mongoNYC -- there's real tech here

I was worried about New York.  Having done all of my technical work in San Francisco, I had the idea that real tech companies can only sprout in Silicon Valley drilled into my me by some of the top venture capitalists in the country.  Well, my eyes started to open yesterday.

I attended my first startup company tech conference yesterday — mongoNYC.  The conference was small (compared to the mega-shows I’ve seen in the West) but it was certainly impressive.  First of all, it was a real tech conference.  The mongo team gave talks about their products and their customers gave presentations on how they use their product to actually tackle some immediate problems.

First of all, the product.  Mongo is not a social network.  Mongo is not a media web site.  Their customers are, and happen to be some of the best.  Mongo is a DATABASE!?  A database company, in Manhattan?  I thought real database technology only existed in San Francisco and Boston.  Not so.

We were talking about real database issues: sharding, replication, consistency, concurrency, availability (yeah, CAP theorem stuff), schemas, migrations, ETS, analytics.  We were waxing poetic about map-reduce. I saw a polyglot crowd that was as well versed in JavaScript and Java, as in Groovy and Scala (!! – a favorite of mine for the past nine months or so).  I saw the co-founders (Eliot Horowitz (CTO) and Dwight Merriman(CEO)) give technical talks worthy of any database guy in the valley — technical founders, that’s the ticket.  Their VCs were in the audience and got what the presentations meant (surprisingly refreshing).

The conference was well attended and there were lots of eager engineers on site, plenty from small companies, but also some people from big ones.  Big IT in New York is starting to get agile and dynamic.

A few takeaways (technical):

  • If you are building a web application and are looking for a data store, check out mongo.  It’s fast, easy to use, easy to set up, and much more sophisticated than you would think.  Try doing a cluster in MySQL or Postgres.  Then compare.  Night and day.
  • Not just for the sake of being “NoSQL” but for any un-structured or semi-structured data store mongo should be considered seriously no matter what the programming environment and deployment configuration
  • Before thinking “Lotus Notes” or “XML data store” give this thing a shot
  • Scala + Lift – nice to see Foursquare (and others) talk about it
  • NodeJS – this thing is going to be serious

A few takeaways (business):

  • All this open-source work is happening in an extremely capital-focused city backed by some visionary investors (Union Square, Flybridge, AlleyCorp) who believe in “changing the game” as much as the West coasters
  • There is plenty of money in New York to fund new companies.  PLENTY.
  • There is a need for more technical talent here…  engineers, come join the passionate, dedicated, technically savvy group of entrepreneurs in New York and try living in a real city with all that it has to offer.
  • Columbia, NYU look at Stanford and model let entrepreneurs and VCs reach your students with comparable ease before Goldman gets them.

Summary: Look out West Coast — Gotham is coming.