Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Is New York the place to be?

In the thread "Quick hits on Joel's latest article... " polarbear asked "Is New York the place to be?" I think this is a fair question and I'm curious what Joel's position on this is -- it does seem that being located directly in New York City, notorious for an incredibly expensive standard of living, might only be advantageous if you're doing consulting to other business in the city where proximity is required. The benefits to a self-contained software development firm seem much less obvious.

As an ISV, what are the benefits of being located right in New York City versus one of the much less expensive metropolitan areas, or even semi-rural, areas?

Dennis Forbes
Monday, January 26, 2004

NYC is not well known for ISVs. As I recall, the majority of software jobs in NYC are not for pure software companies, but rather for other companies that use IT (such as financial companies).

Brad Wilson (
Monday, January 26, 2004

I would have to answer that, for me, New York is definitely not the place to be.

My background is in software engineering for ISVs: I've been a development manager, lead developer, architect, you name it. However, NYC doesn't seem to have but one or two ISVs. I say "seem" because I'm new to the area and therefore don't have the sort of contacts I'm accustomed to. There could be dozens of ISVs around the corner and I'd never know.

I've been responsible for budgets before; and were I choosing a location, NYC would be last on my list. Every small ISV I've worked for was exceedingly careful about spending unjustified money on office space. Furthermore, the pressure to keep salaries within reasonable ranges was fierce.

NYC has some of the most expensive office space and some of the most crushing salaries I've ever encountered. That's why when it's my turn to start a software company, I won't be considering NYC.

Jeff Watkins
Monday, January 26, 2004

Er, I forgot to mention that I'm currently working in lower Manhattan and living across the Hudson. Perhaps this skews my perspective; but probably not by much.

Jeff Watkins
Monday, January 26, 2004

Interestingly, very few of the applicants we've had are native born.  That is not to berate foriegn born workers, the russian guys I work with are excellent. But it says to me that NYC doesn't really grow its own tech work force,  the educational infrastructure must not be producing tech workers.

It also seems to me that New York tech-workers are much more likely to be married and have children than the city average (New Yorkers are notoriously late to wed).

Maybe these are related.  Programmers, being more prone to marry (don't ask me why) and holding a high value on their children's eductation shun New York because the schools suck.  Pretty hairy in my opinion, but maybe not completely false.

Now that Silicon Alley is mostly gone, I think most of the programming is either on legacy systems or finance.  The finance jobs expect "financial exprience", which generally means having worked as a programmer for a financial company, but rarely touching any code that has anything to do with finance.

Keith Wright
Monday, January 26, 2004

The expenses and all that business crap. That stuff doesn't matter that much. No one is practical in New York. People live in shitty one room apartments that cost $2000 a month.  If someone stresses that they are spending too much money, they eventually move back to Ohio.

New York is bad for ISVs because there is a lot of stuff to do in New York.  There are many distractions. It is hard to keep someone on task. Even the most tedious and boring software developer will eventually become obsessed with off-off-broadway theatre or conceptual art and will eventually spend most of his hours in south manhattan doing stuff other than working. Not a recipe for success in the software industry. Microsoft did not become an empire by hiring people with outside interests.

Contrast this with a city like Boston. Boston is as expensive as New York but there is about 1/1000th the opportunities for doing things outside of work. In fact, other than getting drunk, there is nothing to do in Boston. Therefore you have the ideal situation for a software startup:  a dense, expensive urban area where people are desperately trying to afford some modicum of middle class success, but without the distraction of an interesting urban environment. You don't have to worry about people pursuing their side career being a club DJ in Boston, for there are no clubs. As an employer, you can be assured that your employees will bust their asses 18 hours a day in order to afford the mortgage payments on their $400,000 1 floor of a crumbling apart triple decker.

So in summary: new york is interesting, therefore it is bad for the pressure cooker necessary to be successful in software. Boston is uninteresting, yet expensive, therefore it is good.

Monday, January 26, 2004

So... given these insights, how to explain FC's success among the failed skeletons of other net firms.

Perhaps the developers who are ten times better than average like to live in areas with a lot of cultural opportuninties like off off broadway shows and conceptual art.

So, they spend 40 hours a week watching broadway shows and attending art openings and spend 15 hours a week working at FC. But their productivity is the same as the average guy working 150 hours in Detroit.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, January 26, 2004

"the pressure cooker necessary to be successful in software"

I think you meant to say "the pressure cooker that ensures failure in software".

Dennis Atkins
Monday, January 26, 2004

FC is not a software company. Pud sells information. He is a media companay. There are many successful media companies in new york.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Perhaps NYC isn't a great place for all ISV's to locate. But I'll wager it's a pretty good place for a handful of ISV's, simply because the law of averages says there must be a LOT of developers looking for good work.

I'd be interested to hear how many imports stay, tho. Bringing someone from outside NYC has *got* to impart some huge sticker shock.


Monday, January 26, 2004

"Pud sells information."

Who's Pud?

Jim Rankin
Monday, January 26, 2004

wow. I was reading FC as "fucked company," run by Pud. oops.

Monday, January 26, 2004

It's "Fast Company" ,right?

New York is where I'd rather stay,
I get allergic smelling hay.

the capitalist
Monday, January 26, 2004

Say that you want to hire the top 0.001% of all programmers.

Also say that you want them to work onsite.

It stands to reason that if you place your company at the middle of a dense population, then you are essentially maximizing the number of potential people that fit the above criteria.

Does it get more dense than NY? Probably not significantly so.

Sounds like a good plan to me.


Monday, January 26, 2004

FC == Fog Creek
FC ==

Pud == FuckedCompany Guy

Monday, January 26, 2004

Many young, bright and ambitious people would love to live in NY.  Renting flat in NY is not equal to buying a house nowhere and beyond. It's just for people with different ambitions and values.

Fog Creek would have difficulty attracting dedicated coding talents if it were based in Tyumen, Siberia.

Besides to the best of my understanding Joel loves NY, so why not start your company up in a place you love to live.

Again more money in NY buys you more opportunities and infrastructure. It might bring very nice dividends, if you know how to use this infrastructure.

But if you don't you'll probably be better financially off in Taiga.

Vlad Gudim
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home