New York’s Tech Scene Is Like Wall Street, But More Annoying

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Ricky Van Veen doesn't need your "drivers." Photo: © Alexander Michael / Retna Ltd./© Alexander Michael / Retna Ltd.

I'm all for letting the bounds of the start-up economy outgrow the literal Silicon Valley, where it has become the kind of insular, group-thinky place where people make videos like this. And I appreciate the job-creating, innovation-inspiring advent of the New York tech scene, which has grown big enough to inspire Facebook and Google to set up shop here.

But surely, surely we can do better than the tech scene captured in this Wall Street Journal article, which paints a picture of a group of status-conscious dweebs who have replicated the stratification and snobbery of the finance crowd, only with less self-awareness and more Über cars.

Words can't really capture the eye-rolling-ness of the Journal's scene report, but here are a few representative samples:

Tech advertises its social presence differently than New York's old-line industries—and the misunderstanding goes both ways. An image that evokes stately power—say, a Park Avenue co-op complete with a baroque library—isn't a shared aspiration in tech.

"Why not get a Kindle, and then turn that room into something awesome?" asked Ricky Van Veen, a millionaire founder of CollegeHumor.com.

"Old money is having a driver. New money is having Über," he added, referring to the app-powered livery service. "It feels lighter, less wasteful. And you still get someone to take you wherever you want to go whenever you want."

You see, being a successful start-up entrepreneur is not just about getting rich and buying nice things. It's about getting rich and buying slightly less ostentatious nice things that still allow you to flaunt your class privilege while not feeling like a jerk.

It's also about not getting sidetracked by soul-searching on your way to the top:

Jonathan Basker, vice president of people at Betaworks, a start-up development company, agreed: Lords of finance, he speculated, "might be happy or proud about getting rich and what that lets them do." But he believes some feel chagrined about their social status—unlike the tech world's "true believers."

True believers! And, unlike its West Coast counterpart, where actual sexual harassment runs rampant, Silicon Alley's only sexual vice is a glut of exceedingly clever come-ons:

A table full of female models was recently enjoying a girls' night out at Abe & Arthur's, a steakhouse in the Meatpacking District, when a man sent one of the women a note on a cocktail napkin. It read: "iamrich@google.com."

Now, granted, this Journal article probably bears as much resemblance to the real New York tech scene as Girls bears to the lives of actual Greenpoint twentysomethings. It's still a compelling case for a second dot-com bubble pop, if only to spare us the haughtiness.