hackNY visit with Chris Dixon on NYC and startups

Last week the Fellows visited Hunch and got to hear from Chris Dixon —  founder, investor, blogger, and general NYC startup icon.

Chris was able to provide a unique perspective for the Fellows on their career choices; the past and future of the venture model; and things to keep in mind when choosing a startup to join or when choosing a team to co-found a startup.  His experiences with NYC go back to his days as a student at Columbia, then as a founder of a software startup with a successful exit, then onto life as an institutional investor (at Bessemer), and now as an angel investor and startup founder. Along the way he also picked up a few degrees that afford him an unusually multifaceted view of startups in NYC.
dixon @ the whiteboard
dixon @ the whiteboard
On the subject of their career prospects, Chris was solidly bullish: as members of the hacking population, “you will never be unemployed,” he told them. Student-hackers in NYC today have to choose between the security and relative lack of volatility offered by big.co and the experience of joining or founding a startup. Chris emphasized that the former is far less assured than people conventionally estimate, and the latter far less risky. As Chris put it, by joining a NYC startup, particularly one that has already received funding or is earning revenue, one is assured not only the upside of the salary, the equity in the startup (essentially a bet — the likelihood of which you yourself can increase through your efforts — on the success of your team), but in addition is joining NYC’s startup community.
After pizza arrived, we talked in more detail about the things students need to know in order not to get taken advantage of —- things you won’t be learning in a traditional curriculum regardless of your major.
Chris stuck around afterwards so that the Fellows could chat more informally with each other, with members of the Hunch team, and other friends of hackNY.
cdixon, unplugged
cdixon, unplugged
"Compared to a traditional job, start-up life is different," said Tal Safran
"Compared to a traditional job, start-up life is different," said Tal Safran
Fortunately for student-hackers who weren’t there, Chris also agreed to let us post the video of the event online! Pre-pizza clips can be found here and the post-pizza perspective (one long clip) can be found here. For more in-depth discussions, please also check out Chris’s excellent blog.
Thanks again to Chris and to Hunch for hosting the 2010 hackNY Fellows and for sharing your experience in — and predictions about — NYC’s tech startups.

You’re Invited to the hackNY 2010 Demo Fest!

2010 hackNY Demo Fest

WHERE: 109 Warren Weaver Hall (Courant Institute), NYU; 251 Mercer Street 10011
WHEN: Friday July 30, 6-8 pm
WHAT: The 2010 class of hackNY Fellows invites you to attend our 2010 hackNY Demo Fest Friday, July 30, 6-8 pm in rm 109 of the Courant Institute, NYU (251 Mercer St. between 3rd and 4th street). The class of 2010 will be presenting their accomplishments during their 10 week internships as part of the hackNY Fellows program. Please do come meet the Fellows and hear about what they’ve accomplished and learned, both working with some of NYC’s best startups as well as in lectures from members of NYC’s startup community.
Please contact info AT hackNY.org or visit http://hackNY.org for more information.
hackNY is an initiative to mentor and federate the next generation of NYC tech all-stars. During the summer hackNY organizes the hackNY Fellows program, in which selected fellows are matched with NYC startups able to demonstrate a mentoring environment, with technical needs matched to the skills of the selected Fellow. Fellows also enjoy shared housing and a set of lectures from leaders in the NYC startup ecosystem, including founders, CTOs, and investors.
During the school year hackNY organizes student hackathons to help students learn about opportunities in NYC’s great emerging tech startup ecosystem, as well as to help them meet their fellow members of the student-hacking population.
The success of the 2010 hackNY Fellow program would have been impossible without the active support of the entire NYC tech ecosystem, including numerous founders, CTOs, technologists, educators, investors, and students. Financial support for the 2010 class of Fellows was provided by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Special thanks to NYU and the Courant Institute for their logistical support both with summer housing and with the hackNY student hackathons. We thank as well Alex Qin and Arikia Milikan for assistance throughout the summer, and thank our summer lecturers: Fred Brooks, Kristina Chodorow, Kushal Dave, Chris Dixon, Ann Miura-Ko, Jonah Peretti, Chris Poole, Martin Wattenberg, and Albert Wenger.

Fellows’ perspective: Chris Triolo on the betaworks hackathon

Last Wednesday the hackNY Fellows attended bit.ly‘s hackabit hackathon. We celebrated bit.ly‘s two year anniversary at betaworks‘ awesome office with 5 hours of programming, hacking, socializing, cupcakes, pizza, and Red-Bull. Software Engineers really know how to throw a party!

During my time there I was able to hack together a bit.ly themed game. This was my first dive into JavaScript and I think it turned out ok, give it a go!
cjt's bit.ly game hack
cjt's bit.ly game hack
Shorten the URLs before they get to the rest of the internet! (Click the fat fish before they get to the right of the screen!)

Fellows’ perspective: Ian Jennings (Rutgers/bit.ly) on Chris Poole of 4chan

Please enjoy this guest post from Ian Jennings, a HackNY fellow, student at Rutgers University and intern at bit.ly.

Moot speaks to the fellows

This Monday the fellows and I met up with Chris Poole at Dogpatch Labs. Chris is the founder of 4chan.org – an online image board he has been running for more than 6 years. 4chan receives more than 1 million posts and 700 million page impressions per month. There are over 9,000 people on the first page of 4chan’s most popular board at any given time.

Poole created 4chan when he was 15 years old after stumbling the Japanese website, ‘Futaba Channel’. The Futaba Channel is similar to a forum, but the center of the discussion is around images rather than text. At the time, nothing like the Futaba Channel channel existed in English. Chris translated Futaba software and created what we know today as the English imageboard.

However, image centric discussion is not the only unique aspect of 4chan. The site also allows for users to post on the site without ever creating an account. Chris stated that the anonymous aspect of 4chan has led to a high ratio of posters to lurkers and raw unfiltered conversation unseen on websites requiring registration. Poole noted that the anonymous user generated content created some unique challenges. Since he cannot guarantee or filter user uploaded content, he has a hard time finding advertisers willing to embed their message on 4chan.

Chris stated that after more than 6 years of administration he has learned close to everything he could about 4chan. Now he plans on utilizing his knowledge of imageboards and anonymous communities to develop the next imageboard software.

He has just finished raising money for his new project, so he was full of fresh advice. He suggested that new entrepreneurs reach out to investors they believe can actually help their business. He also suggested that they take interest in angels, as some angel investors are taking special interest in New York startups.

When asked specifically about the New York area, Chris offered a range of startup tips. He mentioned that there is a shortage of experienced programmers in New York. The field is competitive; he noted that it took him almost two months to find a back end developer. Where tech challenges are being solved in the valley, he quoted John Borthwick, explaining that “New York houses the more creative and idea based startups.” He noted that entrepreneurs should take interest in investors in the city, but not forget about the valley altogether. His newest startup has a mix of investors from both Silicon Valley and New York City.

The fellows stuck around long after the talk ended, asking questions.

Thanks, Chris, and thanks, Ian!

Map of HackNY Startups

In the spring of 2010, hackNY received almost 100 applications from startups looking to work with the inaugural class of hackNY Fellows.  These applications came from all over the NYC area. While our primary considerations for choosing startups were the ability to provide an excellent mentoring environment and a technical match with the skills of the Fellows, the host startups ended up clustered roughly between 14th street and 42nd street (with the exception of BuzzFeed, which recently moved to SoHo).
hackNY intern Alex Qin put together this map showing the Fellows’ dorm (University hall) and the 12 host startups.
Thanks Alex!!!