Lisa Ellwood: New York City

What do you do? 
For the past few years, I’ve been running my own consultancy and using my experience of running a startup and creating opportunities for Virgin Media’s community of entrepreneurs (headed up by Pioneer-at-Large, Sir Richard Branson) on projects that are mainly in London and NYC. As anyone who runs a startup knows, no day is the same as the previous and that’s exactly the same with the projects I take on. A common thread is creating positive change both with the projects themselves and the world at large. I work with international startups, leading brands, governments and non-profits.

What else should we know about you?
I’m a huge fan of tech and innovation but I studied philosophy at university so I love a discussion that combines the two especially if it’s over good food (I’m a former restaurant critic) and is followed by great music and dancing.

I think that philosophy and ethics have always been a valuable part of the conversation when it comes to business but they’re as important as ever when it comes to innovation and what the ‘human factor’ means whether that’s in relation to AI and space travel or human rights and supply chains. It’s something people in NYC and London are definitely talking about a lot whether it’s at a Pioneer Works or General Assembly event.

What’s your historical London and New York connection? 
I lived in London for a solid stretch of 13 years. During some of that time, I ran and edited a website that was an insider’s guide for Londoners called ViewLondon which meant knowing every single area just as well as a local and going out a lot!

Having said that, I’d been travelling to visit friends in NYC for all of that time so I’ve seen New York change almost beyond recognition too. Even though I’m 100% British, NYC always felt like home. London will always be special to me but there’s something about NYC’s energy and I love Brooklyn’s kindness and sense of community.

Describe your experience in New York as a Londoner.
I think the thing that I love most about New York is the sense of community. I’ve always known and chatted with neighbours in my building in London but if you live in Brooklyn, it’s unusual not to know most of the people on your street, several blocks over and to become friends with people working in your local cafes, bookshops, stores etc. I know that I can drop by a cafe just to say ‘hey’ and be greeted with a hug and invited out to a gig that someone’s playing that week. Londoners are always surprised to hear how friendly NYC is but I’ve definitely found it to be the case.

How can the two cities better engage with each other?

In terms of startup communities, I think that they’re great at doing that. The tech and creative communities are increasingly international and pro-active about finding ways to engage with each other. The time difference is easy and tools like Slack make it easy to catch up on any thoughts and discussions.

Having said that, New Yorkers are great at networking, having face-to-face meetings and connecting mutual contacts without expecting anything in return whilst Londoners still tend to be a little reticent and prefer reaching out by email in my experience. I think London could learn a little from NYC in that respect. As for Londoners, they very rarely work public holidays whereas a lot of New Yorkers won’t get to take them as vacation days or there’s an expectation that they’ll be on email the entire time so I think New Yorkers could learn from London about taking a little downtime to recharge and connect with friends and family.

Favorite NYC secret spot:
Nuyorican Poets Cafe – This place sums up everything I love about the creativity and sense of community you find in NYC.

Burrow – It’s a tiny bakery hidden at the bottom of an office block. They bake the best flourless chocolate cake. Order it along with a cup of Mariage Frères tea (they also serve great coffee for die-hard New Yorkers).

Favourite London secret spot:
I used to live a few steps away from Maltby Street Market when it was just a couple of places. It’s much bigger now but still worth a visit for its food stalls and small bars hidden in the arches.

Voodoo Ray‘s on Kingsland High Street for cheap pizza and dancing. This has been around for quite a while now but it’s small and friendly enough to still feel secret.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

That’s a tough one. I think that Brooklyn will always feel like home but I’ve been working on projects in Spain and I love the energy there as well (it’s similar to Brooklyn’s in many ways) so can I choose to live in two places and travel a lot too please?

In flight entertainment: 
I listen to new stuff all the time. At this precise moment: this mix from ÌFÉ’s producer and director Otura Mun. It’s a quick, improv mix of Jamaican Dancehall recorded in Barcelona’s Gracia neighbourhood. And prologs – log2 – Rey
House of Love – Ogbe Yekun.

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