I just talked with a Silicon Valley friend who’s written code since middle school and has lots of startup experience. This friend recently moved to New York and told me the differences between New York and Silicon Valley startup mentality.
The thing that struck me most was his description of how the average Silicon Valley startup perceives itself and how that differs a lot from the average New York startup. Here’s his lengthy description boiled down. This is grossly generalized. I’m sure not every startup in New York is A and every West Coast startup is like B. I’m only reporting back what I heard hoping this may provide my East Coast peers with food for thought.
New York startups think they’re hot shit. They think they’re God’s gift to Earth. This might be because NY tech startup culture is still in its nascent stages and that there are relatively few of them compared to Silicon Valley. I’m not familiar with the West coast startup scene, but I see the tendency of some New York startup founders and employees treating startup work as more of a lifestyle than a business endeavor. I know from personal experience that this is a tempting pitfall. Who doesn’t want to go to exclusive, niche parties and treat working at a startup as a glamorous job.
Good candidates interviewing for West Coast startups do their due diligence and interview their prospective employers as much as they are interviewed themselves. Some New York startups are put off by candidates asking tough questions or suggesting business/tech improvements. They think “who are you to tell me how to run my business?” or even worse, “you should feel glad to work at our hot startup.” In Silicon Valley there are so many seemingly legit startups that candidates learn to cut through the bullshit and swagger and ask the hard questions that will show where’s the best place they can work. To me, a candidate that interviews me as much as I interview them and one that asks hard questions that make me confront the reality of my business instead of just being a yes-man is a candidate I’ll respect and want on my team.
I’m glad I learned of this contrast between West Coast and New York startups. And I wanted to share it for what it’s worth. It’s antithetical for a startup to think of itself as hot shit. Sure, it’s important to be proud of what one’s accomplished, but becoming arrogant and complacent is something else. Startups are underdogs. We need to be scrappy and err on the side of overestimating our competitors. To do the opposite and end up being wrong could mean the death of our startup.