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BY KAITLYN MEADE | With the pervasive image of the Financial District’s suit-and-tie traders, you might see a different industry flexing its cybernetic muscles. The tech sector in Lower Manhattan has sprung up in the wake of a decline in the finance industry’s Downtown presence, bringing an influx of technologically savvy twenty- and thirty-somethings.
The Downtown Alliance, in an effort to make Silicon Alley an attractive place to live and work, has started LaunchLM, an endeavor to connect some of the over 600 tech companies in Lower Manhattan. Part networking tool, part meet-up style events host, part business improvement webpage, the initiative has garnered attention for its focus on collaboration not just within companies, but between companies, from established giants like Conde Nast to one-person internet startups.
The new website launch-lm.com features bars, cafes and parks in the area. It also showcases fun, community-oriented office spaces where budding ventures can set up shop.
“It stems from the fact that there are so many tech companies down here,” said Daria Siegel, the director of LaunchLM. “We want it to be a place where you can go to see what’s going on in Lower Manhattan for our audience.”
That audience was especially appreciative last Tuesday night, at Launch’s launch party. Faithful to its image, the gathering was more chic than geek, held in the lobby of the iconic Woolworth building at 233 Broadway.
Once past the check-in table, the lights were turned down, the music was turned up and the bar was serving glasses of wine, cocktails and the occasional beer faster than a 4G connection to over 300 guests, many of them from nearby technology or development companies.
The music was shut off for opening remarks from the staff and board of LaunchLM, including Scott Anderson, partner and chief strategy officer of the strategy and design firm Control Group, and Bill Rudin, whose company owns 55 Broad St., also known as “The Hive,” which has been the site of the Downtown Alliance’s technology project since December 2009. It will now be LaunchLM’s headquarters and will host most of its special events.
“We are honored to be a part of this…” Rudin said of both his company’s role and his personal one as a member of the board. “It is about community, it’s all about connectivity, it’s all about really the forefront of what is happening in the city, in the country, and creating opportunities.”
He mentioned one such opportunity in WeWork’s move into 222 Broadway, just a block away from the Woolworth, where it is setting up its New York City headquarters. The company is taking over eight floors that Bank of America is vacating WeWork will turn them into a series of open office plans that allow for collaboration between small businesses, especially internet start-ups.
“Everyone’s already buzzing,” Dan Chiu, founder of HD Made, a Downtown digital strategy, said of the growing tech community.
Certainly, LaunchLM has renewed recognition of the city’s tech sector. Just one day after the 12th anniversary of 9/11, Mayor Michael Bloomberg mentioned LaunchLM in his speech on New York City’s comeback since the attacks, noting that there are more jobs now in Lower Manhattan than on 9/11 despite the reductions in the financial sector.
“The growth of the tech industry here in Lower Manhattan…[is] not surprising,” he said. “Because the renewal of Lower Manhattan as a community of schools and parks and small businesses also reflects the community revival that we’ve seen across our city over the past 12 years.”
He also thanked “the kind of community where the young people who dominate the tech industry want to come and work.”
The next step is to provide them with resources, said Siegel, from “working closely with the real estate community, hosting events to show off office spaces in Lower Manhattan,” to their summer series of “Tech Tuesdays” at the South Street Seaport.
“We want people to be able to stake a claim: ‘This is where I work, this is where I’ve chosen to work,’ and to have the benefits that come with it,” she said.