Tech + Creative

Guest Post: How to Start a Digital Business in DUMBO

Pontiflex CEO, Zephrin Lasker talks about why DUMBO is a great place to start a digital business.

When we started Pontiflex three years ago, we had a very unique vision. In a world deluged with information, we wanted to help people to cut through the clutter and select the advertising they want to see.  In addition, we wanted to let people make these choices across all kinds of media – be it laptops, smartphones or interactive television.

It was essential to locate our offices in a place that would foster the diversity of thought so necessary to innovation.  And we’ve found that DUMBO delivers on this imperative for diversity on many levels – right from its architecture that is such a delightful mix of the old and the new to the eclectic mix of folk that come to work here every day.

To state the obvious, the affordability of real estate is an important factor determining the ability of a startup to launch and sustain itself.  To quote that wisest of urban soothsayers Jane Jacobs, “If a city area has only new buildings, the enterprises that can exist there are automatically limited to those that can support the high costs of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”

In addition to affordability, there are three important reasons why DUMBO is an ideal venue for a startup to find its feet and thrive:

  1. Proximity to Manhattan: Pontiflex’s founders and many members of our team reside in Brooklyn. However, we also recognize that it’s vital for our success that we are close to the media and financial center of the world. Being a stone’s throw away from Manhattan (DUMBO is so close to the city that you can get by being only a so-so stone thrower), our advertisers, mobile app developers and investors find it easy to get to our offices. The reverse is also true – being close to the city helps us visit ad agencies easily, go to Xian Famous Foods for Liang Pi hand pulled noodles, or visit ad agencies at lunch hour with Liang Pi hand pulled noodles.
  2. Open Culture: One of our colleagues told us about a job where employees were stopped stone cold in the corridors by quizzical looks when they weren’t wearing formal shirts. It is especially heartwarming to be in a community that is the exact antithesis of the Orwellian world that these visions conjure. How nice is it to work in an environment where fleece has never stopped people from speaking up at board meetings. Where dogs (even dogs in fleece) have an equal run of the office as the employees.  Where the culture is open and people are free to speak their minds and contribute their ideas. It is this culture of openness that we value the most, because it is this very openness that is driving the success of the technology platform we’ve developed.
  3. DUMBO is New York’s Digital District: With companies like HUGE, Etsy and Pontiflex, there’s no shortage of innovative companies in DUMBO. At a time when the economy continues to take one step forward, two steps behind and then two more steps behind, companies in DUMBO are continuing to hire and hire aggressively. They are doing this by providing services that matter in today’s economy. It is vital to Pontiflex’s future growth that we are close to such a vibrant pool of technical talent.

We started off with six employees in an old yoga studio on 55 Washington Street.  Our offices on 45 Main are now inhabited by over 50 employees. With the explosion of mobile smartphones and mobile advertising, our business continues to grow very quickly. In recent months, we’ve had several people asking us to take that short leap across the East River. To which we say politely, “Thanks, but no Thanks.” We’ve been very happy with the way we’ve come of age in DUMBO. And we are just as content to continue doing business here.

(photo via Pontiflex Blog)