Joe: New York City

Founder and CEO at Universe

What’s your historical NYC and SF connection?
I grew up in Brooklyn (not the hip part), came back to NYC after school, built a startup called Lore here, and then spent a year in SF before moving back to Williamsburg to build Universe. I never thought, growing up, that I’d voluntary live in Brooklyn when I got older. But here I am!

Describe your experience in SF and your experience in NYC.
My year in SF was an exploratory one, a sort of sabbatical between companies. I took it all in. I loved the scale of the West—the mountains, the rocky beaches, the redwoods. I loved the ambition and optimism of Silicon Valley. I loved the counter-cultural backbone that underpins the industry and the city. There’s a special freeness of thought and life.

I didn’t love the present culture. You’ve heard this before but a healthy ecosystem of ideas needs people with all kinds of passions. SF is increasingly a single industry town. Also, the tension between the industry and its host city sucks. SF should be a model for a modern America city; instead it’s pretty dysfunctional.

I love New York’s culture. The diversity of thought and backgrounds is inspiring. I love the no-bullshit. I love the energy, the drive to stop at nothing. I love the range of people I interact with: artists, professors, lawyers. I love the museums. And I love that if something interesting’s happening, it’s probably happening here. I don’t love the occasional cynicism. I don’t love the weather in August and February.

What was the biggest challenge of moving between NYC and SF?
Moving my stuff. I still have storage containers on both coasts.

How can NYC and SF best engage with each other?
SF should learn from New York’s pro-development stance–see this. The tech industry should figure out how to make the city welcoming for vibrant culture. NYC should look longer-term and be open to crazier ideas. And parklets! Steal the parklets!

Favorite SF secret spot
Flora Grubb Gardens (with Ritual Coffee).

Favorite NYC secret spot
WNYC Transmitter Park in Greenpoint.

If you were not where you are now, what would you be doing?
Making art in the desert.

Trip Entertainment: what song/album, TV show, podcast, or videos have you been consuming lately?

Nicolas Jaar’s new Sirens is a masterpiece Also, I loved Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast.

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