Fred Wilson: ‘Let’s Bury the Name Silicon Alley’

Fred Wilson, venture capitalist blogger icon, partner of Union Square Ventures and godfather of the New York Web industry, called for an end to the nickname given to the New York tech scene: Silicon Alley. "I’ve hated it since it came out," he told the crowd at the Web 2.0 Expo at the Javits Center on 11th Avenue. He suggested calling it "Broadway," or just New York City, "because that’s what we are."

Mr. Wilson was a keynote speaker on Sept. 17. His slideshow for his speech is here; it was titled "New York’s Web Industry From 1995 to 2008: From Nascent to Ascendent." He started in the ’70s, when New York University arts professor Red Burns created the Interactive Technologies program in 1979 (a wee bit earlier than 1995). He added that in 1995, New York had just 30 early-stage tech deals. In 2008, it has 116.

The term "Silicon Alley" was coined in the late ’90s by New York New Media Association when tech publications needed something to call the budding dotcom community in the city. Tom Watson and Jason Chervokas’ Web newsletter, @NY, used the term frequently to report on venture capital opportunities in Silicon Alley. There was also the Silicon Alley Reporter, which was published from 1996 until it shuttered 2001, after "all hell broke loose," according to Mr. Wilson, and the community lost money.

Mr. Wilson also included a somewhat hopeful anecdote: the 55 Broad Street building stood empty in the ’90s after banks went bankrupt and moved out. But in 1995, it was transformed into the Manhattan’s "hottest wired" office building as the home of New York Information Technology Center on Wall Street, and filled up with start-up multimedia companies.

The video posted above is Mr. Wilson’s review of 2008, in which he explains why New York shouldn’t be given a patronizing name like "Silicon Alley." New York has its own tech community and what happens here is more creative, more connected, and different from the West Coast. He hopes there will come a time when New York is doing 70 to 80 percent of what the Valley is doing: only better.