Notes on the Alley 100 / by Nate Westheimer

Last week, as many are aware, the Silicon Alley Insider released the much awaited Alley 100 list.

I say much "awaited" because (I feel no shame in pointing out) leading up to the release of the official list there was a large amount of activity on, and buzz around, a site I put up (using BricaBox) called the "Silicon Alley 100: People's Choice."

This was a place for "the people" to nominate and vote on folks to be recognized for their influence in the NY tech scene.

It was this list which stirred up quite a controversy within the nextNY community and greater NY tech scene, garnering scathing posts from folks like my friend Charlie O'Donnell along with mostly excited and engaging posts from folks like Greg Verdino and Darren Herman, to name a few (here are a few others).

Regardless of opinion, it was clear that with the People's Choice version of the list everyone had an opinion. Either it was the best thing ever that "the people" had their own version of the list, or it was an example of how "the people" are ineffective at measuring influence and power.

So, when the Insider finally released their list last week, my first questions was, "How close were We?"

The answer: Pretty darn close. Minus some pretty big holes. Plus some holes filled in by big misses on the Insider list.

Today I finally got around to posting a quantitative analysis comparing the list up on Google Spreadsheets. Check it out. I think it tells an interesting story.

What the list shows is that the "people's" list had about 20 of the 100 people on the SAI list, under-weighting the average person by 13 places. This under-weighting was due, in part, to the fact that the "People's Choice" list included 6 of the 21 unranked "Up and Comers" that the Insider recognized. (Full Disclosure: SAI put me in this list, which I can only attribute to a "typo," as Caroline McCarthy did for herself.)

Now, there are several ways to interpret the difference in weighting of the lists, but I think it has to do with community and entrepreneurship versus power and the establishment. To illustrate this point, consider the folks who were most under-weighted and most over-weighted by the People's Choice list.

Most under-weighted by "the people":

  1. Quincy Smith
  2. David Rosenblatt
  3. John Borthwick

Must over-weighted by "the people":

  1. Allen Stern
  2. Andrew Rasiej
  3. Charlie O'Donnell

What makes the first three folks "power and the establishment" is that their influence in exerted on the exiting and king-making side of "influence" (supposedly the measurement we were going by). Quincy buys "new media" companies; David sold DoubleClick; John sold Fotolog. It's not a knock on them or SAI: It's an observation of one way to measure influence.

The "over-weighted" folks, however, are the foot-soldiers, the folks changing (read: influencing) the face of NY tech literally from its grassroots.

Perhaps it's a chicken and egg question, but I'm not surprised the "the people" sided with the grassroots side of influence (the egg?).

Anyway, I think the type of influence each list weighted is an important way to analyze what went on. Another way to analyze the two lists is by omissions.

Looking down the SAI list, it's clear to me that "the people" missed some pretty important people altogether. Consider these "holes" (in order of measured importance):

  1. Michael Bloomberg
  2. Alan Patricof
  3. Tim Armstrong
  4. Jim Cramer

Then look at these omissions from SAI's list (in order of measured importance):

  1. David Rose
  2. Stephen Colbert
  3. Arriana Huffington
  4. Clay Shirkey

Once again it seems to the a "people have spoken" vs a "powers have spoken" thing. Again, not that "power" is a bad way of measuring "influence," it just shows you from what mindset a "people's choice" list comes from and from what mindset a curated "kind-maker" list comes from.

So, I'm interested in what *you* read into these two lists. I personally believe that each has its place and each is important in its own right. I wouldn't want the "official" list to have many of the folks who made it into the top of the People's Choice list, but I also think a people's choice version keeps the "official" guys honest.

Besides from the usually cries of "lists are stupid," what are your opinions? I'd love to see a blog post or a few comments of your reaction.