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.
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.
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.