It's been another big year in the Big Apple. Here are some of the biggest New York tech industry stories and developments from 2019.
It’s hard to believe given the breakneck growth in the Big Apple, but New York City’s tech scene continues to boom…and its homegrown startups are playing a huge role.
In fact, New York’s startup scene has grown from $2.3 billion total invested in 2012 to more than $13 billion in 2018. According to the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s recent Global Startup Ecosystems Report, the city is now the world’s second highest performing ecosystem with 7,000 startups, 326,000 jobs, and over $71 billion in value. And Silicon Valley may now be in sight.
The city’s 100 biggest local tech companies currently employ more than 38,000 people according to Built in NYC, and 80 percent of those organizations planned to expand last year.
We took a deeper look at seven startups leading the New York City tech boom.
Founded in 2012, Peloton’s swift ascension to an international sensation could make your head spin.
Promising a world-class indoor cycling studio experience that can be accessed anywhere and fit into any schedule, Peloton sells $2,000 spinning bikes that feature a screen that streams recorded and live classes filmed in its New York studio. CEO and co-founder John Foley says the company is “weirdly profitable,” and indeed it saw its value soar to $4.15 billion after a $550 million funding round that the company said would be its last before its expected IPO this year.
With 700 employees already based in New York, the company has plans to continue its rapid growth and has announced that it will relocate to a 312,000-square-foot space at Hudson Commons in 2020. Certainly, Peloton is committed to the Big Apple.
“New York City is where Peloton started, and it will continue to be our home as we scale our business globally,” Foley said. “As our brand lives at the intersection of fitness, technology and media, this city is where the best talent can be found across all three of those industries.”
A leading customer engagement platform, Braze – formerly known as Appboy – has picked up serious steam in recent years.
In October, the startup – which delivers personalized messaging experiences across push, email, apps and more – announced $80 million Series E funding led by Meritech Capital Partners, meaning that the company hauled in $130 million in just over a year and more than doubled its valuation to $850 million in 2017. Braze delivers tens of billions of messages to more than 1.5 billion monthly active users globally, and the startup can now boast more than 500 customers, including ABC News, AccuWeather, HBO, Lyft, and Microsoft.
No wonder CB Insights, a firm that tracks start-ups, included Braze on its 2019 list of the 50 companies worldwide on a path to a $1 billion valuation.
With 150 of the company’s 300 employees based locally, perks include free daily lunch, medical insurance, tuition reimbursement, a flexible time-off policy and a 401(k) with employer matching.
“We’re a crew of smart, talented, hardworking individuals who are as curious as we are informed,” said Senior Technical Recruiter Stu Levinson. “We don’t settle. Our culture encourages fresh perspectives, genuine vibes and a deep commitment to excellence.”
A real-time information discovery startup promising to transform vast public social media feeds into the earliest alerts, Dataminr helps industries including corporate security, finance, the news media, and public relations stay on top of breaking news.
The startup officially took on unicorn status after closing a $392 million funding round in June 2018, lifting its valuation to $1.6 billion – more than double its 2015 valuation of $680 million.
In addition to benefits including health insurance, 401(k) matching, free daily meals and a professional development fund, Dataminr promises its employees – who number roughly 250 locally at the company’s headquarters, located blocks from Grand Central and Penn Station – a diverse, inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.
“When people feel comfortable being their authentic selves, they are more likely to be creative, take bigger risks and perform at higher levels,” said Manager of Technical Recruiting Kenji Porter. “It’s more than creating an environment with people from different backgrounds – it’s also encouraging diversity of thought and empowering everyone to share ideas, participate in initiatives for positive change and make meaningful contributions.
“I’m proud to work for a company that values and includes different perspectives in everything we do.”
With the mission statement of helping everyone find their place in the world, the thriving tech startup Compass aims to simplify the real-estate process – and since launching in 2012, it’s already become the country’s largest independent real-estate brokerage.
Just in 2018, Compass more than tripled its agent population to over 7,000 and launched in markets including Seattle, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego and Dallas. The company expected to more than double its 2017 sales volume of $14.8 billion.
It’s not surprising that the company has ambitious plans for the future. After closing a $400 million Series F financing round in September 2018 – bringing total capital raised to nearly $1.2 billion – the company announced plans to expand internationally, while also setting the goal of gaining 20 percent market share in the top 20 U.S. cities by 2020.
It makes sense that a company that promises to help users find their dream homes has invested in a beautiful space of its own; its 180,000 square-foot headquarters in Union Square features cafes, collaboration zones, a game room, and a rejuvenation lounge.
Another startup chosen by CB Insights among worldwide companies looking likely for a $1 billion valuation, all-in-one wedding-planning platform Zola has couples and investors alike swooning.
Co-founded in 2013 by Shan-Lyn Ma and Nobu Nakaguchi, Zola claims to have reinvented the wedding planning experience to help the soon-to-be-betrothed do everything from create their own website, manage their registry, and stay on top of their guest lists.
Zola really turned heads with the May 2018 announcement that it had raised $100 million in Series D, bringing its total capital up to $140 million and, as of February 2019, helping to lift the company to a $600 million valuation.
With the new funding, Ma said the company would look to grow its share of the market – as well as the headcount of its staff.
“We are going to invest in our technology resources and product development in order to fuel innovation,” she said. “We’re also going to think about mass brand awareness so everybody knows about Zola. Also, we’re hiring!”
Did you think your old stuff was worthless? Think again: letgo has proven that there’s a ton of cash to be made in the second-hand marketplace.
Billed as the biggest and fastest-growing app to buy and sell locally, letgo – which, surprisingly given how much money it’s raised, was only founded in 2015 – has taken the world by storm, with 100 million downloads, 400 million listings and 6 billion messages swapped by users as of August 2018.
That was also the month letgo announced a staggering $500 million investment from Naspers and although the company isn’t disclosing valuation, that round reportedly raised it above $1.5 billion.
The startup has earmarked that influx of funding for product evolution, expansion into new verticals and, of course, growth – and for job-seekers intrigued by the fast-rising company, the startup looks for people who enjoy problem-solving.
“We look for candidates who want to build something impactful and that people love using because it makes their lives simpler,” said Director of People Operations Natalia Harris. “We hire people who are excited by challenges rather than intimidated by them.”
For the direct-to-consumer beauty company Glossier, the future sure looks pretty.
Founded in 2014 by Emily Weiss, the company now has more than 200 employees across three offices and operates in the U.S., Canada and several countries in Europe. Its annual revenue more than doubled in 2018 while landing more than 1 million new customers. A $100 million Series D funding round in March 2019 lifted its valuation to $1.2 billion and locked in its unicorn status.
Named one of the 50 most sought-after startups in the U.S. by LinkedIn, Glossier also boasts a gorgeous office space – worthy of its super-popular Instagram account – where every conference room is named after an inspiring woman.
Weiss even calls their headquarters her favorite place to be in New York.
“We are born out of an editorial site, Into the Gloss, and everyone here gets inspired by building creative spaces that are very out in the open,” she said. “We have a great communal space here with sofas, so everyone can come hang out.
“The thinking behind the design of this area is making as many creative spaces as possible in a company.”