Beta Test! New York Startups Think Occupy Wall Street Has a Bad Pitch

What's up with the techie 'tude toward #OWS?

On the Saturday that thousands of protesters marched to Times Square, the brass bells of the New York Stock Exchange rang out at noon–signifying the takeover of the trading floor by the New York startup community. Companies like Etsy, Meetup and ZocDoc were handing out t-shirts and branded ping pong balls to fresh-faced engineers in backpacks who circled the screen-filled roundabouts while munching the complimentary sandwiches provided for SA500, a Silicon Alley recruiting event.

The choice of venue could be interpreted as symbolic aggression. New York startups compete fiercely with the finance sector for programmers and MBAs–and while they can’t match Goldman’s salaries, they do make the social argument. Knewton wants to transform education, Sulia wants to reinvent news, and the mobile payments app Venmo wants to replace credit cards. Meetup is “starting a local community revolution”; Etsy’s mission is to “empower people to change the way the global economy works.” The lofty talk of startups is not unlike the rhetoric of the protesters, who are advocating–albeit vaguely–the most radical agenda of any political movement in recent memory.

“I see them as very, very similar,” said Scott Heiferman, co-founder and CEO of, who orchestrated a field trip to the protest after a recent board meeting. “Most of the successful startup people are out to make a dent in the universe and change the world in some way, and that’s what they’re trying to do downtown. I can’t speak to the people who are just hanging around for the free pizza, but there are people downtown who are really fired up to see some sort of systemic change in culture.”

But while they’re definitely talking about the protest, many techies aren’t sold. The movement has high engagement (and revenue!) but the brand, the marketing and the roadmap need work. Read More


  1. Alan W. Moore says:

    I think it’s more about real estate — “location, location, and location” — in this case, extraordinarily symbolic (semi-)public space…

  2. T G says:

    The existence of the occupation itself – the assertion that public  space  can be used for public assembly – has been a demand from day 1 (and has done alot to expose the too-cozy relationship between business, the Mayor’s office, and the NYPD).  

    Otherwise, the General Assembly (the governing body of OWS in NYC) has not endorsed any demands.  A lot of people are trying to attach their name and agenda to what’s going on.  The “Demands Working Group” is an autonomous group and none of their proposed demands reached consensus by the General Assembly.   The individuals involved, obviously, have their own opinions.  

    Also, the insistence on OWS formulating demands implies there’s a legitimate power to address those demands to (hint, it’s not elected officials).  OWS may not have created a lot of jobs yet, but it has certainly provided people with alot of meaningful work.  

    And there are plenty of homegrown “products” in development to help support the growing movement of direct action and direct democracy –  news aggregators, donation platforms, online discussion + consensus tools – if you want to pitch in you can contact the Internet Working Group here:

  3. All in favour of aggressive startups shaking things up (even if they will struggle because of the dead weight that the anti-competitive corporatist state places on them) however the idea that the #occupy protesters are in any way similar or, God forbid, radical is frankly preposterous.

    What they are demanding is not less regulation (which is aggressively lobbied for by the very corporations the protesters claim to want to bring down) but more.

    Lenin coined the term, useful idiots. The #occupy movement is that phrase made flesh.

  4. meaghano says:

    Every person quoted in this article just diluted their brand.

    1. Crawford says:

      I don’t believe that.

      Heck, the owner of has helped orchestrate OWS “Occupies” around the country.

      They’re all telling the truth. OWS protesters need to look and act like normal Americans and put their most articulate supporters on the front lines.