You scraped and saved to get that plane ticket to the Big Apple so you could compete with the best for a chance at start-up stardom. But why wait to battle with hundreds of other hopefuls at a massive conference in order to pitch some of the nation’s top venture capitalists when you could find them checking in at their favorite coffee shops or sitting in on a class at a coworking space with pizza and beer?
Below are some notable landmarks in Silicon Alley. Here’s a Google Map to guide your way. By the end of it, you should get all the inside jokes on Pivotrly.com. Remember not to stop in the middle of the sidewalk. Good luck!
1) General Assembly. The swag new hang if you’re in the mood for a hackathon, hoping to score some funds from the Kutch, or just feel like networking your face off for a few hours. The roomy coworking space opened in December and quickly became the hub of the New York start-up scene, hosting classes and meetups every night, a hackathon every other weekend and occasionally a launch party. Most celebrity VCs visiting from out of town stop by. Resident start-ups include Art.sy, Yipit and SeatGeek.
2) The Coffee Shop. Prime hunting grounds for Silicon Alley VCs, who take their coffee, breakfast and frequent lunch meetings here. Stay checked in on Foursquare to spot Fred Wilson, Roger Ehrenberg and Charlie O’Donnell during their frequent visits. Also: It’s a Brazilian dance club at night.
You can also go up two blocks to Tarallucci e Vino, another popular meeting place for various innovation lunches and tech breakfasts, which tends to catch a lot of strays from General Assembly. On the south side of Union Square you can hit up Pivotal Labs’s New York office, also home to TechStars; a few blocks away is the anomalous free coworking space, Dogpatch Labs, run by Polaris Ventures.
3) Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. A favorite spot for the Flatiron’s many tech denizens. Glance south to see the triangular Flatiron Building, which made its way into the logo of Fred Wilson’s dot-com fund Flatiron Partners. Mashable HQ is just down the street on East 24th, and Business Insider is on Park Avenue South.
4) Googleplexplex: If you suddenly feel like you’re in danger of being run down by a scooter, you’re probably close to Google’s New York headquarters, its second-largest office in the world. Google purchased the entire block for $1.9 billion a few months ago and it’s been staffing up. Google-acquired DoubleClick, born in New York, is here now; Accel Partners is opening an office in the building and plans to host summer parties on the roof.
5) GoogleNY Origins: In the Valley, the Next Big Thing always starts in some mythical garage. Google’s first New York office, by contrast, was started by Tim Armstrong in 2000 out of a Starbucks on the Upper West Side at 86th and Columbus. Stop by Columbus Circle and Times Square on your way back to the Alley and say hi to the big media: CNN, The New York Times, Betabeat and Wired (before they move south with owner Conde Nast to the new World Trade Center) and imagine your start-up advertised on a flashy billboard.
6) New York Stock Exchange (because there’s not much to see at the NASDAQ –ed.): If you play your cards right, your logo may someday hang across the marble columns here at the beating heart of Wall Street. And if you’re a quant who prefers six figures over ramen and stock options, this is probably the part of town where you’ll find the right offer.
7) SecondMarket: Just kidding about the NYSE; down the street is really where deals are going down. Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter are shy to IPO right now–but that hasn’t stopped investors from buying and selling shares in them. An increasing percentage of equity trading in private tech companies is taking place in the secondary markets. SecondMarket, which started out selling assets acquired via bankruptcy, has brokered trades of more than $40 million worth of Facebook shares. The company says it’s on track to broker more than $1 billion in trades of private-company shares in 2011.
8 ) Ace Hotel: The free wifi and a dark interior at this hall of communal tables and black couches would evoke a library if it wasn’t so fucking hip. Attached to Stumptown Coffee, some of the best in the neighborhood. Ace is the place if you’re in the mood to rub shoulders with hustlers in and out of the tech scene.
9) Tom and Jerry’s 288 Bar: The unofficial official dive bar of the tech and blogger crowd since the ’90s. The New York Times profiled the place under the headline “Where Everyone Knows Your Twitter Handle.”
10) 36 Cooper Square: Location, location, location. This office in the Village Voice building, which is located in front of one of the most confusing and dangerous mini-intersections in Manhattan, is home to Foursquare. It’s also the office of Lockhart Steele’s Curbed Media empire, the design squad from Hard Candy Shell and the social shopping start-up, Svpply.
11) Apple Store, SoHo: Forget the impressive glass staircase; Apple’s first store in New York has Silicon Alley historical significance. When Scott Heiferman and Matt Meeker were struggling to close on the funding for Meetup.com, they hit up New York’s first Apple store and scored a cache of just-released iPods, which they used as a bribe to get their dawdling investors to hand over the checks. Also in the vicinity: coworking hubs WeWorkLabs and Projective Space, plus the Kickstarter HQ and another start-up breakfast spot, Balthazar.
12) Meetup.com: Meetup is the granddaddy of the current crop of New York start-ups. It’s now 11 years old and its presence encouraged the organization of about a zillion tech-related groups and events around the city. (The monthly New York Tech Meetup, co-founded by Meetup.com co-founder Scott Heiferman, has more than 17,000 members.) Meetup also frequently hosts small tech talks.
13) New Work City: The source of the infamous Color.xxx parody, the freelancers at NWC have a lot of fun. The non-profit Girls In Tech hosts its classes here. It’s cheaper and less flashy than General Assembly–and better suited to single remote workers than start-ups–but NWC was born of a five-year effort to establish a proper co-working space in Manhattan. A successful Kickstarter project over the summer finally made it possible.
14) IAC: The curving glass headquarters of the Interactive Corp is home to properties like Match.com, Vimeo and CollegeHumor. It’s just a short stroll down the Highline Park to Betaworks, where bit.ly and chartbeat share space with Lerer Ventures. Bonus points for finding the secret entrance to the offices of thingd and The Fancy, located just above the 14th St. Apple store.
15) ITP: A graduate program at New York University focused on the “study and design of new media, computational media and embedded computing under the umbrella of interactivity,” ITP is hard to pin down. Author Clay Shirky is on faculty and Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley is a graduate; investor Fred Wilson called the program “NYC’s ‘media lab’ and one of the most impactful and important pieces of NYC’s tech community.”
16) ReBar: A favored techie hang-out spot for the DUMBO (“down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass”) neighborhood occasionally referred to as Silicon Beach due to the presence of Etsy and a cluster of digital agencies. Quiet coffee shop with wifi by day, restaurant and watering hole by night.
17) Etsy: The handmade marketplace, which first turned a profit in 2009 when it handled $200 million worth of transactions, is one of New York’s most well-known start-ups. The office is a wonderland of posters, art, knick-knacks, odd furniture, plants and blankets. Etsy Labs also hosts a free weekly craft night, a monthly Church of Craft meeting and other community events.
18) Barcade: Nerd central in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with ‘80s arcade games (Tetris, Frogger, Galaga, etc.) and a huge list of affordable microbrews. In January, 4chan had its first meet-up here, attended by founder Chris “moot” Poole. It’s not that close, but you could swing up to Greenpoint to check out coworkery The Makery in the former Hot Potato space.
19) NYC Resistor: The ultimate hacker haven, NYC Resistor is a collective of local makers and coders building robots and breaking hearts. It’s a hang for New York Times Bits blogger Nick Bilton and sits just above the headquarters of Makerbot, where founder Bre Pettis is usually up to mischief.