Tonight British Prime Minister David Cameron took a break from his duties at the United Nations General Assembly to hit up a different General Assembly a few blocks south. He stopped by the Flatiron district tech campus of the same name for a meet-and-greet with the founders of Food52 and Neverware and civic-minded startups Amicus and Electnext.
The idea–I’m told–was that Cameron wants to take a page from New York’s book as he seeks to foster a strong tech community in the UK. Most cities wish to recreate Silicon Valley, evidenced by the awful tradition of naming their tech scenes after it. (See: Silicon Alley, Prairie, Beach, and Allee).
The problem with that premise is that there will never be another place like Silicon Valley. Too many factors make it inimitably unique. But New York has managed to build up a respectable, exciting and fast-growing tech scene on its own terms, capitalizing on the unique advantages the city has to offer. That’s an attractive thing to want to copy. NYC still has a long way to go before its tech industry rivals its fashion, media and finance industries. But world leaders aren’t going to wait until that happens to study the city’s progress. New York is becoming a model of how to create a flourishing tech industry.
“It really says something about how far NY tech has come that the leader of one of the most advanced economies on earth wants to come to NYC to talk with our founders and our investors,” Amicus founder and CEO Seth Bannon wrote in an email.
Neverware’s founder and CEO Jonathan Hefter echoed that sentiment. “I think the Prime Minister’s visit to GA highlights that many state leaders are now viewing innovation, itself, as an essential industry. The world is flatter, because, suddenly, everyone has the exact same tools,” he said.
“(Prime Minister Cameron) was quick to observe that a key differentiator here is the emphasis on shared learning and continuous education,” added Keya Dannenbaum, founder and CEO of Electnext.
Cameron chatted with the founders about their startups, GA, and how the workspace fits into NYC’s tech ecosystem. Bannon, whose company recently exited of Y Combinator, noted that the Prime Minister’s questions about his company were more pointed and insightful than many VC’s he’s pitched.
London’s tech scene may be a few years behind New York’s, but Cameron does not need to convince the team at General Assembly of London’s potential. The company opened a campus in London over the summer. General Assembly has also temporarily taken its blend of shared workspace, event space, and business and programming classes to the original tech hub, San Francisco.
[Photos by Craig Samoviski]