New York City is big, bustling and once again doing what it has always done best — attracting the world's best and brightest to illuminate the city’s standing in the startup arena.
It used to be that if you were serious about starting a tech company you went to Silicon Valley. But emerging entrepreneurial hubs around the country are giving startup aspirants new options. And as Eric Glyman, Co-Founder and CEO of successful NYC-borne startup Paribus says — New York is an incredible place to build a company.
Paribus, the price tracking app that helps online shoppers get automatic refunds when prices drop on items they purchased, was acquired by Capital One in October 2016. Glyman spoke with us about his experience launching in New York and his advice for entrepreneurs in the startup scene.
Why did you choose New York City to launch your startup?
After graduating college, I worked in finance and my co-founder Karim was in consulting, so New York was the natural place to go where the jobs were. After I had the idea for Paribus we spent about nine months to a year trying to experiment and figure out if we could make this product work. Our first version of Paribus was actually in Excel. Pretty quickly, we saw prices were changing way more than we thought and that this was a way bigger problem than we initially expected. We knew this was the time to go after our idea so we packed up and moved to Williamsburg in Brooklyn. This is where Kickstarter, Vice and Tumblr all got started and so many aspects of the city made it the ideal environment to launch our product. Williamsburg had great engineers, the VC scene was a couple subway stops away and overall, the town had the right vibe to inspire us for the design. It felt like the best spot to work.
What about being in New York City gave you an advantage as a startup?
Being in New York was incredibly relevant for our product. From the beginning we knew that our technology would be applicable to anyone who shops online from major stores. And we knew that if you are in New York, you probably are an online shopper. In Silicon Valley, there are a lot of people that are building technology to solve problems for tech people, whereas New York is really filled with people from all walks of life — families, young professionals, rich, poor, somewhere in between, you name it. We wanted to make our product useful to everybody and New York was the perfect place to understand what would be most helpful to the widest array of consumers, and therefore inspire a product for everyone.
Where do you see New York’s entrepreneurial ecosystem now?
I would say that New York’s technology scene has evolved quickly over the past five years. There are a couple of big factors here. Startups face two primary challenges: raising capital and finding talent. And in New York now, the number of technology companies has increased dramatically, so the number of qualified engineers is much higher than it used to be. Second, many venture capitalists are in New York or have strong ties here, so finding the right VC fit is easier now and that divide from Silicon Valley is no longer an issue. Overall, the track record of great startup companies and even some big acquisitions is now common in New York, such as Jet acquired by Walmart last year, an example of the city being on par and even surpassing the Valley in some verticals. And from a back end perspective, the advancements in cloud technology means startups don’t need as much in built server specialization as before. Now you can truly build a tiny startup working out of a cafe with no servers and compete - no matter where you are.
What is your advice to aspiring tech entrepreneurs in New York?
Although different approaches work for different people, there’s one piece of advice I would really push on and can speak to: I think it’s possible to rapidly build and test your startup while you are still at your current job, and I recommend it. One of the realities in New York is that the cost of living is so high and leaving your current job on day one of your startup can be an unanticipated financial drain. And it’s not essential you do that. Even when you’re working a day job, you can spend your time vetting and building a foundation for your own startup on the weekends. This was enormously helpful for us during our development because we were able to slow down, vet ideas, prove out some final product development questions and avoid getting it wrong by building too quickly.
What insights would you share with other tech founders from your experience launching a successful startup?
There is a tendency in the startup community to not talk about what you do for fear of someone stealing your idea. That mindset was one of the biggest mistakes we made at the beginning. In reality, it should actually be the opposite. One of the best things about the New York tech community is that you can meet so many talented entrepreneurs here who are able to provide perspective and valuable advice if you are honest and transparent about how things are going in your business. You don’t have to give everyone the ‘this is going really well’ speech. It’s important to find a small, trustworthy community that you can go to and talk through some of the challenges. Often these fellow entrepreneurs are able to show how you can think about your problem in another way and work towards a solution.