Building the Start-up Infrastructure: NYC Edition

Here in Vancouver we’ve made great strides in producing a start-up-friendly environment and we’re continuing to build on that.  You can look at things like the Vancouver Enterprise Forum, the Angel Forum, Bootup Labs, Network Hub, DigiBC, Growthworks, and on and on it goes.  As anyone who knows me can attest, I’ve been a big fan of the Vancouver start-up community for a number of years now and it’s fantastic to see the momentum building behind this local movement!  I call it the Start-up Infrastructure.

As you may have guessed, we aren’t alone in recognizing the importance of having a solid infrastructure for our entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs.  As part of my role blogging for Indicee (another great local story), I recently had a chance to speak with an entrepreneur helping to build out the start-up infrastructure in The Big Apple!

I think we should jump on these opportunities to learn from and connect with infrastructure guys in other markets.  Let’s keep building out the infrastructure until we can link Vancouver to New York to Toronto to Silicon Valley and all points in between!

Here’s a snippet of my interview with Cheni Yerushalmi of Sunshine Suites in New York.  You can find the interview in its entirety on the Indicee blog.

I would like to offer up one other key takeaway from this experience for all of you. Stay alert for opportunities to expand your networks and your knowledge base.  This interview would not have happened had it not been for: 1) Cheni’s willingness and his courage to put himself out there, 2) the enterprising, public invitation from Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of Wine Library TV and author of Crush It, and 3) my recognition of the opportunity and taking action.  These are all voluntary actions.  How can you ever bottle up this mix of bravery, curiosity, inquisitiveness, openness, and indeed playfulness that’s required to create something out of nothing into a “formula” or a “job description”?  This stuff doesn’t show up on your desk with a neat little bow on it, conveniently labeled and packaged for consumption.  You have to create it and I think that’s a useful lesson.

Instead of existing in a constant state of “beware”, move into a state of “BE AWARE”.

Back to the point, we are talking with Cheni Yerushalmi from Sunshine Suites in NYC about business, entrepreneurship, recognizing opportunity, and the critical measures that determine success within the business.  As well, feel free to look for some of Cheni’s other recent appearances here, here, here, and here for more great content.

Sunshine Suites NYC with Cheni Yerushalmi

What is Sunshine Suites?

Sunshine Suites is an office community in New York City specifically designed for entrepreneurs to get out of the house and network with other entrepreneurs in a cool environment.  Sunshine has 2 locations and houses roughly 600 businesses and 1400 entrepreneurs at any one time.  Far from being just another co-working site, Sunshine is serious about creating community!  In addition to a place to work they offer mentorship, events, gym memberships, affordable healthcare, and even access to a timeshare in Vermont’s ski country!

The types of businesses incubating within Sunshine runs the gamut, “every company under the sun”, as Cheni and his partner Joe will sometimes say.

So, what would you say to people unfamiliar with the NYC start-up scene?

Historically, the NYC start-up environment has been difficult but it’s improving.  During the heady days of the Dot-Com’s there was interest from investors and lots of money flying around, but not much of an infrastructure to support the companies.  Since the bust, it has been a slow process of building that infrastructure and creating an environment better suited for start-ups.

A couple great examples of groups supporting this infrastructure are the New York City Economic Development Corp and the Coalition of Office Space Providers.

The message coming out of New York right now is innovate and build partnerships because right now nothing is being taken for granted.

You mentioned companies “graduating” from Sunshine Suites; is that a formal process?  Is there a ceremony or what?

It’s funny you mention that.  We’re working now to create a more formal process and you should see something in Entrepreneur Magazine about it in the near future.  Entrepreneurs who have “graduated”, our “alumni”, tend to stay active at Sunshine, providing mentoring to other entrepreneurs.  As well, we provide workshops, panel discussions, and bootcamps.

What do you see for Sunshine Suites in the future?

We are looking at expansion.  We would like to expand into other cities, but we want to be careful.  Every city is different.  They each have their own ecosystem and it’s important to know the environment and the people in order to provide something of value.

Final thoughts and random words to live by

I encourage anyone who is interested in this stuff to get involved.  Check out a networking event, look for people to follow on twitter, talk to your local politicians and get talking to each other.

During our conversation, Cheni told me about when he and Joe were last in Vancouver.  The two of them flew into YVR with 2 bicycles in boxes, they assembled the bikes in the airport, then rode from Vancouver all the way to Tijuana, Mexico.  He went on to tell me that he never buys a round trip ticket when he’s on vacation.  He buys a one-way ticket in order to stay open to the opportunities that present themselves.  I think there’s a great lesson in that philosophy and it exemplifies what being an entrepreneur is all about.