• Angelica Sirotin

Yes, There is A Difference Between LA & NY Startup Founders.


There are many differences between startup founders in New York and Los Angeles. In the past, LA had a reputation for being an "entertainment industry" town where people were focused on entertainment careers or starting fun lifestyle companies -- not startups. However, as more and bigger exits happened, LA quickly migrated from a "lifestyle-first" city where people were looking to work on something fun for a few years, into an entrepreneurship capital.


It's clear that the top 5 cities in the US now are New York, San Francisco Bay Area, Boston/Cambridge area, LA and Seattle. Cities like Austin TX and Silicon Valley (Palo Alto) have growing startup communities but they still have a ways to go. LA has been working hard lately and quickly built up the fundamentals for a strong startup community. Most notably, they are building up a great seed fund ecosystem with deep local pockets of capital (like angels) but also venture capital firms who have invested in massive companies like PayPal, YouTube, Facebook, Oculus VR and more recently Snapchat.


LA has also been attracting a lot of talent. It's very easy for you to fly in and out LAX, which is the second largest airport in North America. The weather pulls in top flight engineers and other professionals from around the country with perks like free ski passes for Mammoth Mountain. LA is also getting progressively cooler as an actual place to live everyday -- great ethnic food, awesome nightlife scene complete with rooftop bars, amazing hiking trails AND close proximity to a beach? Yes please!


The New York startup community is considered by many people to be the strongest ecosystem in the world (I would argue it's starting to become shared between SF & NYC). With so many big companies and media outlets located there, it's hard to attract talent from outside of the area. With more venture capital being allocated closer to NY (i.e. Newark), startups in New York can get more attention from top VC firms than those in other parts of the country.


NYC also has everything else going for it -- great culture, art scene, foodie scene and diversity all within walking distance of each other (if you're into that sort of thing).


So what is different between founders from LA vs NY? I would say that people who are willing to take big risks are more prevalent in LA, since it's known as a "lifestyle-first" town where people aren't thinking of becoming the next Mark Zuckerburg. That is not to say that there aren't any bold founders in NY -- there are plenty! The difference is that there seems to be more entrepreneurs who were getting paid well at various jobs and decided they wanted to take their life / career into their own hands.


In my experience, I have found that those living in LA tend to value things like work/life balance (hiking on Saturdays, yoga class after) while New Yorkers are more likely to forego sleep for 48 hours at a time and then rest for 24 hours straight. This isn't always true but tends to be the trend.


Another difference is that LA founders are more likely to enjoy working on a product or service that they feel passionate about, rather than doing something just because it feels like an investment opportunity. This doesn't mean you should ignore your financial return as an entrepreneur but when people look back at their lives, they can see how they made a living from something meaningful.


In my opinion, the way to create this "passionate" mindset as a founder (especially in New York) is to find co-founders who share similar values with you. If everyone has clear roles and goals for what they want to achieve as well as be aligned on team values -- then there won't be any disagreements down the road which will lead to a stressful environment.


LA also has a more "anything is possible" mentality about everything -- building a product, starting a company or creating awareness for your product/service. Many people are not thinking so much about money but about how they can turn their passion into their career. They would rather take on smaller contracts and be free to pursue bigger opportunities vs working at another startup making $80k/year where they have to wait for the results of the next funding round before they can increase their salary or hire more people. The other thing I've seen first hand in LA is that companies tend to be less complicated than those in NY because there is no need to create systems / processes everywhere due to geographical distance between co-workers (i.e. it's more of a "let's just figure it out" type of company). The people I've worked with in LA seem to be much more independent & proactive about starting something on their own vs waiting for someone to give them the opportunity or permission.


Here are some differences I have noticed between the two cities:


Relationships: Everyone knows everyone and they all stick around like glue -- regardless if you're an investor, entrepreneur or working at one of the big tech companies like Facebook/Google. When you get invited to an event, whether it's a party, meetup or even just grabbing coffee, most conversations start off as small talk asking how each other is doing followed by what they are currently working on (in a non-intrusive way).


The scene in New York is different -- it's much more competitive, people don't take unnecessary risks and most importantly 'what value am I going to provide for the company vs what value can they provide for me'? The type of relationship building that happens in NYC is very transactional, as many startups tend to be. It's all about who knows who when you're trying to get into Demo Day or raise funding (and I'm not saying this isn't important) but starting off with how you can help each other first will create better opportunities down the road rather than a one-sided relationship based on favors exchanged ("I'll give you an introduction if you give me 10% of your company").


Mentorship: More of a one-on-one scenario where someone coaches you on how to navigate a situation that's gotten you stuck vs giving you advice in general. This can be anything from product development, marketing strategy or even just helping out with an idea. The reason why I'm mentioning this is because mentorship can make a huge difference in your success as an entrepreneur and it's something that both cities have such high demand for.


LA is full of people who are willing to give back and help entrepreneurs without expecting anything in return, whereas New York has the reputation for being cutthroat and competitive -- mostly because there is more money at stake here while LA tends to follow the mindset of "let's get lunch & do business" rather than "let's do lunch and see if I like your business".


Networking: More of a 'lets get to know each other on a personal level first' type of relationship vs 'I'm going to do whatever I can to try and convince you that my startup is the best investment opportunity'.


This article gives insight into why differences may exist between founders in LA and NY. My hope that is after reading this article you'll have a better understanding of startup founders in either the east or west coast! Now go network.

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