On Bloomberg’s Alley versus Valley designs, Tumblr’s David Karp explains that the flavors are different

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Bloomberg and David Karp. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Following a press conference this afternoon at which the mayor predicted the city would one day surpass Silicon Valley as the nation's tech capital, Tumblr C.E.O. David Karp qualified things a bit.

New York City was just starting to develop its own distinctive tech "flavor," Karp said, after the event in Tumblr's Flatiron headquarters.

"If New York is growing in technology, San Francisco is going to be growing in technology too," Karp told me. "And the fact that there are so many investors out there today. That industry is going to stay out there. I think we’re going to find our own kind of flavor."

That flavor, said Karp, "tends to be very design-centric and very media-centric. New York continues to really excel in that sort of stuff because, again, we’re just so steeped in it."

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Bloomberg has made the city's plans for a tech-oriented campus the centerpiece of his third term. The campus is intended to spin off tech companies and thereby diversify New York City's economic base, which is now heavily reliant on, and heavily sensitive to, disruptions in the financial and media sectors. But, as the mayor has consistently noted in his remarks, the campus also taps into New York's growing tech sector, one that he says may soon overtake Silicon Valley as the tech capital of the United States.

In December, the mayor said, "We're well on our way to achieving our goal."

Today, he put a slightly more conservative time frame on that goal.

"By our conservative estimates, the campus is expected to spin out 600 new companies over the next three decades, which will create up to something like 30,000 permanent jobs," said the mayor. "It is our hope and expectation that these new companies will join the Tumblrs and Foursquares of our city, bolstering our reputation as the center of innovation and propelling us past Silicon Valley as the capital of digital technology."

As Karp noted after the press conference, "You hear from a lot of technologists who move to California or spend some meaningful time there, and they come back saying it really feels like the future out there, it feels like anything is possible.

"And it’s true ... Because everybody there is an obsessive Twitter user, compulsive Facebook user, deeply understands the technology, is friendly with engineers. They’re building the stuff all the time. They’re driving around in electric cars. You see Tesla cars parked out there as much as you see sports cars in New York."

Does he see Silicon Valley's reign threatened anytime soon?

"It’s hard to imagine it happening in the next five years," said the 25-year-old Karp, who dressed for the occasion in a hoodie and sneakers. "I think it fragments more than it does suddenly shift over to the East Coast."

When Karp launched Tumblr in 2007, it had two employees. It now employs more than 80 people. 

The purpose of the press conference was two-fold. The mayor used the occasion of "Social Media Week" to roll out four new social media channels through which New Yorkers will be able to access information about city services. As of today, New York City now has a Twitter handle (@NYCGov); a Facebook Page (Facebook.com/nycgov); a Tumblr page (nycgov.tumblr.com); and a Foursquare presence (foursquare.com/nycgov). That's in addition to the more than 200 social media channels already in use by city government.

"These tools embody the future of communications," said the mayor. "And if New York City is going to have the most inclusive, most representative, and most forward-thinking government in the world, then we have to embrace them."

The second purpose of the press conference was to reveal a few new details about the mayor's much-touted Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute slated for Roosevelt Island.

Today, the mayor, along with Technion and Cornell, announced that Daniel Huttenlocher, Cornell's dean of computing and information sciences, would serve as founding dean of the institute; Cornell College of Engineering associate dean Cathy Dove would serve as vice president; and Craig Gotsman, a professor at Technion, would serve as the institute's founding director.

The institute is now searching for classroom space to rent for five years, while it raises the funds necessary to build out a $2 billion campus on Roosevelt Island.

Classes at the graduate-level institution will at first be available to existing Cornell students, and will begin this fall. Groundbreaking on Roosevelt Island is scheduled for 2015, with classes starting there two years later.