“Never Sleeping” Isn’t the Only Thing NYC and Entrepreneurs Have in Common

March 27, 2014

1:00 pm

They say if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. But what about startups? Does NYC eat fledgling startups for breakfast, or is it the perfect nest in which to incubate successful companies?

The City has its fair share of startups, which was proven back in December when The Challenge Cup held its startup competition there, hosting 26 companies in the industries of health, education, smart cities, and energy.

In May, the four winning startups from the NYC competition will join other Challenge Cup winners from around the world in Washington, D.C. for The Challenge Festival. Then, the NYC startups will go head-to-head with companies from places like Chicago, San Francisco, and Tel Aviv.

All of the winning startups may be competing within the same four industries, but they were born and raised in entirely different environments – startup ecosystems that surely colored their individual journeys.

So, what’s so special—and so difficult—about raising a startup in the Big Apple?

“I think the good thing about NYC is also the bad thing about NYC — there are so many resources available to entrepreneurs,” says Focus Fertility founder Sarah Robinson. “It’s great because there is always help when you need it, but it can also be distracting. You have to strike the right balance between building your own company and participating in the extras.”

Just like a well-oiled startup team, NYC offers up true multi-taskers. If you’re looking for it, this city has it. “NYC offers access to talented people, and you have a cross-section of fashion, media, finance, art — worlds that you might not have as much exposure to in other cities,” says Robinson.

The best and the brightest are often attracted to NYC, which means steep competition for the millions of people who work there. The same is true for startups — with multiple industries having a strong presence there, it’s no surprise that people are attracted to this business-rich environment when they want to start a company. So, how do they gear up to compete with the other startups in the region?

Practice makes perfect, even when it comes to pitching your startup. And events like The Challenge Cup offer an ideal opportunity to pitch your startup idea and get a sense for the competition in your industry.

Competing can help sharpen your edge even if you don’t win. GiveNext.com founder Daniel Mansoor may not be going to DC in May, but he would definitely go through The Challenge Cup again just for the lessons learned. “It wasn’t until 24 hours after our ‘failed pitch’ that I discovered what I should have presented! Thanks to the competition, I’ve got a powerful new message to share with others,” he says.

Jonathan Friedman, cofounder of Tradeup.io, sees pitching itself as a valuable exercise. “Any pitch format under a minute forces you to really remember where the core of your business stands,” he says.

“Delivering constrained, short pitches also reminds you about what got you excited about starting the business to begin with. While at first the one-minute pitch format was daunting, it provided for a really valuable exercise in my opinion.”

MyHint cofounder Clark Lagemann finds value simply in being at these events. “Every time we meet someone new (especially at startup events) you can learn a boat-load,” he says. “We took a couple of techniques that can help us during our next pitch.”

And, there’s got to be something to having so many creative minds gathered in one location. Being around other entrepreneurs at startup events definitely has its benefits.

“One of the things we always like about these kinds of events is seeing the great ideas that other folks come up with, particularly things you would have never even considered,” says Simply Grid COO Jeffrey Hoffman. “We’ve had lots of ‘why didn’t we think of that’ moments.”

These types of gatherings can also be good for the soul, especially when the entrepreneurs are in it for meaningful goals, such as those represented by the four focus industries in The Challenge Cup – health, energy, smart cities, and education. Youthful Savings founder Somya Munjal enjoyed this bonus of participating in the event. “We loved meeting new startups and hearing their inspiring stories,” she says. “It was clear everyone there was to serve a societal need.”

The Challenge Festival will be here before we know it, and creative startup founders will once again have the opportunity to perfect their pitches and learn from each other.

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Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.

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