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October 10, 2007   

I really liked this part of Charlie's testimony to the New York City Council:

My final bit of support for what ITAC has recommended has to do with real physical infrastructure. Over the years, those involved in technology innovation in small companies and startups have always made due with whatever physical places we could find to conduct our business. We shared insider information about where wifi could be borrowed and where businesses wouldn't mind if you worked at a table for a whole morning and just ordered a cup of coffee or two. This has been highly inefficient. While there are businesses like Sunshine Suites that have sprung up to service part of the need for startup companies to maintain a home, there exists a severe lack of community space--places where creative minds can collaborate freely and connect to each other. A good place to start would be to incentivize as many cafes and similar gathering places to provide internet access free of charge. Municipal wifi may be too difficult to implement, but a very workable, and less expensive substitute would be to make sure that every conceivable place where you would want to set up shop or meet with others, would provide wifi. In the same vein, there should be incentives for other types of innovation support. For example, my startup, Path 101, is currently living in two empty desks provided by another larger technology company called Return Path. It was a favor done for me by the CEO, Matt Blumberg, who knew we were looking for space, but in all fairness, Return Path should probably receive some kind of tax credit for doing its part to support the local innovation community.

Clearly the physical space issue has been a big one for me. Scott Heiferman, founder of Meetup, said it best at his Personal Democracy Forum presentation: "The Revolution Will Not Be YouTubed."

What he meant, and went on to explain, was that real change, innovation, and wonders happen when people meet in physical proximity and get things done. The Internets are cool. Coffee tables are cooler.

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