New York’s “Silicon Alley” may grab most of the headlines, but there are a number of other parts of the city that have become homes to the best and budding technology companies in the Big Apple. The lower Manhattan neighborhood of Soho is perhaps best known for its shopping, but in recent years it’s also become a tech hub.
Soho, named for its location South of Houston Street, has had a varied history, and like many parts of Manhattan, has gone through several iterations before becoming the neighborhood it is today.
During the Colonial period, the land which is now Soho was given to the freed slaves of the Dutch West India Company, which made it the first free black settlement in Manhattan. In the 1800s, the area became a key part of the city’s growing entertainment district, and housed theaters, large shops, and brothels.
In the mid-19th century the neighborhood’s architecture changed as a number of cast iron buildings were built. These structures would form the character of the neighborhood, making it stand out against the varied architecture of the city. After the American Civil War, a number of manufacturing companies moved into the area, particularly textiles firms, but following World War II many of the manufacturers moved south, which left a number of empty factories and warehouses.
The neighborhood declined over the next couple of decades, and in the 1960s falling prices attracted a community of artists to the area, who basked in the large empty lofts and manufacturing spaces. Now Soho boasts as many retail store chains as it does artists, and is filled with the kinds of amenities that attract startups and technology companies.
Several big name startups are based in Soho, including Warby Parker, the eyewear brand which combines its headquarters with a flagship store. Tech companies Foursquare and Contently also call Soho home, and the likes of Reddit have based their New York offices in the neighborhood.
Soho makes for an attractive tech home for a number of reasons, but chief among them is attracting talented employees. There is a fierce competition for the tech talent based in the city, which isn’t as plentiful as in competing technology hubs like Silicon Valley in California. Soho has multiple advantages in this regard, firstly because it is populated with high-end restaurants and hotels, making it an attractive place to work.
The neighborhood is also in a prime location in Manhattan. It’s well served by multiple subway lines, making for easy commutes from all over the island and Brooklyn and Queens, while it’s also strategically close to both the Financial District in the south and Midtown in the north.
For budding entrepreneurs looking to start their own companies, there are also plenty of co-working spaces. The Farm Soho, several WeWorks, Fueled Collective, and Impact Hub NYC are just a few of the options in the area.