Matthew Owens: New York City

What’s your historical Los Angeles and New York connection?
I moved originally to New York and recently to LA in order to help build the first General Assembly educational programs in these cities – courses in design, tech, and business disciplines where we get practitioners to teach their field to those who want to transition their careers. The campus here in LA is actually at a similar early stage to how NY was when I moved there in October 2011.

I am really a relative newcomer to both cities. Going to school in Philly I had visited NYC fairly often for weekends before moving there two years ago, but I had never been to LA before moving here three weeks ago.

Describe your experience in NYC.
I didn’t expect to end up in NYC, but once there I loved it and came to consider the city home. Working with GA I was immersed in the tech and startup community, but NY also made it easy to discover completely unrelated activities and groups of people ranging from midnight running groups to reconnecting with synthetic biology researchers I had worked years ago. I liked being in a place that never shuts down and where a work hard play hard mentality was the norm.

What was the biggest challenge of moving from NYC to LA?
I haven’t needed to drive for years and so it is an adjustment to be in a city where biking and public transit don’t quite get you everywhere. That being said this is pretty easily balanced out by the weather and easy accessibility of some amazing hiking.

How can NYC and LA best engage with each other?
NYC and LA are both the epicenters of entire industries and in the startup communities this leads to insight and connections that wouldn’t be possible in other cities. It is a self-serving answer, but I am currently working to provide through GA more opportunities for individuals who teach for us in LA and NYC to travel to the other city to give their perspective and encourage collaborative development of professional communities around emerging disciplines ranging from user acquisition marketing to data science.

Favorite LA secret spot
I’m still very new here but so far my favorite spot has been walking along the Temescal Canyon Loop at the end of the day.

Favorite NYC secret spot
Not very secret I suppose but my favorite NYC routine was running up the west side highway and cutting into the city to circle central park in the mornings.

If you were not at GA, what would you be doing?
GA is still changing and growing fast so even here I haven’t worn the same hat for very long, but if I wasn’t with GA I would probably start to think about transitioning to product design or finding another early stage venture in need of a technical generalist to help them get off the ground. I might also consider revisiting projects I worked on previously through Engineers Without Borders in the realms of access to water and mobile data collection.

 From the 2462 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + LOS ANGELES


What’s your historical SF and NYC connection?
I moved originally to SF originally right after college in the summer of 2010 to join a two person venture based out of a Soma loft on a mission to expand access to investing through giftable mutual funds. Six months later I traveled for my thesis research intending to return to the Bay, but instead I found myself living in Boston, NY, and LA before returning to live in SF this summer to eat some of my own dogfood by participating in General Assembly’s web development immersive program.

For NYC – I moved here originally to join the early team at General Assembly where we built courses in design, tech, and business taught by practitioners in these fields. As of this week I am back in NYC to dive into a new project as the Director of Harlem Biospace, a community of early stage biotechnology companies setting up shop in newly constructed labs at 127th and Amsterdam.

Describe your experience in NYC.
I didn’t expect to end up in NYC, but once here I have loved it and even though I loved my time in LA this year I have found myself once again calling NYC home.
The switch to a new domain I am making professionally I think mirrors what I love about NYC personally – the city’s pace and diversity makes it easy to discover completely unrelated activities and groups of people ranging from midnight running groups to reconnecting with old friends. I love being in a place that never shuts down and where a work hard play hard mentality is the norm.

What was the biggest challenge of moving from NYC to SF and Back Again?
Anyone who knows me expects to see me moving around, and indeed my life still fits in a hiking backpack, but it is always tough to gain friends only to pick up and move away from the city soon after. I reconnected with and met some incredible people in SF who I am sad to leave so quickly. I suspect I will be racking up miles in increments of 2905 to stay in touch with these individuals and remain connected to the Bay.
How can NYC and SF best engage with each other?

My current attention as I dive into work on Harlem Biospace is on commercializing research. NYC and the Bay both have worldclass research institutions and they can benefit from sharing best practices in supporting the breed of entrepreneur who is taking research from bench to market. In both cities I have seen examples of some of the same lean methodologies pioneered by digital entrepreneurs beginning to be adopted by biotech and hardware focused ventures. I think there can be more dialogue around where these methodologies translate and where they fall down with voices from both coasts being valuable. If this intention resonates with anyone in either city then I would love to hear from you – m@harlembiospace.com
Favorite SF secret spot
Not terribly secret but I definetely recommend a visit to hike Pt Reyes and the surrounding area.

Favorite NYC secret spot
Now that I am working up on the north end of Manhattan I am discovering places here. Most recent recommended find is Max Caffe at 122nd and Amsterdam.

If you were not at Harlem Biospace, what would you be doing?
I just jumped into this project last week so there is quite a lot to tackle before I consider what comes next, however, I am finding I enjoy the challenges that are shared between work with GA and Hb – namely gathering resources and talent to build an environment where ventures and individuals are positioned and encouraged to grow. I still have a very active interest in product design and look forward to reengaging with NYC’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders in the realms of access to water and mobile data collection.

From the 2905 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + SAN FRANCISCO

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