Mike B. & Me
I’m in a very cool Venture Capital Seminar class taught by Stu Ellman and Will Porteous of RRE Ventures. As part of this course, all students write a meaty final paper and mine is centered on the current entrepreneurial environment in New York City. As part of the research for this paper, I’ve been pestering City Hall for data on new businesses and what the Bloomberg Administration has done to attract and keep technology companies in the Big Apple.
While a magician never reveals his tricks, the punch line is that I scored 30 minutes with the Mayor in his office this morning. I was part of a small group of about a dozen people, and although Mike B. really likes to talk, meeting with him was a unique and interesting experience.
He began by fielding questions about the differences between managing corporations and managing metropolises, and then I steered him into start-ups. Specifically, I asked where entrepreneurship fits within his Administration’s priorities, and how he feels about the venture community being small in number, but having a dramatic impact in terms of job creation and the overall health of the local economy. Although he gave a pretty standard “non-answers” I was able to somewhat tweeze out which of the limitations to innovation and start-up growth he’s focused on.
Specifically, he’s working on weakening non-compete agreements to make it easier for smart people to hang their own shingles, mechanisms to pool small businesses such as restaurant owners and dry-cleaners in order to provide healthcare to their employees, and zone certain parts of the city with commercial rent caps for start-ups. I know enough about politics to not believe this until I see it, but it certainly appears that we’re moving in a promising direction.
N.B. This is off topic, but my two personal highlights were when he referred to my neighborhood as the “Independent Republic of the Upper West Side” because of some exceedingly liberal citizens, and then claimed that “you can go anywhere in the world and ask someone to name two elected officials in the United States and they’ll name Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg.” Sorry Mr. Mayor, I like you, but I’d put Arnold Schwarzenegger higher up that list than you.