Google Weaves its Web in New York City

By Peter Bernstein February 29, 2012

Sometimes you find interesting news in unexpected places. For instance, in browsing through today’s issue of the online version of the Wall Street Journal, I stumbled upon the following item in of all places the Real Estate section, “Google Web Grows in City.”  It is all about how Google, through acquisitions and expansions has grown its presence in New York City, the borough of Manhattan to be precise. 

From its first employee who worked out of a Starbucks on West 86th Street in 2000 to a robust 2,750 employees today, Google  has seen its presence in NYC increase 38% increase from 2010, which is faster growth than for the company overall, which expanded 33% from 2010 to 2011.

A few facts:

In case you are curious the article contained a few interesting facts, especially for those of us who happen to live in the area:

Of the new hires in Manhattan, about half are from acquisitions, 20 percent are in sales, 20 percent engineering, and 10 percent  are human resources or administrative

Of the 2,750 roughly 1,400 are engineers

NCY is a focal point not just because ads drive Google and “Madison Avenue” which is the virtual address for the major advertising agencies actually physically moved further downtown years ago into areas like Chelsea and Greenwich Village where Google has strategically placed offices

From an engineering perspective, Google Docs and anything to do with online advertising (what a surprise) are main areas of focus

Don’t forget that in 2011, Google purchased former restaurant reviewer king of the Zagat’s (they ruled before Yelp!), and licensing and royalty company Rights Flow

That back to the future feeling

I mention all of this with a sense of nostalgia. Back in the late 1990s I was one of the founding members of the now defunct New York New Media Association (NYMA). At its height, NYMA had over 8,000 members. It constituted the movers and shakers of what morphed into Silicon Alley. I always felt a little out of place. I was a 40 something and dressed Brooks Brothers. At the start, almost everyone else was 20+ and wore black. We met in lofts for bull sessions in SoHo. 

As the Internet bubble inflated NYMA acquired the attention of people not only with ideas but with money. A group of us started meeting in an old studio in 30 Roc (yes that 30 Roc) where we met guys with amazing plans for their startups —Jerry Yang, Marc Benioff and Jeff Bezos to name just a few. Our small off-shoot group grew so big that to accommodate all of the bankers and lawyers who now joined we had breakfast at the top of the Chase Manhattan Bank and continued to get the best and the brightest just as they were becoming famous. It was fun. It was exciting. I got on advisory boards with options. The bubble burst. I never monetized all of that ground floor exposure. What a shame.

All of this is by way of saying that the WSJ’s in tone struck me as funny. It was almost like the paper discovered there was a thriving tech culture has found its natural home in the world’s center of publishing, media, advertising and finance. Go figure! 

So like the famous line in the movie Casablanca, “There’s gambling going on here,” uttered by Claude Reines as he pockets his winnings. It is nice that the WSJ has discovered what Google has discovered, and which has been true for almost two decades — Silicon Alley never died, and in fact whatever next media becomes it is as likely to be born and raised in NYC as on the left coast.

Time to go look at the sports page. Ooops! I forgot, the WSJ does not have one. 

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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