and Wix Lounge host.
Galo showed us the amazing co-working space at Wix Lounge, and then suggested that I introduce myself to two gentlemen standing near the espresso machine.
Sandy took some time to show us the budding Wix App ecosystem. After a half-hour tour, we took some time to appreciate the strange and amazing masking tape art of Kayt Hester, which was on prominent display on the windows surrounding the conference room.
We said farewell to Galo and then headed to stop #2: Alley, a co-working space in the fashion district.
Unfortunately, because we did not sign up for a tour in advance, we were turned away from Alley – but not before we waited for 25 minutes for a tour guide who never showed. Sadly, we were not permitted to have a look around on our own. It’s understandable, I suppose – the need to keep solicitors to a minimum is apparent to anyone who has worked in such an environment.
I guess, ideally I wish they’d have some way to verify our identities, take a quick look on google and github, and verify that we’re reputable developers and not recruiters or salesmen. In any case, the Alley staff were certainly nice to us. The atmosphere seemed jovial; I was envious of the playground that lay down the hall, just out of our sight. In my mind, there’s juggling and unicycles and chocolate – and we missed it!
Anyway, we moved on from Alley down to the East Village and TechStars, which is probably my favorite space in the scene. Having just finished a 6-month contract with Reelio, which has a large presence at TechStars, I am already pretty friendly with most of the companies there.
Reelio is probably the most exciting startup that I encountered in 2013. Keep them on your radar; their vision is groundbreaking and their progress and pace are very, very impressive. They intend to be the “dating clone” for content creators – ie, instead of finding a date, you can find collaborative partners and brands for media creation. They provide a “flirtation” process to help attract creators and brands to one another.
It was really great to see the Reelio team again. When I left in December, I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to the CEO, Pete Borum, so seeing him was especially nice. Little-known fact for the hippie-touchy-peaceniks among us: Pete gives the best hugs of any CEO in the alley.
I also got to finally make the introduction between James and Ben Williams, Reelio CTO. Both are great guys who remind me of one another. Well-read, classy sense of humor, soft spoken except when not, and large of skeletal frame. Ben and James, I really hope you two hit it off and stay in touch.
After Reelio, we snuck up on Ryan Shea and Muneeb Ali, TechStars’ resident crypto-blockchain enthusiasts. You might know them as the duo behind CoinVibes, the multi-coin trans-exchange cryptocurrency API.
Ryan and Muneeb, as well as the entire Reelio team, are going to come up to New Paltz for a hike soon, or so they both say.
Before we knew it, it was time for us to head to our next destination: WNYC and New York Public Radio. We grabbed a quick sushi lunch and then stopped for a quick cappuccino at Le Colombe on Broadway and La Fayette.
My favorite East Village barista, Dory Franco, was on the scene, although it was her day off. I had the best cappuccino of my life. James doesn’t do stimulants.
We weaved down the avenues and across Houston, approaching the New York Public Radio offices on Varick.
Now, I realize that WNYC / NYPR might not be on your typical NYC tech tour itinerary, but it’s a pretty serious operation. It’s one of the largest and most important Django (and for that matter Python) operations in NYC. It hosts an incredible encoding rig and studio space. And, for goodness sake, it produces Radiolab!
(Note: Prior to my contract at Reelio, I had a similar stint at WNYC).
When we arrived, WNYC Digital Ops director (and fellow Django codebase muckraker) Schuyler Duveen had added us to the authorized list. 5 minutes later, we were through security and on our way up to the developer bullpen on the 7th floor.
We reminisced, talked about the current (questionable! ;-)) state of the WNYC android app, and talked about their new mobile-friendly embedded web player.
If you aren’t already a regular WNYC listener, I suggest you give them a shot. Their website is great and their audio content absolutely first-class. If you are skeptical of NPR generally, know that WNYC is substantially independent and has a far more poignant, artistic, and radical bent than the mean for an NPR affiliate.
After leaving the dev bullpen, we proceeded to the eigth floor to see the new home of the data news team. I peeked my head in and was greeted with a flatteringly enthusiastic smile and hug from Louise Ma, an astonishingly talented data-scientist-cum-designer and a mind that I’ve enjoyed having occasion to pick apart.
Here, we also ran into Theodora Kuslan, a fellow night-owl who often absorbed my late-night rants about the WNYC unit test suite.
We moved one more flight upward, to the 9th floor production space of Studio 360, the Takeaway, and Radiolab. Andy Mills, a Radiolab producer and grower of a truly regal beard, was on the scene to greet us. Andy told us about the episode of Radiolab he was working on and his thoughts about some of the challenges that always go into creating and naming such an inspired show. His ability to delve right into the hard stuff has always amazed me.
Eventually, we wandered on. We quickly stepped into WeWork Soho, but had already been run ragged enough that our visit was a short one.
Our train trip toward Port Authority brought us into random but very welcome contact with two final silicon alley personalities: Stefan Bankier and Jordan Gutman of Public House wine, known for introducing high-brow boxed wine (which is most definitely now a thing) to some of tech scene’s best parties.
A quick ride up the R, and we were back on our bus. 90 minutes later, we were back in the mountains, the green, and the New Paltz air.
We had an awesome time. What a perfect one day reminder of how incredible a scene this has become. One thing that really stuck out at me: How ever did New York gain a reputation for mean people? Our day was full of incredible smiles and warm hospitality. I’m already excited for the next one.