cafeBricolage Revisited / by Nate Westheimer

Yesterday marked the two year aniversary of my getting involved in the NY tech community. In fact, I believe February 8th, 2007, was the day I turned my love of community, technology, and innovation, into a career.

Back when I published "The cafeBricolage Manifesto," I knew practically no one in the New York technology industry, or even New York City for that matter. Sure, I had been piping up for a few months the nextNY list, and I had been to two or three events, but aside from that, I wasn't participating.

Boy, things have come a long way.

Reflecting on the cafeBricolage dream is not only a nostalgic exercise, but also a good marker for how far NY tech has come in two years. Back then, I wrote:

cafeBricolage would be the NYC incubator for start-ups, but it would be done in a way that NYC needs. Throw out your old concepts of an incubator, and think about this: a collective space, one part cafe and one part office, which could support up to a dozen small resident companies of various smallness, and work-space, geared toward the laptop carrying professional, embedded in a community cafe operated by the members themselves. Since we’re all tech people here, I say in in a way we can all understand: “It’s ‘co-working‘ meets ‘cooperative cafe‘ meets NYSIA meets ‘Digg’” (just kidding about the “Digg” part, it’s just something you have to say in a sentence like that).

While this dream never came to fruition, in the past two years many other dreams have.

New Work City, which grew out of cooperBricolage (which was, clearly, at least influenced by my cafeBricolage Manifesto) launched late last year, bringing a magnificent work and programming space to the New York tech and independent community.

Of course the Incubator at Rose Tech Ventures -- the space I currently manage -- has also launched in that time. In fact, I met David at the cooperBricolage launch party, where I overheard him talking about the early vision for our incubator. I offered to be the first tenant (as BricaBox back then) and soon thereafter my working relationship with David S. Rose and Rose Tech Ventures began. Now, we have a dozen startups under our roof, weekly programming, and dozens of community events throughout the year.

As these types of community energizing places have emerged, so have new community energizing times.

Last year we saw New York City's first Internet Week, putting our industry on the same level of other great New York industries. We also saw the Web 2.0 Expo come to New York, making it clear to the industry elsewhere that New York City is a leading place to innovate and develop new technology. And this week, Social Media Week has kicked off its inaugural event, bringing the City dozens of free, community-led events about the area where tech and media are converging: a phenomenon New York City experiences like nowhere else.

What's remarkable to me is that what's emerged in the last two years is far richer and sustainable than anything I called for then. While the dream of a one-stop still has its benefits, realistically the decentralized-yet-interconnected nature of today's New York tech industry sets the stage for futher and futher growth from places not yet imagined two years ago, like the newly-institutionalized NY Tech Meetup, its Community Committee, and the dozens of other new groups which have sprung up in such a short period of time, like Fashion 2.0, Ultralight Startups, and the Entrepreneurs Roundtable.

Looking back on these past two years invigorates me. On a purely personal level, they've been two years of tremendous growth. But on a community level, on the two-year anniversary of my involvement in this great thing we call "NY tech," they've been two years of tremendous progress of which I am blessed to have become involved.

Onward and upward, New York!

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