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Op-Ed: Cultivating a Virbrant Startup Community, In The Bronx?

One city that may not come to mind, when you consider startup communities, is the Bronx -- and here's why it has the potential to be a rising...

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There are only a few significant startup cities in the United States.

Silicon Valley was the first and is still the leader in this area. New York developed its own “Silicon Alley” and recently overtook Boston as the number two city. But what sets these cities apart from Chicago, Austin, Miami, or all the others from rising to the levels that these three have?

There is a unique combination of factors that is needed to cultivate a vibrant startup community. Starting from grassroots efforts, all of these cities have liberal leanings that promote risk-taking and entrepreneurship, which is later developed in the numerous elite universities that they all house.

These cities also have money; whether through banking, private equity, venture capital, or generous government grants, tax-breaks, and even loans. And most importantly, there is a customer market with unmet needs. One city that may not come to mind, when you consider startup communities, is the Bronx — and it has all of these elements.

 

Hidden Entrepreneurial Gems in New York

The startup industry is often heard discussing the next big “disruption.” Unfortunately, they usually follow up by creating a food ordering app or image editor.

The Bronx, the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City, is where entrepreneurs can think big. Where office space is a fraction of the cost of what it is just one hundred blocks south, and most importantly, it is economically welcoming to young companies.

The market is eager for innovation, not just for typical “one-percent” problems, but instead towards meaningful work in healthcare, education, and housing. In the busiest city in the world, the Bronx may be the last hidden entrepreneurial gem in New York.

 

Untapped ‘Entrepreneurial’ Potential in The Bronx

As you travel along the 4 train in New York you pass by neighborhoods famous around the world. From Brooklyn you make your way past Wall Street, Union Square, Grand Central, Hunter College, and eventually all the way past 125th Street in Harlem. Not many New Yorkers make it past the Upper East Side. If you stay on this train for another fifteen minutes you will find yourself in Manhattan’s tougher older brother – the Bronx.

Just like Broadway and Williamsburg are known around the world, the Bronx is a brand known across the globe. This borough is most famously known as the home of Yankee Stadium.

Fordham University and the elite Riverdale neighborhood are also located in this borough. Nevertheless, the Bronx is known as one of the most dangerous urban areas in the world, understandably so, since it is also the poorest congressional district in the United States.

Mostly composed of minorities and immigrants, the average annual income is just under $35,000 with nearly 30% of residents living below the poverty line. These staggering facts demonstrate how the Bronx is often the forgotten borough.

If you wander along the streets you will come across an incredible melting pot of people soliciting outdoors, low-income housing filled with squatters inside and decrepit graffiti on the outside, and a distinct smell you try to pretend is only marijuana. This area seems eerily similar to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1960’s and of Brooklyn a decade later.

The latter neighborhoods are now home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world, yet the Bronx still maintains its derelict means. And yet, just standing on East Fordham Road gives you a sense of potential in this little thought about metropolis.

From the closest points in Manhattan’s surrounding suburbs: Brooklyn, Long Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey, it takes a least forty-five minutes to commute to Grand Central station – if you’re lucky.

From the Bronx you can arrive in just fifteen. The Bronx is also easily accessible from all other suburbs, something surprising when you realize how much Long Islanders hate to venture to New Jersey and no one from Connecticut has ever probably even stepped foot in Brooklyn. The Bronx is the real Mecca in New York.

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