Downtown Brooklyn emerging as key part of city's Silicon Alley
When it comes to the city's tech future, Brooklyn is starting to give Manhattan some serious competition. More than 200 start-ups have set up shop in DUMBO, downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, according to the city's digital jobs map that was created this year by the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. That number is going to keep growing, according to city leaders.
Aside from being a go-to spot for young, up-and-coming professionals, experts say Brooklyn's real estate allows for potentially limitless growth and innovation.
"That is where you bridge these worlds and create new potential," said Rachel Haot, the city's chief digital officer.
While tech behemoths, like Google, have set up shop in Manhattan, Haot said there are a lot of companies who see advantages in Brooklyn.
Haot added developers who reshaped Downtown Brooklyn made a point of including amenities like bike racks, coffee shops and Internet friendly services for freshman businesses.
"The real estate developers are looking for ways to make their properties more attractive to tech companies," she said, noting that cheaper rents also helped sell Brooklyn neighborhoods to companies.
Haot added that the borough's accessibility, including the multitude of mass transit options from downtown Manhattan, offer untapped potential for growing young companies, such as 3-D printer company Makerbot and online retailer Etsy.
The city's Department of Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications couldn't provide exact economic figures related to the Brooklyn tech growth, but it said over the last six years, venture capital deals for companies went up 52% and the city was second in the nation with $8.3 billion in technology company acquisitions.
Matt Bassett, the executive producer of One Hundred Robots, a DUMBO tech company that creates apps, said the borough's 21st century work environment is the perfect fit for his two-year-old company.
Bassett, who has worked in Manhattan in the past, said he and his team decided to go to Brooklyn because it provided a college-town feel that fosters great ideas.
"It's more open and more casual. The area is more relaxed and open and people work just as hard," he said.
New talent is the lifeblood of any burgeoning tech business, and in that vein the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, housed at Metrotech, has helped spur Brooklyn's growth. Sayar Lonial, NYU Poly's senior director of marketing & communications, said the school has long been a big draw for interested engineers. The recent growth of tech industries has made it a top destination for students around the world, he said.
"You have this third leg of the economic stool: the academic community. We're producing people who will provide the future to society," he said.
In addition to its campus, Poly boosts Brooklyn's tech industry through the business incubator projects that it created with the city over the last few years. There, students, businesses and investors can collaborate on R & D projects that help make new 21st century tools and new businesses.
Lonial said this collaboration between business, academia and government is a big boon for the Brooklyn tech industry and will be essential for its future growth.
"I think we really need to continue to work and provide the workforce businesses here and make more businesses that come here," he said.