After the TechStars Demo Day last week, I bumbled into the Aol offices to attend the after party. I went to the office at 770 Broadway. The security guards pointed me in the direction of the event. When I walked into the large conference room on the sixth floor, I was dumbstruck. There was no party, no beer, no founders in brightly colored t-shirts with domain names missing the arbitrarily selected vowel.
Instead, an engineer lectured on topics in machine learning. Support vector machines and kernels are a favorite topic of mine from grad school and Google where we used them to improve ad targeting on social networks. I didn’t think of the New York startup scene as much of machine learning knowledge center before last week. 150 people sat learning how to tune the slack variables to ensure optimal training for these models.
Some have called for the New York City or State government to foster technical education to supply top engineering talent in New York. Lacking a steady supply of specialized engineers, the growing startup ecosystem may be constrained so the reasoning goes.
As I stayed to listen to the lecture, I was heartened by the scene. Surely only one of many, this meetup exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit. If we’re missing machine learning programs, we’ll just make our own. An incubator in Union Square, General Assembly requires resident startups to give classes on a wide variety of topics. This ethos drives the startup world and empowers its self-sufficiency. Entrepreneurs always find a way to survive.
The story in New York is no different. Each time I visit, I’m impressed: these startups have true grit.